P. & A. Guye for John Walker, 68 Cornhill, London, No. 14276, ca. 1880.

A rare high grade London manufactured P. & A. Guye hunter pocket watch
Manufactured for John Walker, London, ca. 1880.

Philippe & Auguste Guye, 13 Northampton Square, London. Auguste (1823-93) Philippe, and Fritz Guye, all sons Louis-Auguste Guye, an ‘établisseur’ in Geneva. Louis-Auguste was a watchmaker who assembled and finished all the parts of a watch which he ordered from outsourced specialists. In 1856 Auguste Guye emigrated to London and established a similarly styled établisseur watch operation in London. At this time the Guye brothers finished watches anonymously for other retailers. In the 1860s, already with Philippe and Fritz Guye, the firm of P. & A. Guye started to sell watches under their own name. For their best finished work they used movement blanks manufactured by John Wycherly (Liverpool/Prescot), a foremost manufacturer of his period. By the late 1860s they started manufacturing movements entirely in house at their 13 Northampton Square (Clerkenwell). Soon after, they expanded their operations and began manufacturing movement ebauche and parts by machine at their 14 St. Bride Street (Ludgate Hill). The firm is best known today for being pioneers in Britain in the manufacture of machine made and interchangeable parts of a watch in the style of Swiss watchmaking in the day (i.e., Le Coultre, among others). All finishing, adjusting and assembling, like in Swiss factories of the day, was still carried out by hand.

The partnership between the three brothers was formally dissolved in 1888. This was not a cessation of P. & A. Guye’s activities, but rather a restructuration. From the early 1890s the company consolidated their facilities and started to work out of 77 Farringdon Road. Its operations continued well into the early decades of the 20th century. It is at this point that Philippe Guye, who by 1879 had moved his residence back to Geneva, started manufacturing movement ebauches for P. & A. Guye in Geneva. These were imported into the England, adjusted, finished, cased and resold by P. & A. Guye to the English market.

Auguste Guye was a leading innovator of balance and escapement development in England. He was widely known in the British horological industry. Auguste regularly published articles in the British periodical The Horological Journal touching on isochronal escapements and balance wheel construction. Similarly to his brother, Philippe Guye, was invested in horological innovation and development. He patented a new kind of hairspring stud, and also had the P. & A. Guye two-part winding and setting system patented in Switzerland. Philippe also established in 1887 a hairspring company ‘Spira’ in Geneva.

The movements of early P. & A. Guye used the Prescot/Liverpool ebauches of John Wycherly. When they began manufacturing their own movements, such as the present watch, the ebauche or caliber, was based on these same Wycherly designs. Principal similarities are the ¾ top plate form, while the differences were Guye’s single main plate style with milled gear recesses vs. Wycherly’s use of a second gear train plate. After the restructuration of the company, in the 1890s P. & A. Guye began manufacturing machine made movements for J. W. Benson. These were generally of a more simple quality, were offered in a range of styles (key wound, keyless, etc), and were entirely made in London. At this time, P. & A. Guye reinitiated to sell similarly styled, and of similar mid-quality movements under their own name. These latter were almost exclusively sold to the US market. However, high-grade, traditionally hand-finished London watches were continued to be sold by Guye in a more reduced quantity. During this time, the Geneva made movements, in a similar range of quality – from low to the highest grades – were continued to be imported to England and sold by P. & A. Guye to the English market.  

John Walker, 68 Cornhill, 230 Regent Street, 76 Strand, London. Prestigious retailer of some of the England’s finest chronometers and pocket watches. Some of P. & A. Guye’s finest watches were retailed by John Walker.

Movement Highlights:

Movement: Hand made die-cast 3/4 plate, hand gilded and hand-engraved. Lovely contrast of hand-blued steel screws with black-polished steel screws and springs. Setting and winding steel works satin finished. Bright brass screw set ruby jewels. Serial number on mainplate 8332 indicates the movement was manufactured in the 1870s, and retailed in the 1880s with serial number 14276.

Balance cock: Hand-engraved balance cock with floral pattern.

Escapement: A very rare chronometer-like detached escapement. Heavy and large slotted roller fitted with a horizontal ruby jewel. Upside-down lever escapement with balancing of escape fork via the positioning of a recessed hole. Distinct bi-metallic compensation balance wheel with sharp-figured terminal steel ends. Solid gold escape wheel with steel pinion.

Keyless winding: Two-part stem wound system. Guye-developed slotted two-part stem winding system that removes considerable lateral torque on the crown wheel. The system is a fusion of English and Swiss keyless works. A male stem is set into the movement, with a traditional castle wheel engaging the winding and setting gears.

Train: Solid brass gilded train with thick hand finished steel pinions. Safety work on mainspring barrel.

Jewels: 17 Jewels – balance work (5), escape lever (2), escapement bridge (8), fourth wheel (2).

Coggiola Watch Roma Wristwatch Case, Buckle & Restoration Work:

The solid brass case reacts to the owner’s lifestyle, weather and temperature. Natural deep patina starts forming on the surface from the moment the case is manufactured.

Hand manufactured case and parts in Rome, Italy:

Case: Solid brass, 2 part bezel and lugs. Crown, stem, case crown sleeve, time setting pusher, five stainless steel screws.

Dial & Hands: Aluminum dial, hand turned steel rod hands.

Buckle: Four part brass buckle, three stainless steel screws.

Case dimensions:

Diameter, without crown: 44mm

Lug to lug: 51.5mm

Height, including crystal: 15mm

Strap: 22mm width. Length: Normal. ColaReb Roma, Italy. Hand-made leather strap made in Rome.

Crystals: Mineral crystals. Domed front, flat back.

Restoration Work: Watch had a series of faults due to poor maintenance and strength of mainspring. The top and bottom mainspring barrel arbors were worn. These were tightened. Due to the same problem, the center wheel top pivot was out of center, this was corrected. In addition the watch suffers from a poor canon pinion extraction, which damaged it. It was not replaced but tightened and the watch functions properly.

Particularities when handling this watch: The setting of the watch should be done with care. At times there is resistance when setting the watch. When this happens, one should gently move the hands in the other direction. Do not force hands. It keeps excellent time to within the minute. Should be wound two times a day, in the morning and in the evening, with no more than 15 half turns of the crown.  

Case care instructions: To clean the case use cotton swab in white (distilled) vinegar to moisten the case. Then gently use a cloth to restore shine to the brass. Do not use abrasives to clean the case. The watch is not water proof.