Henry Blank & Co - The creation of a fine watch & jewellery company


Henry Blank moved to Newark, NJ, to search for employment. Whilst working for a jewellery manufacturer, the owners recognised his artistic merit and mechanical ability. They offered him an apprenticeship which led to him becoming a goldsmith and platinumsmith before the age of 21. The Whiteside and Blank name was established by Henry and his friend and jewellery manufacturer, Newton Whiteside, owner of Newton E. Whiteside & Company. When Whiteside retired in 1912, Blank bought out his shares over a period of five years and renamed the company Henry Black and Company in 1917.



A mid 1920s example in our possession with over 88 diamonds and Black Onyx finish




According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, the crescent and arrow mark was first used on brooches, cuff-buttons, pendants, necklaces and rings from the early 1900s. This mark is present on all the watches created by the company and is also seen on the Tiffany examples in the 1920s. These examples also had CH Meylan movements.


In 1911, the company was awarded the exclusive license to sell a watch expansion bracelet from Germany. This success made the company intensify focus on the ladies watch, becoming the first in the US to make wrist watches for ladies to a high standard.

Henry Blank and Co - Crescent Arrow mark



Quality was the priority in the business, with the company establishing itself as one of Americas largest and most successful fine jewellery firms until after WW2. This is evidenced by the company being a leading supplier to firms such as Tiffany & Co, who were Blanks largest account. Henry Blank and later his son, Harry, visited Tiffany’s offices every week from 1911.



A Henry Blank & Co wrist watch for Tiffany & Co with over 600 diamonds Circa 1925


In 1912 Henry Black journeyed to Europe to secure trading rights for importing watch movements from Swiss manufacturers and stone dealers in Holland, Belgium and France. This was the foothold for much of the success the company enjoyed in the 1920s and allowed the business to spearhead the market for ladies watches within the US.


During this decade of exuberant consumerism, Blank followed the example of Cartier and other European jewellers and made elaborate types of watch straps and jewelled cases. Mesh bracelets of seed pearls and wire were constructed by hand. Henry Blank is stated as having been potentially the first American manufacturer to import Silk watch cords from Europe.



A mid 1920s example with sterile dial and seed pearl bracelet with CH Meylan calibre


During the 1920s, the firm made more than fifteen hundred styles of women’s wristwatches. The average price of a ladies watch was 300 USD wholesale, with prices ranging from 40 dollars to more than 500 dollars. These were bespoke watches for bespoke customers.



A Henry Blank example for Tiffany achieved $42,00o in 2005 in Christies Exceptional jewels sale - A unique Emerald crystal




During the 1920s women’s ribbon strap watches dominated production. The majority were ornamented with diamonds and platinum in a geometric, generalized Art Deco style, sometimes including black onyx or coloured stones. On better models, the diamond bezel would be hinged at each end so that it appeared to continue around the wrist.


One major success stemming from Blanks journies to Europe was the negotiation to import IWC and CH Meylan watch movements. CH Meylan Watch Company of Le Brassus, Switzerland, supplied Blank movements through an exclusive agreement for the US market. The Meylan ebauche was particularly well suited for womens watches as it was small, thin and was produced in many shapes. Blank bought the majority of the company’s limited output into the 1930s. These movements were of the highest quality and quite expensive, ranging from fifty to one hundred dollars, with the smallest ones approaching two hundred dollars.


The staffing at the Blank manufacturing facility in Newark was extensive, ranging from a few dozen people, to 80 or 90 in the peak years of the 1920s. The head designer from 1912 to 1935, was Frederick Bieberbach. He would create drawings with the staff, based on Blanks ideas or gleaned from European samples. After the drawings were approved many skilled workers were needed to bring them to life. Steel engravers, toolmakers, press hands, turners, engravers, enamellers, diamond setters, polishers and chain and mesh makers were all employed. Watch construction also required dial makers, glass cutters and watchmakers.


Black’s strategy involved bringing European design to American jewellery stores and this capitalization on trends led to a rush to buy post WW1 with sales remaining high throughout the 1920s. In 1919, sales exceeded 1.4 million USD. There is also evidence that Blank made watches for Patek Philippe and Company in the 1920s and later for Cartier.


Journey on the Titanic:

As a wealthy American businessman Blank would have had his fair share of stores, however one event he witnessed would be a pivotal moment in history.


On his return home from his trade journey in 1912, Henry made reservations in Paris to embark on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.


Harry was known for his interest in new technology and with the Titanic being the latest ship, it was only natural that he wish to sail on the world’s largest and most luxurious ocean liner.



Letter from Henry Blank thanking Lieutenant of the Fifth Police Precinct for his well wishes


Of the fateful night, Henry Blank stated that he was in the first-class smoking room with 2 other men. The trio began a card game, lit their cigars and began conversing. He said he felt a slight jar at 11:40pm. A man called out, “Hey boys, we’ve grazed an iceberg”. The gents went to see if they could spot the issue but after they realised they had passed it, they returned to their game. However, when the boat came to a stop, they looked again and saw seawater entering the squash racquet court.


Henry was among the first to arrive on the starboard boat deck. The group was assisted into lifeboat 7, the first lifeboat to be lowered from the Titanic. Since it was so early in the evacuation, many women refused to leave the Titanic without their husbands, fathers and male companions. In an effort to move the evacuation along, the ships office, did allow Henry and several men into lifeboat 7 to help row.


Henry Blank later said, "Every woman and child in sight was ordered into the boat but there were not enough there to fill it and in that way some of us got a chance for our lives."


"After we were some distance from the ship, I heard revolver shots on board, but I don't know what part of the ship they came from. I was under the impressions, as were many in my boat, that everyone had escaped. When there arose a roar from the vessel herself and the screams of those passengers and crew still, I was almost overcome by the horror of the situation. Realizing that many were still aboard and left to perish has left a permanent scar. We saw the Titanic plunge forward and then down out of sight but not before we heard the explosions of her boilers. The sea was very calm and there was floating ice everywhere. The women in our boat began to get chilled and we men took off our coats and wrapped them about them."


The next morning, they were pulled from the Atlantic by the rescue ship, Carpathia.



A fine example

We pride ourselves on going the extra mile when it comes to presenting our watches, and we currently have an exceptional Henry Blank & Co wristwatch for sale now.


This specific watch may have been purchased through a smaller jeweller as it is not signed Blank and was purchased by a couple in Florida. The company was proficient at selling across different regions in the US and by 1910 the company had four traveling salesmen to cover the country. This allowed many smaller jewellers to offer these high-quality pieces of jewellery and watches.


Whilst Tiffany examples of Henry Blank's watches sell in the tens of thousands, this example is priced at £3500. Considering it's of the same exceptional quality, we consider this an excellent offering.


Why not read more about it below?



Exquisite 1920s Art Deco Ladies Cocktail watch, Platinum and Diamond, Henry Blank & Co, Tiffany maker, CH Meylan movement


This is an excellent original example of a 1920s ladies cocktail watch, manufactured by Henry Blank & Co, who were a major supplier of Tiffany and Co. It has a very high-grade CH Meylan movement inside. This is a wristwatch of the highest quality in the era, matching the individual design and craftsmanship exhibited by Cartier in the Art Deco period. It is no wonder many Henry Blank watches were sold to Tiffany during the 1920s and 30s. The crescent and arrow mark on the watch indicates it was manufactured by Henry Blank and Co.


The quality of the clarity and cuts of the diamonds is exceptional, whilst the design is unmistakeably Art Deco, with the Geometric plotting and the use of Black Onyx to boarder the diamonds. The Marquis cut diamonds on both hinged lugs are truly the crown jewel of this watch. The watch has been recently serviced and comes on it’s original Silk ribbon, with Platinum Blank and Co buckle, with signed Crescent arrow mark. The watch wears very well with a huge lug to lug measurement of 43mm, whilst the case measures 13mm wide.


The case is crafted from Platinum and is of supreme quality. The central section of the case is rectangular and the front of it is set with milligrain diamonds. There are 40 stones in total surrounding the dial of the watch, Eight of which are cut. On average they measure 1.20mm x 1.20mm.

The ends of the main section of the case are set with larger diamonds, 5 at the top and 5 at the bottom. They have a VS clarity and measure 1.90mm x 1.90mm with a depth of 1.20mm, with a total weight of 0.300ct. They are surrounded by black Onyx to create a beautiful boarder.

The sides of the case are engraved expertly with the original finish which is seen on many other Blank examples, even Tiffany ones.


The articulated lugs are attached to the case via a hinge on each end. These help create the impressive 43mm measurement in length. They are formed of Platinum and are of exceptional quality. They boast this watches crown jewels, the two Marquise cut diamonds. They have VS clarity and measure 6.10mm x 3.50mm with a depth of 2mm. They have a total weight of 0.540ct.


There are 18 other diamonds on each articulated lug. They range from 1.20mm to 1.8mm long, with an average lenth of 1.50mm and a width of 1.50mm. In total they weigh 0.540ct.

This section of the watch continues the use of black Onyx to form a beautiful boarder, picking out the Marquise cut diamonds and finishing the end of each lug.



The dial is original and is in good condition. It is a silver satin base tone which is beautifully simplistic. It consists of well-spaced Arabic numerals which fill the rectangular shape of the dial by exaggerating. The railroad track around the exterior of the dial is simple but clean. It has thicker marking for the hour markers.

The hands are original and are of Breguet style and have a thermally Blued finish.


The crystal would appear to be a plexiglass replacement. It fits the profile of the watch perfectly and is in good condition.


The crown is original and is engraved with a flower. It has a beautiful coin edge and is formed of Platinum. This engraving of the crown and this exact design is seen on the Tiffany examples.


The case back is made of Platinum and is in good condition for the age. It has a personal engraving from the original owner, Anna M.Lane of Jacksonville Florida. This watch was likely given when she married Jessie E. Carroll. The case back has an engraved boarder of exceptional quality which is original to the design by Henry Blank and Co.


The inside has the mark for Platinum, with the Crescent and arrow mark of Henry Blank and Co. The serial number within is 27816.

The Silk Ribbon is original to the watch, with the original Platinum buckle still attached. The buckle has the crescent and arrow mark associated with Henry Blank and Co.


The movement is a calibre by CH Meylan of Brassus, Switzerland. The movement is of very high quality for the period, with an individual and aesthetic bridge layout. The movement has 18 jewels which is a high count for the era, highlighting the quality CH Meylan built into these movements. The bridges have a beautiful Cote De Geneve finish, whilst it is also brushed in between the strips. The edges of the bridges are chamfered too, with the jewels being of an excellent colour and quality. The gear train wheels have a frosted finish which still has a lovely texture. The screws used in the movement have a mirror finish, whilst the base plate has peerlage finishing. This level of finishing is exclusive to the best Swiss makers. This particular movement is very close to the finish of Art Deco period movements, I have assessed that have the Geneve seal authentication.


The movement is in good condition cosmetically and is running well for a small ladies’ watch. It has been recently serviced by ourselves. It operates at a frequency of 18,000 BPH.


It has a daily gain of +160 seconds, with an amplitude of 280 degrees and a beat error of 5.2m/s.


Dial:

The dial is original and is in good condition. It is a silver satin base tone which is beautifully simplistic. It consists of well-spaced Arabic numerals which fill the rectangular shape of the dial by exaggerating. The railroad track around the exterior of the dial is simple but clean. It has thicker marking for the hour markers.


Hands:

The hands are original and are of Breguet style. They have a thermally Blued finish which has slightly worn on the minute hands.


Glass:

The crystal would appear to be a plexiglass replacement. It fits the profile of the watch perfectly and is in good condition.


Crown:

The crown is original and is engraved with a flower. It has a beautiful coin edge and is formed of Platinum. This engraving of the crown and this exact design is seen on the Tiffany examples.


Case:

The case is crafted from Platinum and is of supreme quality. The central section of the case is rectangular and the front of it is set with milligrain diamonds. There are 40 stones in total surrounding the dial of the watch, Eight of which are cut. On average they measure 1.20mm x 1.20mm.

The ends of the main section of the case are set with larger diamonds, 5 at the top and 5 at the bottom. They have a VS clarity and measure 1.90mm x 1.90mm with a depth of 1.20mm, with a total weight of 0.300ct. They are surrounded by black Onyx to create a beautiful

boarder.


The sides of the case are engraved expertly with the original finish which is seen on many other Blank examples, even Tiffany ones.


Lugs:

The articulated lugs are attached to the case via a hinge on each end. These help create the impressive 43mm measurement in length. They are formed of Platinum and are of exceptional quality. They boast this watches crown jewels, the two Marquise cut diamonds. They have VS clarity and measure 6.10mm x 3.50mm with a depth of 2mm. They have a total weight of 0.540ct.

There are 18 other diamonds on each articulated lug. They range from 1.20mm to 1.8mm long, with an average lenth of 1.50mm and a width of 1.50mm. In total they weigh 0.540ct.

This section of the watch continues the use of black Onyx to form a beautiful boarder, picking out the Marquise cut diamonds and finishing the end of each lug.


Caseback:

The case back is made of Platinum and is in good condition for the age. It has a personal engraving from the original owner, Anna M.Lane of Jacksonville Florida. This watch was likely given when she married Jessie E. Carroll. The case back has an engraved boarder of exceptional quality which is original to the design by Henry Blank and Co.


The inside has the mark for Platinum, with the Crescent and arrow mark of Henry Blank and Co. The serial number within is 27816.

Strap:

The Silk Ribbon is original to the watch, with the original Platinum buckle still attached. The buckle has the crescent and arrow mark associated with Henry Blank and Co.


Movement:

The movement is a calibre by CH Meylan of Brassus, Switzerland. The movement is of very high quality for the period.

The movement is in good condition cosmetically and is running well for a small ladies’ watch. It has been recently serviced by ourselves. It operates at a frequency of 18,000 BPH.


It has a daily gain of +160 seconds, with an amplitude of 280 degrees and a beat error of 5.2m/s.


Case dimensions:

Case width: 13mm

Case width with crown: 15mm

Case length lug to lug: 43mm

Case Depth: 6mm

Lug width: 12mm


 

Gemstone Appraisal Ref GB00093002/625/1


2 stones, Marquise cut. Colour: G.H. Clarity: VS

Length: 6.10mm; width 3.50mm; depth 2.00mm

Weight 0.270ct each stone; total weight 0.540ct

Set in white metal, Grain.


10 stones, Eight cut. Colour H I. Clarity: VS

Length 1.90mm; width 1.90mm; depth 1.20mm

Weight 0.030ct each stone: total weight 0.300ct

Set in white metal Grain.


40 stones, Eight cut. Colour H I. Clarity: VS

Length 1.20mm; width 1.20mm; depth 0.80mm

Weight 0.010ct each stone total weight 0.400ct

Set in white metal, Grain.


36 stones, Eight cut.

Dimensions from 1.20 to 1.80mm; average length 1.50mm;

Average width 1.50mm

Average weight 0.015ct each stone; total weight 0.540ct

Set in white metal, Grain.



 

Sources:

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/henry-blank.html

https://www.themagazineantiques.com/article/jeweled-watches-henry-blank

http://www.gregsteer.net/IWC/Cresarrow/Henry Blank and Cresarrow.html

https://durlandco.com/pages/cresarrow-henry-blank-co

The Glitter & the Gold: Fashioning Americas Jewelry - ISBN-10 : 0932828345 Publisher : Newark Museum Assn (June 1, 1997)


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