Large and heavy screw back and front waterproof silver ‘crystal’ case with screw-on cover over the crown, hallmarked London 1899, casemaker PW (Phillip Woodman, Clerkenwell), the case back with coat of arms of the Ffrench family and motto: CE QUOI JE DIS FAIS = What I say I do. Keyless, going-barrel three-quarter plate movement jewelled to the 3rd with cap jewels on balance (diamond), lever and escape. Single-roller detached lever escapement. Free-sprung compensation balance, balance-spring with overcoil. Signed enamel, blued-steel hands. 60 mm diameter and weighing over 230 grams.
Herbert Blockley, 41 Duke Street, St James’s, retailer and supplier of these specially cased waterproof watches for use by Royal Geographical Society members as well as to a few private owners. This example, as most were, was supplied to Blockley by the firm of Usher & Cole and details of its manufacture can be found in the surviving Usher & Cole record books (B18/130 vol 15), now held in the Clockmakers’ Company Library. NB: Not all such cased watches, even most RGS examples, were finished to the same high quality as this example and going-barrel watches without up/down work were often used as the lack of extra complications provided extra security against the possibility of faults developing at an ‘inopportune’ time.
Usher & Cole, famous London makers, suppliers of many top quality watches bearing various retailers names.
I had a quick attempt at tracing to which member of the Ffrench family this watch may have belonged, but without success, though it should be possible to identify the original owner given the motto. As well as the probable provenance this is a rare chance to acquire such a lovely example in good original condition, showing, as it does, few signs of use. This is most unusual with these ‘working’ watches which often had to perform in extreme conditions, this being among the best I have handled. Serviced and guaranteed.
PS: I am presently preparing a Profile on ‘explorers watches’ which I hope will be published later this year.