When it comes to my personal collection, a full set is a must. I want boxes and papers to come with my watches. It drastically helps resale value, and many modern watch companies put a great deal into their packaging. Sometimes it can border on the obnoxious (take for example one of my Omega Speedmasters which you can read about here: http://www.fratellowatches.com/speedy-tuesday-omega-speedmaster-1957-50th-anniversary-2007/) but they sure as hell made sure I don’t lose the box.
The vintage pieces I restore however rarely have a box, let alone papers. This 1920 Howard I recently got in however had them and more. It even came with the original canvas bag labeled “Howard Watches.” Anything accompanying a pocket watch is rare, but a full set like this is insane. I had to buy it just because I wanted to see what a full set from this era felt like.
This particular Howard model is one of my favorite classic American pocket watches. While it is a beautiful and well-made movement there is nothing particularly fascinating it, except that one of favorite experiences in watchmaking was fixing my great grandfather’s pocket watch of the same caliber and era. Restoring pieces from the past (as I obviously can’t restore pieces from the future) is why I love doing this, and the time I was able to restore my own past was a feeling apart from any other.
Like many watches from the 20s and 30s, it was unfortunately marked with the telltale signs of “watchmakers” from the time. The Great Depression impacted watchmaking and watches in two ways. Firstly people tried to service watches themselves as the cost of a watchmaker may not have been affordable. Secondly, in an attempt to find any sort of work, people took to calling themselves “watchmakers” and “serviced” watches for very cheap. As a result of one or both of these things, there were scratches on the main plate that were caused by indelicately wedging the balance cock up with a screwdriver (and then some,) one of the case screws was broken, and there were some screws that fit, but didn’t match. The latter I was able to replace with spare parts I have. The case screw i couldn’t fix, and when fit, the balance cock fortunately covers up most of the damage done in the past.
Like the Railroad Chronometer all the bridges are stamped with their serial numbers, and once again I was lucky to get a completely original piece. Back together with its box, matching papers, and canvas pouch, this is a great piece of history preserved in its entirety. Cared for properly, it will turn 100 years old soon with all the pieces it left the factory with.