P. & A. Guye, London for John Walker, 68 Cornill, London, No. 16,868, ca. 1885.

A fine London manufacture watch for an important London retailer

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: A curved 3/4 plate gold gilded hand engraved open-faced Lépine movement. The top plate generally symmetric in its layout. The positioning of the middle plate screw offset to the left of the mainspring barrel introduces a visual pairing with the right hand screws of the balance bridge and top plate. The center wheel pinion austerely finished in the form of a slotted end. The mainspring arbor is similarly finished in a sober manner and is not given a brass bushing. The third wheel decorated by a small concave oil sink with gold gilding. The fourth wheel arbor jewel in relatively large size and set in a brass chaton, held by two blued screws. Deep hued blued bridge screws throughout. The retailer’s name aligned perpendicular to the axis formed by the balance, center and mainspring arbors. John Walker and their principal address placed in the center of the movement. Other retail addresses decorating the perimeter, all in Victorian script. The serial number of Guye, 16868, set on the right hand side of the top plate. 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. Their color near transparent allowing the viewing of pivots. 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 given same finishing as on top plate. Serial number not stamped on the top of the frame, but rather stamped underneath the top plate.

Balance bridge: Elaborately adorned balance bridge surmounted by a light toned red 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. Splinter-shaped hairspring stud, holding the blued-steel hairspring. An interesting use of a regulator index which is styled after the best Coventry work. The hairspring holding pins incorporated in index curvature, with a broad rectangular index arm. This hairpsring stud and regulator index is traditionally paired, as is done here, with a Breguet overcoil hairspring. A mirror-polished cut onto the steel index in the area where timing notches are engraved.

Escapement: Traditional English detached right-angle lever escapement. Single flat roller table with cylindrical impulse jewel. Polished steel club escape lever, with broad end finished with a lobed top. Bi-metallic compensation balance wheel with sharp-figured terminal steel ends styled as a talon. The balance wheel fitted with solid gold and interior platinum counter-screws. Timing screws placed to the left of the balance wheel arm  compensation and timing weights as per Swiss ‘Guillaume’ chronometric traditions. 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 fixed in place by a brass pin. The ratchet click in a stylized and arched claw shape, held in place by a distinctive click spring formed by a large round base with a thin protruding spring. Gears and ratchet wheel given a combination of snailing and flat finish throughout. This is coupled with flat finished screws.

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, seconds at 9 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 buckle, three stainless steel screws.

Case dimensions:

Diameter, without crown: 44mm.

Lug to lug: 58mm.

Height, including crystal: 15mm.

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

Restoration Work: TBA.

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