I love to fix watches, especially for the people I love. This watch came to me for a restoration from my brother in law looking to gift it to his wife (my sister in law). He found this beauty while looking for a “Victoria” labeled vintage watch.
These old watches have such a cool history. They’re known as Trench Watches. Originally designed for use by soldiers in WW1 as a converted pocket watch made to wear on the wrist, having realized that pocket watches were cumbersome and awkward to use during active duties. Thus, the wrist watch was born. This jeweller from Victoria BC “Shortt Hill & Duncan” is long gone but the story of the movement persists. Independent jewellers would buy these high quality watch movements and put them in their own cases and make their own dials and sometimes even brand their names on the movement. This example was manufactured by Longines around 1908.
Vintage watches often have certain challenges when servicing. This watch was in great shape but the poise of the balance was quite bad. I had to remove the hair spring and put it on my trusty poising tool and make some adjustments to the balance screws. This successfully closed the gap in the variation in rate to about 25-30 seconds.. Not bad for such an old watch that I’m sure could tell some stories.
Another interesting thing to note in this watch is the amazing purple hands. Most vintage pocket watches will have blued hands. This process involves high polishing the steel hands and then bringing them up to a temperature of around 575°F. Getting the hands to turn purple means bringing the temperature between 520°F and 540°F. This happens very quickly and can easily get too hot and then start to turn blue. So it is indeed remarkable to see hands of this colour because of the skill involved in doing it properly. There’s a great new Canadian watchmaker name Bradley Taylor who is doing this process in his latest watches. Very cool indeed.