Moses Morse
In 1795, Moses Leland Morse (1781-1831), age 14, joined Josiah Wheelock in Sutton, Massachusetts as an apprentice and 3-4 years later in about 1798, they formed a partnership making extraordinary watches of their own design. The partnership lasted about 5 years when Wheelock, a clock maker, changed careers and entered town government. However, Moses Morse, apparently the designer of the watches, relocated to Keene, New Hampshire, and continued production as well as pursuing other ventures (e.g. he invented the first pin-making machinery and patent scales for weighing coins hydrostatically).

Moses Morse was one of the first American watchmakers to offer a higher quality alternative to the traditional English verge escapement and fusee design that other American makers, including Thomas Harland (Norwich, Connecticut, 1773-1806), John Cairns (Providence, Rhode Island, 1795-1809) and Luther Goddard (Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, 1803-1817) produced to compete with English and Swiss imports at the time.

American watches of the 18th century, like their English counterparts, predominately featured a verge escapement with fusee and chain. However, continental makers (Swiss and French) often dispensed with the fusee preferring a going-barrel design that reduced cost and allowed the movement to be thinner. Only a couple of early American firms, including this one, used a going-barrel design or escapement other than the verge. Another was Robert Leslie of the renowned firm Leslie & Price (research to be published in late 2017). 

At present, three surviving watches by Wheelock & Morse / Moses Morse have been identified. Two have a Debaufre escapement and one, that is in the Historic New England collection, has a Virgule escapement. 
The watch displayed below was in The Time Museum collection. It is engraved “Moses Morse, Keene, N. 2", and was likely made in 1803.
Moses Morse Calendar Watch
Moses Morse
Moses Morse Debaufre Escapement
Moses Morse


Moses Morse
Keene, N.H.
Description: Full plate movement with double wheel Debaufre escapement (see photo), exposed going barrel, and offset balance table and foot chased with scrolls and flowers. White enamel dial with calendar feature. Unmarked silver pair cases, likely also of American manufacture, with silver alloy content of approximately 90% which is below the 92.5% English sterling standard at the time.

References and recommended reading:
  • American Horological Journal, Vol.1, No 6, New York, December 1869, p. 18
  • Rev. William A. Benedict, A.M., and Rev. Hiram A. Tracy, History of the Town of Sutton, 1704 to 1876, 1878
  • Donald Hoke, The Time Museum Historical Catalogue of American Pocket Watches, Rockford, Illinois, 1991