Robert Roskell, Liverpool, No. 74450, Preston Manufacture, ca. 1895.

A rare and fine Robert Roskell fob watch movement

Prescot – Lancashire manufactured, ca. 1895.

Robert Roskell, Liverpool. Successor firm to the famous early 19th century watchmaker, Robert Roskell Sr. (active 1790-1848). Robert Roskell Sr. is one of the most famous Liverpool retailer and manufacturers of hi-grade all English made pocket watch movements in Preston, Lancashire. Robert Roskell was traditionally associated with his partner Peter Litherland, who made the manufacture famous for the quality of its verge escapements (rack lever escapement). Roskell Sr. often worked in close association with his own children and that of his brother John.

John Roskell Sr. worked in partnership with his brother until 1825. Thereafter, John Roskell Sr. continued to collaborate with his brother, while working with his various children out of the 16 Nelson Street, St. James address. John had a son, John Roskell Jr., who worked in partnership with Robert Roskell Sr. in the namesake firm ‘Robert Roskell & Sons’.

Robert Roskell Jr. (d. 1888), son of his famous watchmaking father, worked along his cousin John Roskell Jr. in his father’s firm (and in its later transformation into ‘Messrs Roskell & Co’). Robert Roskell Jr. moved to London in the early 1843 to create the famous firm of Hunt & Roskell, retailers of some of England’s finest watches and jewelry.

In 1847 the firm of ‘Robert Roskell and Co’ (from 1877 onwards as ‘Robert Roskell and Co. Ltd.) is recorded as being run by William and Richard Roskell, sons of John Roskell Jr. The present watch, ‘Robert Roskell, Liverpool, No. 74,450’ appears to be the work of this firm.

The serial number of this watch situates it in the company of other known high-grade watches manufactured by the London firm of Nicole, Nielsen & Co. for Robert Roskell. Serial numbers 74,629 and 74,750 are made by the London firm and signed “Robert Roskell, Liverpoo & 14 Soho Square, London”. This latter being the address of Nicole, Nielsen & Co. These watches were manufacture in the late 1890s. The association between this firm and the Liverpool watchmaking house is also recorded by a Nicole Nielsen watch with a serial number of 66,443 which was manufactured in the early 1880s.

The dial-side serial number of 33,192 refers to the ebauche manufacturer, who is presently unidentifiable, and most certainly of Prescot origin. However, the watch also bears a series of characteristics of Coventry traits that are typical of late 19th century English watches. The finishing of the present watch and it’s association in a series of the highest-grade English watches, suggests it comes from a batch of high quality watches commissioned for their resale by Robert Roskell.

Movement Highlights:

Movement: 2 Size (31.3mm diameter) 3/4 plate, 0/5 marking on designating the thickness of the movement. High-grade traditional Prescot-Lancashire manufactured ¾ plate, 3-bridge ebauche, with additional dial side train bridge. Hand gilded and hand-engraved plates. Solid and massive polished brass chaton for mainspring supported by three blued screws. Mainplate underside also has a special raised inner lip for extra mainspring support. Beautiful contrast of hand-blued steel screws with a mix of black (mirror) polished, snailing, and brushed winding ratchets and setting springs. Bright brass screw set chatons with blood-red ruby jewels.

Balance cock: Hand-engraved minimalist Fast and Slow designation. Coventry styled diamond shaped hairspring stud extremely finely finished. The hairspring regulating pins recessed onto the curvature of the regulating index also bears the mark of Coventry-styled watchmaking. This configuration is traditional when paired with a Breguet-overcoil blued hairspring as is presently the case. A Breguet-overcoil is a rare feature on this sized watch.

Escapement: Finely finished pallet shape escape lever. Single-roller escape pin. Solid gold escape wheel. Red-gold massive balance wheel screws. Balance wheel with hand finished special balance arm ‘heels’ as seen in high-grade balances.

Keyless winding: Traditional English pinion gear winding with pin set time setting. Top mounted rocking bar arm as in Coventry styled keyless works. Superbly finished solid steel wheels with satin and snailing finish. All screws are hand-blued.

Train: Solid brass gilded train with thick hand finished steel pinions. Safety work on mainspring barrel hidden under the 3/4 plate.

Jewels: 19 Jewels – balance work (5), escape lever (2), escapement bridge (8), fourth wheel (2), third wheel (2).

Coggiola Watch Roma Wristwatch Case & Restoration Work:

This watch was originally made with an aluminum case. A new custom-made bronze case was manufactured, along with a new dial and feuille hands. The solid-bronze quickly assumes patina and will take on a deep luster with use to form a character of its own.

Hand manufactured case and parts in Rome, Italy:

Case: 2-part solid bronze case, snap on bezel. Two blued-steel movement retainer screws.

Stem, crown, and setting: 3-part bronze crown, formed by crown, cap screw, and retainer ring. Stem formed by steel ratchet wheel, steel stem, steel retaining screw. Setting pusher is made of turned bronze.

Dial: Solid aluminum, hand turned.

Hands: Feuille shaped, solid steel, hand turned and hand-shaped.

Buckle: 7-piece bronze frame and screws.

Case dimensions:

Diameter, without crown: 40mm

Lug to lug: 44.5mm

Height, including crystal: 12.2mm

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

Crystals: Domed front mineral 1mm glass, flat back mineral 1mm glass.

Restoration work: The movement was very poorly stored and suffered from being encrusted with dirt. The entire movement was cleaned and finishing to parts restored, including the removal of dirt. A new mainspring was placed. New ratchet wheel holding pin made. 

Particularities when handling this watch: Has a strong mainspring and when winding it presents considerably more resistance than a vintage wristwatch. Set and wind with care. If the crown seems stuck, simply reverse direction for one or two rotations. The same goes for setting the time.  

Case care instructions: Do not use abrasives to clean the case. The watch is not water proof.

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