The History of Cyma Watch Company

Cyma is a watch brand that has long been associated with accuaracy. Even the name Cyma, derived from the French cime for top or summit indicated the aims of the company, that of reaching the pinnacle of of accuracy. Cyma can trace its routes back to the Schwob brothers Joseph and Theodore, who initially established cyma in 1862 as a watch manufacturer that assembled watches from components derived from multiple Swiss sources.  At about the same time 1871, Henri Sndoz established Sandoz & Cie in Le Locle. However Sandoz moved to Tavannes in 1891, just North of Biel where he focused on the manufacture of highly complex repeaters and chronographs. Soon after this move Sandoz formed a developed a business relationship with the Schwob brothers and Cyma was officially registered in 1903. Sandoz used the most modern of manufacturing processes and produced very high quality time-pieces, trademarked as Tavannes, Cyma and Cyma Tavannes. The quality of the product allowed Tavannes/Cyma to develop into one of the largest Swiss watch manufacturers by 1910. Even basic models were very accurate and many were consequently sold as officially tested chronometers. By the 1920s, Cyma had followed a growing trend to standardise watch part manufacture, but typical of the company, it wasn’t enough to just produce parts that were interchangeable, they had to be precision made to ensure long term accuracy.

Early watch movements tended to be very susceptible to damage via physical blows. Thus during the 1930s efforts were made to develop shock proofing systems. The very first effective shock proofing system for watches  (Incabloc) was invented by Georges Braunschweig and Fritz Marti in 1934. These systems were incorporated into many watches by numerous watch manufacturers. However, by the 1950s, Cyma had developed its own shock proofing system, Cymerflex, which it installed in its high grade watches. These proudly advertised the fact on the dial  (Figure 1). It is a bit of a testament to Cyma, that of all of the numerous watches that have passed though our hands as dealers in vintage watches over the years, we have never had a troublesome Cyma.

Cymaflex WristwatchBy the late 1960s and early 1970s the watch industry was changing, the advances of Hamilton and Bulovea in the production of electric watches set the scene for the era of the quartz watch. By 1973 Cyma had produced their first electric watch and they were ready to embrace the new technology whilst other watch manufacturers were decimated by it.  The brand is currently owned by Stelux International, Ltd and continues to lead in the production of high quality quartz watches. Having achieved this it seems that Cyma has met the goals set out by its founders, after all Cyma now produces watches that are always absolutely accurate.

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The English Waltham Watches

by Morgan Denyer (Penrose Antiques Ltd)

Here is a bit of a horological heresey, the English Waltham! The Waltham watch company was steeped in American History, the company was founded by David Davies, Edward Howard and Aaron Lufkin Dennison who  in 1850 set up a company in Roxbury Massachusetts to manufacture watch parts. The company was reputedly set up under a cloud of secrecy because David Davies, Edward Howard and Aaron Lufkin Dennison were going to do something quite inventive, set up a watch manufacturing company in which all the components were made in their watch factory subject to strict quality control. This was quite unheard of and pretty much a world first. The watches they produced represented  a revolution in watch making, they could mass produce watches with interchangeable parts.

The first watches were made in 1852, and the company was named the Boston Watch Company in 1853. However the cost of production and retooling took its toll and the company was declared bankrupt resulting in the sale of the factory and larger machines to Royal E Robinns in 1857. He renamed the company Appleton Tracy & Company (ATCo) and retained Aaron Dennison as the factory superintendent. That year the company completed the development of the Model 1857 movement. By 1861 and the start of the American Civil War, ATCo had started to manufacture the William Ellery Model 57 watch. These watches were cheaply mass produced and became popular with Union soldiers who could buy them from roving merchants for a mere $13 or so. It seems that by the end of the civil war in 1865, the William Every Model 57 (Figure 1) accounted for 44.6% of the Waltham sales with the American Civil War Ellery watch serial number reaching around 161,000. (see  “Origins of the Waltham Model 57”   and “A closer look at a Civil War watch “ ).

Figure 1 Blog2Heated debate about the Ellery 57 Model watch represented a turning point in the career of Aaron Dennison. He fell out with Robinns in 1861 and Robinns eventually dismissed him for being a “vocal Dissenter” in 1862. One can imagine that this was a bit of a blow, but the success of the Ellery 57 and the perceived vindication of Dennison’s views seemed to drive him on to his next commercial venture.  In 1864 Dennison took the opportunity to set up the Tremont Watch Company with A. O. Bigelow. The idea here was to assemble watches in the US from fine parts sourced in Switzerland and larger parts sourced in America. Seemed like a good plan, but whilst Dennison was away in Switzerland organising the transport of components, his partners decided to move the company to Melrose and manufacture complete watches there. Needless to say Dennison was not pleased, he left the new company predicting utter disaster and moved to Birmingham England in 1871 where he established a watch case making business in 1872. His timing was perfect because of the opening in 1874 of the London office of the American Watch Company by N.P. Stratton, (assistant superintendant to Dennison in 1857, see “Watches Factories of America; Past and Present” by Henry G Abbott). Here was a ready market for Dennison’s cases and the person he had to convince of the value of his watch cases was none other than his old assistant superintendent at the American Watch Company. Unsurprisingly the majority of  the output of Dennison’s new watch case manufacturing business ended up being used by the London branch of the American Watch Company. What was particularly interesting about this though was that these early Dennison cases did not carry the Dennison makers mark, but AWCo, presumably because Robbins wouldn’t tolerate a Dennison makers mark on his watches.

Fig 2 Blog 2The association between the Dennison Watch Case Company and AWCo and the Later Waltham Watch Company, was maintained long after Aaron Dennison’s death in 1895. The success of this collaborative venture was exemplified by the Waltham Traveler (Figure 2). The Waltham Traveler consisted of a 7 jewel movement and was favoured for the export market in the early 20th century. Tens of thousands were sent to the UK where they were mostly cased in Dennison gold or gold plated cases. These watches were robust and many have survived in good working order. They represent a very good investment for those wishing to buy a good antique watch. The real benefit of these watches is that because they were mass produced, the parts are readily sourced and are fully interchangeable.

By the First World War Waltham had become a major supplier of watch movements in the UK, but the market was changing. Pocket watches were of little use in the trenches of the European battle fields and troops had started to modify their watches by the addition of wire lugs. Dennison, having his business located in the UK was in a prime position to take advantage of this. By 1914/15 Dennison had started to make transitional or trench watch cases consisting of what looked like pocket watch cases fitted with wire lugs (Figure 3). These were designed to fit Waltham movements and were a favorite with British officers heading of to war. The design actually gained such popularity with the conservative British that the Dennison transitional watch cases were made right through the 1920s and into the mid to late1930s. The latest example we at Penrose Antiques Ltd have encountered dated from 1938.Fig 3a

Post WW1 there were also drivers to further refine wristwatch design. This was very much a period of the tank watch, a design first created by Louis Cartier in 1917. Virtually all watchmakers leaped on the tank watch bandwagon, and Waltham, was no different. By the 1920s Waltham was producing a range of movements designed to fit slim rectangular dress watchcases. Many of these movements made it to the UK to be encased in lovely simple but elegant slim lozenge shaped curved art Art Deco Dennison cases.

In the history of watch making, many watch manufacturers had watch movements made to fit their watch cases, for example the American Ball Watch Company used Swiss made Avia watch movement. Thus one could argue that the Walthams assembled in the UK form English made Dennison cases represent a special bread of English Walthams. After all many of the Dennison cases, although designed to fit Waltham movements were also designed for the English market. For example the early trench watch cases made by Dennison specifically met the needs of the British heading off to the trenches. The design was only later adopted by Waltham in the US to meet the needs of American troops post April 6th 1917 when the USA entered the war. So perhaps Britain, via the efforts and perseverance of Aaron Dennison can bathe in a small portion of the glory of the historically great American Waltham Watch Company.

The association with Dennison and the English market may also have played a part in the eventual downfall of the Waltham Watch Company. The British were by nature very conservative, but the UK was a major market for Waltham. Perhaps to meet the needs of this market, Waltham maintained a more conservative output, and it may have been that the English conservative influence led  Waltham watches to be perceived as a bit boring in the home US market. This perception of conservatism was believed to have played a part in a decline of sales and the eventual bankruptcy of the Waltham Watch Company  in 1949 and closure of the American Waltham Watch factory in 1957.

The Bulova Watch Company

by Morgan Denyer  (Penrose Antiques Ltd)

The Bulova’s story starts with the immigration of a certain Joseph Bulova to the United States. Joseph Bulova was born in 1851 and emigrated to the US towards the later quarter of the 19th century to establish a small New York jewellers, J Bulova Company. By 1911 Bulova had started to make small table clocks and pocket watches, a venture aided by the opening of Bulova’s first watch factory in Bienne, Switzerland in 1912. Bulova Figure 1This was very much a time of growth and innovation in the watch making industry, partially drivBulova Figure 2en by the needs of the military. The 1st World War, saw Bulova working towards meeting the need for the new fangled wristwatches, and by 1919 Bulova was the first watch manufacturer to launch a full range of men’s wristwatches. At this time Bulova’s business was growing fast and to facilitate continued growth, Bulova, in 1920, moved to 580 Fifth Avenue, where Bulova built the first ever Observatory on top of a skyscraper (Figure 1). Accuracy was everything, thus the observatory was apparently under the direction of a mathematician, whose calculations were reputed to guide the factory’s watchmakers in their efforts towards absolute accuracy. Ever the opportunistic advertiser, the move provided Bulova with an opportunity to re-brand itself in 1923 as the Bulova Watch Company Inc. At this time Bulova’s methods of mass production allowed the production of high precision interchangeable components allowing rapid repair and servicing. The Bulova’s were always ready to support risky projects with the aim of grabbing a headline. For example it was the Bulova Watch Company that made the first ever radio advertisement in 1926, and it was Ardé Bulova, Joseph’s son, who offered a $1000 prize to the pilot who could make the first non-stopBulova Blog Figure 3 single-handed flight across the Atlantic. It seems that those who attempted this feet were all given a Bulova before they took off, and it is reputed that the first pilot, Charles A. Lindberg, who managed the trip wore a Bulova during the flight. It is also believed that Lindberg actually earned himself two Bulova watches and of course a nice large cheque as a result of his efforts. The first watch was given to him before the flight, and the second as a presentation watch after the flight in a blaze of publicity. Not to miss a trick, Bulova capitalised on this my creating the Lone Eagle model, the first ever commemorative watch. This watch seemed to be rather fittingly based on what was called the Bulova Conqueror (Figure 2 – see http://www.watchophilia.com/general-information/bulova-lone-eagle-series/ for more details). Rather perversely, prior to the successful flight the Conqueror didn’t actually sell that well, but on touch down, sales rocketed with the Bulova records showing 5000 sales within the first 3 days of landing. There is still considerable debate as to whether these were actual sales of physical watches to individual customers, or orders from jewellers. The latter seems most likely. The company continued innovating, producing the very first electric clocks in 1931 and making the first ever television advertisement in 1941. During WW2 Bulova dedicated its time to producing timepieces for the US military. After the war Bulova produced some truly lovely watches combining stunningly creative designs with the small sleek look of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many of these watches were very high quality watches consisting of high calibre movements within 14ct solid white or yellow gold cases (Figure 3). Bulova Figure 4The 50s also saw social changes, this was an era of steadily increasing wealth, and massive technological advances. In the watch industry the race was on to produce the first electric watch. This was perceived as an almost impossible task because it required the miniaturisation of electrical components. However, by 1960 Bulova had developed the Bulova Accutron. This watch was remarkable in that it basically contained a mechanical movement driven by a 360 hertz tuning fork. The concept was brilliant, very ingenious and beautifully simple. Basically what Bulova did was to fabricate a means of driving a 25mm long tuning fork with an electronic unit consisting of a couple of coils, a battery unit and a couple of transistors. The tuning fork was manufactured so that one arm possessed a post from which extended an arm like structure terminating in a jewelled square (Figure 4a-c see http://www.decadecounter.com/accutron/history.htm for further details). The vibrations of the tuning fork allowed the arm to drive a micro-toothed wheel, tBulova Figure 5ooth by tooth. It was this micro-toothed wheel, which drove the mechanical gear chain allowing the hands to move. These watches don’t tick they give of a faint high-pitched hum, and it is down to the micro-toothed drive wheel that in these watches the second hand seems to move with a mystical smoothness. The Accutron was the very first highly accurate electric watches, and this was recognised by the Bulova Accutron wristwatch being the first wristwatch to be awarded the US Railroad Certificate. The value of this accolade should be explained. In the early years of the US railroad, accidents tended to happen because train drivers and signallers had watches that were not terribly accurate. To try and circumvent this, strict standards were set for the accuracy of watches used on the US railways to insure the appropriate coordination of time dependent tasks. Thus Bulova, because of the accuracy of its Accutron wristwatches, could market their wristwatches to the rail industry. To market these new watches, Bulova produced versions without a formalised face, thus the all-new movement could be viewed. These watches were meant to be display items only. However, customers wanted to buy them, and thus the Accutron Spaceview watches were born. These were, and still are, highly popular and when combined with the asymmetrical watch designs of the 1960s resulted in some lovely timepieces (See http://oldfathertime.com/accutron_photo_gallery.htm for details of some of the designs). One of my particular favourites is the so called Tilty (or floppy) Football (Figure 5), which consisted of a tilted asymmetrical almost circular 14ct solid gold case combined with the space view – a real peach of a watch! The Space View versions are very collectable and unsurprisingly kits are available to convert a standard Accutron to a Spaceview Accutron. The 60s also saw the race to the moon. Bulova was heavily involved in the space race. Their main rival in this market was Omega. Both competed to have the first watch on the moon. Unfortunately for Bulova, Omega won that race race, on the basis that Bulova didn’t guarantee 100% dust proofing, whilst Omega did. So the Omega Speedmaster Professional became the official NASA astronauts watch. However, all of the timepieces for the spacecraft, were based around the Accutron 214 movement, because NASA couldn’t be certain how purely mechanical timepieces would function in a zero gravity environment. The Accutron based watches were made between 1960 and 1977. The demise of the tuning fork based movement was driven by the invention of the quartz based movement which could be made much more cheaply. Bulova is still a major force in the watch manufacturing industry. The company was bought by Citizen in 2008 and continues to make watches branded as Bulova, Caravelle, Wittnauer Swiss, Marine Star and Accutron (which are now quartz based, although 1000 50th anniversary true tuning fork based Accutrons were made in 2010).

Joseph Lang and the Sporting Gun

My husband is always telling me that we need to stock more mantiques, mantiques being those antiques that are of particular interest to men. With this in mind we have acquired a rare Victorian deactivated sporting gun (with an accompanying deactivation certificate) by Joseph Lang (Figure 1).

Joseph Lang was a very influential figure in country sports and the development of recreational guns. He first set up his own business the “Gun and Pistol Repository” in 1821, eventually buying out the entire stock of his prior employer the gunmaker Alexander Wilson in 1825 to becomes Londons largest gun dealer. During this time Joseph Lang sold the highest quality sporting guns, including those produced by James Purdey. His association with Purdey steadily strengthened with Joseph Lang marrying Purdey’s daughter Eliza in 1828.  Joseph Lang’s first son Joseph was born in 1829, and his second son James was born in 1835. Joseph the younger was then apprenticed to James Purdey and Joseph the younger then joined his fathers business in about 1853.Joseph Lang 1

Figure 1 Joseph Lang Sporting Gun

Joseph Lang the elder was renowned for playing a key part in introducing the breach-loading gun to British sportsmen. Prior to this guns were loaded the traditional way via the muzzle and these new fangled breach loading guns steadily creeping into use on the continent were viewed with scorn. Joseph Lang didn’t really agree with this, and in a radical move started to manufacture high quality breach loading shot guns for the British market. Being a businessman with a good view on taking commercial opportunities and being recognised as a very good shot, he then went on to prove the value of the breach loader in shooting competitions in which he out-shot competitors who used the old fashioned muzzle loading guns.  Needless to say, demand for his guns increased and he provided custom made guns to leaders in Victorian society, including the Prince of Wales in 1868.

Our particular example is a hammer action 12 bore shot gun with intricately engraved double barrels. The gun carries the makers name Joseph Lang (Figure 2a and 2b). along with the serial number 3834, dating it to 1867, the year before the Prince of Wales bought his Joseph Lang. This gun will be for sale at the Wetherby Antiques Fair on the 27th and 28th of July 2013, and potentially for sale if we still have it at the Stafford Bingley Hall Antiques Fair on the 9th, 10th and 11th of August 2013. Come and see and get a 20% discount on this gun or any other item of our stock if you can tell us you have read our WordPress blogs.

Josph Lang 3Joseph Lang 2

Figure 2a showing a closeup of the firing assembly and ejector system, 2b shows the makers name Joseph Lang.

For further information on Joseph Lang, see Best Guns by Joseph McIntosh

Another Mantique a WW2 Military Timor Wrist Watch

Just picked up this great watch – my husband loves it, he even made a quick video of the watch on a turntable . Its quite a hard to find Timor military wrist watch dating to the later part of WW2. At this time the British War Department provided very specific specifications to a number of watch makers for watches designed for use by British military servicemen. These specifications included a 15 jewel highly accurate movement, a black luminous dial with a subsidiary second hand, a shatterproof perspex crystal, a rugged case design and water resistance. These watches are now very collectable and are in high demand. Our last military watch dating from this period  was sold within a few days of us acquiring it.  These watches all carry the markings WWW and a serial number on the back. The WWW standing for Wristwatch Waterproof.

1940s Timor Military Watch 1

This particular watch will be for sale at the next Yorkshire Antiques Fair in Harrogate 0n the  25th and 26th May 2013 and is currently for sale on our Rubly Lane shop from the 27th (if we still have it). Prices for military watches of this period are currently shooting up so they are great investments.

The Georgian Newcastle Tankard

We have just acquired a superb Georgian Solid Silver Tankard made by the excellent Newcastle silversmith John  Langland II

Newcastle Silver Tankard 1798-9 a

The Langlands family were the largest manufacturers of silver and silver plate in Newcastle. The Langlands manufactured silver for over 60 years with John Langland II taking over the business following his fathers death in 1795. John Langland II died in 1804, but his widow Dorothy Langland maintained a flourishing business right up to 1814.

This particular tankard is beautiful. It carries the hallmarks for Newcastle 1798-9 and the makers mark for John Langland II. It is a presentation tankard, and was further engraved with a lovely ornate pattern in approximately 1867. Along with this pattern there is an inscription for a Mr Matthew Bernard, who apparently served as Treasurer of the Sir Colin Campbell Lodge of the Odd Fellows Friendly Society for 9 years. It seems that the lodge met at the Crown Inn, Rochdale Road, Bury, Lancashire, this English pub is still, after all this time, serving beer. I wonder if Mr Bernard celebrated receiving this tankard by quenching his thirst with it on the day of it’s presentation?

Newcastle Silver Tankard 1798-9 c

The tankard is in a lovely antique condition, however there are one or two tiny indentations in the body and the hallmarks and makers mark on the main body are rubbed but legible

The Tankard weighs just over 300g and is 5 inches high. It is currently for sale via our Ruby Lane shop.

Builth Wells Antiques Fair (4th and 5th of May 2013)

Come and visit us at the Builth Wells International Antiques Fair this weekend. Look for the above sign to find us and if you tell us tell us you saw it on WordPress, Pinterest or Twitter we will give you a 20% discount on any item or items on our stand. We will be  in Hall 2 Stand B10.Penrose Antiques sign

Happy shoping

Rachel and Morgan

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