Lot 7
  • 7

American Waltham Watch Co.

50,000 - 70,000 USD
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• 16 size, three-quarter plate nickel lever movement, gold train, damascened plates, 17 jewels in gold settings, bi-metallic compensation balance, micrometer regulator, glazed and gold cuvettes • white enamel dial, four quadruple sunk subsidiary dials indicating constant seconds combined with phases and ages of the moon, date, day and month calibrated for four year leap cycle • 18k yellow gold polished molded case • case stamped AWCO X0201 within an oval, movement signed and numbered


Time Museum Inventory No. 2934
William Scolnik, New York


Hoke, D., The Time Museum Historical Catalogue of American Pocket Watches, cat. no. 34, pp. 120-121; figs. 183a-b.


An incredibly rare and interesting piece, which perhaps provides a small window into a road not taken by Waltham: the production of high-quality multi-complicated watches. The movement is "Chronograph grade". It is dirty and no longer running, but will require a cleaning. The repeater is striking in phase but will require adjustment as the sound is more of a thud than a chime. The dial is in good condition, with no apparent hairline cracks or fissures. The case is in good condition. Overall the watch is quite impressive and it appears to have been uncirculated over the length of its life and has never been offered at auction before. The piece was sold by William Scolnik directly to Seth Atwood approximately 30 years ago. The Time Museum file, which can be made available upon request, shows a selection of American patent drawings which are relevant to proving the premise that the watch may have been entirely produced in America.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. All dimensions in catalogue descriptions are approximate. Condition reports may not specify mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome. Watches in water-resistant cases have been opened to examine movements but no warranties are made that the watches are currently water-resistant. Please note that we do not guarantee the authenticity of any individual component parts, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals, screws, bracelets and leather bands, since subsequent repairs and restoration work may have resulted in the replacement of original parts. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. In particular, please note it is the purchaser's responsibility to comply with any applicable import and export matters, particularly in relation to lots incorporating materials from endangered species.NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

**Please be advised that bands made of materials derived from endangered or otherwise protected species (i.e. alligator and crocodile) are not sold with the watches and are for display purposes only. We reserve the right to remove these bands prior to shipping.

Important Notice regarding importation into the United States of Rolex watches
Sotheby's cannot arrange for the delivery of Rolex watches to the United States because U.S. laws restricts the import of Rolex watches. The buyer or a designated agent may collect the property in the country of sale."

Catalogue Note

The Most Complicated Watch Made by the Waltham Watch Co.

The Waltham Watch Company remains the only American watch manufactory that produced a repeating watch. Exact production numbers of these pieces are not known, but it is thought to be between 1,250 and 1,350. This is actually quite a small number given the firm's total production run of roughly 33,000,000 total pieces. Scholars have separated the repeaters into seven runs, the present lot falling in the production of Group VI, Nos. 3793001-400.

Overall, very little is known about the quantity of multiple complication watches Waltham made, but certainly the number is probably small and could be as few as five pieces, each with varying complications. Regardless, the present watch is the only one to combine the functions of perpetual calendar, five minute repeater, split second chronograph and moon phases, making it indisputably the most complicated watch made by Waltham. 

Of the small group of Waltham multiple complication watches, the Time Museum also had in its collection the only known minute repeating split second chronograph watch, No. 3793206. The movement numbers of the minute repeating split and the present lot indicate that these are only four numbers apart and both belong to Group VI. For an illustration of the minute repeating split second watch, see Sotheby's New York, October 14th and 15th, 2004, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, Part Four, Vol. III, lot 1014.

Other than the above-mentioned minute repeating example, Waltham exclusively made five minute repeaters. Production of the repeaters began sometime between 1886 and 1887. The earlier series, Groups I through V, were thought to have been made employing Swiss design and parts by such makers as George Aubert of Vaud and Henri Onesime Stauffer of Neuchâtel. The mechanisms, after having been acquired abroad, were then fitted to the movements by the New York agents for Waltham.

Groups VI and VII stand out because they represent the beginning of Waltham's collaboration with C.H. Meylan. Although he manufactured his own line of watches under the name C. H. Meylan, Le Brassus, he lived and worked in New York. He held three American patents that protected his repeaters made for Waltham, giving credence to the thought that watches from these groups were made entirely in the United States.

The present lot, No.3793210, is also unusual given that its case number is not part of the standard case number series. The case number X0201 is a departure from Waltham's typical case numbering system, which used a numeric system. However, in this instance, the case number begins with X, and thus one can assume these were reserved for special production watches.

Two other examples have been identified with "X" case numbers:
• X4557: rock crystal plate watch, sold Sotheby's, New York, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, October 14th and 15th, 2004, lot 1019
• X4480: rock crystal plate watch, sold Sotheby's New York, February 5, 1988, lot 320. That watch was an unusual 16 size rock crystal plate watch, the dial painted en grisaille with a scene of the Waltham Watch Factory. 

The combination of unusual features and numbering make it plausible that these watches were intended for a large exhibition or World's Fair, allowing Waltham a forum to demonstrate their ability to produce highly complicated watches, and not only precision mass production watches, for which they were well known. The small number of complicated watches produced by Waltham suggests that the firm found the profits not of great enough interest to warrant continued production.

For further discussions of Waltham repeaters and chronographs see Harrold, "American Watchmaking," in the NAWCC Bulletin Supplement, pp. 98-104, 1984 and Thomas L. De Fazio, "The American Waltham Watch Company Repeaters," the NAWCC Bulletin, Vol. 19, issue 88, 1976, pp. 271-279.