The First One for May 2009
Photo: Sessions airplane clock.
I purchased my first clock at the Navy PX Store while awaiting my Navy discharge papers at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in May 1946 after three years on active duty. I was 20 years old and single. Over the years, I lost track of the clock, and always regretted losing it. However, I began collecting old American clocks in earnest ten years later and joined the NAWCC in 1966. Now 83 years old, my collection of six decades was recently enhanced by one very special addition... my dear wife surprised me last Christmas with this beautiful clock... the same Sessions airplane clock as my very first purchase.
—Chris DenHerder (FL)
Photos: Waltham 1883 Face; Movement; Balance wheel detail. Note: Rim and gold hairspring.
Two synergistic happenings started me on the road to interest in watches and my start as a collector / restorer. I was working as an electrical engineer at MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (now Draper Laboratories) in 1959 when a colleague, George, came in on a Monday all excited by a high jeweled 16S Illinois pocket watch he had gotten at a pawnshop over the weekend. He extolled its quality, accuracy, and price (about $10) and told me he had read about old pocket watches in Time and Timekeepers by Willis Milham. He badgered me that I should get such a watch. Shortly after that, I found an empty 18S plain polished nickel open-face case in my folks’ attic and thought, “Pocket watch, you rascal, I’ll fix you and you’ll shut up!”
At the time I would wear either my graduation watch, an AS 1187, or a Waltham 6/0 hack bought at their closeout.
One lunch hour George suggested a trip to the jewelers' building in Boston where we could visit a dealer who had cigar boxes full of watch movements. I looked through one box of 18-size, full-plate Walthams priced at $1 each and selected three that caught my fancy. (I thought I could get at least one of them working. As a matter of fact, I was able to get two working and sold the one I cleaned up for $5.)
When we got back to the lab, our friend Paul Shaffer, who had been trained at Bowman in the late twenties, wanted to look at what I had. One of the movements caught his attention, and he asked if I would like him to restore it and put it in my case. He said it was a rare non-magnetic model with a special alloy balance, gold hairspring, gold pallet, and gold roller table. I was only too happy to entrust the work to his skillful hands. It was a fairly early 1883 movement, nicely finished with gold jewel settings and elegant damaskeening. Later, I found it was a grade 35, which for an extra $15 could be made non-magnetic. We joked that it was a trolley car conductor’s watch. I don’t recall seeing another like it.
—Donald L. Dawes (MA)