Leigh Extence
Fine Antique Clocks

J.G. Graves - Watch manufacturer & Entrepreneur

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John George Graves (1866–1945), known as George, was a successful English watchmaker, entrepreneur and public benefactor. He  became Sheffield's Lord Mayor and an Alderman in 1926 and he was given Freedom of the City in 1929. He was born in Lincolnshire in  1866 and died in 1945, after having settled in Sheffield.  Graves moved to Sheffield, aged 14, to become an apprentice watchmaker going alone when reaching the age of twenty. He set up one  of Britain's first mail order businesses, selling first watches, having seen a gap in the market for cheaper watches that could be sold on  credit and sensing a market in the working man who he targeted with a large adverts placed in newspapers, most notably the back  page of the London Saturday dailies. He expanded his business to encompass a wide range of goods and the company employed, at  its peak, 3,000 people in Sheffield and had an annual turnover of £1m. The company was absorbed by Great Universal Stores after  Graves' death.  Mr. Graves became involved in the municipal affairs of his adopted city and performed the roles of City Councillor, Lord Mayor and  Alderman. His life was always influenced by his Methodist upbringing and affection for his adopted city. He was greatly enthused by the  public ownership of open spaces. Whatever his motivation, there can be little doubt that he was one of the Sheffield’s great  benefactors.  He made his first gift in 1903 and made many others subsequently in a personal capacity before the formation, on 7 August 1930, of the  Charitable Trust bearing his name which endures today.  The initial funding for the Trust was from shares in his business and this has been carefully nurtured by successive Trustees. Thefunds  have been enhanced over the years by legacies and gains from property transactions, one being truly a “windfall”.  The Trust was chaired and dominated by Mr Graves until his death in 1945. The work has been carried on by the Trustees since his  death under the guidance of succeeding Chairmen.  A keen art collector, Graves donated nearly £60,000 towards the development of art galleries in Sheffield, including Sheffield Central  Library, the Graves Art Gallery and the Mappin Art Gallery. He also contributed hundreds of pictures from his private collection.  Graves donated over £1 million to Sheffield, including the establishment of Sheffield University's Student Union. Part of the Union  building is known as the "Graves Building". He also made gifts of land to the city, including Graves Park, Ecclesall Woods, Tinsley  playing fields, Concord Park and Blacka Moor. The J. G. Graves Trust, a charitable trust set up in his name, exists to the present day.
All H. Williamson made examples with ‘false’ fusee, compensating balance, reverse pinion and normal index. The dials are signed in ink on the back ‘HW’ to show the dial maker that they were destined for Williamson. All dials signed ‘The Express English Lever, J.G. Graves, Sheffield’ with the Graves name in block, and the model type in red and signature in black. 1 15813 Signed in block on the backplate, below the plain backcock, ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield’, the front plate also numbered and stamped with the patent ‘18766. Pat. 22674’. 2 22424 Signed in script on the backpate, above the plain backcock, ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield’, the front plate also numbered and stamped with the patent ‘18766. Pat. 22674’. 3 100709 Signed in block on the backplate, below the plain backcock, ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield’, the front plate also numbered. 4 133396 Signed in block on the backplate, below the plain backcock, ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield’, the front plate also numbered. With a dustcover stamped ‘CHE’ for Charles Errington. 5 150791 Unsigned on the backplate, but with the serial number, the front plate also numbered. All Lancashire Watch Company made examples with ‘false’ fusee, compensating balance and reverse pinion. The Lancashire movements then differ from those from Williamson by having an engraved backcock and a Bosley regulation with raised silvered index. All dials signed ‘The Express English Lever, J.G. Graves, Sheffield’, with the Graves name in block, and the model type in red. The last movement shown, 774373, has the Graves name in script which, having studied other Graves watches in the collection, would appear to have become the norm after the serial number circa 720,000 with a gradual changeover between these numbers. 6 430748 Signed in script on the backplate, below the backcock, ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield’. To show the unusual bolder dial numerals. 7 433332 Unsigned backplate with serial number. 8 494312 Unsigned backplate with serial number. 9 569789 Signed in script on the backplate, below the backcock, ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield’. No dial. Showing the normal Graves Lancashire front plate. 10 710357 Signed in script on the backplate, below the backcock, ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield’. 11 774373 Signed in script on the backplate, below the backcock, ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield’. The dial name in script. 12 702291 To show the dial with script signature. Other Lancashire Watch Company models Interestingly both these models have the model name in black and the signature in red, the opposite to the Express models. 13 98519 Dial signed ‘The Imperial English Lever, J.G. Graves, Sheffield’, the Lancashire Watch Co. movement having a different front plate layout to the Express models and a single barrel without false fusee, with a normal index on the backcock as seen on the Williamson models. The front plate stamped with the trademark ‘LW Co. Ltd.’ along with a repeat of the serial number which is stamped on the backplate with the legend ‘Warranted English Manufacture’, ‘Reversing Pinion’ but otherwise plain with no Graves signature. 14 139076 Dial signed ‘The Defiance English Lever, J.G. Graves, Sheffield’, the Lancashire Watch Co. movement a variation on that above but without the trademark or Warranty. Missing backcock and balance. Ehrhardt model 15 290539 One of only two in the collection made by Ehrhardt, the backplate signed J.G. Graves, Sheffield, 290539, with an engraved backcock, lever escapement with a bi-metallic compensating balance and flat Bosley regulation, and single barrel, the dial signed The Express English Lever, J.G. Graves, Sheffield. The other example is in the Ehrhardt section. Coventry Made model 16  47122 The only Graves example in the collection made by the Coventry Watch Manufactory Company, with a ‘false’ fusee, engraved cock, split bimetallic balance, lower Bosley regulation with the Coventry four-arrows at the mid-point, unusual front plate, the dial signed The Express English Lever in script as in exhibits 10 & 11 and being obviously by the same dial maker. As the Graves mail order business grew, so did the need for watches, at which point the company started importing Swiss made examples. 17 ‘The Westville Lever’ with a Swiss three-quarter plate movement and engraved backcock. Named after the Graves administrative centre opened in 1903. 18 A full-plate Swiss example with lever and engraved backcock, the dial signed ‘J.G. Graves, Sheffield, Swiss made’ with the back of the dust cover similarly signed in script. Dials 19 ‘The Washington Keyless Lever, J.G. Graves. Swiss Made’. 20 A small decorative dial signed ‘J.G. Graves, Swiss Made’.