Genealogy of a Gold Watch

I was recently contacted by someone researching a pocket watch he inherited from his grandfather.  The watch said “Chas H Tourville  Special ”.  He was not familiar with the Tourville name, and posted information about the watch at   the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors.  Besides telling him about the company that made the watch, and the year 1898, the experts there suggested he try to find out about the original owner and see if he could trace the watch as it passed through different owners.  I’m guessing that he Googled the Tourville name, and found his way to my blog.  It is possible that  it belonged to Charles born 1828, and may have been a 70th birthday present.   I ordered a copy of the Franklin County probate records for Charles but his property list did not include a gold watch.  I also shared this story with other Tourville researchers, but we did not come up with proof of original ownership.  It may have belonged to Charles, his son, grandsons, or nephews.

Josie’s Watch

 I shared this story with family members, one of whom has a pocket watch that belonged to my great grandmother Josie Newell (Smith) Hodges.  I posted photos and information about the watch at the NAWCC website.  Here’s what I learned.

In the era that this watch was made, the watch case was a separate part of the pocket watch, sold separately, and selected at the time of the purchase of the watch movement.  Although the watch case had serial numbers, they were used for internal purposes, as opposed to the movement serial numbers, which were needed for obtaining the correct replacement parts.  If the case was original to the watch, dating the watch would date the case, to within a year or two. 

This watch case was made by Keystone Watch Case Company, and is called a hunting case.  It had a cover over the front of the watch to protect the timepiece in the hunter’s pocket.  The case holds the watch so that the stem is at the “3” position rather than at “12”.  This watch case says “J Boss” on the inside.  James Boss worked for a watch case maker in Philadelphia.  He received a patent in 1859 for cases made of “gold-filled” material.  This was a sheet of composition metal (usually brass) sandwiched between two thin sheets of gold.  He was able to make less expensive and stronger cases, which were less apt to wear.  A series of business mergers eventually resulted in the Keystone Watch Case Company.  The balance (scale) and crown trademark for J.Boss indicates a 25-year guarantee, and that it is the gold-filled model.  The guarantee referred to the number of years during which the gold on the case was guaranteed not to wear through to the brass.  Some less reputable companies didn’t stand behind their guarantees, and eventually laws were proposed to forbid gold filled or plated watches to have such a guarantee. 

The watch case holds a Waltham watch.  AWWC, or the American Waltham Watch Company was in operation from 1851 to 1957 in Massachusetts.  Opening the back cover of the watch allows access to the movement serial number.  The folks at NAWCC have a database that allows someone to enter the model name and serial number, and determine some information about the watch.  Based on the serial number, I learned that this Waltham watch was a model 1907, which means that this particular model began to be made in that year, and continued for some years afterwards.  Based on my number, it is estimated that this watch was made about 1908.  Josie received this watch as a gift from her son Roland, who was a watchmaker.  Since Roland was born in 1906, I now know that this is not a watch that he helped build.  Perhaps when he came across it later, he used his knowledge as a watchmaker to pick it out as a gift for his mother.

 The database says that the grade or name of the watch was No. 165. The number doesn’t refer to the quality of the watch but just identifies the run of manufacture.  The Material designation is “U”, and this does refer to the grade of material used by Waltham.  “U” stands for “Unadjusted” and includes most 7-15 jewel watches.  NAWCC says:  These are usually not adjusted for positions or temperature (other than that provided by the bi-metallic compensation balance). Timing screws are brass and there are usually no mean-time screws. A “U”-grade balance staff has no oil grooves and the coarsest pivots. Wheel pivots are the coarsest used in the model. 

Size refers to the size of the movement.  This serial number database tells me that it is a size “0” which is 1 and 5/30inches across, the size common for a lady’s watch.  “Jewels” or “Jewelling” refer to the number of jewels used in the watch to reduce friction on the bearing points:  7 jewels are found in the escapement, and additional jewels – if used – would typically be found on the plates for jewelling the gear train.  A watch with 15 jewels has four pairs.  The balance is recorded as “Pat. Reg. – Breg.HS”.  Breg HS seems to refer to their patented micrometric regulator (star wheel), a hairspring with a Breguet overcoil to improve timekeeping. 

Although the case is different, I found an identical watch advertised for sale at  It describes the face as “single sunk porcelain dial with bold black enameled Roman numerals, Waltham logo, subsidiary seconds register and outer minute track.  The 5 minute markers are trimmed in red enamel.” That matches Josie’s watch exactly.  Josie’s watch hasn’t been run recently, and the websites caution against trying to make an old clock or watch run unless it has been properly serviced first.

I have now gone through all my photos of Josie and have not found one that shows her with the watch.  I have asked that her three granddaughters check their photographs and see if they have better luck.

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