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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First and foremost, Hello everyone! This is my first post and Im VERY excited to be a part of this community.

Minimal back story; skip to the next paragraph if you don't care. I've always been fascinated by mechanical watches but growing up in a below average income family never allowed me the opportunity to indulge myself. Now that I'm older I'm starting to break the mindset that they are out of my reach and I'm eager to make up for lost time. So I've got a multi-phase plan in progress and I just dropped about $300 on a dozen or so books on watch repair and maintenance. The plan is to gorge myself on information to get an idea of what I'm up against, get a set of dedicated tools, then get some vintage pieces that speak to me personally and do all the repairs and maintenance myself. The hope is to build an eclectic collection that appeals to me personally, get a better appreciation of what is "mine", and if things go well attempt to duplicate a watch and MAYBE even try my hand at my own design in a handful of years or so (I am a machinist by trade and from the looks of the mechanisms it's deffintely within the realm of possability). Now that I've digressed from the topic at hand enough, I'll get to the point.

I've been looking around online and it's obviously overwhelming. I'd like to at least attempt to stay to a specific style, with that being vintage (ie pre-"water resistant") automatics. The problem is that there are so many compnaies that no longer are, or are parent/sibling companies of each other, or names that changed hands, etc that it's hard to find accurate information on some of the more obscure, and in my personal opinion more interesting pieces - even with the aid of the likes of Google and Wikipedia.

I'm hoping there is a reference that gives basic information on most of the watch manufacturers of the last hundred years or so. I'm not so interested in a price guide with grades and trends on specific watch models nor am I interested in a serial number database or backstory history lesson, but rather more of a directory with basic technical information on the manufacturer and their models. Country of origin, years of opperation, models, numbers produced, original MSRP, correct movements, key features to distinguish between an original and a new throw back, major design alterations to help date a piece, etc. A one stop source to help me determine what watch "X" is, if it's real, where it came from, etc.

Does something like this even exist? Or am I doomed to hunt down books dedicated to each manufacturer while simultaneously saving the bits and pieces I find on the more obscure manufacturers?

I thank you all in advance for any help and direction you can offer.
 

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Welcome; you sound like you're walking the road I traveled. Good luck with that! It's a fun, fulfilling hobby.

As for your question; a good initial "source" of basic information is the Shuggart's Price Guide (published yearly). It contains a lot of information on American watch manufacturers and a reasonable information on non-american makers.

In terms of the swiss makers, you need to first understand how the swiss industry as a whole evolved; once you understand that, you'll realize the challenges you (or anyone else) faces when looking into the history of obscure watches. The "business" side of the watch industry is fascinating in and of itself, but it can be a challenge to work past the "official" histories (which are often doctored to give the illusion of a continuity that just isn't there).

The Mikrolisk website is a good resource for indentifying trademark owners (Mikrolisk - was Feines für die Tasche... - Das Informationsportal rund um die Taschenuhr!), and I make extensive use of the USPTO website to track brand ownerships from the US side.
 

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Welcome to the forum, sounds like you have a great plan esp on doing the work yourself, I am also a beginner at this but I started off with a pocket watch first and then moved to cheaper movements and yes I am still learning still no expert but did my first service a few months back. The info above was great but you can always ask on here as well. Good luck in your journey and again welcome to another vintage member.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Joeuk, Thank you for the kind wishes. It's reassuring to hear that others have gone down the path I'm starting because I do sometimes bite off more than I can chew. I have a feeling I made a great decission joining here to make sure I stay on course with this path I've started.

AbslomRob, I really like your collection. It's classic without being pretentious. Also, thanks for the link to Mikrolisk - I'm definitely going to get good use out of it.

As for Shuggart's, I had eyed it on Amazon but the reviewers made it seem as if it were made for the average person who wants to buy a used Omega and not get ripped off as opposed to a serious reference. Something you use to haggle with when buying, then pass off/throw away afterward. Is it really something that can be used on a regular basis? For that matter, would I be safe to assume that it doesn't really matter what year I get if I do get one? After all, it's not like the history of those long gone companies have changed in the last year and I'm not really interested in newer pieces.

I did spend a good deal of time today on Google looking into the old American companies and I was shocked at how much change each of them went through over the course of their existance. That coupled with your warning about the Swiss end of the horological world has got me worried but at the same time has my interest VERY piqued. Can you, or anyone for that matter, recommend me a good place to start to work through the finer details of the European side of watch history?
 

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They seemed to be a lot of companies back then, I cannot believe some of the makes I see on here that I have never heard of. I have been buying watches with mechanical movements from different countries so I just do a search for a watch from that country, so tend to find a lot of info esp from these guys on here. I think its all about taking one step at a time and the info will eventually come to you (I am still learning). Just found this link in my fav tab Vintage Wrist and Pocket Watch Information - Repair Collecting Supply Cleaning Company History Book Kit School Tools and another link on helping you service a watch for when the times right How to repair a Seiko 7S26 Automatic wrist watch

some more info on omega watches for you Omega Watches and their Movements...

some more on a company called bulova accutron watches The Accutron Watch Page

Hope this info comes in handy at some time in your journey
 

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Don't assume that the Swiss were the only European manufacturers. The Germans and French were also heavily involved and the British if you want to go back a bit further than automatics. It's a very complicated picture and I'm not sure that anyone has a clear picture of it all so I think you are doomed to basic research. That said if your interest is solely in pre water resistant automatics (though I can almost guarantee that will change) you may well be able to piggy back on the knowledge of the specialist collectors as I think that these are few and far between (relatively speaking). The expiry of the Rolex patents on what we now consider the standard automatic design would be about when the water resistant case designs started to take off. I'm assuming from your stated intention that you aren't interested in later automatics in somewhat leaky gold dress cases that were being offered as up market versions of the more utilitarian water resistant cases.
 

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I'd like to at least attempt to stay to a specific style, with that being vintage (ie pre-"water resistant") automatics.


The Harwood, early Rolex and non waterproof bumpers is what I think the OP is interested in.

Edit: Though at that I don't know if Rolex only used it in the oyster case in which case they are out too. Since most of the bumpers I've seen come in water resistant (screwback) cases I have to wonder if the OP has restricted himself to collecting Harwoods.
 

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Define "waterproof". Once Rolex popularized the concept, everyone and their brother started sellling "Waterproof" cases...but this was at a time when there was no real "control" for that definition. The FTC has a long string of complaints lodged against various watch distributors for their rather loose use of the term (culminating in the 1968 ruling that prohibited the casual use of the term).
 

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The OP said water resistant, so I don't think we need worry about complaints over the degree of waterproofness, and hence we rule out any truly waterproof watches.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I apologize for the confusion. When I said pre-water resistant, I meant it more in terms of defining the age of a watch as opposed to the features or brand of the watch. Pre-water resistant being any watch made before the use of "water resistant" became the legal status quo. I suppose I could have just as easily have said anything made before 1970 but I like the idea of liking a watch because of it's quirks rather than it's price or name - in this case it's quirk being the misleading and no longer legally allowed claims to it's performance. For that matter, I think I would be happier with a 1950's Timex than a current production Rolex. I hope that makes sense, though I have a suspicion I only made it worse.


As for the topic; does anyone have anything to say about Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World by G. H. Baillie?

http://www.amazon.com/Watchmakers-C...UTF8&colid=GEX720D090M7&coliid=I21FOLOAP02IN6
 

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I have the "Second Edition" by Brian Loomes, as well as the much older "Brittens Old Clocks & Watches And Their Makers". Its essentially a reference book of known watchmakers, and provides some rather basic information about when and where they operated. Useful to a point, but mostly for older pre-lever watches. The age of the master watchmakers died when Waltham revealed their process at the technical exposition. The british watchmakers just withered away, while the swiss either focused on refining the mass-production designs, or went into high end. And realistically, there hasn't been a lot of technical movement in the watch world since the detached lever anyway; most of the innovation has been around the machining and metallurgy side. Most of the wrist-watch innovations were just figuring out how to mass-produce existing technology. Even the coaxial escapement (touted as one the most significant advances in Horology in a hundred years) is little more then an expression of theories laid down by (I think) Brueget ; the only reason it wasn't refined before is because the implementation of the theory requires a level of precision that just wasn't possible (or at least practical) before.
 
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