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Production Conflicts: Factory Records vs. Surviving Specimens

One of the challenges in maintaining the Pocket Watch Database is how to approach situations where the factory records are in conflict with surviving specimens. Usually, it is not as easy as simply updating the database to match the known observation due to the natural ambiguity of the conflict. Without additional examples studied from the same run, it is difficult to determine whether the entire run is consistent with the observation – meaning the factory records are completely incorrect – or whether the run is mixed – meaning the factory records are somewhat correct but production was altered in some way.

This situation has recently been encountered while prepping the next post for my jeweling overview of the Waltham Model 1857 production, intended to cover the 16-Jewel production of the Appleton, Tracy & Co. movements. The example I have been posting recently is recorded in the Waltham factory ledgers as featuring “4 ½ Pairs” of jewels (plus the 7 in the balance and escapement, totaling 16 jewels). These movements feature an extra jewel on the pillar plate for the center wheel. However, when I removed the cannon pinion to photograph the 16th jewel, I found that there was none to be found.

Around this period in production, Waltham began transitioning the 16-Jewel Appleton, Tracy & Co. grade to be fitted with 15 Jewels in a standard configuration. Despite what the factory records imply, my movement was one that did not receive the 16-Jewel fitting. 

This raises questions regarding whether the entire run of ten movements contained 15 Jewels or whether some were actually fitted with 16, as the ledgers indicate. Without a deeper study of surviving examples, we may never know. Unfortunately, checking for the 16th jewel on these movements is a bit more involved than simply removing the dial.

For the time being, the information matching the factory ledger has been retained in the database, and a special research note has been added to this run to record the conflicting observation. I also submitted a verification report on the lookup page – something I always recommend to benefit other researchers. 

American Watch Company (Waltham) Grade Appleton, Tracy & Co. – 18-Size, Model 1857, 15 Jewels, c.1859, Serial No. 17939 (top). Waltham factory ledger page for the run in question (bottom).

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