Would you wear and use a vintage pocket watch?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pocket Watches Galore! My pawn shop find of 2012

Gold-Filled 1913 Elgin pocket watch, movement

     Greetings, everyone! I recently had the luck of obtaining several pocket watches from a local pawn store. Someone I know works there, and I had asked him to tell me if they ever took in any pocket watches; one day, he let me know they had. Down to the store I went the next day that he was working (so he would get the credit for the sale, of course), 2011 holiday gift cash in hand and ready to buy, if the price was right. (What can I say, I do not often find things I really want to buy!)

     Yes, I went there thinking that there might be some tattered box of scruffy-looking watches missing vital parts with which I could do something artsy. Little did I suspect that there were this many watches, all in decent condition. Three of them could be wound and then actually ran! I bartered a little bit for the whole batch, albeit halfheartedly due to my delight at the possibility of getting so many pieces of history in one fell swoop.
      The deal seemed to be going well, but I had just fallen for one particular watch which was not allowed to be included in the batch price; I had my heart set on the running, 1913 gold-filled Elgin watch with beautifully etched hunting case, and felt as though I could not leave it for someone else to buy. It had simple engraved ornate flowers, scrolls, and leaves on the outside of the case, and it wound and ran. (I later discovered that it runs very slow, even with the speed adjusted, so that is something for me to learn how to remedy. It may need a cleaning, a new spring, both, or something else entirely.)But I was in full SQUEE! mode and would not be deterred by the downer that reason can be.
     I asked if that was the best they could do, which is the standard pawn-store lingo for "you gotta come down on the price before I will buy this item." The owner of the pawn shop reduced the price to about 1/3 of the price on the tag and I agreed, probably too quickly and a little too loudly, to buy the watch. (I remember shouting "sold!" across the small store); emotion had obviously taken over the deal, at least on my end. It seemed a reasonable price for a running, 1913, gold-filled Elgin pocket watch. It may or may not be the most valuable of the watches I purchased, but it is my favorite. It had been four YEARS since I had found any (reasonably priced) pocket watches at any pawn shop in the area, and I was determined that this would be the day that they would be mine.

pocket watches, (1913 Elgin in upper right corner)

     What did I get for my enthusiastic efforts? The gold 1913 Elgin and one other, a couple of Walthams, a George Draeb,  two Hamiltons, and a Republic. I have determined the approximate production date on a few of them as closely as is possible to determine from serial numbers, and have had fun learning about the history of the companies, and of markings and materials used back in the day. Two of the watches have engraved messages on the inside of the case which give a bit of insight into the proprieties of society back then.

same pocket watches, movements displayed (1913 Elgin in upper right corner)
     In my collection of watches, we find Silverdine, Silverode (nickel alloys), and gold-filled cases. Of course, just the movements themselves have me entranced. Warning: educational content --The often intricate and elaborate etching patterns that one sees on the watch movements is called "damaskeening."
     I took the photographs you see here at the instant that I arrived home, setting the watches on the bag from the pawn shop. At some point, I shall likely attempt to photograph them with an actual camera rather than a cellular phone camera.  How much did I pay for the entire lot of seven watches? The six totalled $150, then the 1913 Elgin was $75 plus tax. Did I get ripped off? Possibly. Occasionally, the thought of "but what will I DO with them?" pops into my mind. Then I remember that these pocket watches are one of those things that will never be made again: not in those places, at those times, by those people. Honestly, I have always wanted to learn more hands-on aspects of horology - the art or science of measuring time.

     By the way, most of these watches will  not be intentionally dismantled for parts. They may eventually be partially and cautiously dismantled for cleaning and repair; I hope to learn how to do some of it myself, as I do have some experience in taking them apart, and hope that reassembly will happen as well. I will be starting on the non-functioning watches, thank you very much! I hope to make up for my previous involvement in Watchmageddon by preserving these beautiful pieces of history, or at least trying to. They may serve no useful function in today's society with our digital timekeeping devices, and the value of any one of them has yet to be determined, but I like them all the same. Squee!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To See the World Through A Tiny Lens -- Stanhope Microphotograph Objects

     The Stanhope, or "optical bijou", was the name given to the items created with microphotographic images inside them.  Ranging from letter openers, to knives, to sewing tools such as tape measures, to jewelry, the Stanhope revolutionized the perception of photography and the souvenir industry beginning in 1860's France. About that time, Rene Dagron (1819-1900), a portrait maker in Paris created the first Stanhopes by affixing a micro-image to a lens.  From Stanhopes.info: "The Stanhope lens was invented by Charles, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753-1816). It was a rod-shaped hand viewer with two surfaces of unequal curvature, but later the design was adapted to incorporate a curved magnifying surface at one end, and a plane surface at the other. Lord Stanhope died many years before his invention was used in the manufacture of novelty souvenirs."

     To use a Stanhope peep-hole viewer, one would put the tiny hole in the object up to one's eye while holding the object up to the light, and the image could be seen. Popular subjects included monuments, royalty (especially Queen Victoria!), world's fairs, cities, towns, shrines, and landscapes. Stanhopemicroworks.com has an extensive gallery of Stanhope objects.


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