R. Stewart, Argyle & Buchanan Streets, Glasgow, No. 50,796, ca. 1890s. 

A very fine Joseph Preston, Prescot-finished, pendant sized watch 

Robert Stewart, Argyle & Buchanan Streets, Glasgow. Retailers of fine watches, clocks and jewelry. The company was created in 1835 by the brothers Allan and Robert Stewart, watch and clockmakers, working out of 162 Trongate, Glasgow. The association lasted for five years whereafter Robert continued the enterprise under his own name. By 1845 Robert moved the business to 25 Argyle street, and later in the mid 1850s, to the 132 street address which would be kept until the early 20th century. After the passing of Robert Stewart (ca. 1871), the company was continued by sons James Robert Stewart and John Allan Stewart as sole proprietors (post 1877). It is during this second phase of the R. Stewart company that the current watch belongs to. Listed as Goldsmiths, Jewelers and Watchmakers, from the second half of the 19th century to its closing date of 1934, the company had a firm reputation for selling the best quality watches and clocks. As nearly all watch retailers in the second half of 19th century England, R. Stewart purchased completed watches from watchmakers who would engrave the resellers name on the movement. The present watch has all the indications of being finished in the Lancashire area, most probably in Prescot, and purchased for resale by R. Stewart.

Joseph Preston, Prescot, was one of England’s premier rough movement manufacturer. This firm provided England’s top watch manufacturers with rough marine chronometer, and pocket watch movements (comprising of movement and if desired gear-trains). Started in 1854 by Joseph Preston, the firm operated at 19 Eccleston Street, and then from 1865 at 43 St. Helens Road, Prescot. The movement manufacture was later continued into the late 19th century by his sons John & Joseph Preston. Watchmakers and retailers such as Mercer, Frodsham, Dent, Kullberg, Garderner, and Usher & Cole, among others entrusted Preston to realize their watch designs and manufacture their rough movements. The present movement has Joseph Preston’s identifying initials, ‘J.P’, stamped on the outer perimeter of the frame. It also has the serial number 50,796 stamped on the dial side frame, on the movement back, and the last two digits of the serial number ‘96’ stamped on all bridges of the movement. The high serial number and the thoroughness of identifying the movement’s serial number identifies this as a Joseph Preston manufactured and finished movement. During the 1870s Preston’s factory delivered rough movements only. Towards the late 19th century, with the rising incorporation of watchmaking societies (such as Rotherhams of Coventry, or P. & A. Guye of London) who consolidated manufacture under one roof, Preston competed by offering clients fully finished watches. These finished watches all bear J. Preston’s serial number. While the serial number is continuous to the rough-manufactured movements (and does not differentiate between rough vs. finished pieces), the appearance of Preston proprietary finished movements have been observed as appearing from the mid- 40,000s onwards. This watch bears all the characteristics of late 19th century Preston’ movement style and the Lancashire watchmaking tradition, so influential to London’s watchmaking establishments.

Movement Highlights:

Movement: A straight edged ¾-plate 0-sized gold gilded hand engraved open-faced hunter movement. Characterized by the design principals guiding Preston’s movement styles of late 19th century, consisting of bridges characterize by straight lines, instead of the preceding curved styles. The main ¾ plate top end is interrupted by the cutout for the balance wheel. This retailer’s name is engraved along the periphery of the plate, with Preston’s serial number engraved in the center of the movement plate, below the center-wheel pinion. The layout of the ¾ plate is generally symmetrical with the deep-blued bombé finished screw-plate screws laid out equidistantly. Case holding non-blued but mirror polished screws positioned laterally. The center wheel pinion is given a minimalist button-style finish, without a counter sink, nor washer, nor jewel (which is purely ornamental when added). It is purposely volumetric in its ca. .5mm height. This is a style prevalent towards the late 19th century, and coherent with the modern aesthetic of the movement. The mainspring arbor is decorated with a brass bushing (chaton) and held in place by three screws. The arbor end, circular, echoes the center wheel button-finished pinion. The third and fourth wheel arbors are jeweled, with these latter being held in place by screwed-down brass bushings. The screws of these bushings are all aligned tangentially, and all align with the three screws of the mainspring barrel arbor bushing holding-screws. On the dial side, the escape gear bridge characteristically angled as in late Preston movements. This further marked by the balance, escape wheel, and escape lever being given capped end-jewels, and the remaining two gears with press-fit jewels. The serial number is stamped near the mainspring click spring, with further ‘0’ and ‘06’ stamped which correspond to the movement size and caliber depth designation. The maker’s mark ‘J.P’ stamped towards the rim.

Balance bridge: A beautifully adorned, Victorian floral motif engraved balance bridge fastened by the traditional column blued screw. The balance bridge is surmounted by a bright red, round finished balance wheel end-stone set in a blued steel chaton, fastened by two mirror polished flat screws. Flat polished (mirror) box-shaped hairspring stud, characteristic of Lancashire style, holding the flat blued-steel hairspring (these being currently tarnished, to be restored). The regulator index is flat, broad, and towards its terminal end, adorned with a slanted cut out. Hairspring limiting stud (present on the protrusion of the index) created out of a gold balance wheel timing weight, as is traditional of high-end flat-sprung watches.

Escapement: Traditional English detached right-angle lever escapement. Single flat-roller cylindrical impulse jewel. Polished steel club escape lever, characterized by being elegantly narrow and thin. Bi-metallic compensation balance wheel with boot styled terminal steel ends. The balance wheel fitted with solid gold weights. With two weights placed to the right of the balance arm, a feature associated with the so-called Guillaume balance. It is a feature to increase the amplitude of the balance wheel arch, and hence improve isochronism. Solid gold escape wheel. Double caped jeweling on escape lever and wheel.

Keyless winding: Traditional Lancashire keyless winding and setting works. These consists of a bottom mounted rocking lever, with visible screws which hold the top-mounted gears. The screws given a bombé mirror-polish finish. The two crown wheel core screws aligned with the winding stem. Ratchet wheel held in place by a traditional method, being a brass splinter. The ratchet click and spring finished in traditional Preston style. Gears and ratchet wheel (here tarnished) given fine straight-line snailing finish throughout.

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

Jewels: 19 Jewels – balance work (5), escape lever (6), escape wheel (4), fourth wheel (2), third wheel (2).

Coggiola Watch Roma Wristwatch Case, Buckle & Restoration Work:

Bespoke case.

Hand manufactured case and parts in Rome, Italy:

Case: Two-piece solid bronze case, threaded bezel. Winding crown at 3 o’clock position. Domed front and flat back sapphire glass. Crown, stem, time setting pusher, and movement holding brackets (not pictured).

Dial: Open work dial, enamel filed minute and hour markers.

Hands: Solid steel hands, two part minute hand (hub, feuille hand), solid single piece hour hand. Flame blued.

Buckle: Two part solid bronze buckle.

Case dimensions:

Diameter, without crown: 40mm.

Lug to lug: 51mm.

Height, including crystal: 14mm.

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

Restoration Work: Refinishing of all steel parts to original condition, where it did not impede functionality. Refinishing screws where necessary (polishing, bluing). Creation of new pinions/pivots where necessary, replacement of jewels where necessary. Mainspring replacement, cleaning, timing for wristwatch performance.

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