P. & A. Guye, London for Hunt & Roskell, 156 New Bond Street, London, No. 12,731, ca. 1870s.
A fine 1860s London manufacture watch (retailed 1870s)
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.
Hunt & Roskell, 156 New Bond Street. Formed by Jeweler John Samuel Hunt, and Robert Roskell Jr. son of eponymous Liverpool watchmaker. Roskell Sr. was one of the best watchmakers of the early 19th century. Roskell Jr. worked alongside his father in the firm of Robert Roskell & Sons until 1842. In the subsequent year he and Hunt would form the famous London firm of Hunt & Roskell (see Roskell biography in other Roskell watches in this site). Besides selling the finest jewelry, the firm of Hunt & Roskell retailed some of England’s best chronometers and pocket watches. The firm retailed watches by London’s best watchmakers such as Victor Kullberg, ‘Nicole, Nielsen & Co.’, and for the time-only pieces, almost exclusively the best watches of P. & A. Guye.
Movement: A rare medium-sized (37mm dimeter) curved 3/4 plate gold gilded, and hand engraved open-faced hunter movement. The top plate laid out symmetrically. The positioning of the top plate screws evenly is done evenly around the perimeter of the plate. The center wheel pinion given a square finish, recalling the center wheel of key set pocket watches. No steel washer is present as in the custom of P. & A. Guye watches. The mainspring arbor is similarly finished in an elegantly austere manner and is not given a brass bushing. The mainspring arbor’s square finish creates a visual echo with the center wheel pinion square finish. The third wheel decorated by a small concave oil sink with gold gilding. The fourth wheel arbor jewel set in a brass chaton, secured in place by two purple tinted screws, these latter aligned with the curvature of the top plate. Deep hued blued bridge screws throughout. Hunt & Roskell’s name and address written in elaborate Victorian script adorning the perimeter of the top plate. The city of London and the Guye’s serial number very prominently placed in the center of the watch. On the dial side, single main plate design, similar to high end English movements ebauches by Joseph Preston and John Wycherly. Escapement pivots with jeweled cap ends. Traditional English position punch in order to facilitate the jewel adjustments carried out during timing. Fourth wheel arbor jewel pressure fitted to frame. Third wheel pivot hole unadorned and set directly into the main plate. Serial number stamped on the top of the frame. It is noteworthy to point out that the serial number 5,863 does not match that of the top plate. Both are P. & A. Guye’s numbers. The main plate number demonstrates that the watches was manufactured much earlier, in the mid-1860s, and finished and sold only a decade later in the early to mid-1870s. This is a standard practice among English and Swiss manufacturers. Watches were not always produced on demand, but manufactured to keep employees working, and for quickness of turnaround in future orders.
Balance bridge: Elaborately adorned balance bridge surmounted by a dark-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. 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 an elegant thin and flat mirror polished steel.
Escapement: Traditional English detached right-angle lever escapement. Single flat roller table with traditional English cylindrical impulse jewel (vs. Swiss oval jewel shape). Polished steel club escape lever, with broad end finished with a lobed top. Bi-metallic compensation balance wheel with straight-ended balance arms. Guye usually finished their balance arm in a talon type design. 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.
Solid gold escape wheel. Double capped jeweling on escape lever and wheel.
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 gears and ratchet trains are disproportionate to the size of the ebauche, they take up a disproportionately large space on the main plate. This indicating that the rare size of this movement was executed under special order, and hence the discrepancy in serial numbers between when the watch ebauche was manufactured and its finishing.
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: Two-piece solid stainless steel 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 stainless steel crews.
Dial: Open work dial, details to follow.
Buckle: Four part stainless steel buckle, three stainless steel screws.
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.