Photos: Lewis Miller’s first pocket watch, an English key wind.
Lewis Miller (CA)
For many years I collected German postage stamps as my only hobby. I owned an Omega Speedster watch commemorating the first landing on the moon. Other than this watch I had no interest in collecting or learning about watches.
I was on sabbatical leave from my college in 1986 to 1987. I was teaching at Oxford University during this time. My wife was interested in purchasing antiques. Every Friday the local paper The Oxford Mail would come out listing antique fetes around the area. Our main trip every weekend became a search for antiques for our house.
While my wife was looking at the various stands for antiques, I wandered around looking for stamps for my collection. Almost all the stands dealt in British Empire stamps, so there was very little for me to do. One day at a fete in Hungerford, about 30 miles south of Oxford, I stopped to talk to a man whose stand contained a number of English key-wind watches. I had never seen key-wind watches. Being an engineer I became very interested in his description of the various watches. I did not know that there were so many different types of key-wind watches, i.e., cases single and double, types of metal used in the cases, different types of movements, etc. The more I talked to him the more I became interested in purchasing a watch. At this time I did not think that I would start a watch collection—I would only purchase a watch! I finally decided to purchase a dual case watch—he called it a pair case watch—for 120 pounds, worth about $140 at that time. He could tell from the hallmarks that it was cased in 1854 in London. He did not have any other information about the watch other than it did run and used a No. 3 key for winding and setting.
I became interested in finding out more about this watch. Since I was teaching at the University, I had a pass to the Bodleian Library. The library contained a large number of books on the subject of pocket watches. From these books I found out a great deal of information about my watch. I found out that Edward Brown in Coventry made the case. Since the maker of the movement was W. Flint of Ashford and he worked in the early nineteenth century before the case was made, the watch must have been recased. I also learned that the watch had a verge fusee movement and a Bosley regulator. I was interested in the paper in the outer case. I learned that this could be from the original seller or from a watch dealer when the watch was serviced.
I became so fascinated with this watch that I went out and purchased a number of books on watch collecting—all on pocket watches. I purchased a number of key-wind pocket watches while we were in England. When we came home, I decided to purchase only silver-cased English watches and not gold-cased watches because of their cost. Today my watch collection contains over 50 watches. I joined the NAWCC. I also joined the NAWCC British Horology Chapter 159 to learn more about English watches. It is interesting how one item can start you on the path to collecting.