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British sponsor's marks

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved.

Before sending an item to be assayed and hallmarked at a British assay office a person must first register their details with the assay office they want to use. The reason for this is pretty obvious - the assay office needs to know who to charge for their services, where to return the items, and who to hold responsible if an item is found to be sub-standard. This person is called the "sponsor", which in this context means the person who takes responsibility for the items submitted. The sponsor does not need to be someone directly involved in making the items that they submit for hallmarking.

The details registered must include an address in Britain and at least one punch mark. The punch is used to mark items that are submitted to the assay office with the sponsor's mark so that the items they submit can be easily identified. The punch mark must be unique, and usually consists of a person or company's initials set within a shaped "shield". If the initials are the same as someone already registered, the shield shape will be made different so that the two marks can be distinguished.

I have collected below a small selection of sponsor's marks from watch cases. This is not a comprehensive collection, if a letter is missing, it is because I have no marks starting with that letter. If you have a mark that isn't here, please feel free to contact me via my contact me page and I will try to help you identify it. If you want to identify many watch case sponsors marks I suggest you get hold of a copy of Philip Priestly's book on the subject.

Ordering of sponsor's marks

It is a tradition that sponsor's marks are listed alphabetically starting with the first letter of the mark rather than the surname, so my registered mark DBB is found under D for David rather than B for Boettcher. The list of letters below is clickable to take you to the section of the page where the first letter of the mark will be found if it is present.

A B C D E F G H I J L P R S V W Z

The fallacy of the "maker's mark"

The requirement for a sponsor's mark to be struck on gold and silver items as part of the hallmarking process was introduced by an Act of King Edward III in the year 1363. The mark was intended to identify the master goldsmith who would be "answer", i.e. be punished or fined, if an item was found to be of substandard quality. It was never intended to identify who actually made an item. In strict terms it was a responsibility mark but it was not given any name in the 1363 Act. A master goldsmith in the fourteenth century working under the strict rules of the goldsmiths' guild, with a small workshop and a couple of journeymen and apprentices, might naturally have been thought of as the "maker" of an item made in his workshop and, understandably but unfortunately, the mark became referred to as the "maker's mark", and some of the subsequent Acts did not clear this up.

When the power of the guilds to control who could work in precious metal declined, and with developments in trade and commerce, it became necessary to allow people such as retailers and importers to enter a mark so that they could send items for hallmarking. This was first officially acknowledged in the 1738 Plate Offences Act, although it is obvious that the practice existed well before 1738. It has therefore been misleading for at least 300 years to think of this mark a "maker's mark", that was never its purpose. The Gold and Silver Wares Act, 1844, introduced the term "private mark" as a result of such considerations. Since then the term "sponsor's mark" has been adopted and is the name used for this mark in the 1973 Hallmarking Act.

Helen Clifford puts the position clearly in "Silver" (ISBN: 9781851771899) edited by Philippa Glanville OBE, FSA, formerly chief curator of the metal, silver and jewellery department of the Victoria and Albert Museum and an authority on silver. Clifford says that the mark "could refer to any of the specialists involved in its production or the retailer, depending on who was responsible for taking it to the assay office", about which remark Philippa Glanville writes "The myth of the 'maker's mark' is unravelled, challenging a century of silver studies." To assume that the marks alone tells you who made the item is wrong.

The term "sponsor" has as one of its meanings "one who takes responsibility" for something. The term "sponsor's mark" therefore accurately reflects the legal significance of the mark, and for preference should always be used to avoid confusion.

The image here shows a clear example of why this is the case. A neighbour of mine made some silver items when he was at college in the 1970s. He was not registered with an assay office so he was unable to get them hallmarked. Recently, worrying that when his children inherit the items they might not recognise what they are, he asked if I could get them hallmarked, which I did. In the image you can see my sponsor's mark, DBB set in a rectangular shield with pointed ends, followed by a set of London Assay Office hallmarks with the date letter "r" of 2016. Underneath has been laser engraved the statement "Made by Anthony WIlliams" identifying the real maker. The assay office both stamped my sponsor's mark and laser engraved the maker's name. When I was discussing this with them there was no confusion at all, they understood perfectly the difference between the sponsor and the maker. I think this is a neat illustration of why the sponsor's mark should not be called a maker's mark. There has never been a requirement under British law for the maker's name to appear on a hallmarked item.

In case this is thought to be only a recent consideration brought on by the 1973 Hallmarking Act, which was the first piece of legislation to use the term "sponsor's mark", consider the work of Paul de Lamerie, the most famous English silversmith of the eighteenth century. According Philippa Glanville, it is known that de Lamerie, in common with many other goldsmiths and silversmiths, often subcontracted work to a range of other workshops. He had the finished items marked with his registered mark before submitting them for assay and hallmarking. Although de Lamerie also had his own workshop in which some items were made, the presence of Paul de Lamerie's mark on an item of gold or silver does not show who made it, which might have been a subcontractor or workmen in de Lamerie's own workshop, and therefore it would clearly be misleading to describe it as a "maker's mark".

Unfortunately the sponsor's mark is still sometimes called the "maker's mark" by people who don't really understand its true purpose and use. This gives rise to ridiculous statements such as "Case also signed CN Charles Nicolet a known casemaker for IWC" and "The movement is Swiss and the case is silver, the watch was assembled and made by George Stockwell for Stockwell and Co Ltd in 1914 with the GS hallmark". These two statements are simply, completely and utterly wrong. Charles Nicolet was a director of Stauffer & Co. a large London company that imported watches made by the Swiss parent watch manufacturing company Stauffer, Son & Co. and from IWC and other Swiss manufacturers. Charles Nicolet's mark was entered at the London and Chester Assay Offices in order that Stauffer & Co. could send Swiss made watch cases to be hallmarked. George Stockwell's mark was entered for Stockwell and Co. a large company of carriers and importers who submitted watches for hallmarking on behalf of their Swiss customers. George Stockwell was a director of the company and never made a watch case in his life! Stockwell & Co. started in 1907 to arrange hallmarking for Swiss companies that didn't have British offices, they were one of the first Assay Agents.

Even today and knowing the truth full well, the term "maker's mark" is often casually used by people at the assay offices, although usually these are not people in the actual assay and hallmarking section. The acid test is to ask them if they will guarantee that the registered person actually made the item, and then they will explain that that is not the purpose of the mark.


AB: Arthur Baume, Baume & Company, B&Co.

AB Arthur Baume
AB: Arthur Baume
AB Arthur Baume
AB: Arthur Baume

The two AB marks shown here are the sponsor's mark of Arthur Baume Managing Director of Baume & Co., 21 Hatton Garden, the London office of Baume, a Swiss watch manufacturer based in the village of Les Bois, in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Baume & Co. were for a long time the exclusive importers into Britain of Longines watches.

History of the company

In 1830 two brothers, Louis-Victor and Pierre Joseph-Célestin Baume, founded Baume Frères in Les Bois. They made English style watches in using the établissage method; materials, blanks or rough parts were delivered to workers in their homes, and finished parts collected. The parts were then assembled into complete watches. The brothers insisted on high quality and inspected each watch. The company made rapid progress in its first ten years and two more brothers, Auguste and Eugène joined.

In 1844 Joseph-Célestin opened a branch in London with the name "Baume Brothers", later changed to Baume & Co. As well as Britain, this opened up the whole of the British Empire to Baume's watches and led to sales in Australia and New Zealand as well as India, Singapore, Africa, etc. In 1867 the London company became agents for Longines, an agency which they retained for many years.

Louis-Victor's two sons Alcide and Arthur took over management of the company in 1876. Alcide ran the manufactory in Les Bois, while Arthur Baume ran the London operation, looking after sales and marketing to the UK and British Empire.

Arthur Baume was a prominent figure in Europe. A member of the Royal Geographical Society, he also became president of the British Horological Institute. He was made a knight, and later an officer, of the Legion of Honor, and was twice decorated by French President Poincarré. The King of Belgium made him a Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold II.

Entry of sponsor's marks

The first style of mark with the letters in script was registered at the London Assay Office on 18 November 1876. A week later on 25 November 1876 an incuse mark of the letters "AB" was also registered. The second mark with the block letters was first registered on 24 April 1883. A punch with the same mark was registered on 14 September 1888, as was a punch with the incuse mark "AB." This is a bit of a puzzle because the 1887 Merchandise Marks Act effectively stopped importers of Swiss watches from sending them to be hallmarked after 1 January 1888, so I cannot understand why Baume, an importer of Swiss watches, would register two punches in September 1888. I doubt that there are any watches with Baume's mark dating from 1888 to 1906, but if you find one, please do surprise me . . . .

A punch with the second style of mark, block letters in a rectangular shield, was registered with the London Assay Office on 1 March 1907, no doubt in anticipation of the requirement that all imported watches must be hallmarked in a UK assay office, which came into force on 1 June 1907. Additional punches with the same mark were registered in March, August and November 1907.

Baume & Co. advert 1886
Baume & Co. advert 1886. Click image to enlarge

Philip Priestley records that punches with the second style of mark, block letters in a rectangular shield, were registered with the Birmingham Assay Office in January and July 1901. Birmingham was the principal jewellery making centre of the UK at the time and it seems likely that Baume were having items such as watch chains made there to sell alongside their imported watches. The same reason may also explain the mysterious London 1888 registrations. Pritchard records that Baume opened a factory in Coventry in 1880, which could provide an alternative reason for some marks.

Baume and Longines

Longines Borgel Case
AB above B&Co.***

Baume & Co. acted as the London agents for Longines for many years. The first mention of Baume in conjunction with Longines that I have found is a notice in 1885 regarding the International Inventions Exhibition where Baume were showing, amongst of items, "The new Longines watches and chronometers." The Longines factory began production in 1867 but this notice implies that Longines watches were first imported to Britain in 1885. To begin with Longines had exported a lot of watches to the USA, but the end of the boom in railroad construction in 1882 caused a depression that led to a financial panic in 1884, so Longines would naturally have been looking for additional markets at that time.

Otherwise unmarked Longines watches from the early 20th century often bear the mark "B & Co." for Baume & Co. next to the movement calibre number under the balance. The "B & Co." mark is usually followed by three stars in a triangle formation.

The picture right is from a Longines watch with a Borgel case that bears both the AB and B&Co marks, as well as the FB-key trademark of François Borgel, the famous Geneva case maker whose company actually made the case in Switzerland. The AB mark was the sponsors mark officially registered at the Assay office for assay purposes, not the B&Co mark.

The "B & Co." mark is sometimes confused with that of Stauffer's "SS & Co." mark followed by three small triangles, which can at a glance look very similar. In 1885 Stauffer had actually started to use a mark with three stars, which Baume pointed out was their registered trademark, so Stauffer quickly swapped the stars in their mark for triangles.

Caution

Simply finding Baume's trademark on a watch doesn't mean that it is necessarily a Longines. The first line of the Baume & Co. advert from 1886 reproduced above says "Every description of ordinary Watches". This is separate from the mention of Longines watches, which refers to them as "Longines levers". Before the Longines factory was opened in 1867 the comptoir of Auguste Agassiz had produced watches with verge and then cylinder escapements, but from 1867 the Longines factory produced only lever escapement movements. The "ordinary watches" that the Baume advert refers to would have been the bar movements with cylinder escapements that were very widely manufactured in Switzerland during the nineteenth century, mainly by unnamed établisseurs.

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AB Alfred Bedford
A·B Alfred Bedford

A·B: Alfred Bedford

Alfred Bedford registered punch marks at both London and Chester in 1876, AB in a rectangle with cut corners. This A·B mark is the sponsor's mark registered in Birmingham in 1879 by Alfred Bedford, manager of the Waltham Watch Co, Holborn Circus, London. He used the pellet in between his initials in later registrations because AB to distinguish it from marks already registered without the pellet.

Alfred Bedford was not a case maker, he was the manager of the British branch of the American Watch Co. of Waltham, Massachusetts. The mass production methods used by the parent company meant that they could produce more watches than the American market needed, so they had a surplus or oversupply of movements. However, watch cases were still made by traditional hand craft methods and consequently struggled to keep up with demand to house the mass produced movements and were not in surplus, so Waltham wanted to export bare movements that would be cased in the destination country.

When the British branch of the Waltham company was set up in the 1870s it was found that British watch case makers could not supply the number of cases Waltham UK needed, so initially large numbers of cases were imported. These were stamped with Alfred Bedford's sponsors mark and sent for British hallmarking before being used to house Waltham movements. Bedford stated that in 1877 Waltham UK had imported 5,000 cases from the United States and 18,000 from Switzerland, most of which had been hallmarked at Chester.

The problem of case supply for Waltham in Britain was eventually solved by the creation of a watch case factory in Birmingham that eventually became the Dennison Watch Case Co. It appears that Waltham had some interest in the company and that Bedford could give permission at least for work to be done. Before a Select Committee examining in 1887 proposed changes to the Merchandise Marks Act Bedford was asked Is there not a branch of the American watch manufacture established in Birmingham? to which he replied It is the case shop. The exact role of Waltham in the early history of the Dennison company is yet to be uncovered.

All the hallmarked cases made by Dennison to house imported Waltham movements had the sponsor's marks of either Frederick Francis Seeland, who was manager for the American Watch Co. of Waltham in the UK before leaving in late 1876 to take over at IWC, or the A.B of Alfred Bedford, who took over from Seeland. Bedford told a Select Committee that these cases were only for watches sold in Britain, they were not for export.

There is some similarity between the marks registered by Alfred Bedford and Arthur Baume, but the association of Bedford's marks with Waltham and Baume's marks with Baume and Longines makes it possible to work out which is which.

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AC: Antoine Castelberg

AC
AC: Antoine Castelberg

This is the mark of Antoine Castelberg of 58 Holborn Viaduct, London, a watch dealer and importer operating in London, originally from La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland. His full name was Johann Antoine Benedict Von Castelberg.

Castelberg's mark was first entered at the London Assay Office on 25 August 1875 with the address 90 Newgate Street London. On 2 August 1876 he was recorded as moving to 58 Holborn Viaduct, London. Castelberg also registered the same mark at the Chester Assay Office on 17 October 1877.

From the the mid 1870s Castelberg acted as assay agent for Swiss manufacturers such as IWC who wanted to get Swiss made watch cases marked with British hallmarks until this practice was effectively stopped in 1888 by the Merchandise Marks Act.

Castelberg got into financial difficulties in Switzerland in 1877. In December 1877 the "Castelberg affair" or "Castelberg scandal" was news in Neuchatel, where the Feuille d'Avis de Neuchatel reported that Castelberg had sort protection from his creditors, which was granted, and offered to pay 60% of the money he owed them. There was an indignant protest against this in La Chaux-de-Fonds when two experts, Renaud and Perrenoud, reported that Castelberg had possessed "no regular accounting", indulged in "shameful operations", and owed in excess of 140,000 Swiss francs.

In 1878 The London Gazette recorded that on 15 May a partnership between Castelberg, Fritz Petitpierre, Jules Godat and Gaspard Brunner, carrying on business at Chaux-de-Fonds Switzerland and 58 Holborn Viaduct, London, under the style Castelberg, Petitpierre, and Co. as Watch Manufacturers, was dissolved by mutual consent. Castelberg and Brunner left and the business was carried on by Petitpierre and Godat as Petitpierre and Co.

Castelberg evidently survived his financial problems. By 1880 he was representing himself as a British watch manufacturer, and even had a stand as part of the British representation at the Sydney International Exhibition in 1880. During the trial of Morris Schott for deception at the Old Bailey on 27th March 1882, Castelberg said in his evidence that he was a watch dealer and importer at Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, and 38 Seckforde Street, Clerkenwell. Castelberg described sending orders to several watch manufacturers in Chaux-de-Fonds, and how he charged commission of 2½% of the total value of orders he took.

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AF: Alfred Fridlander

AF
AF: Alfred Fridlander

The sponsor's mark of the initials AF in a rectangular shield with cut corners was entered at the London Assay Office by Alfred Fridlander. It appears to be one of three similar punches that Fridlander registered between 1872 and 1882. Fridlander's first registration at the London Assay Office was on 13 October 1868 with a similar mark differing only in that there was a pellet between the A and the F, like this: A•F.

Alfred Emanuel Fridlander (1840 - 1928) was born in Birmingham and became one of Coventry's most distinguished watchmakers. By 1871 he was living in Coventry and gave his employment as a watchmaker employing 30 men and 6 Boys. He is recorded at Holyhead Road Coventry. Fridlander supplied S. Smith and Sons with many watches including their first non-magnetic watches, some of which were exhibited and awarded a gold medal and diploma at the 1892 Crystal Palace Electrical Exhibition.

Fridlander later became a Director of the Triumph Cycle Co, the Auto Machinery Co. and Leigh Mills Co. These companies were all set up in Coventry using the skills of the workforce that had been gained in watchmaking and that became available as watchmaking declined and skilled men looked for other work. Fridlander became a town councillor and Justice of the Peace (J.P.), and he served in that role for 28 years.

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A·G·R: Arthur George Rendell for Robert Pringle & Sons

AGR Edinburgh import
Gold Borgel case Edinburgh 1925/1926.
Image courtesy of Cary Hurt, Alabama.
AGR Arthur George Rendell
AGR Arthur George Rendell

The A·G·R mark with pellets (dots) in between the letters and in a shield composed of three overlapping circles, are the sponsor's mark used by Robert Pringle & Sons on imported watch cases. This mark was first registered with the London Assay Office by Arthur George Rendell on 25 June 1907. The same mark was registered with the Chester Assay Office on 15 June 1907, with the Glasgow Assay Office in circa 1917, and with the Edinburgh Assay Office in 1926.

Robert Pringle & Sons

Robert Pringle & Sons of 40/42 Clerkenwell Road, London, was in its time one of the UK's largest wholesalers of jewellery, silverware, clocks and watches.

Robert Pringle (1800-1875) was born in Scotland. At the age of 13, i.e. in circa 1813, he became apprentice to a jeweller in Perth. It seems likely that Robert Pringle was related to John Pringle, the son of Robert Pringle and Ann Gibson and who was apprenticed to Charles Murray for seven years from 5 June 1816. It appears that Murray took his first apprentice in 1816 after being admitted Freeman Jeweller on 27 March 1816, so Robert Pringle would not have been apprenticed to Murray.

After completing his apprenticeship Robert Pringle moved to London in 1820. In 1835 he set up in business on his own as a manufacturing jeweller in Amwell Street, Clerkenwell, employing up to twelve men. By 1868 the business had moved to premises with a shop at 21 Wilderness Row. Robert Pringle died in 1875 and his son, also named Robert Pringle, took over and expanded the business considerably. The business was renamed from Robert Pringle & Co. to Robert Pringle & Son in 1882. In 1899 when the third Robert Pringle became a partner with his father, the business was renamed to Robert Pringle & Sons. When the then senior Robert died in 1907, the third Robert took his brothers William, James and Edwin into partnership.

Robert Pringle and Sons
Robert Pringle & Co. 1889

From around 1868 the company's address was 21 Wilderness Row which, when the road was redeveloped in 1881, became 42 Clerkenwell Road. As the business expanded it took over the premises next door, No. 40, in 1884. The premises were named "Wilderness Works" after the old name of the road, as shown on this memorandum head dated 1889. Further expansion resulted in the premises eventually spanning 36-42 Clerkenwell Road, and the premises at the rear, whose frontages were numbers 17-20 Great Sutton Street.

Robert Pringle, the son of the founder, first registered the mark R·P at the London Assay Office on 17 January 1862, giving his trade or profession as a gold worker. This may be thought a late registration for a business set up in London as a jeweller in 1835, but Robert Pringle was listed in 1852 as a gilt jeweller, i.e. a maker of gold plated silver jewellery. Many items of jewellery were exempt from hallmarking because either they were below the minimum weight for hallmarking or it was not possible to punch the mark without damaging the item. Many punches bearing the R·P initials were registered by the company over the subsequent years.

Imported Watches and "A·G·R"

When British law was clarified and enforced by the 1907 Act "Assay of Imported Watch-Cases (Existing Stocks Exemption)" which came into force on 1 June 1907 and required that henceforth all imported watches be assayed in a UK assay office and marked with British import hallmarks, a sponsor's mark was required so that Pringles could send imported watches for assay. It is evident that Arthur Rendell was an employee of Robert Pringle & Sons and registered his initials as the mark, so it seems most likely that Rendell was in charge of the department or section responsible for handling imported watches. You can read more about the Act on my page about British import hallmarks.

The London Assay Office records simply show that the A·G·R was registered by Arthur George Rendell, 40/42 Clerkenwell Road, London, with no mention of Pringles although the address is an obvious pointer, private address 17 Duckett Road, Harringay. The first punch was registered on 25 June 1907, followed by further punches with the same mark on 25 June 2 July and 7 October 1907, and 3 September 1908. However, the Chester Assay Office records show that punches with the same A·G· R mark were sent by R Pringle & Son for registration. The first registration at Chester was on 15 June 1907, further identical punches were registered at Chester on 10 July and 10 October 1907, and 5 September 1908. The number of punches registered gives an indication of the volume of imported watches Pringles were handling at the time.

Until 1 June 1907, if a department existed at Pringles for imported watches at all, it would have simply received watches from Swiss makers, kept them in stock, and then sent them out to British retailers as orders came in. However, from 1 June 1907 the requirement for all imported watches to be hallmarked required extra work. The movements had to be removed and stored while the cases were hallmarked, and the cases had to be stamped with the registered A·G·R mark and sent to the assay office. After assay and hallmarking, the cases were returned and needed a certain amount of rectification and final polishing after being hallmarked before the movements could be reinserted. The complete watches would then have been put on test for a few days, carefully observed to make sure that they were running properly. Although not a huge amount of work, it required extra staff, workshop space and storage space.

Although some of the large importing companies such as Dimier Brothers and Stauffer & Co. could afford this, smaller watch manufacturers would have needed a London agent to carry out this work for them. Pringles were rather late in getting the A·G·R mark registered on in June 1907, the outcome of the court case between Goldsmiths' and Wyatt had been known since November 1906 and Dimier Brothers had registered new punches within a few weeks of this. The fact that Pringles didn't register the A·G·R mark until some time after the new rules came into effect suggests that they were not aware of the impending change in the law.

The date of registration of the A·G·R mark being in response to the 1907 Act opens the question of whether Pringles had been importers of foreign watches before June 1907. Before June 1907 foreign watches could be imported without being required to be assayed and hallmarked in a British assay office. It was therefore possible to send over small parcels of watches direct from Switzerland straight to the retailers who ordered them from travelling representatives who showed them samples, although someone needed to arrange customs clearance and pay the necessary British import duty, so I think it is likely that Pringles were involved in that before 1907.

Why didn't Pringles simply use the many "RP" sponsor's marks they already had registered at the assay office? It seems likely that they wished to keep the hallmarks on imported watches different from those on their normal stock or items of their own manufacture, probably because they didn't own the watches but were purely acting as assay agents.

The Edinburgh Assay Office records show that the A·G·R mark was registered on 1 August 1926 in the name of Robert Pringle & Sons Ltd. by Arthur George Rendell. Later registrations of the same A·G·R mark mention only Robert Pringle & Sons and not Rendell's name. The records at Edinburgh show that six punches with the A·G·R mark were registered in Glasgow, but records of the dates of registration no longer exist, they were lost or destroyed after the Glasgow Assay Office was closed in 1964. My records show numbers of watches with the A·G·R sponsor's mark being hallmarked in Glasgow with the earliest date seen being 1917, so the purpose of the Glasgow registration may have been to have a second way of getting watches hallmarked as demand expanded during the War, although it could be because the Glasgow Assay Office charges were lower than those in London and when volumes of wristwatches increased during the war it became worthwhile to take advantage of this.

Robert Pringle and Sons

Robert Pringle & Sons are also recorded as registering sponsors marks for other people. Edinburgh registrations show that in addition to the A·G·R mark, Pringles registered marks in Edinburgh and/or Glasgow SP (S. Pringle?), EAP, SFC (Schwob Freres), LWC, NW/[?], GWC, and R&S (Rotherham & Sons) "for: Hugh, Keveth & Ewan Rotherham".

The company became limited liability in 1931 as Robert Pringle & Sons (London) Ltd., as shown in the picture here.

Robert Pringle & Sons was voluntarily wound up in 1981. Creditors were paid in full. A branch of the business that had been started in 1966 became Robert Pringle (Engineers) Ltd., gear cutters, and continues to this day as Robert Pringle Engineers.

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A.H.R: Alfred Henry Read

A.H.R: Alfred Henry Read
A.H.R: Alfred Henry Read

The punch was recorded on a plate at Chester but the register with the details are missing. However the mark has been identified by comparison with an identical one registered at the London Assay Office in 1883 by Alfred Henry Read of Hill St. Coventry. Sponsor's sometimes registered the same punch with two assay offices so that they could choose which one to send a particular item to for hallmarking.

The Coventry Watch Museum Project records Alfred Henry Read working as a watch manufacturer between 1883 and 1901. You can read more about him and a watch carrying this sponsor's mark on my page about British hallmarks.

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A L Dennison
A.L.D: A L Dennison

ALD: Aaron Dennison and the Dennison Watch Case Co.

Aaron Lufkin Dennison (1812-1895) was one of the pioneers of watchmaking by machinery in America. In 1862 Dennison moved to England and around 1874 set up a watch case manufactory in the Handsworth area of Birmingham which eventually became the Dennison Watch Case Company. Initially the company made cases for imported watch movements from the American Watch Company of Waltham, later they also cased imported Swiss movements.

You can read more about Aaron Dennison and the Dennison Watch Case Company on my Dennison page.

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A (number) M

A2M
A2M

Watch cases with Glasgow Assay Office import hallmarks turn up with a sponsor's mark made up of the letters A and M separated by a number, such as the A2M mark shown here. I have seen examples of A2M, A5M, A10M and A11M. They all look similar to this one, made with an incuse punch with no surround. Unfortunately the records for the Glasgow Assay Office were mainly lost when the office closed in 1964 and we don't have records of who registered these marks.

These marks are somewhat similar to the J (symbol) W punches thought to have been registered by James Weir. It seems likely that the company who entered the mark was acting as assay agent for several different Swiss manufacturers and that the number was used for administrative purposes to identify who each watch case belonged to.

The Edinburgh Assay Office database includes an A5M mark registered by J Véron Grauer & Co of Geneva, described as a "Forwarding agency". This company still exists as a logistics company in Switzerland and traces its history back to 1867. Véron-Grauerspecialised in products of high value such as watches and jewellery, and also in customs clearance.

It seems likely that Véron Grauer were performing the role of assay agent for Swiss watch case manufacturers in the same way as Stockwell & Co. It seems likely that Véron Grauer were part of the continent wide network of shipping agents including Messageries Nationales Express and the Messageries Anglo-Suisses that Stockwell & Co. also belonged to.

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A.W: Arthur Wigley

Arthur Wigley
A.W: Arthur Wigley

This sponsor's mark A.W was entered at the London Assay Office in 1875 by Arthur Wigley of 40 Caroline Street, Birmingham.

In 1874 Wigley was recorded as a rose engine turner. By 1889 he was recorded as a partner in Dennison, Wigley and Co., which became the Dennison Watch Case Company.

You can read more about the Dennison Watch Case Company on my Dennison page.

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B&S gold cased watch
B&S gold watch case, Chester 1959 / 1960.
Image courtesy of and © John B, August 2016.
Chester 1938 to 1939
B&S gold watch case, Chester 1938 / 1939

B&S: B H Britton & Sons

B H Britton & Sons; Charles Henry Britton, Walter Britton and Herbert Britton, of 35 Hockley Hill, Birmingham, England.

The sponsor's mark B & S in a rectangular shield was first entered at the Chester Assay Office in 1912. This shape mark with a shield made of two joined circles was first registered in May 1931.

The hallmarks in the first case are Chester Assay Office marks for a nine carat gold item made in Britain, the date letter is the "N" in "Court hand" script of 1938 to 1939.

The patent number seen in the case, 378233, for "Improvements in watch cases" was granted to Charles Henry Britton, Walter Britton and Herbert Britton of 35 Hockley Hill, Birmingham, on 11 August 1932 with a priority date of 15 September 1931. The object of the invention was to provide an improved construction of a two piece watch case with a neat and attractive appearance that could be cheaply manufactured. The case was made from a short piece of tube that formed the middle part of the case. This was pressed or rolled at both ends to provide the recess for the glass at the front and an undercut at the rear for the case back to snap on to.

The hallmarks in the Rolex case are Chester Assay Office marks for a nine carat gold item made in Britain. The date letter "J" is for 1959 to 1960, showing that the trend for having gold cases made in England that started in 1915 continued long after the Great War, and after the Second World War. This case was one of the later ones marked by the Chester Assay Office. With a history stretching back to Saxon times, and having served the Liverpool watch case makers during the nineteenth century, the Chester goldsmiths were stripped of their power of assay and touch and their Assay Office closed on 24 August 1962.

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C&CLD: Carley & Clémence Ltd.

Carley & Clémence Limited
C&CLD: Carley & Clémence Ltd.

Carley & Clémence were watch and clock makers, and importers of Swiss watches, with a history as Clémence Frères going back to 1840 in Switzerland, with factories at Les Bois and La Chaux-de-Fonds. In 1863 or 1864 Joseph August Clémence settled in London and opened the British branch of the business. In 1891 Clémence Frères acquired the business of George Carley & Co. The separate titles of the two companies, Clémence Frères and Carley, were maintained until 1903 when a limited liability company Carley & Clémence Ltd. was formed.

In 2010 Christie's sold an 18 carat gold hunter case minute repeating keyless lever watch signed Carley & Clemence Ltd., 30 Ely Place, London, Makers to the Admiralty, No. 51'484, with London hallmarks and the date letter for 1906. The watch had an off-white enamel dial in the typical manner of the London dial maker Frederick Willis, renowned for high quality dials, and case by the London case maker Fred Thoms, renowned for exceptional cases, both suppliers to the best English watchmakers.

In February 1915 the death of Mr Joseph Auguste Clémence at age 71, chairman of Carley & Clémence (Limited), watch and clock makers of Ely Place Holborn, and a member of the Court of the Clockmakers' Company, was announced in Horological Journal and The Times. In the Horological Journal it was said that there was practically no Society of any importance connected with the trade with which he was not identified. He had been admitted to the livery of the Clockmaker's Company in 1891, was on the Committee of the Clock and Watch Makers' Asylum for twenty years, was a member of the Committee of the Watch and Clock Makers' Benevolent Institution, a founder of the London Wholesale Jewellers and Allied Trades Association, and a member of the Council of the BHI for twenty two years, holding the posts of Vice-President and Chairman. He was always very interested in technical education.

In 1962 Carley & Clemence was part of Time Products, a group of Hatton Garden companies including also Elco Clocks and Watches, Baume & Co, and Hatton Jewellery and Watch Company. Companies in the group were sole importers and distributors in the UK for Longines, Vacheron et Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Movado, Universal, Certina and Helvetia. In 1964 they advertised Certina wristwatches by Certina Kurth Frères S.A. from Carley & Clemence Ltd, Theba House, 49 Hatton Garden, London EC1.

The picture of the Carley & Clemence Limited mark, C&CLD, was provided to me by Ewen Taylor and is in the case back of a hermetic watch owned by him, the 9 carat gold case made by the Geneva company of François Borgel and marked with import hallmarks in London 1925/26

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CN: Charles Nicolet

Charles Nicolet
CN: Charles Nicolet

Charles Nicolet was a partner of Stauffer & Co., the London branch of the Swiss firm of Stauffer, Son & Co. of La Chaux-de-Fonds. His sponsor's mark of "CN" incuse with no shield was first registered with the London Assay Office on 1 March 1877, the address given as 12 Old Jewry Chambers. NB: The spelling in Priestley is Nicholet, which is incorrect. He then registered a sponsor's mark "C.N" in a rectangular lozenge with cut corners 10 Oct 1881 and the same 15 Oct 1885. On 23 Feb 1887 the registered address was changed to 13 Charterhouse Street, Holborn, London. On 26 Mar 1896 a sponsors mark "CN" in a shield with angular ends was registered.

On 4 Nov 1904 an incuse mark the same as the original "CN" sponsor's mark was again registered. On 3 Apr 1905 and 17 October 1907 marks of "CN" in rectangular lozenge with cut corners were also registered.

Charles Nicolet was also registered with the Chester Goldsmiths Company, 13 Dec 1906, and used his 13 Charterhouse Street, London, address. In this instance he used "CN" within a rectangular lozenge, albeit corners may appear rounded.

Charles Nicolet's sponsor's mark was used on some of the gold and silver watches imported by Stauffer and Co. during the period between 1874 and 1887 when some Swiss watches were given British hallmarks, and then on all off the gold and silver watches imported by Stauffer after the law was enforced from 1 June 1907 so that all imported gold and silver watches had to be assayed and hallmarked in a British assay office.

I saw a watch advertised with the description saying Case also signed CN Charles Nicolet a known casemaker for IWC. This is an error caused by the mistake of calling the sponsor's mark a "maker's mark". In this case the watch case was made in Switzerland, not by Charles Nicolet, and was stamped with his sponsor's mark on import to the UK before being sent to be hallmarked.

You can read more about Stauffer and Nicolet by clicking this link: Stauffer Son & Co.

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CG: Charles Guinard

Charles Guinard
CG: Charles Guinard

Charles William Guinard is recorded by Philip Priestley as a watch case importer. His sponsor's mark was first recorded at the London Assay Office on 21 January 1907 when his address was 52 Myddleton Square, Clerkenwell, London. On 28 September 1909 he is recorded as having moved to 6 Thavies Inn, Holborn Circus.

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DBB: David Boettcher

My Hallmarks

To increase the authenticity of my watch straps I make copies of early sterling silver wristwatch strap buckles. I make these by hand in sterling (0.925) silver, and they are hallmarked by the London Assay Office with a full set of struck traditional UK hallmarks, just like their predecessors were around a hundred years ago. My intention is that these replicas should be as close to the originals as possible. You can read more about this and see pictures on my Sterling Silver Buckles page.

This picture shows the hallmarks on one of my buckles. Reading from the left the marks are:

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DBs Dimier Brothers & Co. / Dimier Frères & Cie

Dimier Brothers
Dimier Brothers

The Mark DBs or DBs is the registered sponsor's mark of Dimier Brothers & Co., a large and important company importing Swiss watches into Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Dimier Brothers & Co. had offices in London and, under the name Dimier Fréres & Co., in la Chaux-de-Fonds. So far as I am aware they had no manufacturing capability, they were purely an import / export company. There was another company called Dimier Fréres in Fleurier who manufactured watches from the early to middle nineteenth century but this doesn't seem to have been connected with the later company other than by name, and perhaps family.

The Dimier brothers company in London was first recorded in 1868 at 46 Cannon Street, London, as Swiss watch importers. The first sponsors mark "CD" was registered by Charles Dimier on 4 December 1878. A second mark "ED" was registered by Edward Dimier on 8 July 1884.

These marks were registered during the period between 1874 and 1887 when some Swiss watch cases were being stamped with British hallmarks, as discussed on my Assay and Hallmarking page. From 1 January 1888 new styles of combined marks including prominently the word "Foreign" were introduced by Act of Parliament to be used by British assay offices for hallmarking imported watch cases, and this effectively put a stop to foreign watch cases being marked with British hallmarks until 1907.

Dimier Brothers
1913 Dimier Brothers advert in Switzerland for English made leather watch straps

In 1906 the case of Goldsmiths vs. Wyatt resulted in an Appeal Court judgement that all imported gold and silver watch cases should be assayed and hallmarked in a British assay office, and the law was modified so that all gold and silver watches imported into Britain after 1 June 1907 were assayed and hallmarked in a British assay office, and marked with special hallmarks that were used only on imported items.

The sponsor's mark "G.D" was first registered with the London Assay Office by George Charles Dimier on 12 December 1906, less than two weeks after the judgement in the case of Goldsmiths vs. Wyatt. Dimier brothers subsequently registered eight more "G.D" punches with the London Assay Office between March and December 1907, and five further "DBS" punches in 1907, the large number of punches gives an indication that they were importing large numbers of watches that all needed to be marked before being sent to be assayed and hallmarked.

Dimier Brothers played an important role at the beginning of the twentieth century in the design of the first modern wristwatches with fixed curved wire lugs, which you can read about at Early wristwatches.

The advertisement reproduced here is from 1913 and is an advert in a Swiss trade paper for English made leather watch straps. These were most likely made by Pearson & Sons in London.

The company traded under the name George Dimier from the 1920s and in advertisements claimed to be able to trace their history back to 1795 in Geneva.

Dimier Brothers & Co. was voluntarily wound up in 1971.

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E.G.T: Emile George Tuteur

E.G.T: Emile George Tuteur

Emile George Tuteur first registered this mark at the London Assay Office on 19 January 1915, giving his occupation as a gold and silver watch case importer, address 60/62 Clerkenwell Road, London. The E.G.T sponsor's mark is shown here in a Borgel watch case with London import hallmarks for 1915 to 1916.

Tuteur was not newly arrived in England in 1915. On 10 March 1896 he had been granted a Certificate of Naturalisation as a British National, his address recorded as 97 Brondesbury Road, Maida Vale, London. In 1896 he was granted British patent No. 12,871 for "A combined watch and clip attachment for cycles". In the specification Tuteur stated that his address as 76 Goswell Road, London, and that he was a watch manufacturer. He was actually a watch importer rather than a manufacturer.

Tuteur's invention was a combined watch and clip attachment for cycles where the clip remained permanently attached to the bicycle but the watch could be removed without disturbing the clip. This was at the height of the great cycling craze in the 1890s, and Tuteur obviously wanted to cash in on the desire for people to be able to easily see their watch whilst they were cycling. However, the patent does not mention any form of shock protection for the watch and I would imagine that in those days, with poor road surfaces and without shock protection inside the watch for the balance stem pivots, no watch would survive long clipped to the handlebars of a bicycle.

Emil George Tuteur & Co. was listed in business directories of 1897 as watch and clock material dealers at 76 Goswell Road, EC. This business was converted into a limited liability company in 1898 under the style of E.G. Tuteur & Co. Ltd. The business entered voluntary liquidation in June 1898, just shortly before a petition for winding up by James Smith of J. Smith & Co., 79 Vyse St., Birmingham, a goldsmith and creitor of the company, was received at the High Court in July, and was subsequently wound-up. Tuteur, of addresses 3 Red Lion Court, Fleet Street and 97 Brondesbury Road, London, lately carrying on business at 76 Goswell Road, was adjudged bankrupt by the High Court in February 1899. His liabilities were £6,581 19s 5d against £10 l7s assets. Among his creditors were C.B. Armstrong & Brothers of Birmingham, Abel & Katz of Manchester, Fulda & David of London, J. Flachfeld & J. Magner of London, the Lancashire Watch Co Ltd of Prescot, F. Mauthe of Schwenningen, the Newhaven Clock Co of Newhaven. Conn. USA, Wagner & Gerstley Ltd. and I. Weill & Frere of Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Quite a line up!

Emil George Tuteur and Frank Louis Tamter were recorded in 1907 as directors of McCabe & Webber Ltd, Bank Buildings, Margaret Street, W, and 11 Great Titchfield Street, W. By 1913 they are listed as jewellers at 11 Carlisle Street, Soho, W. (TA: 'Watchlike'). In 1913 E.G. Tuteur is listed as a watch importer at 60/62 Clerkenwell Road, EC. Private address: Emil George Tuteur, 97 Brondesbury Road, NW.

On 10 November 1920 Emil George Tuteur executed a Deed of Assignment for the benefit of Creditors so it appears that he was in financial difficulties again. His address was 60/62, Clerkenwell-road, and he was described as a watch importer. In December 1930 we find the boot on the other foot with Emil George Tuteur presenting a petition for bankruptcy in the High Court against one D. Silver.

Emile George Tuteur may possibly have been related to Max Tuteur of Eisemann & Tuteur, manufacturing and wholesale jewellers and diamond merchants of Hatton Gardens, London, and Hanau, Germany. Max Tuteur went into liquidation in 1884.

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Fulda and David
F&D: Fulda and David

F & D: Fulda and David

The sponsor's mark F & D was entered at the London Assay Office by Otto Fulda and Jacques David of 11 Hatton Gardens on 26 September 1907.

There can be little doubt that this was in response to the 1907 Act "Assay of Imported Watch-Cases (Existing Stocks Exemption)" which came into force on 1 June 1907 and required that henceforth all imported watches be assayed in a UK assay office and marked with British import hallmarks. You can read more about that Act on my page about British import hallmarks.

The company of Fulda and David was established as a partnership between Otto Gabriel Fulda and Jacques David in 1879, carrying on business as watch importers and wholesalers. The partnership was dissolved by mutual consent on 22 October 1904 due the retirement of Jacques David, Otto Fulda continuing to trade as a sole trader under the style Fulda and David. Following Otto Fulda's death on 10 July 1919 the company was incorporated as Fulda & David Limited. On 4 August 1927 at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the members heard that the company could not continue in business due to its liabilities and a resolution agreeing that the company should be wound up voluntarily was passed. The post-war slump that occupied much of the 1920s and 1930s resulted in many companies being wound up. The company in liquidation was acquired in 1928 by a new company called Fulda & David (1928) Limited. This company too went into voluntary liquidation in 1930.

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Borgel Marque Registration
FB over a key: François Borgel

FB: François Borgel

This is not a British registered sponsor's mark but a Swiss trademark. I have included it on this page because a lot of early wristwatches that were used in the trenches during the Great War and have survived in remarkably good condition used the patent dust and damp resistant screw case that carries this mark.

François Borgel of Geneva registered his "marque de fabrique", or makers mark (trademark), in Geneva in March 1887. He patented his famous watch case design on 28 October 1891 with the Swiss "Brevet" or Patent number 4001, and in the UK on 24th November 1891 under Patent number 20,422. The Borgel case was an early dust and moisture resistant watch case. It has a one piece case with no back opening, the movement and bezel are mounted on a threaded carrier ring which screws into the case from the front.

Manufacture of Borgel cases continued after the death of François Borgel in 1912, initially under the direction of his daughter Louisa Borgel, later Louisa Beauverd-Borgel. The firm was taken over in 1924 by Taubert & Fils. Taubert & Fils, later Taubert Frères, was one of the finest Geneva-based case makers and specialized in water-resistant cases. They worked with many Swiss firms, some famous ones including Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, and other less well known. For further details please refer to my Borgel page.

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F.F.S: Frederick Francis Seeland

Frederick Francis, or Frank, Seeland was the Assistant Manager of the Waltham Watch Co., UK, before leaving to become manager of the International Watch Company (IWC) of Schaffhausen, Switzerland in October 1876, after the first company, founded by F.A. Jones, had gone bankrupt.

The F.F.S mark was entered by Seeland at the London Assay Office on 2 November 1875 and the Chester Assay Office on 31 January 1876. This mark was used on cases for Waltham watches made in Birmingham by Dennison, and also on imported Swiss and American cases that were hallmarked in Britain.

Seeland was succeeded at Waltham UK by Alfred Bedford. When Seeland was manager at IWC, Swiss watch cases were sent to be hallmarked in Britain and then returned to Switzerland to be finished into watches. For more about this see Early IWC watches with British hallmarks. None of the IWC Seeland watches that I have seen with British hallmarks bear Seeland's sponsors mark, it appears that he used third party agents such as Antoine Castelberg, Fritz Petitpierre and Joel Blanckensee & Co. who had their own registered sponsor's marks.

Seeland generated apparent profits for IWC by overstating the value of stock on hand. This came to light during the summer of 1879 when a stock take was conducted by the managing director Johann Rauschenbach and the factory foreman. Seeland with his family secretly left Schaffenhausen for America just before the stock take took place.

A census taken in Newark, New Jersey in 1880 showed Frederick Seeland age 37 (so birth circa 1843) and his wife Fanny age 27 living there with two daughters Irene age 6 and Emma age 1 and a son Frederick age 3. Frederick Seeland's occupation is watchmaker and his place of birth is Switzerland. His wife Fanny's place of birth is New Jersey, as is the eldest daughter Irene. The two younger children were born in Switzerland.

The census data is rather at odds with a passport application lodged by one Frederick Frank Seeland in March 1874 in which Seeland swears that he was born in New York on 24 January 1842 and that he is a native and loyal citizen of the United States.

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FM: Frank Moss

FM: Frank Moss
FM: Frank Moss

This sponsor's mark FM in a serif face within a rectangular shield with cut corners is the sponsor's mark of Frank Moss, 48 Frederick Street, Birmingham. It was entered at the Birmingham Assay Office on 25 August 1882 with the address 48 Frederick Street, Birmingham. The London Assay Office usually required the residential address of registrants, but Frederick Street is within the jewellery quarter of Birmingham and this is more likely to have been the address of a workshop or factory.

Frank Moss was a partner in the firm of J. Blanckensee & Co., watch manufacturers and importers. The company was a partnership between Joel and Leon Blanckensee and Frank Moss It is not clear why Moss entered a mark of his own because Blanckensee & Co. were already registered with the Birmingham Assay Office. The mark "JB&Co." within a rectangular shield had been entered on 29 October 1875 with addresses at Duchess Road and Regent Street Birmingham. Regent Street is off Frederick Street within the jewellery quarter of Birmingham and this is likely to have been the address of a workshop or factory, whereas Duchess Road is a residential location and appears to have been a private address. A second punch with the same mark and address details was entered on 13 May 1878. Five further similar punches were registered with the same details between 1901 and 1903. On 28 April 1903 a punch was entered with "J.B 2 & Co" within a rectangular shield with cut corners and address 48 Frederick Street, Birmingham was entered. The use of the "2" in this punch indicates that the Frederick Street operation was a separate establishment from the one at Regent Street.

The company "S. Blanckensee & Son" was founded circa 1827 in Birmingham as wholesale manufacturing goldsmiths and jewellers. From a small beginning it gradually expanded to become one of the largest in the trade. In 1887 it was incorporated as a limited company with Aaron Blanckensee, the son of the founder, as Managing Director. The manufactory was at 14 and 15 Frederick Street Birmingham, there was a branch office at 35 Ely Place Holborn, London, and a manufactory and warehouse in Madrid. The company manufactured high class jewellery, chains, caskets and gem set work. There is no suggestion that they were involved in watch or watch case manufacture and the relationship to J. Blanckensee & Co. seems to have extended no further than the name.

In 1885 Frank Moss is recorded as applying for a patent for "Improvements in watches". The address given was 4 and 5 Arcade Chambers, Corporation Street, Birmingham, most likely the address of the Patent Attorney that Moss used to prepare and submit the application.


IWC bee trademark

In 1876 Joel Blanckensee & Co. registered in Britain a trademark of a bee with the words "Trade" and "Mark" above and below the bee, as seen in the image here. The listing says they were "Chronometer and watch manufacturers, importers of Swiss (Geneva) watches ; Regent Street, Birmingham, England". It is interesting to note that the first issue of the British Trade Marks Journal was published in 1876 after the passage of the Trade Marks Registration Act in August 1875. Blanckensee might have been using the bee trademark before 1876, or alternatively the passing of the Act might have stimulated the thought - the latter is more likely I think. The bee trademark is seen on movements made by IWC in the 1880s, presumably to fill orders from Blanckensee.

Blanckensee advert April 1904
Blanckensee Swiss trade advert, April 1904

The sponsor's mark FM is seen in IWC watch cases and indicates that either Blanckensee & Co. were instrumental in getting IWC gold and silver watch cases hallmarked in British assay offices, or that they imported uncased IWC movements and had cases made for them in England. This is discussed further at Early IWC watches with British hallmarks.

In 1876 Blanckensee & Co. also registered another bee trademark, and one of a watch balance; probably for a Swiss manufacturer, possibly IWC.

In later years Joel Blanckensee & Co. registered trademarks for a number of other Swiss companies including Constantin Mathey and Emile Schneitter Fils. The Schneitter Fils trademark of the word "Achille" on a ribbon beneath a figure of the warrior Achilles kneeling holding a sword and shield was registered in June 1899, a year and a half before the same mark was registered by Schneitter in Switzerland in November 1890. This is rather strange because the spelling Achille for Achilles is clearly Swiss/French.

Advertisements in the Swiss trade press show that Emile Schneitter Fils was acting as Blanckensee's representative in Switzerland at that time. The location of the Schneitter operation on the second floor of a building on Rue Neuve in La Chaux-de-Fonds, which is the centre of town and not a manufacturing area, makes it apparent that this was an office, and it is likely that this was extent of Schneitter's activities, an office where orders from Blanckensee in England were communicated to local manufacturers for shipment to England.

The advert here by Blanckensee in a Swiss trade paper in April 1904 says that they are horlogical wholesalers and that they wish to buy batches of watches in English or "fantasy" (fancy) style, ladies jewellery watches, for cash. A watch in the "English style" that Blanckensee were seeking, with a full plate movement, balance above the plate and a right angle lever escapement has been seen with the Achille trademark. It is in a silver case marked with the Swiss 935 and three bears hallmarks showing that it was made to be exported to the UK. By 1904 their representative or agent in Switzerland has changed to E. Biedermann and no further trace of Emile Schneitter has been found.

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FP: Fritz Petitpierre


FP: Fritz Petitpierre

FP in an oval shield is the mark of Fritz Petitpierre, an associate of Antoine Castelberg in Castelberg, Petitpierre, and Co. of Chaux-de-Fonds Switzerland and 58 Holborn Viaduct, London,

Petitpierre's sponsor mark was first entered at Chester on 18 June 1878 with the address 58 Holborn Viaduct. This was shortly after Castelberg left the partnership in May 1878. Petitpierre's also entered a mark in London on 22 November 1878 with the address 33 Hatton Garden, and entered a mark in Birmingham on 11 November 1882 with the address 66 Holborn Viaduct.

After Castelberg left the partnership Fritz Petitpierre traded as Petitpierre & Co. in Britian and Petitpierre & Cie in Switzerland. He seems to have imported a lot of Swiss watches into Britain during the latter part of the nineteenth century, mostly at the lower end of the quality and price range, which is perhaps why little is known about his company.

I originally thought that Petitpierre was merely a London import agent, but I found a letter signed by "Les ouvriers du Comptoir Petitpierre et Cie." dated October 1889 announcing that they had secured a wage rise of 15% and thanking their "honoured patron". Comptoir literally translated means sales counter or trading post, but in this context it is usually short for comptoir d'horlogerie, a workshop where parts made by out-workers on the établissage system were assembled into complete watches. So it appears that Petitpierre had a Swiss watchmaking or watch assembly operation.

Petitpierre was also involved in getting Swiss watch cases hallmarked in British assay offices, including the IWC cases discussed at Early IWC watches with British hallmarks.

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G.D: George Dimier for Dimier Brothers

G.D: George Dimier
G.D: George Dimier

The sponsor's mark G.D was registered by George Dimier for Dimier Brothers, Gold and Silver watch importers, 46 Cannon Street London.

George Dimier's mark was first registered as the initials "G.D" in an oval shield on 12 December 1906 as a result of the court case Goldsmiths'vs. Wyatt and the anticipation that imported watches would have to be hallmarked. Eight further punches, one with the oval shield and seven with rectangular shields were registered, in 1907, an indication of the volume of watches the Dimier Brothers were importing.

See the DBs entry for more details about George Dimier and Dimier Brothers & Co..

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George Guillaume Gautschi
GGG: George Guillaume Gautschi

This GGG mark was entered by George Guillaume Gautschi, trading as De Pury, Gautschi & Co., importers of gold and silver watches. Twelve "G.G.G" punches on were registered on 10 February 1910, and a further six on 3 February 1910.

De Pury, Gautschi & Co. were listed in the London Gazette on 23 February 1914 in a summary of bankers returns. The General Partner was George Guillaume Gautschi of Townsend, St. Albans, occupation Banker, and the first listed limited partner was David de Pury of Grayshott House, Haslemere, occupation Gentleman.

For more about Gautschi and de Pury see the entry lower down on this page for Herman Edward de Pury.


GN: George Alfred Nicolet

GN_George_Alfred_Nicolet
GN: George Alfred Nicolet
Image by kind permission of and © OldeTimers.com

This GN sponsor's mark was entered by George Alfred Nicolet of Stauffer, Son & Co. after the retirement of his father Charles Nicolet (see above). The mark is taken from an IWC hermetic wristwatchs with Glasgow import hallmarks for 1929 to 1930.

George Alfred Nicolet trading as Stauffer, Son & Co. entered two sets of marks at the London Assay Office; the first "GN" in a rectangle with cut corners, the second GN in a rectangle. Both appear to have been registered on 2 February 1933, the address given was 13 Charterhouse Street, London.

The date of the IWC hermetic wristwatch with George Nicolet's sponsors mark is earlier than the date given for the registration of his mark at the London Assay Office, implying that he registered his mark at Glasgow first. Unfortunately the records from the Glasgow Assay Office, which was closed in 1964, are very incomplete and the actual date of registration is unknown.

A similar GN mark was registered at Edinburgh in 1955 by British Watch Cases Ltd, although it was entered under the name of George Alfred Nicolet trading as Stauffer, Son & Co.

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George Richard Baldock
George Richard Baldock

GRB: George Richard Baldock

This GRB cameo mark in a rectangular shield was entered at the London Assay Office by George Richard Baldock, the first entry recorded was on 19 May 1909 as a gold and silver worker and watch importer at 31 Holborn Viaduct.

George Baldock worked with Robbins and Appleton, the London agents for the American Watch Company of Waltham, for 25 years before setting up his own business in 1903, wholesale jewellers and watch importers specialising in Waltham watches. This was coincidental with the death of Royal Elisha Robbins in 1903 and there may have been some connection between the two events.

A new company was formed in 13 August 1934, G R Baldock & Company Limited, with A P Dickenson as director.

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GS: George Stockwell for Stockwell & Co.

George Stockwell
George Stockwell

Stockwell & Co. are known as as importers of silver (e.g. dressing table sets, watches, Georg Jensen silver, etc.) and Assay Agents at 16/18 Finsbury Street, London, with many depots around the UK and on the continent. However, the company began in the nineteenth century as as carriers and shipping agents, and only moved into the hallmarking of silverware, for which they are best known today, in 1907.

Stockwell & Co. was founded in 1878 by Henry Stockwell. In 1900 it was incorporated as a limited liability company Stockwell & Co. Ltd. George Stockwell was a nephew of Henry Stockwell. George had over twelve years experience and succeeded him to the management of the company.

Stockwell was the sole agent for Great Britain for the Messageries Nationales, the leading continental carriers with representatives in almost every country.

Stockwell & Co. never manufactured any gold or silver wares, watches or watch cases. They were carriers and shipping agents who also handled customs clearance for their customers. After 1 June 1907 they also acted as assay agents, facilitating the import into Britain of foreign gold and silver items, which were then required to be assayed and hallmarked in a UK assay office before being released for sale.

I saw a watch advertised with the description saying The movement is Swiss and the case is silver, the watch was assembled and made by George Stockwell for Stockwell and Co Ltd in 1914. This is an error caused by the mistake of calling the sponsor's mark a "maker's mark" and assuming that it identifies who made the item. This watch case was actually made in Switzerland and not by, or for, George Stockwell. It was was stamped with Stockwell's registered mark on import to the UK before being sent in to the assay office to be hallmarked.

Kelly's Post Office London Directory for 1882 lists Henry Stockwell as agent for Messageries Nationales de France at 15 King St. The Business Directory of London for 1884, published by Morris, records Henry Stockwell as a shipping agent at 15 King St, Cheapside, London EC. The Post Office London Trades Directory for 1891 lists Messageries Nationales Limited, 15 King Street, Cheapside EC.

Kelly's Post Office London Directory for 1910 lists "Messageries Nationales, shipping & forwarding agents (George Stockwell, manager), 16 & 18 Finsbury st EC (TA "Messageries" ; TN 6134 London Wall); 15 King street, Cheapside EC (TN 5487 London Wall) & 8 & 10 Beak st. Regent st W - TN 1721 Gerrard". Note the inclusion of telephone numbers, shown by TN and the number and district to be quoted to the telephone switchboard operator.

Stockwell were part of a continent wide network of shipping agents including Messageries Nationales Express and the Messageries Anglo-Suisses, the Swiss end operated by Danzas & Co. of Basel under convention with the Swiss Federal Post. Louis Danzas had fought at Waterloo on the side of Napoleon. After the battle he joined a transport company which he eventually came to head. The Danzas company was acquired in 2000 by Deutsche Post World Net and is now part of DHL Global Forwarding. The Danzas name was dropped in 2005, which seems rather a shame for a company that could trace its history back to the battle of Waterloo.

George Stockwell's sponsor's mark was first registered with the London Assay Office on 15 June 1907, following the 1907 Act "Assay of Imported Watch-Cases (Existing Stocks Exemption)" which came into force on 1 June 1907, requiring all imported gold and silver watch cases to be assayed and hallmarked in a British assay office. George Stockwell also registered punches with the Birmingham Assay Office on 8 November 1917, and with the Glasgow Assay Office, although the date of registration in Glasgow is not recorded.

Before 1 June 1907 it was possible for watches to be sent direct from suppliers in Switzerland to customers in the UK, but after 1 June 1907 the requirement for watches to be hallmarked in the UK complicated things. In order for a watch case imported as part of a complete watch to be sent for assay, a person or company with a "registered mark" had to remove the movement from the case and stamp the case with his registered mark. The watch case could then be sent to the assay office, where it would be tested (assayed) and if found to be of the proper standard it would be hallmarked and returned to be reunited with its movement. Obviously this required a premises where the movements could be removed and stored while the cases were being assayed, and staff to remove the movements and replace them once the cases were hallmarked. Some of the larger Swiss companies already had permanent agents in the UK and these were able to process watches for hallmarking, but many smaller Swiss companies simply had travelling sales representatives and did not have UK based agents.

From June 1907 some of these smaller Swiss watch manufacturers arranged for Assay Agents in the UK to handle the hallmarking process for them. One of these agents was George Stockwell & Co., who before 1907 were purely shipping agents and had not registered a mark to send items for assay. Stockwell's "GS" mark is one of the most common sponsor's marks seen on imported Swiss watches from this period that still exist, and appears on many hundreds, probably thousands, of watches that come up for sale every year.

George Stockwell London 1915 Hallmark
George Stockwell London 1915/16
George Stockwell Birmingham 1918 Hallmark
George Stockwell Birmingham 1918/19

The following information was very kindly provided to me by Eleni Bide from the Library of the Goldsmiths' Company: John Culme's "The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths, Jewellers & Allied Traders 1838-1914" (Woodbridge, Antique Collector's Club, 1987, 2v) illustrates the mark of George Stockwell, described as an "importer of foreign watches". Culme also provides some details of Stockwell's firm, Stockwell & Co Ltd, who were listed in Birmingham in 1912 as "agents to Messageries Nationales Express and Messageries Anglo-Suisse, continental, foreign and general shipping agents, special tariff for small consignments abroad."

The picture to the left shows Stockwell's sponsors mark in a silver watch case with a London import mark, .925 for sterling and date letter "u" for 1915/1916. The picture to the right shows Stockwell's mark on a silver watch case with a Birmingham import mark (equilateral triangle) and date letter "t" for 1918/1919.

You can see that the block sticking up at the top of the GS shield varies considerably in width, from the narrow one on the London mark to the much wider one on the Birmingham mark. The difference between the London and Birmingham marks is of no significance in the light of the number of punches used by Stockwell's firm, but every punch used had to be first registered with the assay office.

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HP: Herman Edward de Pury

This mark of the initials HP in a four lobed shield is the sponsor's mark of Herman Edward de Pury. Herman de Pury first registered his details and this punch mark with the London Assay Office on 17 October 1902 as a gold and silver worker, address at St. Clement's House, 27 Clement's Lane, London. This is an address right in the heart of the City of London and is today serviced offices. The building looks as if it hasn't changed since de Pury was there, and it would not have been a goldsmith's workshop or merchant's warehouse.

Herman Edward de Pury was granted naturalisation as a British subject, taking the oath of allegiance on 1 December 1903. He was originally from Switzerland. His private address was given as Grayshott House, Haslemere, Surrey. This was where Sir Francis Galton died on 17 January 1911, presumably whilst a guest of the de Pury family.

Herman Edward de Pury was born in 1876 at Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He was the son of David François de Pury of Neuchâtel and Mary Blakeway I'Anson. He married Margaret Gwyn Jeffreys in 1904 at Kensington, London, England. He died in 1931. Herman Edward de Pury died on 12 April 1931 at Bâle (Basel), Switzerland.

A partnership between David de Pury and Herman Edward de Pury, De Pury and Son carrying on business as merchants, was dissolved in December 1902, Herman carrying on the business under the same name. It would appear that it was a father-son partnership and that David de Pury, Herman's father, retired. Herman was joined in business by George Guillaume Gautschi and the company renamed De Pury, Son and Co., also carrying on business as merchants. This partnership was dissolved in December 1908 and all liabilities taken over by De Pury, Gautschi & Co. of 150 Leadenhall Street, London.

Another "HP" punch, identical to the first, was registered on 24 June 1907 by De Pury, Son & Co. at the Clement's Lane address, the business described as importers of gold and silver watches. Ten more identical punches were registered with the same details on 13 July 1907. A further ten identical punches were registered in the name of De Pury, Son & Co., importers of gold and silver watch cases at the same address, on 9 April 1908 by George Guillaume Gautschi under power of attorney. A total of 21 punches registered within a period of less than 10 months.

Gautschi, trading as De Pury, Gautschi & Co., importers of gold and silver watches, then registered 12 "G.G.G" punches on 10 February 1910, and a further six on 3 February 1910. De Pury, Gautschi & Co. were listed in the London Gazette on 23 February 1914 in a summary of bankers returns. The General Partner was George Guillaume Gautschi of Townsend, St. Albans, occupation Banker, and the first listed limited partner was David de Pury of Grayshott House, Haslemere, occupation Gentleman.

This is all rather a mystery. De Pury seems to have been from a wealthy or aristocratic family and been working in London as a merchant or banker. The reason for the registration of his first punch in 1902 as a gold and silver worker is unknown. The registration of the large number of 21 punches in the period between June 1907 and April 1908 as importers of gold and silver watches or watch cases implies that they were hoping to service some of the large numbers of imported watches that would need to be hallmarked after 1 June 1907, when British law required that all imported watches be hallmarked in a British assay office. But 21 punches, or 22 if you count the 1902 punch, is a huge number of punches, yet the number of watches seen with the "HP" mark is very small, so it would appear that the work didn't materialise, it was presumably snatched by Stockwell and Pringle once they got going as Assay Agents.

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IJTN: Isaac Jabez Theo Newsome, Newsome and Company

Newsome and Co. were one of the leading English watchmaking firms of the late nineteenth century.

Originally Newsome & Yeomans of Spon Street, Coventry, the partnership of Isaac Jabez Theo Newsome and Samuel Yeomans (jr) was dissolved on 5th February 1879. Yeomans remained in Spon Street and Newsome moved to 14/15 The Butts, Coventry. Read more at Newsome & Co.

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JF: Jean Finger

This is not a British registered sponsor's mark but a Swiss trademark. I have included it on this page because a number of early wristwatches that carry it have survived in remarkably good condition in patent waterproof watch cases that carry this mark.

In January 1921 Jean Finger, a watch case maker of Longeau, Berne, Switzerland was granted Swiss patent number CH 89276 for a "Montre à remontoire avec boitier protecteur" literally a watch with a protective box.

Jean Finger's patent overcame the problem of sealing the winding stem by the simple expedient of placing a conventional round watch inside a larger case. The larger case had no opening at the back or hole for a winding stem, just an open front through which the watch was placed into the case. A screw bezel and crystal closed this front opening, forming a hermetic seal and totally protecting the watch within. Once the bezel was unscrewed, the smaller watch case came out on a hinge to allow the hands to be set and the movement wound.

Some hermetic watch cases bear the words "Double Boitier Brevet 89276" (Double Case Patent 89276), a reference to the Jean Finger patent, and some bear the initials JF, these were actually made by Jean Finger's watch case company, Jean Finger, Fabrique de boîtes de montres.

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JR: John Rotherham

JR: John Rotherham

The mark JR in diamond shield is the sponsors mark of John Rotherham, of Rotherham & Sons (see below). This mark was registered at the Birmingham Assay Office, together with the same initials in a rectangular shield, on 15 July 1886, by John Rotherham, Watch & Case makers, trading as Rotherham & Sons, of 4 Spon Street, Coventry.

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JW: James Weir


JW: James Weir

Glasgow Post Office Directory 1911/1912

This incuse JW mark, sometimes also seen with periods as "J.W."" is the sponsor's mark of James Weir of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street, Glasgow. The picture of the mark, from a watch hallmarked 1917/1918, courtesy of Marc. Thanks to Jack from Florida for pointing out that I had mistakenly used the name John instead of James in an earlier version of this item.

James Weir was registered with the Glasgow Assay Office. Unfortunately, when that office closed in 1964 many of the records were lost or destroyed so there is little known about Weir's registration. He is recorded as being a Member of the Glasgow Goldsmiths' Company and described as a Jeweller. The first mention of Weir in the Glasgow records was in 1891. The company was renamed J. Weir Limited circa 1920.

The entry from the Glasgow Post Office Directory for 1911/1912 pictured here shows that James Weir was a watch manufacturer, chronometer maker to the Admiralty, jeweller & silversmiths, and that they had premises in Glasgow at 25 and 27 Argyle Street and 66 Buchanan Street, two of the main shopping streets in Glasgow city centre. The Croft, Bearsden, is Weir's residential address. Bearsden is a town outside Glasgow, approximately 6 miles from the city centre.


JW with trefoil

J (symbol) W punches

The are a large number of Glasgow registered JW marks. Eight are of conventional cameo form with raised letters inside variously shaped shields, with a first registration date of 1891.

A larger number of punches, around 22, have the initials stamped incuse with no shield but with a symbol, such as a heart, diamond, triangle, square, equals sign, swastika, etc., etc., between the letters.

One of these "J (symbol) W" marks is shown here in a watch case made by François Borgel. In this instance the symbol is trefoil or three leaved or three lobed, like a clover. Thanks to Helen Evason for the picture.

It has been suggested that these J (symbol) W punches were used to mark the products of individual silversmiths working for Weir, so that their particular work could be identified. However, the marks are seen in the cases of imported watches, which were clearly not actually made by employees of James Weir, so this theory cannot be correct.

For imported watches the sponsor's mark was punched into the empty watch case by a British sponsor before the case was sent sent to an assay office for testing and hallmarking. The variety of punches entered by Weir suggests that he could have been acting as assay agent for a number of foreign manufacturers who didn't have offices in the UK. The symbols were most likely used by Weir for administrative purposes, to identify which manufacturer each watch case belonged to.

From 1 June 1907 the UK law was enforced such that foreign gold and silver watch cases, which before that date had been imported without being assayed or hallmarked in the UK, were required to be assayed and hallmarked in a UK assay office. There was existing a huge trade in imported Swiss watches, with many Swiss watch manufacturers both small and large supplying the UK market. Before 1 June 1907 it was possible for watches to be sent direct from suppliers in Switzerland to customers in the UK, but after 1 June 1907 the requirement for watches to be hallmarked in the UK complicated things.

There had been a time in the 1870s when empty Swiss watch cases were sent to England for assay and hallmarking, and then returned to Switzerland to be finished and have the movements inserted. This practice had been stopped in 1888 - you can read more about how and why on my page about assay and hallmarking. However, the number of cases involved was relatively small, and although it was obviously an inconvenience to send empty cases back and forth, this avoided the expense of having a British workshop and so the extra transport costs were worthwhile. When all imported watches were required to be hallmarked from 1 June 1907, it was less practical to ship thousands of cases back and forth. An alternative solution had to be found so that watches could be imported already complete.

In order for a watch case imported as part of a complete watch to be sent for assay, a person or company with a "registered mark" had to remove the movement from the case and stamp the case with his registered mark. The watch case could then be sent to the assay office, where it would be tested (assayed) and if found to be of the proper standard it would be hallmarked and returned to be reunited with its movement. Obviously this required a premises where the movements could be removed and stored while the cases were being assayed, and staff to remove the movements and replace them once the cases were hallmarked.

Some of the larger Swiss companies already had permanent agents in the UK and these were able to process watches for hallmarking, but many smaller Swiss companies simply had travelling sales representatives and did not have UK based agents. From June 1907 many of these smaller Swiss companies arranged for Assay Agents in the UK to handle the hallmarking process for them. George Stockwell & Co. and Robert Pringle & Sons were two of the largest Assay Agents.

The 8 cameo punches in conventional shields registered by James Weir would be more than adequate for their normal production requirements, and that the the further 22 punches with symbols between the letters JW might have been punches registered by Weir acting as Assay Agent for other companies for the purpose of hallmarking imported Swiss watches, the symbols being used to designate or identify the particular Swiss company. This would help with their record keeping and in matching up the watch cases with their movements after they had been hallmarked.

James Weir Limited was voluntarily wound up in October 1928, no doubt a victim of the depression that affected Britain during the 1920s and 1930s as a result of the cost of fighting the Great War; a cost which destroyed British global pre-eminence and brought the end of the British Empire. The country was £900 million in debt to the US for war loans, its worldwide investments had been wiped out and its exports markets had collapsed. A war loan taken out by the British government in 1917 under the premiership of Lloyd George was finally repaid by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2016.

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E J Pearson and Sons

P & SS: E. J. Pearson and Sons

E. J. Pearson and Sons were harness makers and saddlers in London. In 1908 they registered a design for a watch strap, details of which can be see on my page at early wristwatches.

The sponsor's mark as shown here was first registered with the London Assay Office 3 November 1908. Initially two punches were registered, with more punches for the same mark being registered in 1909, 1910 and 1914, two punches each time.

E. J. Pearson and Sons were a long established company with roots going back to 1804. The coincidence of the date of their first entry at the London Assay Office and the registration of their design for a wristwatch wrist strap is interesting. I suppose that harnesses and bridles didn't use silver or gold fittings and that wristwatch straps were the first items that they made that needed buckles made of precious metal.

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LW: Louis Arnould

LA: Louis Arnould trading as the City Watch Case Company Ltd.

This mark was entered by Louis Arnould trading as the City Watch Case Company Ltd. He originally registered the name as the Crown Watch Case Company, but he was asked to alter it to avoid any potential confusion with the monarchy and changed it to City. The City Watch Case Co Ltd. is listed in a 1920 telephone directory (tel City 7129) with the address Crown Buildings, Cox's Court, London EC1, which probably explains why Arnould wanted to call his company the Crown Watch Case Co.

The mark was first registered at the London Assay Office in 1919, and can also be seen with a full stop between the L and A as in the lower of the two photographs.

Both of the marks shown here are in gold watches with Swiss movements. In both cases the leopard's head, the London Assay Office mark for a native British item, shows that the cases were made in England and not imported. In the lower photograph the date mark of a Gothic letter "i" in a circular shield was used on gold in 1924/1925. This is an example of a shield shape used on a gold item that is different from the shield shape shown in most reference books and tables of date letters, which are usually for silver items. This is discussed further at shield shapes.

The Swiss movements were put into gold cases in Britain as a result of import duties imposed by the British government during the Great War, see British Great War duties. It appears that Arnould may have set up his company as a response to the demand for British made gold cases as a result of the import duty.

The City Watch Case Company Ltd was voluntarily wound up in 1976.

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LW: Louis Weill for Weill & Co.


LW: Louis Weill

This LW mark was registered at the London Assay Office with two punches on 23 January 1907. Louis Weill had been involved in importing watches from Switzerland for a long time and, like the Dimier Brothers mentioned above, he clearly had realised that the outcome of the case of Goldsmiths vs. Wyatt, which resulted in an Appeal Court judgement in November 1906 that all imported gold and silver watch cases should be assayed and hallmarked in a British assay office, meant that he had to be ready to send imported watch cases for assay. The law wasn't actually brought into effect until 1 June 1907, but by registering two punches in January, Weill was ready for it. A third punch with the same mark was registered on 19 January 1914.

Louis Weill was born in 1844 in Bavaria, Germany. The 1871 London census shows him aged 27 living as a lodger in a house in Brixton with two other German men, all three are naturalised British subjects. Weill's occupation is given as "member of stock exchange". Jacob Carlebach, 24 and Joseph Carlebach, 29, described as a "cotton broker".

The 1881 census has Weil at age 37 married to Babette aged 28, also born in Bavaria and a naturalised British subject. There does not appear to be a British record of the marriage and it is most likely that Louis and Babette were married in their native Bavaria. The 1911 census shows that they had been married 40 years, so they must married in 1871, when Louis was 27 and Babette 18. Weill was described as a "watch manufacturer and importer". It appears that having come to England with two friends to set up as a trader of some sort, Weill has got into the watch import trade.

An advert by Weill & Co. in the Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith in October 1891 says that Weill & Co. was established in 1863, which must be about the date Louis Weill came to England - he would have been 19. The 1871 London census showing him as a member of stock exchange indicates that he was a trader and speculator, and no doubt he discovered the profitable trade of import/export.

In circa 1874/1875 Weill went into partnership with Henry Harburg, trading as Weill & Harburg at 14 Hatton Garden, EC, later at 3  Holborn Circus, EC. A patent was granted to Louis Weill and Henry Harburg on 12th February 1875 for "Improvements in musical boxes and other similar instruments". Two punches with the mark L.W over H.H for Louis Weill and Henry Harburg were registered 31 March 1876, and a further two punches with the same mark on 24 May 1876. The precedence of the name of Louis Weill over Henry Harburg in the patent grant and L.W over H.H on the assay office mark, which is not in alphabetical order, indicates that Weill was the senior partner. A patent application was received in February 1885 from Louis Weill and Henry Harburg, 47, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, for "An improvement in watches and other time-keepers" (Henri Guillaume Borel, Switzerland), Weill and Harburg acting as UK agents for the registration of a patent first registered in Switzerland by Borel.

It may have been during this association with Henry Harburg that Weill got into the business of watch importing, the census entries show him going from a "member of the stock exchange" in 1871 to a "watch manufacturer and importer" by the time of the 1881 census. Weill and Harburg were also know as importers of musical boxes.

Louis Weill first registered his own "LW" punch mark with the London Assay Office on 24 November 1879. The registration of the Weill & Harburg punches and Louis Weill's own LW punch was during the period when Swiss watch manufacturers were getting watches assayed and hallmarked with English hallmarks This was quite legal, but much to the annoyance of the English watch manufacturers, who managed to get the practice stopped in 1888, which you can read about on my Assay and Hallmarking page. From 1888 until 1907 Weill would have continued importing Swiss watches, but they did not have English hallmarks. From 1880 Swiss watches were hallmarked in Switzerland, but the Swiss hallmarks do not tell us as much as British hallmarks, there is no sponsor's mark or date indication in a Swiss hallmark.


Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith, October 1891

In 1890 Harburg left the partnership and continued in business on his own account until 1892, when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. It seems likely that Weill wanted to expand the business and that Harburg left because of a difference of views about this. Weill purchased the assets and assumed the liabilities of the existing business and, remaining at the same address of 3 Holborn Circus, continued as Weill & Co.

During the 15 years of the partnership Weill & Harburg had maintained a fairly low profile. After the partnership was dissolved it appears that Louis Weill commenced on an expansion of the business. The advert shown here from the Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith magazine of October 1891 was the first of a series of similar advertisements, and the name Weill & Co. is listed in all the trade directories. The name Weill & Co. also appears in many of the announcements of arrangements made by jewellers who have got into financial difficulties, indicating that Weill & Co. supplied many jewellers with stock.

The advert shows two of Weill & Co.'s best known designs, "The Ascot" and "The Winner", both chronographs, The Winner being a complicated spilt seconds version. These would have been expensive watches at the time, in 2004 Chrisite's New York sold a minute repeating perpetual calendar chronograph keyless lever pocket watch with phase of the moon indication in an 18 carat gold hunter case signed Weill & Harburg, London, circa 1880 for nearly £9,000. The advert also lists "The celebrated machine made Billodes" which was a brand name used at the time by the company that eventually became the Zentih Watch Co. Weill & Co. are also known to have imported watches from IWC in Schaffhausen.

Louis Weill exhibited as part of the Swiss delegation at that Universal Exposition of Chicago, America, in 1893, also known as the World's Columbian Exposition. In 1893 the La Fédération Horlogère Suisse reported Weill & Cie, La Chaux-de-Fonds, exposed watches, one of which shows the time in seven different cities.


La Fédération Horlogère Suisse, June 1896

Weill & Co. moved on 24th June 1896 to 111 Hatton Garden, EC4 where the firm is listed in 1897 as wholesale manufacturers of watches, watch bracelets and musical boxes, using the telegraphic address 'Festal'. The image here shows an announcement of the move in the Swiss watchmaking trade journal La Fédération Horlogère Suisse in June 1896.


La Fédération Horlogère Suisse, April 1919

There are several mentions of the branch of Weill & Co. at 40 Rue Leopold Robert, La Chaux-de-Fonds, but I have found no evidence that there was a manufacturing operation. Today the Avenue Leopold Robert in La Chaux-de-Fonds is the central avenue of the town, a dual cariage way lined on either side with shops, bars and restaurants, and it is difficult to imagine that it might once have been lined with watch factories. I expect that 40 Rue Leopold Robert was an office that organised the manufacture of watches to Weill's designs by some of the myriad of small watchmaking companies in Chaux-de-Fonds, and arranged their delivery to the main hub of the company in London.

Following Louis Weill's retirement Weill & Co was continued by Arthur Mayer and one of Weill's nephews, Leo Weill. The style of the firm was subsequently changed to Arthur Mayer & L. Weill.

Louis Weill retired in 1916 and died on 18 April 1919 at age 76, leaving an estate valued at £99,524 16s 3d., a huge sum at the time. The announcement of his death in The Times recorded that he was still the beloved husband of Babette. They had been married for around 48 years; they had no children. Babette and the staff of Weill & Co. in London and la Chaux-de-Fonds posted the very touching announcement shown here in La Fé dération Horlogère Suisse; Mrs. Louis Weil, London; Messrs Arthur Mayer and Leo Weill, London; Messieurs Weill & Co, La Chaux-de-Fonds; have the deep regret to tell their friends and acquaintances of the great and painful loss they are experiencing in the person of Mr. LOUIS WEILL, Founder and former head of the house Weill & Co their beloved husband and uncle, and revered leader, who died in London on April 18 this year, in his 76th year. La Chaux-de-Fonds, April 28 1919.

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R·B: Robert Bragge of the English Watch Company


EWCo. trademark

Robert Bragge of the English Watch Co. registered this mark R•B in a rectangular shield with the Birmingham Assay Office in 1878.

The English Watch Company sprang from the Anglo-American Watch Company, formed in late 1871 at 45 Villa Street, Birmingham, with Aaron Dennison as manager and with machines purchased from the failed Tremont Watch Co. of the USA. This was well before Rotherhams, the most successful and best known of the English mechanised manufacturers, bought their first machines from the American Watch Tool Company in 1880, so the Anglo-American Watch Company was one of the first English watch companies to use machinery. The Birmingham company was itself wound up late in 1874 and sold for £5, 500 to William Bragge who ran the company until about 1883 after which his son Robert took over. The English Watch Company went into voluntary liquidation on 11 February 1895 and was not resurrected. It is thought that Williamsons of Coventry bought some of the machinery.

The trademark of the English Watch Co. is reproduced here from Cutmore.

You can read more about this venture and see an example of one of the watches produced at English Watch Co..

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R.O: Richard Oliver

Richard James Oliver is first recorded as working in Galway Street, London in 1845. He was partnered for a short time by John Edwards and they traded as Oliver and Edwards, but the partnership was dissolved in 1859, Richard Oliver continuing business at the same address. He then moved in 1876 to 1 Northampton Square, Clerkenwell, and in 1895 to 31 Wynyatt Street, Clerkenwell. From 1903 the business was carried on by his son Albert Thomas Oliver, moving at some time to 25 Spencer Street, Clerkenwell.

The business never modernised to the use of steam or electrically powered machines, and continued to make cases in the time honoured way by hand until it eventually closed in 1970. Some of the benches, lathes and tools were acquired by the Liverpool museum and set up in a replica workshop. The tools and techniques used by the Olivers, and the work shop itself, were not even Victorian; they would have been familiar to watch case makers of the eighteenth, and even the seventeenth, century. A video exists showing Mr Oliver working on turning a watch case using a foot powered pole lathe, a type of lathe that the ancient Egyptians would have recognised.

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R&S: Rotherham & Sons Ltd

R&S Mark
R&S: Rotherham & Sons Ltd

The firm of Rotherham & Sons, based at various numbers of Spon Street, Coventry, Warwickshire, UK, could trace its origins back to 1747 to a firm started by Samuel Vale. Richard Kevitt Rotherham joined the firm as an apprentice, and was listed as a partner in Vale and Rotherham in 1790. The firm was listed as Rotherham & Sons from 1850. They made entire watches: movements and cases. In 1858 Charles Dickens visited the factory and was presented with a gold watch to mark the occasion.

In 1856 John Rotherham went to America and visited some of the new watch factories that were just being set up. Although there were no immediate results of this, in 1880 he sent the manager Mr Gooding to America to purchase watchmaking machinery. In the 1880s Rotherhams were operating on a very large scale by British standards, making 100 watches per day with 400 to 500 employees active in the production of both movements and cases and the extensive use of machinery.


JR: John Rotherham

The mark JR in diamond shield was entered at the Birmingham Assay Office, together with the same initials in a rectangular shield, on 15 July 1886 by John Rotherham, as watch & case makers trading as Rotherham & Sons of 4 Spon Street, Coventry.

Rotherhams also imported watches as well as making them. The first image in this section shows hallmarks in an imported watch. The sponsor's mark of the initials R&S in a rectangular shield with cut corners was entered at the London Assay Office and is shown alongside London import hallmarks. Another sponsor's mark in a diamond or rhomboid shaped shield was entered at the Birmingham Assay Office.

R&S Mark
R&S in diamond shield

Priestly lists the mark with rectangular shield as being registered at Birmingham in 1841 and in London between 1907 and 1919, and the R&S mark with diamond shield as being registered in Birmingham between 1912 and 1917. The Birmingham assay office would be the nearest office to mark watches made in Coventry, whereas the London assay office would be a more natural choice for watches imported from Switzerland, which would come in by ship through the port of London, and a large proportion would then be retailed in London.

Although based in Coventry, some time before 1890 the company also opened offices at 1 Holborn Circus, London, and their watches were signed Rotherhams, London. This was later to become their head office.

Around the turn of the century Rotherhams started to diversify out of watch making into making parts for the Coventry bicycle and motor industry. During the Great War (WW1) they went entirely over to war work. After the war they returned to watch making and produced wristwatches as well as pocket watches. They also carried on making clocks, and imported watches from Switzerland. Rotherhams were one of the few English companies to make wristwatches, but they could not compete on scale or price with American or Swiss manufacturers. They stopped making watches some time before WW2.

R&S Swiss movement
R&S on Swiss movement

I have seen some Swiss-made watch movements carrying an R&S mark such as the one shown here. Cutmore in "Watches 1850-1980" states that British Industry Fair reports show that in 1920 and 1921 they showed at trade exhibitions cases for movements made in their own factory in Switzerland. Cutmore suggests that this could possibly be the Rode Watch Company of La Chaux de Fonds, whose watches they marketed. In 1932 they took over the UK agency for Buren after the collapse of H. Williamson Ltd, and later became agents for Ulysee Nardin.

In 1973 the company was incorporated into Cornercroft Engineering.

The following information was very kindly provided to me by Eleni Bide from the Library of the Goldsmiths' Company: Culme also provides some useful details pertaining to the mark sent with your last email. He illustrates several very similar marks which could be a match to the one on your watch case. All were registered to Rotherham & Sons Ltd, gold and silver watch case makers and importers (John Culme, The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths, Jewellers & Allied Traders 1838-1914, Woodbridge, Antique Collector's Club, 1987, 2v., v.1, page 260-261, nos.12598, 12657-12668). In the second volume of his work Culme describes the firm of Rotherham and Sons in some detail, including their role as a watchmaker and importer, and the colourful lives of some members of the Rotherham family (ibid, v. 2, page 394).

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RWCLtd
R.W.C.Ltd
Image by permission © OldeTimers.com

R.W.C.Ltd: Rolex Watch Co. Ltd.

This mark "R.W.C.Ltd" in an oval shield, all incuse, is the sponsor's mark of the Rolex Watch Co., entered by Wilsdorf & Davis. For more details about Wilsdorf & Davis and their earlier W&D sponsor's mark, see the entry below about the W&D sponsor's mark.

The particular instance of this sponsor's mark shown here is in the case back of an early Rolex Oyster. The R.W.C.Ltd mark is the sponsor's mark, which the case must have if it is to be accepted for hallmarking in a British assay office. The hallmarks below the sponsor's mark are Glasgow Assay Office import hallmarks for nine carat gold for the years 1927 to 1928 - Glasgow date letters were changed on 1 July each year.

The name Rolex and the list of patents are manufacturers marks, nothing to do with the hallmarks. There was no problem with manufacturers putting marks and logos like this on a watch case, but the name Rolex could not be officially registered with an assay office as a sponsor's mark because it did not meet the rules of registration, which demanded two or three initials of a principal who would the person responsible if a problem was found.

The R.W.C.Ltd for Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. was entered at London on 11 September 1923. It is not known when mark was registered at Glasgow, the records no longer exist. I have seen a Rolex watch with the R.W.C.Ltd sponsor's mark and a Glasgow import mark with the date letter "d" for 1926 to 1927, it would be interesting to know if there were earlier examples.

If you look at the section of my Rolex page about the Rolex Oyster case, you will see that I examined a number of early Rolex Oyster cases with Glasgow import hallmarks and with date letters "e" 1927/28 to "o" 1937/38. All of these hallmarks had the sponsor's mark R.W.C.Ltd rather than W&D, showing that by 1927/28 the R.W.C.Ltd sponsor's mark had by then completely replaced the W&D mark.

It seems likely that Wilsdorf registered the R.W.C.Ltd sponsor's mark in 1923 as part of his push to get the Rolex name more widely recognised, as he discusses in the Jubilee Vade Mecum, when he was also trying to get British retailers to accept the name Rolex on the dial, alongside or instead of their own.

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SA: Selling Agency or Swiss Agency

You have to be cautious if you see the mark SA in a case back, because in Switzerland "SA" usually stands for Société Anonyme, the equivalent of a British public limited company or plc., and so it appears in the full formal name of just about every Swiss watch company that you care to mention, from Abra Montres SA to Zurich Manufacture D'Horlogerie SA. However, if the SA is a mark stamped into the case back as part of a hallmark like the marks shown here, it is a UK registered sponsor's mark.

Swiss Agency, Birmingham
S A: Swiss Agency, Birmingham

The situation is rendered even more confusing because there are two separate SA sponsor's marks registered.

Selling Agency, London
SA: Selling Agency, London

The sponsor's mark SA in a diamond shield is for a company called "Selling Agency", first registered with the London Assay Office on 20th September 1907 as gold and silver watch importers at 46 Cannon St. London, a subsidiary of Dimier Brothers (see their entry under DBs above), import agents and watch makers at the same address. This mark is seen in Omega watches and I assume that Dimier Brothers formed the subsidiary to handle the import and hallmarking of Omega watches in 1907 when British law required all imported gold and silver watches be assayed and hallmarked in a British assay office. There is more about about Omega watches on my page about the Omega Watch Company.

Thanks to Kate Buckrell for this image of the SA sponsor's mark.

There is no entry in Priestly for an SA mark registered in Birmingham, because he only goes up to 1920. The following information was provided by the Birmingham Assay Office. "The mark 'SA' was registered at the Birmingham Assay Office by The Swiss Agency, Geo & Jean Bouverat, in 1924, they were registered as Watch Manufacturer in Frederick Street, Birmingham."

Note that in this mark the letters S and A are in two separate square shields, which distinguishes this mark from the SA of the Selling Agency in a diamond shield.

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SD: Sylvain Dreyfuss - Rotary


SD: Sylvain Dreyfuss

1925 Rotary logo
 

Modern Rotary logo

This "SD" mark with a tab at the top of the shield was registered to Sylvain Dreyfuss of Moise, George & Sylvain Dreyfuss trading as M Dreyfuss, watch manufacturers, Moorfield, London EC2.

I was told by David Beasley, Librarian of the Goldsmiths' Company, that this mark was entered in 1915 by Sylvain Dreyfuss. Another SD mark was entered in 1959 under the trading name Moise Dreyfuss Rotary Watches. This mark is rectangular and has a crown above it. It is still registered at the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Assay Office.

Marks similar to the 1915 SD mark were entered at Edinburgh in 1927 and 1963, and Glasgow in 1936 by Moise and George Dreyfuss.

Fabriques de Montres Rotary was established at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland by Moise Dreyfuss in 1895. By the 1920s family members Georges and Sylvain Dreyfuss began importing Rotary watches to Britain, which was to become the company's most successful market. Until 2014 Rotary remained in the ownership of the Dreyfuss family through Dreyfuss Group Holdings. It is now owned by a Chinese company.

According to the Rotary web site, the trademark of a winged wheel shown to the right was introduced in 1925. In "Clock and Watch Trademark Index of European Origin" Kochmann gives a registration date for this trademark of 15 October 1926. The modern version shown below has evolved from the original, but is still noticeably the same thing — once you know what the original was, of course.

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SFC: Schwob Frères & Co, La Chaux-de-Fonds


SFC: Schwob Frères & Co

This mark of SFC in the very unusual and distinctive shield was registered in Edinburgh on 1 August 1926 in the name of Schwob Frères & Co. Ltd. S.A. of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.

It is strange that a Swiss address is given, registrants had to have a UK address for obvious reasons — where to send invoices, if no other reason. The Edinburgh book of registrations indicates that a similar SFC mark was registered by Robert Pringle & Sons, so it seems that the Robert Pringle company was acting as UK assay agents for Schwob Frères, but that Schwob wanted to have their own distinctive sponsor's mark so Pringle registered this mark in their name. In the event of a problem or dispute, Pringle in the UK would be the responsible party.


Schwob Frères & case by Borgel

Schwob Frères & Co. registered its name in Switzerland in 1881 for watch movements and cases. The company also owned the Tavannes Watch Company of Tavannes. Tavannes was founded in 1891 by Henri Sandoz, but from 1892 on, Tavannes and Schwob Frères shared brand names and trademarks. Between them, the two firms registered a huge number of brand names and trademarks, one of the best known of which is the Cyma brand.

I have a page about the history of Schwob Frères and Tavannes, and the brand Cyma, which you can access by clicking on this link Schwob Frères, Tavannes Watch Companies and Cyma. This will open in another window or tab, and may take a few moments to load depending on the speed of your connection. There is also a description of the Cyma watch pictured here, which has an interesting cushion case made to a patented design by Schwob Frères & Co. and manufactured by the Borgel company of Geneva, then owned by Taubert & Fils .

See the entry for Arthur Rendell above for more about Robert Pringle & Sons and other marks they registered for third parties.


SP: Robert Pringle & Sons


SP with Edinburgh Assay Office import hallmarks

The SP mark shown here in a rectangular shield with a tab at the top used in imported watch cases appears to have been registered by Robert Pringle & Sons of London in possibly both Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is very similar to an SP mark with a quatrefoil or cruciform shield that was registered by R Pringle & Sons in Edinburgh in 1926. Another SP mark was registered by Arthur George Rendell for Robert Pringle & Sons although no exact date or image survive. No other registrant of an SP mark recorded in the extant Glasgow and Edinburgh archives has the same association with imported watches as Arthur George Rendell and Robert Pringle & Sons.

The "P" would appear to be the initial letter of Pringle, but source of the initial "S" is a bit of a mystery. The company of Robert Pringle took its name from the eponymous founder in 1835, and three subsequent generations of Roberts took the helm in their turn. The third Robert was joined in partnership by his brothers William, James and Edwin, but there seems to be no record of an "S. Pringle".

The SP mark is shown here alongside Edinburgh import marks in a Swiss made wristwatch; 925 in an oval for imported sterling quality silver, the mark X in an oval shield is St. Andrew's cross, the town mark used by the Edinburgh Assay Office on imported items, the "Y" in the shield with waisted sides is the date letter for the hallmarking year 1929 to 1930.

See the entry for Arthur Rendell above for more about Robert Pringle & Sons and other marks they registered for third parties.

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VWCo. and V.W Ltd. Vertex Watch Co.

There is little written about Vertex SA, la Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland and London. Pritchard says that in 1902 the company was known as Aureole & Vertex. Vertex was one of 12 companies that made W.W.W. ( Watch: Wrist, Waterproof ) specification watches for the British military in the WW2 era. There was collaboration with Thommen. In 1953 an automatic Revue watch was marketed in the UK under the name of Vertex. Buser Frères & Cie, Phenix Watch Co, S. Thommen and Vulcain collaborated to form Manufactures d'Horlogerie Suisse Réunies SA (MSR) in 1961. On 28 February 1972 an Extraordinary Meeting of the Members of Vetex Watches Limited in London passed a motion that the Company be wound up voluntarily. Pritchard says that in 1973 Vertex was listed as a brand of Vertex London. Vertex Revue was listed as a brand of Thommen SA.

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W&D: Wilsdorf and Davis

W&D: Wilsdorf and Davis

This W&D in an oval shield with points top and bottom is the sponsor's mark of Wilsdorf & Davis, importers of gold and silver wares, first registered at the London Assay Office on 25 June 1907. A second punch with the same mark was registered on 13 August. The company of Wilsdorf & Davis is better known these days by a brand name that Wilsdorf created in 1908; Rolex.

The company of Wilsdorf & Davis was founded in London in 1905. Until 1907 they would have imported watches and other silver and gold items without having them tested and hallmarked by a UK assay office, but UK law changed in 1907 and from 1 June 1907 all imported gold and silver items had to be assayed and hallmarked at a UK assay office. This is the reason for the registration of the W&D sponsor's mark. Items imported from Switzerland by Wilsdorf & Davis before 1907 would have carried Swiss hallmarks. Once the UK law was changed, the Swiss authorities allowed items to be exported to the UK without Swiss hallmarks.

The registration of the two punches on dates so close together indicates that the second punch was required to keep up with the volume of work, rather than replacing a worn out punch, so Wilsdorf & Davis must have had two men working full time punching watch cases that were to be sent for hallmarking.

The following information is gleaned from Culme John Culme "The Directory of Gold and Silversmiths, Jewellers and Allied Traders, 1838-1914: From the London Assay Office Registers" Publication Date: 15 Oct 1987 | ISBN-10: 0907462464 | ISBN-13: 978-0907462460 Two volumes; the first with 4,000 biographies, the second with photographs of 15,000 marks taken directly from the London Assay Office Registers at Goldsmiths' Hall. . The partners in Wilsdorf & Davis were Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred James Davis. The address recorded at the registration of their punches was 83 Hatton Garden, later recorded on 1 November 1907 as moving to 85 Hatton Garden, EC1, then between 17 August 1912 and 25 August 1919 they are recorded at Stevenage House, 40-44 Holborn Viaduct, EC, where they are listed in 1913 as watch manufacturers and importers (TA: 'Wilsdorfs'). Wilsdorf & Davis are also recorded on 8 April 1915 at 15 Northampton Street, Birmingham, and also 3 Ruelle de la Fabrique, Bienne, Switzerland.They are recorded 25 August 1919 as having an office at 61 Rue Elfenau Gare, Bienne, Switzerland, in addition to their London office, and also as representatives of the Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. whose chairman was Hermann Aegler with Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred James Davis as directors and Harry Sedgley as secretary.

The same W&D sponsor's mark was entered at Birmingham in June 1909, at Chester in April 1912 and at Glasgow, although records of the date of the latter entry have been lost. These additional registrations allowed Wilsdorf & Davis additional freedom to either order items to be made outside London, or send items to be hallmarked at Birmingham, Chester of Glasgow if there were delays at one of the other assay offices, or if one office was cheaper than the others.

Although the sponsor's mark was not necessary on watch cases that did not require a British hallmark, it would have been convenient to arrange for the case maker in Switzerland to stamp the mark as the case was made. There was no reason why it should not have been stamped on watch cases that were not ultimately hallmarked in Britain, and it would have been easier to stamp all cases, whether or not they were destined for Britain. Therefore the W&D mark can be seen in watch cases without British assay office marks.


Glasgow and Dublin hallmarks

Glasgow and Dublin hallmarks

Before 1922 all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, and hallmarks struck in any UK assay office were valid throughout the realm. In 1922 the Irish Free State separated from the United Kingdom and formed the republic of Ireland. As a result of this separation, Irish hallmarks were not accepted in the UK after 1923, and UK hallmarks were not accepted in Ireland after 1927. Because of this, watches imported into Britain and hallmarked in Britain, if sent to Ireland, were then also assayed and hallmarked in Dublin. This could of course happen with any British assay office mark, but Glasgow Assay Office hallmarks are the ones most commonly seen alongside Dublin hallmarks.

This seems to have happened more with Rolex watches than any other, I don't know why. The picture here shows a Rolex case with Glasgow and Dublin hallmarks. The Glasgow marks are three below the W&D sponsor's mark; the Glasgow Assay Office import mark of two horizontal capital letters "F" facing each other, the Glasgow date letter "f" for 1928/29, and the imported sterling silver standard mark of .925 in an oval. Below these Glasgow marks the Dublin import hallmarks have been squeezed in straight line; the Dublin Assay Office import mark of a boujet or water bucket, the .925 standard mark and the date letter "Q" for 1932/33.

R.W.C.Ltd

At some point the W&D sponsor's mark was superseded by the mark "R.W.C.Ltd" incuse in an oval shield, also incuse; see the section R.W.C.Ltd above for an example of that mark. The date at which the W&D mark ceased to be used was the choice of the company and is not recorded by the assay offices.

The R.W.C.Ltd for Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. was entered at London on 11 September 1923. It is not known when mark was registered at Glasgow, the records no longer exist.

If you look at the section of my Rolex page about the Rolex Oyster case, you will see that I examined a number of early Rolex Oyster cases with Glasgow import hallmarks and with date letters "e" 1927/28 to "o" 1937/38. All of these hallmarks had the sponsor's mark R.W.C.Ltd rather than W&D, showing that by 1927/28 the R.W.C.Ltd sponsor's mark had by then completely replaced the W&D mark.

It seems likely that Wilsdorf registered the R.W.C.Ltd sponsor's mark in 1923 as part of his push to get the Rolex name more widely recognised, as he discusses in the Jubilee Vade Mecum, when he was also trying to get British retailers to accept the name Rolex on the dial, alongside or instead of their own.

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W.E: William Ehrhardt


W.E: William Ehrhardt

This sponsor's mark was registered at the Birmingham Assay Office by William Ehrhardt. Ehrhardt's mark was first registered 14 November 1867, this punch registered 20 February 1907 by William Ehrhardt Ltd.

William Ehrhardt (1831-1897) was born in Germany and served an apprenticeship in watchmaking there. He came to England in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition.

In 1856 Ehrhardt set up a company in Birmingham to make watches by machinery. This was before John Wycherley set up his factory in 1866 in Prescot, Lancashire, and before Aaron Dennison formed the Anglo-American Watch Company in 1871 in Birmingham, so Ehrhardt was one of the pioneers of watchmaking by machinery in England.

You can read more about the company and the watches they manufactured at William Ehrhardt.

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William Henry Sparrow

W.H.S: William Henry Sparrow - H. Williamson Ltd and Büren

This mark W.H.S in a shield with angled ends was registered at the London Assay Office on 22 June 1907. by William Henry Sparrow, importer of gold and silver watches, 11 Spencer Street, Birmingham. Two punches were registered at that time. Two additional punches with the same mark were registered on 4 July 1907, and two further punches on 3 May 1909.

These simple registration details conceal an interesting story. Sparrow worked for H. Williamson Ltd, who had premises at 11 Spencer Street, Birmingham. The building with a factory and offices had been built for the Reading family of jewellers circa 1871 and was acquired in 1899 by H. Williamson Ltd, who used the offices and made electroplated silver wares in the factory.

H. Williamson Ltd had been started as a jewellery manufacturer by Henry Williamson in 1865 and grew rapidly to become a huge wholsale business. Williamsons acquired the Errington Watch Co. of Coventry in 1895. In 1898 the company's main premises in Farringdon Road London was said to be extensive and imposing, with commodious offices at the front and a very large shipping department at the back, with warehouses, workrooms, a large packing department and numerous departments handling gem stones, jewellery, items of silver plate and electro plate, and a large clock, optical and watch department. "There were many excellent lines of Swiss watches ... the majority of which are manufactured exclusively for the company."

In 1898 Williamsons purchased the Swiss company of F. Suter & Co, watch manufacturers of Büren, Switzerland, and in 1899 the factory of Albert Montandon in la Chaux-de-Fonds. The Büren factory was acquired specifically to supply parts such as the train wheels and pinions, mainspring barrels and arbors, and escapement parts, to the Errington watch factory in Coventry. These were made into watches of English design with plates that were made in Coventry, which were then sold as "English Lever" and "Keyless English Lever" watches.

In 1899 the Lancashire Watch Company, who had previously supplied watches to Williamsons before they purchased the Swiss factories, took out a prosecution under the Merchandise Marks Act (1887) and Williamsons were found guilty of applying a false trade description to the watches with Swiss train wheels and other Swiss made parts.

After losing the court case, Williamsons extended the Coventry factory and imported Swiss machinery so that they could make all of the parts instead of importing them. The Swiss Büren factory remained owned by Williamsons, but now made complete watches marked "Swiss made" for sale in the UK and elsewhere. This forced modification to their way of doing business might actually have been good for Williamson, because they now made true Engish watches that could be sold at a premium price, and the Büren factory supplied them with Swiss made watches that they could sell at a lower price, thereby covering the whole range of price and quality.

Imports of watches from the Büren factory no doubt continued to increase as economical but still well made Swiss watches became increasingly popular and the demand for expensive English made watches decreased. Swiss watches in gold and silver cases with Swiss hallmarks were imported without any problems until 1907. Then in 1907 the British authorities woke up to the fact that this was against the law, and required that all imported gold and silver watches be assayed and hallmarked in a British assay office. This cause a sudden scramble amongst watch importers such as Williamsons to service the requirements of hallmarking, which meant that they had to have a registered sponsor's mark. As major manufactures and wholesalers of gold and silver Williamsons were already registered with the London Assay Office, Henry Williamson had first registered his mark H.W as gold worker on 4 February 1887, and various H.W.Ltd marks were registered after the company had become limited, but a different mark was registered specifically for use on imported watch case, the mark W.H.S in a shield with angled of William Henry Sparrow, registered in June 1907 as discussed in the first paragraph above.

After the crash of 1929 and the subsequent world-wide depression the company, which by then was no longer called H Williamson, collapsed. The London company was liquidated, the Swiss company restructured as Büren Watch Co. SA. This company was bought by the American Hamilton watch company in 1966.

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ZWC: Zenith Watch Co.


ZWCO: Zenith
Watch Co.

This mark ZWCO in a triangular layout within a triangular shield is the registered sponsor's mark of the Zenith Watch Co. (Great Britain) Ltd. It was entered at the London Assay Office on 16 July 1914 by Herman Frederick Roost, managing director.

The company was founded in 1865 by Georges-Emile Favre-Bulle as "Georges Favre-Jacot & Cie". The first workshop was in the Billodes district of Le Locle; it may have been on the same spot where Breguet had his workshop 1793 to 1796. The first trademark registered was "Billodes".

In 1897 the trademark "Zenith" was registered in Switzerland. In circa 1914 the company name was changed to Fabriques des Montres Zenith based at Le Locle, Switzerland, with a British branch at 119 High Holborn WC.

In England Birch & Gaydon appear to have been the principal retailer of Zenith watches. Zenith had an office in London and one would think that this meant they must have been dealing with more than just one company.

In Scotland Zenith watches were sold by Brook & Son of Edinburgh.

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Combined Marks

The sponsor's mark and the case makers trademark are often seen together. For instance, below left is a picture of a case with the AGR sponsor's mark, and also the FB trademark for the case maker François Borgel, and below right is a case with the GS sponsor's mark and the FB trademark.

AGR and FB.jpg GS and FB.jpg

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me via my Contact me page. Back to the top of the page.

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved. This page updated February 2017. W3CMVS.