Grandfather Percy DeWillard Smith’s Pocket Watch (1845)

Open source, educational art.

Grandfather Percy DeWillard Smith’s Pocket Watch (1845)


Percy tried to get into RAF (Royal Air Force) during WWI around age 16-18. 1914-1918. The note included said he may have bought the watch in London about that time. However, I have dated the finishing of the watch to around 1845. I’m thinking it may have been his father’s since it still has the original retail box. Although, it’s possible he bought it used at that time. He then came to New York with family in about 1919.

He married Tyyne Marie Lainio on July 19th 1922 in Brooklyn. Tyyne immigrated from Finland with a sister(?) as teenager a few years earlier(?), and enrolled in nursing school. They sold the gold watch case “for food” money during hard times of depression. 1929-1930?

In 19??, it was passed on to his son. Then onto his son’s wife, Janice Mae Smith – my grandmother on my stepdad’s side – who kept it safe, and included the notes of it’s origin. I was gifted it by my stepdad when his mom passed.


J.R. Arnold Cha Frodsham, 34 Strand London. No. 2 key wind and set (key is missing). Size 11s  (38.95mm) pocket chronometer watch movement. Serial no. 6605. Made circa 1845. The three quarter plate movement is gilt brass. Spade and whip blued steel hands. Blued steel hairspring and screws.  Raised screw set, round cut natural diamond balance capstoneChain fusee. Bosley regulatorDetent escapement. Corrosion on some steel parts. Mainspring is wound tight. Does not tick.

Original white ceramic face with black roman numerals. Sunken second dial. Hour hand is broken off. Second hand is detached.  

Original 17 4/16 ligne (38.9mm) crystal with tiny chip. Center accent.

Inside original Arnold and Co. Box; leather and velvet with brass hinges and latch. Warped; so it does not close all the way.

Everything in surprisingly good condition

The missing gold case may have looked something like this:


John Arnold (Sr.) was the first to use the detent escapement with an overcoil balance spring (patented 1782) and with this improvement his watches were the first really accurate pocket timekeepers, keeping time to within 1 or 2 seconds per day. These were produced from 1783 onwards.

John Roger Arnold (1769-1843) served as apprentice for his father and Abraham Louis Breguet. His father and he founded the company Arnold & Son in 1787, a business that John Roger continued after his father’s death in 1799. He became Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1817 and took John Dent into partnership between 1830 and 1840. After his death in 1843 the company was purchased by Charles Frodsham.  He immediately changed his firm’s name to Arnold Frodsham to take advantage of the wonderful reputation of the Arnolds. Quite a bit of material was left over as work in process and was finished by Frodsham over the next few years until around 1850. By 1858 Charles Frodsham had developed his own reputation to the point where he no longer needed the help of Arnold’s name and he dropped it. Establishing the firm of Charles Frodsham & Co, which remains in existence as the longest continuously trading firm of chronometer manufacturers in the world.


The fusee chain mechanism is an amazingly complex system of gears and levers, used to maintain a uniform force while unwinding the mainspring in a mechanical watch. It is a true marvel of horology, featuring an intricately shaped chain that winds around a conical drum, increasing or decreasing the force applied to the mainspring. This mechanism was first developed in the 15th century, and saw great popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in pocket watches, which required a more compact and portable design.

However, with great ingenuity often comes great human cost. In the 19th century, orphanages and work camps were established specifically for the manufacture of chain links for these watches. Young children with nimble fingers were forced to work incredibly long hours under horrific conditions to produce the tiny links, which required an enormous amount of skill and precision.

Thankfully, the practice of using child labor in the production of these exquisite mechanisms was eventually abolished.



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