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Blog: Poinçons de Maître

Date: 24 October 2016 - Updated 26 March 2021

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2021 all rights reserved.

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.

A requirement to strike a Poinçon de Maître (PdM) on watch cases made of precious metal in order to provide traceability back to the maker was introduced in Switzerland in the mid 1920s. I don't know exactly when, and when I asked the Swiss Central Office of Precious Metal Control, they didn't know either. However, I discovered that before the system was centralised in 1934 it was administered locally in the individual Swiss cantons. When it was centralised in 1934 it appears that the previous cantonal records were not centralised. They might still exist in some dusty cantonal archives.

I have seen a nine carat gold watch case with London import hallmarks for 1924 to 1925 which does not have a Poinçon de Maître, and a number of gold cases that were hallmarked in London and Glasgow in 1925 or 1926 which do have Swiss Poinçons de Maître. This suggests that the PdM system for watch cases made of precious metal must have begun around 1925.

There are gaps in the 1934 list, most of them probably due to the registered company going out of business between the origin of the systems and the centralisation in 1934. Some of these gaps are quite large, for instance the list of registrants of Poinçon de Maître No. 1, the hammer head, contains only three numbers below 100, numbers 2, 11 and 26. This implies that the other 97 of the first 100 registrants had ceased trading by 1934.

The mark of Poinçons de Maître No. 2, the hammer with handle, is even more mysterious. In the 1934 list there are only two entries, 115 and 160. The highest number that has been reported to me with a hammer with handle mark is 321. This implies that perhaps 319 companies on the original list had ceased trading by 1934. I don't think that was actually what happened, I think there was a reorganisation of the system that left the hammer with handle mark redundant and unused.

Observations of a Poinçon de Maître hammer head with a number known to have been registered to C.R. Spillmann SA, and the same registration number on a hammer with handle on cases made by Spillmann for Rolex, gives a clue about what happened to the hammer with handle mark; it was phased out after 1926 and the hammer head took over. These observations are discussed in the section reproduced below.

The section reproduced is from my full page about Poinçons de Maître.

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


136

C.R. Spillmann SA

Spillmann's PdM 2 No. 136

Spillmann's PdM 1 No. 136

The hammer with handle mark with number 136 has been seen in the case of a Rolex Oyster with Glasgow Assay Office import hallmarks for nine carat gold and the date letter "d" of 1926 to 1927. It has also been seen in the case of a lady's ROLCO wristwatch with the R.W.C.LTD sponsor's mark and Glasgow Assay Office import hallmarks for nine carat gold, the date letter again being the "d" of 1926 to 1927.

This is interesting because all other early Rolex Oyster cases that I have seen have PdM No.1, the hammer head, with the registration number 136 which is recorded in the 1934 lists as being C.R. Spillmann SA. One of these hammer head marks is also reproduced here, from a Rolex Oyster case with Glasgow Assay Office import hallmarks for 1927 to 1928.

I am sure that all the early Rolex Oyster cases were made by C.R. Spillmann SA, and it seems likely that Spillman also made the gold ROLCO case, so it appears that Spillman's registration number was the same 136 for both PdM 1, hammer head, and PdM 2, the hammer with handle.

This evidence seems to show a changeover from the hammer with handle mark, used by Spillman until 1926/27, to the hammer head mark in 1927/28. We know that by 1934 the use of the hammer with handle mark had virtually ceased, there are only two registrants listed on the 1934 hammer with handle list, and this must be a clue to what happened. It appears that the use of the hammer with handle was discontinued in favour of the hammer head, which was a smaller and more discreet mark that watch manufacturers would have preferred.

Read Across?

Does this mean that if you have a watch case with an unidentified hammer with handle mark you can simply look up the registrant in the hammer head list? Unfortunately not. Although Manufacture Favre & Perret SA appears in both lists with registration number 115, Joseph Erard SA, the second of the only two numbers listed in the 1934 hammer with handle list with registration number 160, is listed in the hammer head list with registration number 161, so it appears that there is not always a direct read across.

Other Companies

The hammer with handle mark with number 136 has also been seen in a watch case with Glasgow Assay Office import marks for nine carat gold and the date letter "d" for 1926 to 1927 and a sponsor's mark entered by Samuel Norman Burgess of London. The case was clearly made by C.R. Spillmann SA for a customer other than Rolex, so seeing Spillmann's PdM on a case does not necessarily mean that the watch has any connection to Rolex.

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


Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2021 all rights reserved. This page updated January 1970. W3CMVS. Back to the top of the page.