David KEYS Ltd, 91 Piccadilly, London. No 1579


Unusual free-sprung keyless lever watch with helical balance-spring.

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Heavy double back hunter case hallmarked 1901, casemaker F.T (Fred Thoms). Unusual half-plate keyless going-barrel movement jewelled to the 3rd with flat balance-bar fixed to top plate, the frame stamped D KEYS LTD and numbered 16128. Single-roller detached lever escapement. Compensation balance with 11-turn blued-steel helical balance-spring, always free-sprung in English work. Signed enamel dial in perfect condition, blued-steel hands. 54 mm diameter and weighing just under 130 grams gross. 

David Keys & Son 'Chronometer & Watch Manufacturers' 15 Craven St, Strand, also with a retail shop in Piccadilly, a fine and mostly underrated London firm. NB: I have not noted another example of this rare caliper of movement and I am not sure why it does not carry Keys' serial number, 16128,  on the movement, unless the number 1579 refers to the watches sold by the firm as opposed to those made by them.

Fred Thoms, 25 Spencer Street, Clerkenwell, considered to be the finest watch case maker of his day. Thoms died in 1930, after which his business was incorporated into Joseph Walton & Co. This case employs the earlier of two stamps, and should not be confused with the work of Frederick Trahern, using a similar FT stamp, who was based in Coventry.

The watch showing just minor signs of use and the plain covers without any previous engraving or dedication. Serviced and guaranteed.