Leslie & Price Pocket Watch

Robert Leslie was the first clock or watchmaker to receive patents in America that included torsion pendulum, escapements, and other enhancements. His patented Nautical Watch in 1793 is possibly the first watch designed by an American and additionally evidences that he was likely America's first chronometer maker.

Leslie and Price Pocket Watch

Robert Leslie and Isaac Price became partners in the firm Leslie & Price 1792 in Philadelphia. Leslie relocated to London the following year to directly manage the manufacture and shipping of clocks and watches to their Philadelphia and later Baltimore retail shops. This trans-Atlantic business model to import clocks and watches was ground-breaking and Leslie developed a very large and diverse clientele that included Thomas Jefferson. Leslie & Price expanded to Baltimore in 1795 adding partner Abraham Patton under the firm Robert Leslie & Co. A year later, Samuel G. Jones was added to the Baltimore firm and it was renamed to Patton, Jones & Company. Both firms, Leslie & Price and Patton Jones & Company were dissolved upon the death of Isaac Price in 1798. However, Abraham Patton and S. G. Jones remained together forming a new firm, Patton & Jones (1798-1814), with interests in both Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Robert Leslie Watchmaker
Leslie & Price Philadelphia

IT Case Maker's Mark

All Leslie & Price signed watches were manufactured in London under the direction of the firm's principal, Robert Leslie. The Leslie & Price watch displayed is No. 1040 and has a fusee and verge escapement movement with round pillars, white enamel dial and gold hands. It is pictured in James Whisker's book, Pennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts, 1990, p. 235.

The silver pair cases have London assay letter for 1794-95 and maker's mark "IT" likely for John Taylor, London. They also have a King George III export duty mark that was used from 1786 to 1798 and indicates that the tax was paid on the silver cases (Priestley, 28).

Additional References and recommended reading:

  • James Gibbs, Pennsylvania Clocks and Watches, The Pennsylvania State University, 1984

  • Carter Harris, A Philadelphia Clockmakers Company: Some Documentary Evidence, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin, No. 233 (December, 1984), pp. 698-702

  • Catherine Hollan, Philadelphia Silversmiths and Related Artisans to 1861, Hollan Press, Missouri, 2013

  • Richard Newman, Robert Leslie, The Greatest American Watch and Clock Maker Every Forgotten, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin, No. 431 (January/February 2018), pp. 69-88, and No. 432 (March/April 2018), pp. 149-163

  • Philip Priestley, Early Watch Case Makers of England 1631– 1720, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin Special Order Supplement No. 3 (2000)

  • James Whisker, Pennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts, 1990