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Always"watching"

Rolls and Royce Equals ... Watches?

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Forget high class limousines and aero engines for now, and concentrate on Rolls and Royce watches, for there are indeed watch brands that use both of these illustrious surnames.

Let us start, logically in view of Rolls Royce the company, with Rolls. And the Rolls watch story is inextricably bound up with Blancpain and the development of automatic watches.

In the mid-1920s, Frederic-Emile (acute accents on both 'e's of Frederic) Blancpain, who was interested in the challenges of automatic winding, met the British watchmaker, John Harwood, who had been working on a solution to the problem of automatic winding in wristwatches. The two men collaborated and, using a Blancpain base movement, developed an automatic wristwatch in 1926 which utilised a thick winding rotor off the end of the movement. The rotor could describe a 180 degree arc as it moved back and forth within its channel, and thus it acted as a power source for the mainspring and therefore the watch. Blancpain themselves claim that the Harwood/Blancpain effort was the first successful automatic wristwatch, although automatic winding had previously been seen in a few pocket watches.

Frederic-Emile Blancpain was not wholly satisfied with the creation of one type of automatic movement for his watches, partly because it was not feasible to use Harwood's rotor within small ladies' watches, and it wasn't long before he was experimenting again. This time, he collaborated with the French watchmaker Leon Hatot, who developed a different form of winding system by placing the entire movement within a carriage that would allow it the move back and forth, so powering the watch. In order to reduce the friction created by the sliding action, the watch was fitted with ball bearings between the movement and its carriage - hence the name of the new watch, the Rolls. I have read that Blancpain chose the name out of deference to the famous British car maker Rolls Royce, but although there may have been a "subliminal" reference to Rolls Royce, the naming of the watches clearly celebrated the new automatic winder. The Rolls Blancpain movement was introduced in 1930 into women's'watches, and these bear the legend "ROLLS" on the dial. It is not clear when the Rolls watches ceased production, but it may have been just prior to World War Two. I should say that in addition to the name "ROLLS" which appears on the dial, the watches are also sometimes given the "subtitle" of "ATO", which is evidently a reference to the inventor and named patentee of the movement, Leon Hato. Hatot was a celebrated horological figure and French patriot and he worked for a number of the top watch companies as well as experimenting with electric clocks in the 1920s that he himself branded "ATO". he died in 1953.

 

 

An original Blancpain chromed Rolls ladies' automatic wristwatch (pic from watchestobuy.com):

rollsladiess.JPG

 

 

Early Blancpain Rolls wristwatch showing more clearly the lack of a conventional crown and the lift-up bezel which reveals a wheel to reset the hands (pic from 4.bp.blogspot.com):Rolls+watch.jpg

 

 

So far so good - generally speaking, if you find a genuine Swiss vintage watch bearing the legend "ROLLS" on the dial that has a named Hatot Blancpain automatic movement, then you essentially know where you are. However, there are unfortunately some problems for collectors associated with Blancpain Rolls watches. These are highlighted by an extraordinary advert online for a Rolls gents chronograph. In the advertisement, the seller claims that the watch is a genuine Blancpain Rolls example, yet also sometimes includes the name "Venus" when naming the watch, which is a watch company in its own right and nothing to do with Blancpain. Secondly the movement of the advertised watch does not appear to be a Blancpain (nor an automatic) movement, and thirdly, the brand name on this watch is actually "Roll's" and not "Rolls." This last distinction is crucial, as the Blancpain examples are "ROLLS" watches.

The advert mentioned above also throws up a couple of other interesting questions - reinforced by a few other so-called "ROLLS" watches encountered. The first question concerns the use of the Rolls movement in gents watches. I have seen a vintage "ROLLS" watch containing a circular Blancpain movement illustrated that is a hand wind affair, and isn't a Rolls-type automatic. I do not know how many Blancpain Rolls watches were made in gents sizes and styles, and I am not sure if Blancpain might have used the name "Rolls" as a brand name to define certain models that don't actually contain Hatot's winding system. Another question concerns the use of the Rolls movement in chronographs - was it or wasn't it? And when exactly did Blancpain abandon the Rolls winding system and/or the use of the legend "ROLLS" on the dial. As far as I know there are both gents' and ladies' Rolls watches, and they are perhaps virtually all rectangular in case shape, with perhaps some square examples, and have no conventional crown. The actual Blancpain movement used in the Rolls watches was a high quality 15-jewel item.

 

 

Advertising material from the 1930s for the Rolls watch - note the comparison with the sundial made because the Rolls watches needed no conventional winding crown (pic from antiquew.com/imgsn):

ato_24.jpg

 

 

Frederic-Emile Blancpain died in 1932, and with him died an incredible era of innovation at the company as well as the Blancpain name - Frederic-Emile had no male heirs. Fortunately, the company remained in good hands, when Betty Fiechter and Blancpain sales director Andre (acute accent on the e) Leal purchased the business in June 1933, naming it Rayville-Blancpain.

Having discussed the Blancpain Rolls watches, we must move on to the Royce designation, and here matters are a little more straightforward. Put simply, Royce was a brand name used on watches made by the Eska company. Eska arose at the end of World War One in 1918 to take advantage of the sudden upsurge in demand for wristwatches. The full name of the company was Sylvan Koch & Cie. S.A. of Grenchen, and among its many brand names we find Eska itself - the phonetic spelling of Kocher's initials in French - Cedreclaire  and Royce. In 1922, the firm was established in the neighboring town of Selzach although it continued to use Grenchen in post World War Two advertising.

 

 

Elegant 8mm thick gents' Royce wristwatch with 37mm case and thin bezel. Probably c.1960 (pic from watchestobuy.com):

RoyceLarges.JPG

 

 

Eska is one of the lesser known quality Swiss watch companies making a variety of watches including hand wind and mechanical examples; simple watches including chronometer watches and watches with complications were part of the product mix, including chronographs, calendar watches and models with digital displays. Interestingly, S. & E. Kocher and co. also made mechanical watches in "Reverso" cases as pioneered by Jaeger LeCoultre, notably producting these when their creator concern had temporarily abandoned the style. It would seem that Eska was probably not what could be termed a "primary" watchmaking concern, and movements were bought in, including at least some from ETA. Eska was therefore likely to be an assembler and finisher of its watches, and movements were certainly signed by Eska Watch. The final end of the Eska company came some time in the 1980s, and it is not known for how long the brand legend "ROYCE" was used on various Eska watches. The name seems to have been owned by Kocher from the beginning, and there are certainly Royce-marked mechanical watches from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

In November 2011 there was a thread current on our good old Watch Forum concerning a Royce watch which was said to contain a Rolex movement and have been made for the Italian Navy. There were various mentions on the thread of the movement actually coming from either ETA or Adolf Schildt, and it was also mentioned that from 1951, Royce watches, together with others from Eska, were imported into the USA as the company had a presence in Baltimore at that time. As for the demise of Eska/Royce watches, it would seem that at some stage the trademark for Royce passed to a German company, Tutima Gmbh, although Kocher & Cie are still (as of 2011) registered in Grenchen, Switzerland. For those who want to look at this forum topic and thread, then the title is "Royce Mystery Watch Info..." and it was posted on 24 November 2011 by Deviant.

 

 

Gold filled 1950s Royce manual wind watch with 32.75mm case (pic from roycewatches.com):

 RoyceTwoTones.JPG

 

Before signing off, I must emphasize that I have been dealing in this topic with two specific categories of Rolls and Royce watches. The use of these names, either alone or together, may occur on watches by other manufacturers at different times, and I have obviously not tried to be exhaustive in my deliberations on Rolls, Royce, and Rolls Royce branded watches.

 

 

Royce chrome plated manual wind wristwatch from 1972 with an ETA movement (pic from watchestobuy.com):

RoyceOranges.JPG

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Fascinating Honour....love the way they got the name Rolls. Thanks for posting :thumbsup:

Rog

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Very interesting. :thumbsup:

Thanks for the time and effort you have taken to put together such an informative post.:yes:

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Thanks so much for the "likes" and the posts on this thread. Nice to know my work is appreciated.:) One quick spelling correction - Adolf Schildt should be spelled Adolf Schild, without that final 't'. 

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p.s.    the branding and face desighn on your first pic. of the art deco "Rolls".....probably lost credence during the 1960s.....when "FAB and SWISS ROLLS"....entered the public imagination.....along with "JAMES BOND"/"moeris/rolex.....i dont suppose product placement was much pondered on then.....nowdays im sure "BROCCOLI" and "Swiss Rolls"........can be found in any good iceland outlet....whereas an aston martin db5 would now cost a darn lot more than a "rolls royce silver shadow....".....and a new bently and breitling.....you could probably buy for the cost of the advertising of broccoli or swiss rolls over the christmas period.....i suspect brussels sprouts would win that battle.....however....if you are served with a swiss roll/broccoli/brussels sprouts/rolex/moeris/royce/rolls/rolls royce/aston martin.......god bless ya all and a merry christmas....and make sure you you thank santa....have you been good?he's @Always"watching" :)

 

 

 

 

 

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