Watch's origin: English
Case: James Jackson
Manufacturer: R. Roberts
Type of Watch: Pocket
Dimension: 58mm in diameter; 29mm thick
The word fusee comes from the French fusée and late Latin fusata, meaning "spindle full of thread." While the origin of the fusee drive is unknown, many believe it appeared with the first spring driven clocks in the 15th century. The idea probably did not originate with clockmakers, since the earliest known example is in a crossbow windlass shown in a 1405 military manuscript. Drawings from the 15th century by Filippo Brunelleschi and Leonardo da Vinci show fusees. The earliest existing timepiece with a fusee drive was a clock made for Phillipe the Good, Duke of Burgundy about 1430, now in the Germanisches National Museum.
To wax a bit technical, a fusee is a spirally grooved, conical pulley and chain arrangement for counteracting the diminishing power of the uncoiling mainspring.
The mainspring is coiled around a stationary axle (arbor), inside a cylindrical box, the barrel. The force of the spring turns the barrel. In a fusee clock, the barrel turns the fusee by pulling on the chain, and the fusee turns the clock's gears.
Because of the size of a fusee movement, watches containing the mechanism tend to be bulkier than what we would consider a "modern" pocket watch of the late 19th, early 20th century.
The horological community has reverence for the fusee, as it is the great-grandfather of all the timepieces we carry, wrist and pocket. During its earliest incarnations, it was less of a pocket watch and more of a pocket-clock – often with only one hand that indicated the hour. Each part of the watch, from its mechanism to its case, including its thin bicycle-like chain, was made by hand. To take every precaution of keeping dust from the mechanism, they were housed in rococo "pair-cases"; a watch-within-an-outer case. Early examples were so expensive they were available only to the richest patrons. Such works of horological, tactile art are unrivalled to this day.
By the time the 19th century rolled around, the chain-driven fusee had been replaced by more modern mechanisms; thinner and more suited for everyday use.
Toward the end of its reign, the only remaining use for the fusee was in marine chronometers, where the highest precision was needed and bulk was less of a disadvantage.
This is a rather special occasion for Strickland Vintage Watches: While we've spent the last 20 years bringing rare timepieces to discerning patrons, we've never offered a chain-driven fusee on our site, preferring to represent pieces from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. However, this piece was offered to us from the estate of the family who owned it for many years: We chose to accept it because it is in such remarkable, original condition.
It is a simple, dignified thing: a heavy, hand-made, solid sterling silver pair-case fusee made in England around 1830 or so. In its outer case, it measures 58mm in diameter, it is a whopping 29mm thick(!), counting what we believe to be its original "bulls-eye" crystal. Open the outer door of the "pair" case and you’ll find the inner-watch, measuring approximately 54 ½ mm in diameter.
The mechanism is key-wound and key-set from the rear; meaning a key is used to both wind and set the mechanism, just like a clock. Opening the hinged inner case reveals an absolutely astonishing work of tactile art: a gorgeous mechanism, hand-made by R. Roberts of London around 1830.
Included with the watch is an equally heavy and impressive solid sterling silver "Albert" watch chain, each link of which is individually hallmarked. The chain has an exceedingly handsome Great Britain "crown" silver coin fob dated 1889. The coin, in frame, measures approximately 40mm in diameter, with an image of Her Majesty Queen Victoria on one side and a representation of St. George the Dragonslayer on the other. Watch, fob and chain together weigh two ounces more than a half a pound.
We're delighted to offer the watch in a period burled wooden box we've drafted for the purpose of presentation. If you're looking for a work of horological art with an extraordinary aura, you've found it.