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Straps for Vintage Fixed Wire Lug Trench Watches or Officer's Wristwatches

Blog: Déposé No. 9846: Watches with handles

Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved.

First published: 28 February 2013, last updated 21 November 2023.

I make additions and corrections to this web site frequently, but because they are buried somewhere on one of the pages the changes are not very noticeable, so I decided to create this blog section to highlight new material. Here below you will find part of one of the pages that I have either changed or added to significantly.

This blog entry is part of my page about the first men's wristwatches.

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

Déposé No. 9846

Strap Detail
Curved lugs or "handles"
Déposé No. 9846 stamp in wristwatch case back
Déposé No. 9846 stamp in wristwatch case back: Click image to enlarge

In 1903, the Anglo-Swiss company Dimier Brothers registered a design of a wristwatch with fixed wire lugs and a leather strap. This is the earliest documentary evidence seen of watches with wire lugs and one piece leather straps.

Dimier Frères & Cie had offices in la Chaux-de-Fonds and London. The London company, Dimier Brothers & Co., from 1868 were important watch importers, You can read more about the London company of Dimier Brothers on my Sponsors Marks page at Dimier Brothers & Co. .

Evidence for this involvement of the Dimier Brothers company in the early development of the wristwatch is the legend “Déposé No. 9846” (sometimes “DEPOSE 9846”, or even “DÉPOSÉ 9846”) seen in the case backs of early wristwatches as shown here, sometimes with the Swiss Federal Cross symbol.

Déposé is short for Modèle Déposé, which is Swiss/French for ‘Registered Design’, a design that was registered with a government office in order to provide copyright protection.

An author's or designer's legal copyright exists for designs whether they are registered or not, but it can be difficult to prove without evidence of the date the design was created; hence, an entry in a register is a useful official record. A modèle déposé is a register of a design, a pattern or appearance of an item. It is not a patent, a patent is granted for a novel concept which does not have a specific embodiment.

Swiss Modèle Déposé No. 9846, July 1903
Swiss Modèle Déposé No. 9846, July 1903: Click image to enlarge

The picture to the right here shows the official Swiss record for Modèle Déposé No. 9846. It is dated 29 July 1903. The description is very short compared to that of a patent, because it is the representation of the design that is being recorded. The description simply says “Montre à bracelet-courroie” or “Wristwatch with bracelet-belt” and shows a picture of the design.

The exact translation of Montre à bracelet-courroie is important. A montre is a watch, à means with, and bracelet is something that goes around a wrist. The important word is courroie, a belt. The addition of courroie or belt is clearly intended to distinguish this design from a “montre bracelet”, a watch on a metal bracelet which ladies had been wearing for hundreds of years.

So it can be said that the specific design features being registered were the use of a leather wrist strap, somewhat like a belt, and by implication the “anses”, the handles or wire lugs, that attach the watch case to the leather wrist strap.

An interesting feature of the strap design is the flared centre section. This approximately covers the same area as the watch case. Since there is no description its purpose can only be guessed at. It might have been to prevent any part of the watch case from touching the wrist for some reason, perhaps concerns about allergies, or about perspiration tarnishing silver watch cases. Or, which seems more likely, it would not have been possible to register a design that was just a straight leather strap, because that would be too simple and obvious, so this more elaborate design was conceived just so that it could be registered. Once a registered design number had been secured, that fact could be used in advertising and to gain a hold over wristwatch manufacturers.

Registered Design 405488

British Registered Design 405488, February 1903

There is a second number in the picture of the Swiss Modèle Déposé 9846, the number 405488, underneath the main block of text containing the registration number 9846.

No 405488 is the number of a British Registered Design, a design that was registered in Britain for the purposes of copyright protection in the same way as the Swiss/French Modèle Déposé discussed above.

The picture here shows the entry in the British Board of Trade register. With the exception of a flared section of the strap behind the buckle, it is identical to the Swiss Modèle Déposé 9846. The watch shown mounted on the strap in the picture is crossed out to show that it is not part of the Registered Design.

This is the full entry from the ledger, there is no text description. Unfortunately, the identity of the registrant has not yet been found. It was either Dimier Brothers or E. J. Pearson and Sons, who registered two refinements of the design in 1908, one of which was the origin of the NATO G10 strap.

Design No 405488 was registered in February 1903, six months before the Swiss register entry for Modèle Déposé No. 9846 in July 1903.

The period of copyright protection afforded by the British registration was initially five years. This was twice extended, as allowed under the provisions of the Patents and Designs Act 1907, for two further periods of five years each, taking the period of protection up to February 1918.

No watch marked with this British registered design number has been seen.

Dimier Frères notice 1907

By 1907, the market for men's wristwatches with wire lugs and leather wrist straps was starting to accelerate and Dimier Frères felt they needed to reassert their rights. The announcement shown in the next figure was published in La Fédération Horlogère Suisse Suisse in October 1907. It translates as:

La Fédération Horlogère Suisse, October 1907
La Fédération Horlogère Suisse, October 1907: Click image to enlarge

To avoid trouble and misunderstandings, we inform Gentlemen makers of watch cases of gold, silver and metal, and Gentlemen watch manufacturers of Switzerland, the curved handles for wristwatches are our registered design No. 9846 dated July 29, 1903.

We will pursue anyone who manufacture watches with these handles, without having previously made arrangements for a royalty to be paid to us, and that does not send his watch cases to our factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds to have our registered mark stamped in the case back.

Dimier Frères & Cie.

This notice gives more details of Dimier Frères claim than the registered design. The wire lugs (“anses” or handles) are designed to be curved (recourbées) or bent downwards. This makes the path of the strap around the back of the watch case follow a natural curve.

Judging from the very large number of early wristwatches that are stamped in their case backs with the legend "Déposé No. 9846", the claim that Dimier Brothers originated the design and the threat of action against anyone who didn't pay them royalties for making wristwatches with fixed wire must have been taken seriously by Swiss watch manufacturers at the time.

RD 499803 buckle design

Watch straps with the same flared centre shape as the British and Swiss Registered Designs are sometimes seen with the British Registered Design number "No. 405488" stamped onto the leather strap, and with another British Registered Design number, "No. 499803", stamped on the buckle. Buckles stamped with this number are an unusual design with two centre bars instead of the more usual single bar.

RD1907 register detail
British Registered Design 499803, April 1907
RD1907 underside
Underside showing how the strap fits

The British Board of Trade records show that this unusual design of buckle was first registered in April 1907, but they don't show who the registrant was. However, the juxtaposition of the numbers 405488 on the leather strap and 499803 on the buckle, and then the number 405488 on the Swiss register entry for Modèle Déposé No. 9846, indicates that they were all the products of E. J. Pearson and Sons and Dimier Brothers.

The Registered Design No. 499803 buckle is an unusual design with two centre bars and it fits onto the strap without being stitched into it. The Registered Design No. 405488 / No. 9846 shows a strap with a circular section the same size as the watch case in the centre, and there are only two ways such a strap could be fitted to a watch with fixed wire lugs, either the buckle would have to stitched to the strap after the strap had been fitted to the watch, or the buckle would have to be designed to fit to the strap without stitching, which is exactly what the Registered Design No. 499803 buckle does. The photograph here shows how it fits to the strap.

Why there was a four year gap between registering the design of the lugs and strap to registering the design of the buckle is a bit of a mystery. These straps and buckles do turn up occasionally, but I suspect that it was linked with the announcement made by Dimier Brothers in 1907. When Dimier Brothers first registered Modèle Déposé 9846 in 1903 there were very few men's wristwatches being produced, but by 1907 more men's wristwatches were being produced and the difficulty of attaching straps where the buckles had to be stitched in made it worthwhile producing this buckle design.

If you have any comments or questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch via my Contact Me page.

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Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved. This page updated November 2023. W3CMVS. Back to the top of the page.