The following article appeared in the Jeweler's Circular
-Weekly and Horological Review from April, 1883, courtesy of
the NAWCC Library.
The Horological Review was a trade magazine, and as such, there
is some jargon that they assume all watchmakers will know, but I don't
think other people will lose much because of it. The differences in
writing styles, grammar and even spelling (see 'employe') between 1910
and now is interesting, as well as the differences in prices.
Watches and Personal Magnetism.
"Sir, you should wear an open-faced watch if you desire to be accurate
in your time," said a watchmaker on chestnut street, Philadelphia, to
the stout man; "you are too magnetic."
"Why, what the deuce has the case got to do with it?" was the
"Everything. Your watch has a hunting case, necessitating steel
springs for opening and shutting. By constant association with your
body those springs become magnetized, and they generate their
condition to other necessarily steel portions of the watch works, and
thus render their movements imperfect."
"Then, if I were not fat, my watch would not lose two minutes, more or
less, a day," said the puzzled stout man.
"Exactly," returned the watchmaker. "I have worn your watch for over
a week and it has neither gained nor lost a dozen seconds; but then I
am, from a corporal point of view, your antithesis. I am
exceptionally thin and slender."
The stout man mused. "Accordingly," said he, "open-faced watches for
fat men, closed cases for thin, eh?"
"Not at all," replied the other. "Thin men have at times more
magnetism in their systems than fat men. Everybody is more or less
magnetic; you happen to be particularly so; I happen to be quite the
reverse; hence my remarks and advice. For the rest, open-faced
watches are always more accurate than hunters. They are more
air-tight for one thing. As for the steel springs in hunting cases,
mechanical science has not yet discovered anything else to replace
them; the public likes double cases, and there the matter remains for
the present. There are, however, many ill-contrived portions in
watches, and while the demand continues for watches of a certain price
it is impossible, from a commercial point of view, to think of
improvements. Long-used methods and ingenious engines have been
specially provided to fashion and cut out every one of the minute
parts which go to compose the existing instrument. Every watch
consists of over 200 pieces employing over 200 persons, distributed
among forty trades, to say nothing of the tool makers for the
artisans. If the construction of the watch was materially altered,
all the trades would have to be re-learned, new tools and wheel
cutting engines would have to be devised, and the majority of working
watchmakers become useless. The consequence would be that the watch
would become enormously enhanced in value, and its possession a token
of wealth. You see, in your complicated state of society, even
machines, in the process of time, come to surround themselves with a
circle of 'vested interests' which embarrass attempts at improvement."
"You are interesting me," remarked the stout customer as he placed his
watch in his pocket. "You have been many years, I suppose, in the
business. Of course, there must have been some improvements in your
"Of course. Watches during the past ten years have grown much in
thickness. Old-fashioned watches are thin and flat. I have had a
watch in my charge as flat as a trade dollar. It is impossible to
properly adjust such a movement to heat, cold and position under such
circumstances. I should have to give you a long explanation to tell
"Well, has the increased thickness raised the value?"
"No. On the contrary, watches are now worth 25 per cent less than
they were twelve years ago. That fact, you will say, bears against my
previous remarks. I am referring to the cheaper grades of watches
worn by the majority of people. There are watches which bring $1,500,
and watches which can be purchased for $18 a dozen. If you willing to
pay for costly work almost anything can be accomplished."
"I made a watch for a physician which fitted into a signet ring not
much larger than a pea. It had only second hands. It was perfectly
accurate, and was used by the doctor to time the pulse of his
patients. That cost $400. Watches are made from the size of a
ten-cent piece to half a dollar, and worn as trinkets by ladies. They
are also fixed in bracelets, brooches, tops and pencils, eye-glasses,
and even umbrella handles; but they are very luxurious toys."
The stout man paid his bill and went home, wondering what the
watchmaker had been giving him.