EARLY WATCH CASE MAKERS of ENGLAND
1631-1720
By Philip Priestley


Available from author 33 including postage, Lincoln Lodge, 1 Foxdell Way, Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks, SL9 0PL. (Tel: 01494 873521, fax 01494 583079) or email:lincolnuk@aol.com

This hard-cover (blue embossed with gold) book published by the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors Inc., of Columbia, USA, in Spring 2000 is essentially a prequel to the author's previous work covering the period 1720 to 1920 (also available from the author in soft-cover version , priced 12 including postage). The research is based upon actual records in the various Livery Company archives and further information is gleaned from contemporary Inland Revenue Tax Returns.

The book contains a set of hierarchies of over 200 watch case makers, masters and apprentices, and a detailed alphabetic biography of those working in the period. The author visited museums in Europe and America for his research and has made a tentative assignment of maker's names to marks seen on actual watch cases. In all, 112 gold and 275 silver boxes and cases were reviewed, and some 140 different maker's marks have been noted. The earliest extant Goldsmiths' Company copper-plate dating from 1682 has some 628 individual maker's marks; all 47 incuse marks and 8 cameos have now been ascribed to watch case makers. Evidence has been found to indicate that the 1682 plate was used for gold style maker's marks well into the Britannia Silver period of 1697 to 1720. In addition, a list of watch case makers working in the so called missing small-workers register period of 1739 to 1758 has been compiled together with a list of suggested marks.

The research has shown that notwithstanding the fact that smooth finish gold and silver cases were made from the 1630's onwards and according to the Act of 1755/6 as precious metals should have been assayed, gold cases were not hallmarked before 1683 and silver cases not before 1698, and there was much evasion of assaying until the Act of 1739. The earliest maker's mark without assay-marks has been seen on a circa. 1669 gold case while one has to wait until 1682 to see a similar mark on a silver case. Reasons for this tardy conformance with Law are opined by the author. Evidence has also been obtained to explain why so many pair-case watches have different marks and assay dates on the inner box and outer case parts.

A list of members of the Clockmakers' Company working in 1697 who signed the Oath of Allegiance to King William III, is also included; this has been transliterated from the awkward secretary script into an alphabetical sequence and published in this form for the first time.

Although the majority of the case makers worked in London, eleven makers working in Liverpool before 1720 have been also identified.

The book includes a chapter on Economic and Social Factors that probably influenced the trade during the 17th century. This includes watch and clock inventories, and cost-of-living details. The impact of the Fire of London and other disasters on the watch trade is also explored.