NICOLE & CAPT, for E J DENT 'Watchmaker to the Queen' London. No 19154


£ 195.00

Rare early keyless movement of unusually small size, circa 1850-5.

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Typical N&C three-quarter plate going-barrel movement without pillars, jewelled to the 3rd, with Nicole’s first type keyless work with hand-setting, the frame stamped with Nicole's number 2009 next to the foot of the cock. Single-roller detached lever escapement. Compensation balance, spiral balance-spring. Signed enamel dial with seconds at 9 in perfect condition, with blued-steel half-hunter hands. 32.5 mm diameter and only 5 mm deep including winding wheels.

The firm of E J Dent, London, one of the leading watch, chronometer and clock makers of the period - see the book on Edward John Dent and the various Dent firms by Vaudrey Mercer. NB: The great acclaim received by Dent for their watches shown at the great exhibition in 1851 was in large part due to these most stylish and technically ground breaking Nicole & Capt watches.

Adolphe Nicole & Jules Capt (later Nicole, Nielsen & Co), manufacturers of the first successful keyless watches that could be wound and set without opening the case, suppliers initially to Messrs Dent only but later to many other top retailers as well. Adolphe Nicole, Patent No 10,348 of October 1844, includes, amongst other important features, the first commercially successful keyless work for both going-barrel and fusee watches. See my site Glossary for more information about this still underrated London firm. It is as though, once having left the Jura, the Swiss have preferred to eliminate them from horological history altogether - they do not even get a mention in the section on keyless watches in the new Patek Philippe book!

NB: This movement has the intermediate winding wheel in permanent contact with the centre arbor, a technical imperfection which was soon changed to being in permanent contact with the larger winding wheel. With their Ingold-type machines kept away from prying eyes, Nicole & Capt were proud to state that, being “wholesale watch manufacturers,” they could provide any style (and size) of movement required - this is the smallest I have seen.

A rare chance to own a movement from the beginning of both successful keyless work and machine watchmaking, predating Breguet, Patek, Vacheron, Waltham, etc, and small enough to be cased, with some clever keyless work, as a wristwatch - the dial, with the signature and seconds at 9, looking very good indeed. Lacking the bevel winding wheel and its bridge, rather dirty and the mainspring or its pawl broken. Balance pivots OK and the balance swinging freely, but not willing to tick. Sold as not working.