This post serves as an analysis of a “Frankenwatch” currently for sale on eBay in order to educate novice buyers regarding some pitfalls while building a collection.
Recently, a verification report was posted to the Pocket Watch Database indicating that Illinois #3823464 was actually a 23-Jewel movement and not the 19-Jewel Grade 406 movement that was represented by the database for this serial number. Fortunately, the individual that submitted the report also included the eBay auction link so further evaluation could be completed.
The Illinois Grade 406 was a very common middle-tier product of the Illinois Watch Company, described as a 12-Size, 19-Jewel Movement, featuring 19 Jewels. Total production for the grade was just shy of 100,000. The screws and regulator are generally adorned with a bright gilded finish, yielding an attractive movement, despite the commonality.
In contrast, the Illinois Watch Company produced very few 23-Jewel 12-Size movements. As a result, this verification report claiming a 23-Jewel movement had been discovered within a recorded run of standard Grade 406 movements was intriguing.
However, once the image of the movement was analyzed, it became clear this was a “Frankenwatch” created from two separate movements.
- The barrel bridge is marked with serial number 3823464, correctly corresponding to a run of Grade 406 movements.
- The markings on the barrel/center bridge are consistent with other Grade 406 movements. “Adjusted 3 Positions” and “Illinois Watch Co. Springfield.”
- The gilt screws and raised composite jewel settings are also consistent with other Grade 406 movements.
- However, the 4th Wheel and Escape Wheel bridge is marked “23 Jewels,” inconsistent with the standard 19-Jewel Grade 406.
- The 4th Wheel and Escape Wheel also feature raised gold jewel settings, as one would expect from a fine 23-Jewel movement.
- The balance features similar gold jewel settings and is fitted with a chamfered steel regulator spring, consistent with finer grades. Note the screws and regulator are not gilded as we would expect with the Grade 406.
- The damaskeening pattern on the barrel/center (Grade 406) bridge is inconsistent with the pattern on the 4th/Escape bridge.
- The pillar plate is marked “Motor Barrel,” indicating that the “base” movement is likely the original 23-Jewel movement while the barrel/center bridge, barrel, and ratchet wheel was pulled from a standard Grade 406 movements.
- This theory is further supported by the gold train, another feature indicative of a fine 23-Jewel movement rather than the standard Grade 406.
During standard production, the Illinois Watch Company manufactured five different grades of 12-Size movements featuring 23 jewels. Of these five, only three were manufactured in the Model 3 style that would be compatible with the Grade 406 we are analyzing: The Illini, Grade 410, and Grade 416. The stylistic features and the “Motor Barrel” marking rule out The Illini and Grade 416 possibilities, leaving the Grade 410.
At some point in the history of this watch, the barrel/center bridge, barrel, and ratchet was replaced on the original Grade 410 movement using parts from an available Grade 406, resulting in this “Frankenwatch.” This approach may be understandable from a practicality perspective, but the unnatural merging is certainly unsettling to modern collectors. The Grade 410 is often coveted by collectors due to the scarcity and representation of one of the finest grades offered by the Illinois Watch Company.