For sale we have a charming little example of a late 1900s – early 1910s trench watch in a Sterling Silver case, by Dimier Freres & Cie. It is an example of early wrist watch design, with its fixed lugs and early leather strap. It is also unusual as it is an original left-handed design, with the crown on the opposite side.
It has a petite silver case, with hinged open face front and a hinged case back. The centre has fixed lugs which secure the watch to a strap. The enamel dial is very good, with black roman numerals and red 12. It has its originally, thermally blued spade and whip style hands. Inside the case back, the hallmarking has sadly rubbed, which means it is not possible to tie down an exact year. Inside it has a 15 jewel manual wind movement marked DF&C, which is in good condition and is functioning well. It is keeping time to within 1 minute a day.
It is presented on a potentially original strap, with a E J Pearson & Sons Sterling Silver buckle.
Left-handed trench style watches had obvious uses for 10% of the population. So that the watch could still be worn on the non-dominant wrist, with the benefits of ease of protection, ease of operation and the ability to buckle up using the dominant hand. Fitting with the 10% prevalence of lefties, examples are not very common. This is despite being offered by some pioneering brands such as Omega and Dimier Freres and cie.
The combination of it being an early registered design, left-handed and having the E J Pearson & Sons buckle, makes this an interesting and good example.
History of DF & C early patents and E J Pearson & Sons early straps
In early trench watches by Dimier, you will find the mark “Depose No.9846”. This simply means, registered design in French, to provide copyright protection. Depose No. 9846 was accepted on the 29th July 1903. The Anglo-Swiss company, Dimier Brothers, registered a design of a wristwatch with fixed lugs and a leather strap, which was the earliest documented evidence seen of watches with wire lugs and strap.
By 1907, the market for men’s wristwatches with wire lugs and leather straps has grown, and Dimier Freres felt they needed to reassert their rights. They published the following in La Federation Horlogere Suisse in October 1907: “To avoid trouble and misunderstandings, we inform Gentlemen makers of watch cases of gold, silver and metal, and Gentlemen watch manufacturers of Switzerland, the curved handles for wristwatches are our registered design No. 9846 dated July 29, 1903.
We will pursue anyone who manufacture watches with these handles, without having previously made arrangements for a royalty to be paid to us, and that does not send his watch cases to our factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds to have our registered mark stamped in the case back.”
Patent protection in the early days of wrist watches was serious business which gave companies an edge of innovative rivals. Creative companies would often combine to advance their interests. One such example is between Dimier Freres & Cie and E. J. Pearson & Sons.
The company of E. J. Pearson and Sons were harness makers and saddlers in London. They had a long history, tracing their roots back to 1804. Mr. Tucker, managing director of the firm of H. Williamson Ltd., had an interesting claim about the origin of the wristwatch. He told an interviewer: “During the Boer War we received a 12 size watch belonging to an officer in South Africa. He said he wanted to wear it on his wrist. I suggested putting loops on the case and sewing straps on to them. This was done, and we were struck with the idea and had it registered. It was some time before the idea took on, but eventually it became extremely popular.” Pearsons made the wrist strap to Mr. Tucker's order.
In August 1908 E. J. Pearson and Sons registered two designs of watch straps with the British Board of Trade. The company was to birth a variety of straps that still have military applications today. The Pearson “Victor” straps were very much of the styling of the British Military G10 straps.
*Credit to David Boettcher and his Vintage Watch Straps website for the above information*
Full condition report below. Please see the images as these compliment and aid the description provided below.
The dial is enamel and is original. It is in very good condition with no hairline fractures or cracks. The tone is bright white, with the clear minute track, hour markers and red 12.
The hands are thermally blued and are of spade and whip style. They have some light marking.
The glass is a replacement but is good, with some light marking.
The crown is original with coin edge finish and is in good condition.
The case is formed of silver and has an open face hinged front cover. The hinge is good and it closes tightly. It has fixed silver lugs which are good and non-bent. It has tarnishing consistent with age and has not been polished. It has no deep scratches or dents.
There is a single hinged silver case back. The hinge is good, with the back closing tightly. Externally it has a lot of tarnishing, but only some light surface scratching and no denting. Inside, the hallmarking has rubbed.
The watch comes on a period and possibly original leather strap with sterling silver buckle, with E J Pearson & Sons makers mark. In good original condition.
The movement is a 15 jewel manual wind calibre from Dimier Freres & Co.
The movement is running well, but the service history in unknown. It’s keeping time to +50 seconds a day, with an amplitude of 280 degrees and a beat error of 2.9m/s.
Case width: 29.5mm
Case width with crown: 31mm
Case length: 29.5mm
Case length lug to lug: 35mm
Case Depth: 9.75mm
Lug width: 9mm
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