Recently, a member of The Pocket Watch Group on Facebook posted a question regarding his Illinois Watch Company pocket watch that correlates to “Grade 92” in the database. He immediately noted that this run was the only run of Grade 92 movements, resulting in an estimated production of a mere 100 units. Naturally, this prompted some curiosity.
“According to the database (I’m a member/supporter), Grade 92 and only 100 were made, total. I’ve only found one other article on the Grade 92, that infers that there is no ‘Grade 92’. Help with a deep dive on information?” – Jesse M.
Jesse referenced a 2012 discussion on the IHC185 forum that questioned the “Grade 92” classification for this run, theorizing that the run should actually be designated as “Grade 99.”
After studying the movement that Jesse posted and the records available, this was my response:
Firstly, thanks for posting. I always find these outliers interesting to study, and many times, all we have to go on is some reference in a list instead of actual images of a surviving example. Second, the post about the Grade 92 not appearing in the Illinois book is not exactly correct. It is true that Meggers/Ehrhardt does not cover the grade in the “grade summary” section, but it does indeed appear in the serial list included in the book that was extracted from factory records. So, the omission of the grade from the summaries was either accidental or intentional because they considered it an error in factory records. Either way, we should analyze it within the (possibly erroneous) context before simply dismissing it as an error.
The serial list designates this run (1,252,501-1,252,600) as Grade 92, 18-Size, Model 2, with 11 Jewels. This is the first and only run in the serial list that was designated “Grade 92” – admittedly raising some suspicion.
Your example is consistent with the published specifications, assuming the movement features 11 jewels instead of 15 (based on the flat hairspring, I believe this is true). So, if the serial list is an error in the record or transcription, we should then evaluate other grades that have matching characteristics. Running a quick study on the data, we find the following grades match the 18s/M2/11J configuration in at least one production run: 2, 3, 4, 99, 100, 101, 101 1/2, Columbia, Currier, and I.W.C.
We can immediately discard the “named” grades and focus on the numbered grades, using your nickel damaskeened movement as the “litmus” example for comparison. Grades 2, 3, and 4 were not offered in a nickel finish, so we can also rule those out.
I will momentarily skip Grade 99 and review the 100/101/101 1/2 series of movements. Production of the 100 was terminated well before the Grade 92 run, so we can eliminate that one as well. Production of the Grade 101 and 101 1/2 extends to the era in which your movement was manufactured, and both feature many of the same traits as your movement. However, neither the 101 nor 100 1/2 were fitted with a patent regulator (Chalmer’s regulator) like is present on your example.
Grade 100 production ended around 1890.
Grade 101 movements did not feature a patent regulator.
Grade 101 1/2 movements did not feature a patent regulator.
That leaves us with the Grade 99. You posted an analysis published on the IHC185 forum suggesting that the Grade 92 run should have been classified as Grade 99. While the 99 does indeed have Chalmer’s patent regulator during the Model 2 production, we find the Grade 99 fitted with burnished jewels instead of screw-set jewels during this era. Interestingly, production of the 18s/M2/11J movements decreased dramatically around 1894-1895 as the company used newer models for production. It is important to note that, based on sequential serialization, the run for your movement coincides with this transition.
Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the Grade 92 designation is indeed correct, assigned for a small production of movements just prior to the time of this production transition – perhaps as an attempt to offer a more marketable movement in this older model or to begin clearing existing inventory that had not yet been finished.
Interestingly, when the Grade 99 was reintroduced in the Model 6 form, the movement was slightly upgraded from the Model 2 variations with features very similar to the Grade 92. So, using all this information, it appears that the Grade 92 could have served as a Model 2 “prototype” for what the Grade 99 became when the Model 6 version was introduced.
The Grade 92 was likely a limited production run to experiment with different features or clear existing inventory as the Model 2 production was in decline. While the Grade 92 is closely related to the Grade 99, there are enough differences in the Model 2 production to conclude the Grade 92 is a separate classification.
As always, this interpretation could be changed in the future if additional records or source material is found. For now, I consider this to be a very uncommon grade that represents a production transition in the company’s history.