Robert Leslie Pocket Watch

Robert Leslie Pocket Watch

Robert Leslie of Philadelphia was the first clock or watchmaker to receive patents in America. His Nautical Watch, possibly the first watch designed by an American, was discovered just a few years ago.

Robert Leslie and Isaac Price became partners in 1792 in the firm Leslie & Price, and Robert Leslie relocated to London the following year to directly manage the manufacture and shipping of watches and clocks to Philadelphia. Leslie's trans-Atlantic business model to import clocks and watches was ground-breaking and the firm developed a very large and diverse clientele that included Thomas Jefferson.

Early American Pocket Watches

Robert Leslie Movement

Leslie & Price expanded to Baltimore in 1795 adding partner Abraham Patton under the firm Robert Leslie & Co., the name engraved on this watch. A year later, Samuel G. Jones was added and the firm renamed to Patton, Jones & Company. All were dissolved upon the death of Isaac Price in 1798. However, Abraham Patton and S. G. Jones remained together as Patton & Jones (1798-1814), operating in both Philadelphia and Baltimore.

All Robert Leslie & Co. signed watches were manufactured in London under the direction of the firm's principal, Robert Leslie. This watch is signed "Robt Leslie & Co. No 871 Baltimore." It has a nicely finished fusee and verge escapement movement with round pillars, a white enamel dial and gold hands.

First Patents

CS Case Maker's Mark

The silver pair cases have London assay letter for 1796-97 and maker's mark "CS" likely for Charles Saffell of Clerkenwell, London. They also have a King George III export duty mark.

John Child Clockmaker

John Child Watch Papers: Wonderful set of Philadelphia watch papers by John Child (including a very rare hand signed paper), Osborn Conrad, and John Heilig located within the case.

American Watch Papers
John Child Watch Paper
Robert Leslie Philadelphia
Early American Watch Papers

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