Thomas White Pocket Watch

I was attracted to this watch because of its colorful dial and triple case. This example was made when the demand for watches by the emerging middle class was growing fast and there was a fashion resurgence for decorative outer shagreen and turtle shell cases. There were many ways for a retailer to vary case materials, and movement features and quality to provide a broad range of price options that would appeal to a price-sensitive customer base. A multi-color dial and double outer cases was likely the upper end offering for this retailer, Thomas White.

Tortoise Shell Pocket Watch
London Pocket Watch
Early English Pocket Watch

Gilt-brass verge and fusee movement of average quality signed Thos White London with inward facing script. Serial number 9532. Pierced and engraved balance table with an urn at the bottom and solid foot. Square baluster pillars and decorative fusee stop-work foot. Original enamel dial with Roman hours and Arabic 5-minute index with gold color fleur-de-lis at the half hours.

Tortoise shell pocket watch
London Pocket Watch

Silver & tortoise shell cases. Plain silver pair case both with London assay, date mark for 1788, and case makers’ initials “JC” (unidentified). Inner with number 9532 that matches the movement number. Cases also stamped with the King George III export duty mark, used from 1786 to 1798. The export duty mark gives evidence that this watch was destined for export to the American market. Inner case has a 7-knuckle hinge, outer two cases have 5-knuckle hinges. Third case of tortoise shell (more accurately hawksbill turtle shell) with silver pique work around the circumference. 58 mm (triple case).

Additional References and recommended reading:

  • Brian Loomes, Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World, N.A.G. Press, 2006

  • Philip Priestley, British Watchcase Gold & Silver Marks 1670 to 1970, National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, 2018