P. & A. Guye, London for Buller, Hutchinson & Co., London, No. 7,535, ca. 1870.

A rare high grade London manufactured P. & A. Guye hunter pocket watch
Manufactured for Buller, Hutchinson & Co., London, ca. 1870.

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 Prescott/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 the 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, 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 high – were continued to be imported to England and sold by P. & A. Guye to the English market.  

Buller, Hutchinson & Co., Manufacturing Goldsmiths and Jewelers, Goldsmiths’ buildings, 6-8 Charterhouse Street, London. This company was formed by George Nicholas Buller, Charles Leavold Hutchinson, William Henry Hutchinson, and Charles Yardley Dean. Originally working out of 5-8 Bartlett’s buildings, Fetter Lane and Holborn, London, and then towards the 1880s at the Charterhouse address, Buller, Hutchison & Co. were primarily jewelry manufactures. Given the low number of extant pocket watches carrying their signature, they must have sold high-grade watches on a very reduced scale. An example of their top-grade watches, auctioned by Antiquorum in 1998,  was a quarter repeating perpetual calendar pocket watch with serial number 44,477 and hallmarks for 1876. The serial number, as in the case of the present Guye watch, reflected the manufacturer’s number, and not the jewelers. The company was dissolved on June 30, 1892 by the wife of George Nicholas Buller, Mary Rebecca Buller.


Movement Highlights:

Movement: A rare medium-sized (38mm diameter) curved 3/4 plate gold gilded, and hand engraved open-faced hunter movement. A The top plate laid out symmetrically. The positioning of the top plate screws is done evenly around the perimeter of the plate. The center wheel pinion given a very small and thin pivot finish. This is due to the center wheel being manufactured in the Swiss fashion. That is, the central pinion is all one unit, and carries the dial-side minute and hour wheels. This is in contradistinction to English custom, which creates a hollow center-wheel pinion, whereby a friction fit pin is inserted from the movement back and protrudes on the dial-side to carry the hour and minute wheels. The mainspring arbor is finished in an elegantly austere manner and is not given a brass bushing. Visible on the mainspring arbor is the square head of the mainspring safety stop. The third wheel is decorated similarly to the center wheel with a small concave oil sink with gold gilding. This finish creates a visual ‘triangle’ that beautifully hugs the word ‘London’ on the ¾ plate. The fourth wheel arbor jewel set in a brass chaton, secured in place by two purple tinted screws. Deep hued blued bridge screws throughout. The retailer’s name written in elaborate Victorian script adorning the perimeter of the plate. The city of London and the Guye’s serial number very prominently placed in the center of the watch’s plate. On the dial side, single main plate design, similar to high-end English movement ebauches by Joseph Preston and John Wycherly. Escapement pivots with jeweled cap ends. Traditional English position punch on the perimeter of the jewel caps in order to facilitate the jewel adjustments carried out during timing. Visible under the bottom left-most jewel cap (escape lever jewel), are the escape lever banking pins. Traditional English watchmaking inserted the banking pins during adjustment, and rarely are the holes through-drilled as here. What is seen on this movement is a practice common among American watch manufactures of the time. The Fourth wheel arbor jewel pressure fitted to frame. Third wheel pivot hole unadorned, gilded and drilled directly into the main plate. Serial number stamped on the top of the frame. The serial number 7,535 on the frame and ¾ plate matching.

Balance bridge: Elaborately adorned balance bridge surmounted by a light-red ruby end-stone set in a blued steel chaton, this latter fastened by two mirror polished bombé screws. The entire balance bridge enveloped in a lush floral engraving pattern. The font of the indications of ‘Fast/Slow’ are rich and reflect London-based engravers. Box-shaped hairspring stud, holding the flat blued-steel hairspring. The regulator index of London and Prescot style, where the hairspring pins are placed on a protruding arm from the curvature of the regulator arm. This latter styled in thin and flat mirror polished steel. The balance bridge holding screw of the pillar type, which is tall and finishes at the same height as the balance bridge.

Escapement: Traditional English detached right-angle lever escapement. Single flat roller table with cylindrical impulse jewel. Polished steel escape lever, with club-shaped end finished with a lobed top. Bi-metallic compensation balance wheel with traditional Guye talon-ended balance arm terminals. Timing screws placed to the left of the balance wheel arm as per Swiss ‘Guillaume’ chronometric traditions. The balance wheel is noteworthy for the being poised with two sets of 7 weights placed on opposite sides of the balance. This contrasts with the normal manner of poising a balance by near-uniform placement of timing screws.

Keyless winding: Distinctive P. & A. Guye two part stem winding and setting layout. This is characterized by two fixed intermediary winding wheels, one large and the other small. With the setting intermediary wheel placed underneath the winding wheel, and activated by a push pin which moves the clutch to engage the setting wheel. The winding mainspring ratchet wheel here fixed in place by a steel pin. The ratchet click in a stylized and arched claw shape. This latter held in place by Guye’s distinctive swan’s neck click spring. Gears and ratchet wheel given a combination of snailing and flat finish throughout. This is coupled with flat finished screws. The Guye system of keyless winding was later modified and adapted to the Liverpool system around the 1890s by the famous Coventry watch manufacturer Rotherhams & Sons.

Train: Solid brass gold-gilded gear train with thick hand-finished steel pinions. Solid gold escape wheel. Jeweled to the fourth wheel.

Jewels: 17 Jewels – balance work (5), escape lever (6), escape wheel (4), fourth wheel (2).

Coggiola Watch Roma Wristwatch Case, Buckle & Restoration Work:

Bespoke case. More details to follow.

Hand manufactured case and parts in Rome, Italy:

Case: Mixed metals case. Winding crown at 3 o’clock position, second’s at 6 o’clock. Domed front and flat back mineral glass. Crown, stem, case crown sleeve, time setting pusher, and crews.

Dial: Open work dial, details to follow.

Buckle: Hand manufactured buckle, details to follow.

Case dimensions:

Diameter, without crown: 40mm.

Lug to lug: TBD.

Height, including crystal: TBD.

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

Restoration Work: TBD.

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