Leigh Extence
Fine Antique Clocks

D.H. Bacon (known as author Max Cutmore)  - The Watch Movement Collection & Related Items

Dennis Bacon (Max Cutmore)  ‘I had no interest in collecting anything until on a wet day in 1968 I happened to walk into Lancaster  Museum and was confronted with a display of verge watch movements. On my way home I stopped  in Tewksbury and found a jeweller’s shop which had a verge watch for sale. Since then I have been  ‘hooked’.’ (D.H. Bacon, writing as Max Cutmore, in ‘Collecting & Repairing Watches’)  Having been one of the leading academics in the engineering field, writing many papers and text  books on the subject, Dennis Bacon turned his hand to pocket watches, at first as a collector, then  as a researcher and then finally, under the pseudonym Max Cutmore, as an author penning a  number of articles for the Antiqurian Horological Society magazine and writing five authoritive  books on the subject including ‘Watches, 1850-1980’, carrying on the work of previous writers  such as Leonard Weiss. He built up a collection of pocket watches ranging from early French  pieces up to pin-pallet examples by Rosskopf and Ingersoll including others by such innovators  as Litherland, John Arnold, Dent and Grant etc. As time passed and Dennis became more  immersed in the subject he came to the conclusion that ‘my main interest lies in the watch movement,  because the case is simply a ‘box’ to keep the ‘timekeeper’ safe from damage’ and so hence he started to buy  movements without their cases and ended up at one point with just two pocket watches left from  his extensive collection; his last purchase, the John Bull watch and his first as mentioned by him  above, the Tewksbury purchase. He did consequently buy further pocket watches later in his life  but by this time purely on value as movements. Having obtained funding to take a sabbatical  from his teaching engineering at Plymouth, Dennis embarked on his major work, the reference  book ‘Watches, 1850-1980’, spending many hours in Geneva, the UK and trawling through the  libraries of major institutions and museums. Dennis Bacon kept scrupulous notes, with each watch and movement having an index card with  photograph, describing the type of watch, the escapement, balance, cock, bridge and details of the  maker as he had at hand at the time. His research material extends to a number of boxes and one  large filing cabinet where again all the material is placed into categories and the notes for each  book or article written by him held in folders alongside the manuscripts and proofs for each. He  also kept all his correspondence with the Swiss manufacturers, with whom he struck up lasting  relationships and friendships, as well as the letters to such horological luminaries as Beresford  Hutchinson and others, these showing the developing respect held between a number of the top  collectors and horological academics of the period.  Amongst the many thousands of movements in this collection their are examples showing the  development of movement manufacture from the cottage industry of areas such as Llangollen  (D.H. Bacon having written the book ‘Watchmaking in Llangollen by Robert Hughes’) through to  the innovations of various makers such as Litherland and Nicole, the rise of the Prescot and  Coventry manufactureres and the intrigue and politics that ensued, and onto the mass-production  of the pin-pallet watch of the twentieth-century, each step fascinatingly linked by movements,  research and names into a coherent time-line. There are not only pieces from the English  manufactures but many examples from the American makers such as Elgin and Waltham as well  as movements from Geneva makers and examples of later German watches. Of particular interest  are the ‘blanks’ or ‘grey’ movements, some without pivot holes and with un-cut fusees, that are  still in their original boxes waiting for finishing.  Within the collection is a box of some one hundred plus dust covers that he went onto research  each having only the makers initials stamped within. From this limited information Dennis was  able to establish who made these covers and who they supplied. There are also hundreds of  enamel dials, some bearing the stamps on the rear of the dialmakers, as well as large numbers of  other watch parts. Many of the movements are incomplete or in pieces, some have no dials or hands whilst others are in near mint condition. It is very much an eclectic collection when it comes to condition as Dennis  was mainly interested in the mechanics of the movements, with quite a number that, although  complete, are parts in a box as he dismantled those he found of interest, but didn’t always put  them back together. The correspondence between himself and his publisher, David & Charles of Newton Abbot, is  particularly revealing showing his bullish nature when dealing with the changes expected at the  final editing phase. But also shown, by his correspondence with Dr Dennis Vaughan the then  editor of ‘Antiquarian Horology’, is his ability to listen to others and learn how to improve his  style of writing and presentation. 
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There is still a fair way to go in searching through the files to observe what Dennis Bacon may have found in regards to a number  of obvious gaps in his manuscripts, both published and unpublished. For instance he only fleetingly discusses the attempt by the  Swiss watchmaker Pierre Frederic Ingold to establish a foot-hold in the English watch manufacturing business utilising machinery  to manufacture interchangeable watch parts, even setting-up the British Watch & Clock Company in 1842 to produce these  cheaper watches, only to come up against the might of the traditionalists in the watch making community who forced Ingold to  abandon the idea through a debate in the Houses of parliment. Maybe because there are no movements to be had Bacon decided  there was nothing for him to delve into, or quite possibly somewhere amongst all the paperwork still to be sorted there will be  this research. He seems to have also skirted over the Clerkenwell watch manufacturing trade to a degree, apart from the firm of  J.W. Benson and one or two others. Again, there may well be further research hidden away in the depths of the mountains of  folders stacked in boxes.  At the beginning of 2012 I was asked by Dennis Bacon’s son Julian if I would be interested in acquiring the watch and movement  collection along with all the related material and ephemera and it was decided that in doing so I would keep it all together for  future study. This was to be quite a challenge, for although I have an interest in watches through being intimately involved in the horological  trade for many years, my main interest is in antique clocks. I therefore needed to research quickly and learn sharply about this  new subject, but luckily my interest soon turned into obsession and so many early-morning and late-nights later this first  representation of the collection is now available. Obviously there are many areas that are still fairly cloudy so any further  additions to the research, corrections to that already done, or advice that others may see fit to impart will be most gratefully  received especially where there are obvious, and not so obvious, mistakes to be rectified.  It is my intention to set-up a website to chart the research into this collection over the next few years and to collate it all into a small  permanent exhibition, updated details of which will appear on this page.  Due to space restrictions, biographies of well-known makers are kept to a minimum as these details are readily available  elsewhere.  For news on the collection please email or phone with your details and I shall make contact as the catalogue is updated and when  Part Two: American, Swiss and Continental Movements becomes available. 
The first purchase that set Dennis Bacon on his quest: The Powell Watch