M. j. tobias 13 jewel key wound gold pocket watch

Mar 18, 2020. 19:52 UTC
M. J. Tobias 13 jewel key wound gold pocket watch
United States of America

Acquired from

For sale

Gold pocket watch with back cover, chain, and winding key in very good to excellent condition. Does not function. Inscribed on back: "No 12317" / "DETACHED LEVER" / "13 JEWELS" / "Handi" / "M. J. Tobias" / "Liverpool". Inscribed on inside back cover: "SQUIRE&BROTHER" / "NEW YORK".


My deceased wife inherited this from her family. Otherwise unknown provenance.

Answered within about 5 hours
Mar 19, 00:33 UTC
By David

Fair Market Value

$350 - $450 USD

Insurance Value

$800 USD
What does this mean?

Hello Emma,
Thank you for sending in this pocket watch to mearto.com for an appraisal. I shall try to help you with that today.
Gent’s gold-filled (fake hallmarks) replica, key wound and key set, open face pocket watch, cuvette signed M.J. Tobias, Liverpool, (Watches with this name were fake copies of M.I. Tobias of Liverpool watches), retailed in New York City by Squire Brother, New York with a case number made to resemble English gold marks, likely made in Switzerland, circa 1875-1880. {The Genuine name, M.I. Tobias, sometimes appears as Michael Isaac, Miah Isaac or Miel Isaac or just the M.I. The "Company" traded from Lord Street then Dorans Lane. See History below.}
“My deceased wife inherited this from her family. Otherwise unknown provenance.”
Case – Size unknown, three leaf, gold filled (hallmarks are not original, but made out of two case numerals), open face pocket watch with embossed round gilt pendant and round bow placed at the twelve position. The outer cover is engine turned in a circular pattern and has a central shield shaped cameo for the owner’s initials. The inside of the cover has the name Squire Brothers, New York, most likely a jeweler who retailed this watch. Below is an image of a bird (done poorly) and below two case numerals that have been altered to look like English hallmarks. The English would have used four individual hallmarks for solid gold: the Standard Mark of the crown for gold, the leopard head for the London Assay Office, the Date Letter mark to determine the date of origin, and the Case makers mark as well as a Duty Mark collected when the watch was imported or exported. These are obviously fake markings. The cuvette with its two apertures for key winding and key setting of the time. The cuvette is engraved "No 12317" / "DETACHED LEVER" / "13 JEWELS" / "Hands" (for setting the correct time)/ "M. J. Tobias" / "Liverpool". . .
Dial – Fancy gilt (not gold) dial with raised gilt brass Roman hours, open dotted minute track to the outside, the dial center with an engraved landscape scene surrounded by foliate designs with the edge of the case barrel embossed with small foliate patterns. There is a subsidiary second’s dial @6 and steel Continental style Spade hands. The dial is unsigned. . .
Movement – Not shown but usually turns out to be a key wound and key set Swiss finger bridge movement with a Swiss style index regulator to adjust the speed of the movement and the bridges are usually not signed by the maker. The English did make such watches and their movements, but they are far rarer than the Swiss and easy to differentiate when one is able to view the movement. . .
Case – Good condition. A fairly handsome watch which is unfortunately fake. {During the late decade of the 19th century the Swiss watchmaking industry was in a turmoil because of competition from American watchmakers, and in the 1870’s and 1880’s they began to send out fake watches for the world to buy using misspelled or wrong names to try to keep their profits up. Finally, before the end of the century they sent watchmakers to America where they learned the factory system of using interchangeable parts for fine watches. Soon, they outdid their English and American counterparts and the great Swiss watch machine was born, and still rolls on today. But it all started by making lots of replicas and fake watches.}
Dial – Fair-good condition with oxidation to the numerals.
Movement – Not evaluated since it is not shown.
Tobias, M.I. & Co. of Liverpool. This watchmaker was working from about 1804 to 1860 period. The first name was variously given as Michael Isaac, Miah Isaac, Meyer Isaac and Miel Isaac. He also sometimes signed his watches M. J Tobias.
M.I. started by running the Liverpool part of his uncle's business (Morris Tobias & Co.) at 5 Pool Lane. In 1805 M I Tobias & Co were trading from that address, he was trading in partnership with his Uncle Morris. There was an English Repeater watch by M I Tobias in the 'watch collection of the United States Time Corporation' in 1949 with the date of 1790 attributed to it. This date is possibly an error on their part, but if correct it is the earliest watch by this maker that has been found. The earliest date for London is 1801.
In 1812, the partnership was dissolved and Morris continued at his premises in London and Meyer carried on in Liverpool. From about 1814 to 1834, he traded at 19 (later 24/25) Lord Street. In 1814 he was recorded at 22 Lord Street. From about 1848 to 1851 he was at 2 Dorans Street. It seems that up until about 1810, he signed as M I Tobias and he added the '& Co.' after that date.
M I Tobias & Co watches were first sold in America via a distribution network set up in New York by Tobias' nephews Charles & Henry Tobias in New York. The arrangement started in 1837 and continued after Henry's death in 1846.
Meyer went to America in 1837 for an extended sales trip. He died there, in New York City, in March 1838. Whilst he was away, the M. I. Tobias & Co was being run by his sons Frederick Myer Tobias and George Wolf Tobias. The 2 sons inherited the business after their father's death but Frederick died in 1844.
George appears in census returns until at least 1861. In 1841 George was living at 41 Canning Street, Liverpool; - George Tobias (30) watch maker, Matilda (30) his wife and children Hannah (4) and Adeline (1)
For the 1851 census George M. was 40 and gave his occupation as "merchant". Living with him were Matilda (40) his wife and children Hannah (14), Adeline (11), Mayer (9), Alexander (7), Alice Maud (5) and Charles (2). They also had five servants.
In the 1861 census returns George M. Tobias aged 50 and working as a watch manufacturer, with his wife Matilda (50), daughters;- Hannah (24), Adeline R. (21), Alice Maud (15) and sons;- Meyer Isaac (19), Alexander J. (17) and Charles Fred (12). Also living with the family were five servants.
George Wolf carried on running the firm as sole owner until he closed it in the late 1860's.
Unfortunately, he was so successful, that his name was widely copied with Swiss movements bearing his name.
~ https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/22380872_18k-mi-tobias-open-face-key-wind-pocket-watch (SOLID GOLD AND THE GENUINE ITEM SOLD IN 2013 FOR $1600)
~https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/9928664_229-mi-tobias-and-co-lord-st-liverpool-pocketwatch (GENUINE ITEM BROUGHT $1300 IN 2011)
~https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/59187278_14k-gold-mj-tobias-pocket-watch (MJ Tobias sold for $650 in 2018 despite being a fake. Has a Swiss movement which is not recognized by the auction house.)
~https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/34350197_mj-tobias-gold-filled-pocket-watch (gold filled MJ Tobias sold for $425 in 2015)
~https://www.barnebys.com/realized-prices/lot/18k-yellow-gold-mi-tobias-pocket-watch-from-liverpool-england-with-winding-key-and-gold-filled-fob-u9b-4Rprvq (genuine item bought $3000 in 2017)
Actually the replicas and fakes are now antiques being well over a century old and have a value of their own. I believe that the fair market value of this item, if offered at auction in today’s marketplace, would sell in the $350-$450 range, based on prior auction house results. They are also seen with 14k and 18k solid gold covers and these bring up to $1000, but rarely are these called fakes by the auctioneers who either do not know or find it easier to disregard the 'J' in the name. I hope that helps you with understanding the watch and its appraised value.
Thank you again for using mearto.com.
My best,

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