NICOLE & Co, 19 Claremont Sq, London. No 14089


£ 2,995.00

Fine free-sprung repeater by this little known firm, a perfect example of Swiss/English co-operation.

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Nicely detailed gold hunter case hallmarked London 1878, sponsor's mark (Henry J Nicole, 19 Claremont Square, London). Keyless three-quarter plate half-quarter repeating movement with jewels in gold settings to the 3rd, the ebauche supplied by Lecoultre and the frame stamped with their 'B&LC' within a diamond trademark and their number 1275, the company then being a partnership of Auguste Borgeaud and Le Coultre. Double-roller detached lever escapement. Compensation balance, free-sprung balance-spring with overcoil. Enamel dial with original classic 'English spade' blued-steel hands. 51.5 mm diameter.

The firm of Nicole & Co was set up by David Louis Antoine Nicole who became a specialist watch button maker, and probably supplied most English buttons that are seen. He was the brother of Adolphe Nicole, a partner with Jules Capt in the now far more famous firm of Nicole & Capt. Although operating separately, the firms retained close family contacts and Henry James Nicole, son of David Louis and a specialist in keyless and other complicated work, is stated to have worked for the Nicole & Capt firm for thirty-two years. David Louis was a specialist in designing machine tools and is known to have worked for P-F Ingold, along with his brother Adolphe, first in France and then in London. More can be read about this most interesting firm in Culme (although he mixes up the father David and the son Henry) and in my 2002 essay on 'Pierre Frederick Ingold (1787-1878): His impact on Watchmaking both in Europe and America' published by the NAWCC in 2005

The Le Sentier based firm of Le Coultre are one of the most important of the period supplying most of the repeating movements cased up and sold in the English market during the second half of the 19th century. This was primarily due to the fact that in 1870 Le Coultre were the first to offer cheaper 'machine-made' keyless repeating movements utilising interchangeable parts, though my work in repair and restoration throws some doubt on just how interchangeable the parts really were. One noticeable feature of these movements, often incorrectly sold as English work, is the distinctive diamond pattern on the top plate of blued and polished steel parts holding the keyless work adjacent to the stem.

NB: I reproduce one of the few known adverts placed by the Nicole & Co firm, this from a February 1887 issue of the Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith - the firm had moved to Goswell Road in the heart of the Clerkenwell watch trade by this time. Due to the family's strong and ongoing contacts in Switzerland, David Louis was probably one of the main conduits for Le Coultre's new repeating movements into English work. That said, and though clearly seeking the business of also suppling complete watches, this is the only watch signed by them known to me.

Dial with the usual faint hair crack and some 'chain wear' showing on the bow. Otherwise in fine original condition showing fews signs of use, and the case with no previous dedication or other engraving. Serviced and guaranteed.