LONGINES, Switzerland, retailed by MAPPIN & WEBB, London. Case No 3403954


A fine quality Borgel cased wristwatch in lovely condition, with 1st World War provenance.

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Two-piece silver case with jointed lugs and Patent 'screw in' movement holder, import hallmarked London 1917, sponsor's mark AB (Alfred Baume), the rear engraved for its original owner: F T HINSLEY June 2nd 1915 - Oct 7th 1918. Longines calibre 13.34 15 jewel gilded movement, also stamped B&Co (Baume & Co). Straight line detached lever escapement with steel club-tooth escape. Compensation balance, balance-spring with overcoil. Perfect enamel dial with radium filled 'skeleton' numerals and hands, additionally signed (printed) for Mappin. 35.5mm diameter.

Mappin & Webb, Silversmiths to His Majesty King George V at this time, retailed these watches under the title of their 'Campaign Watch' and were well known for them by the time the 1st World War broke out, having advertised wristwatches for military use from before 1900. This makes them the earliest known retailers of men's wristwatches anywhere in the world. NB: I am not forgetting the claims made by Girrard Perregaux, but they have so far failed to supply any evidence to back up such a claim - until they do...

Longines, St Imier, Swizerland, one of the most venerable Swiss companies and one of the best (I think the best) who were making wristwatches at this early period. Longines have a long association with Alfred Baume & Co who were their main import agents in England.

Francois Borgel (1856-1912), Geneva. The most important manufacturer of early water- and dirt-resistant wristwatch cases: English Patent No 20422, October 1891. See the article on Borgel by Dennis Harris in the November 1997 issue of the Horological Journal and the later work by David Boettcher available via his website. I also attach my line drawing of a typical Borgel wristwatch case and how the movement can be unscrewed only when the spring loaded button is withdrawn.

Lieutenant, later I believe Captain, F T Hinsley served in the Royal Garrison Artillery in the 1st World War, making this one of the few watches that could rightfully be described as a so-called 'trench' watch. From repair and cleaning scratches inside the case, it looks as though this watch may have also been used during the 2nd World War, a great testament to the quality of Longines and Borgel at this time.

The hands have been re-lumed at some point and the Mappin name partly faded, otherwise the watch has survived in very good original condition. Fitted with a used, but still usable, half inch (13 mm) open-ended black leather strap - a classical combination of the period and ideal for anyone who likes the earlier style of wristwatch. Not cleaned by me but will tick happily when wound.