Central union 21 jewel railroad

May 21, 2021. 22:19 UTC
Central union 21 jewel railroad
United States of America

Pocket watch

Acquired from

For sale

Says Swiss inside. General watch co It was services in 1986 Cannot find the railroad although there was a central union in canada



Answered within about 4 hours
May 22, 02:34 UTC
By David

Fair Market Value

$100 - $125 USD

Suggested Asking Price

$80 USD
What does this mean?

Hello Anne,
Thank you for sending in this interesting pocket watch to mearto.com for an appraisal. I shall try to help you with that today.
Gent’s, gold-filled, pendant wound, keyless, open face pocket watch with a New Minute Numerical dial, made as an homage to the feat accomplished by two American railways, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railways in completing the Transcontinental railway on May 10, 1869, made on Special order for the Illinois Watch Case Company (IWCC)of Elgin, Illinois, watch dial and movement made by the General Watch Company, Bienne, Switzerland and the case made by the Illinois Watch Case Company, Elgin, Illinois, circa 1915.
Case: Size is not provided, but this is a two leaf, gold filled open face railroad watch, with the fluted suppressed ball pendant and oval bow placed at the twelve position relative to the dial. The back cover is engine turned in a vertical pattern that resembles the early Art Deco era while the outer cover is also engraved with foliate forms with a Fleur-de-Lys design at the center and a blank cameo for the owner’s initials (left blank). The interior of the case has the case number 4670777 and the model of the case, Monitor. This name was used by the IWCC from 1892-1927. The back cover is not hinged but unscrews as does the broad gilt polished dial bezel.
Dial: Of great interest is this Swiss made, white, round enameled dial (an example of the ‘New Minute Numerical’) with bold black upright Arabic hours, open bar minute track with cubist black markings [placed at every five minute marker and on the far outside each minute is marked by an upright Arabic numeral from 1-60. The numerals are red at each of the five minute markers. There is a subsidiary seconds dial @6, steel Spade hands with the minute hand replaced (too short). The dial is marked, Union Central above, and ‘21 jewels’ in red above the seconds sub-dial.
{**N.B. -To understand why I do not call this a Montgomery dial but made in the Montgomery style is due to the following. The true Montgomery Dial is well known from Montgomery’s writings and must fulfill the following three criteria. (1) First, the marginal minute numbers were all upright, as opposed to radial numbers which were used on other dial designs. (On your dial the Arabic numerals are radial and lying on their sides instead of all being in the upright position.) (2) Second, the five minute numbers were slightly larger than the other minute numbers. Here your dial is correct. Frequently, the five-minute numbers are red, whereas the remainder are black. (3) Finally, the sixth hour figure is included or contained within the subsidiary seconds dial, and is done so in your watch. My conclusion is that this dial was made by the General Watch Company of Switzerland and they tried to imitate the Montgomery dial and got it wrong in one aspect. They tried to use this dial because as of 1911 the famous Illinois Watch company made many of their railroad pocket watches with true Montgomery dials. Here my best guess is that the IWCC was ordering these dials to combine with the Swiss movements to mimic what the large watch company was making, and they just got it wrong. This Swiss watch is obviously made in the style of the Montgomery dials used by numerous American Watch companies, including the Illinois Watch company of Elgin, Illinois for use on the railroad pocket watches.}
Movement: This is a three quarter damascened nickel plate movement, serial number 160, made with 21 jewels, bimetallic balance wheel with a traditional Swiss type regulator marked with English initials for faster and slower, obviously made for the American market. The movement plates are engraved “Interchangeable” as is discussed below since the Omega and general watch companies used such interchangeable parts. It is also engraved, “21 jewels, 2 adjustments, general Watch Co. Swiss”. At the top are the words Union Central which had a railroad quality to the name but does not truly represent a known railroad in the USA. In other words, the General Watch Company was supplying a pocket watch seemingly of railroad grade to resemble the railway watches of the huge American watch companies such as Hamilton, Illinois, South Bend and others during the early years of the 20th century when the railroads were Big Business.
Condition: Case – Good condition with quite a bit of scratch marks. Dial – This is where the real problem resides since there are large linear fractures in the dial with some evidence of a compound fracture, all quite hurtful to value in today’s market. Of note, is that in a true Illinois Watch company railroad pocket watch with a Montgomery dial the dial often is made in three tiers with two sunken surfaces while in this Swiss imitation the entire dial is all on one level. Movement- Good condition although I do not know if it functional. It is important to understand that this watch IS NOT a fake. It is an honest attempt to imitate the great Railway watches that were being made in America in the first quarter of the 20th century.
The history of the Helvetia Watch Company goes way back to 1848, when a certain Louis Brandt established a sales office for manufacturing watches. By 1880 Louis and his brother César set up a watch manufacturing business, La Generale Watch Co (General Watch Company). Clearly names for their product were required and the two brothers picked a number of names for their watches including Patria, Jura, Celtic and Helvetia, with Helvetia, being the female personification of the Swiss nation, bearing testament to the Swiss origin of their watches. The watches produced by the Brandt brothers were highly thought of and by incorporation of the new lever movements in 1885, they produced timepieces that were accurate to within an astounding 30 seconds per day. Four years later the General Watch Company was producing more than 100,000 watches per year and became one of the largest producer of watches in Switzerland. This was the same Louis Brandt who founded the Omega Watch Company, and because Omega was so successful Louis and his brother withdrew from the General Watch Company of Bienne in 1903. {By 1894 the General Watch Company as well as Omega had developed a new type of watch movement incorporating the revolutionary idea of having component parts that were interchangeable. This of course decreased manufacturing costs, made the manufacture of watches more efficient and also made watch repair easier.} General Watch did not have the success of omega sand by the years of the Great Depression they joined the Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG), financially supported by the Swiss banks so that they could survive.
Starting business in 1889 in Elgin, Illinois they are often confused with the Illinois watch company. The two companies had nothing to do with each other. The Watch case company enjoyed the benefits of being confused with the much larger and more successful watch company. The Illinois Watch company tried to sue the case company to get them to change their name and were unsuccessful. This company used a minimum of 52 names on their watch cases from circa 1890 and last of their trademark names was in 1951. The logo, MONITOR was filed with the United States government on June 8, 1927, but the name had been used by the Illinois Watch case Company since 1892.
3 – The Union Central Railway –
Did not exist at any time, but likely represented the combination of the two railroads that built the transcontinental railroad system in the 1860s and was used since it had a railway sounding name or in honor of the two railroads that were involved in crossing the continent.
4 - Montgomery Dials:
Henry S. Montgomery was the General Watch and Clock Inspector of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) from 1896 to 1923. During the first decade of the twentieth century he patented a marginal minute dial that had three distinctive features. The patent has been lost, but the features of a true Montgomery Dial are known from Montgomery’s writings. First, the marginal minute numbers were all upright, as opposed to radial numbers which were used on other dial designs. Second, the five minute numbers were slightly larger than the other minute numbers. Frequently, the five-minute numbers are red, whereas the remainder are black. However, it’s not known if the five minute numbers being red was a patented feature. Finally, the sixth hour figure is included, contained within the seconds bit. The sixth hour figure is generally unusual amongst pocket watch dials.
Nevertheless, it didn't seem to be promoted for use on the railroad watch until 1909-1910 (based on ads by the major watch companies advertising their availability around that time). A 1910 Elgin ad proclaimed the availability of This New Minute Numerical Dial (Montgomery Patent), while a 1910 Hamilton Watch Co. ad stated that, "Hamilton Watches furnished with Montgomery Safety Numerical Dial when desired."
Also, it was in 1910 that Ball launched his campaign against the Montgomery dial (and Ferguson and other dials), but this is another story (see below). **N.B. - By 1911, Illinois was offering Montgomery's dial. The dial was also advertised by the Montgomery Safety Dial Co. (whose ad was discovered and first posted by Robert Sweet). In 1912, Hamilton was furnishing the Montgomery Numerical Dial, "without extra charge," on any one of their railroad standard watches. Hamilton continued using the Montgomery Safety Dial Co.'s advertising slogan (in an ad discovered and first posted by Robert Sweet), "It almost speaks the time." for at least another eight years, as shown by a June 1919 ad. The South Bend Watch Co. also offered a Montgomery dial as dial No. 314 on page 46 of a 1914 South Bend catalog.
~https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/24292519_at-and-sata-fe-train-dispatcher-pocket-watch (sold for $110 in 2014)
~https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/96771357_gotham-swiss-openface-pocket-watch (Sold for $95 in 2021)
~https://www.barnebys.com/realized-prices/lot/3-montgomery-dial-pocket-watches-5RIRQJpBX (Three American montgomery dial watches sold for $350 in 2017 or $125 each)
This is one of the most complicated stories I have had to weave together to try to explain this interesting watch. I believe I have it close to correct but I cannot be 100% certain. Understand that there was a good deal of ill will between the successful Illinois Watch company, one of the greatest of the American watch companies and the small Illinois Watch Case Company, both in the town of Elgin, Illinois. The case company did everything it could to make it appear as if they were associated with the Illinois watch company, and this watch represents just how far they went to carry out this plan. . . .In today’s marketplace this open face pocket watch if it were in very good condition (which it unfortunately is not because of all the dial fractures) might bring as much as $200-$300. However, considering the current state of the dial I believe the true fair market value would be in the $100-$125 range. This was not only an interesting watch to try to explain but a rather difficult appraisal to get done. I enjoyed doing it for you and wish it were worth a good deal more, but I am simply the messenger here.
If you have any further questions or cannot decipher my intent feel free to ask questions. Thank you for choosing mearto.com.
My best,

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