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Jet Jetski

Harwood Watches - 'The Smaller Players?'.

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Chapter One - Introduction.

You may have seen I bought a 'Harwood' watch with a Selza brand name not too long ago, but you know me, it was, of course, 'non-canonical'.  And I had to do some research.  I discovered some sources to refract, at least, the current light that can be shed on that canon, and enough to elicit jolly nice responses from some heroic figures, frankly.  I am much obliged to the information and / or encouragement I received from David Boettcher, Michael Stern and Roland Ranfft; and of course I had also done quite a lot of sleuthing by then to gain, frankly, very little hard information but sufficient, I hoped, to make my enquiries worthy of their time.  OK, so Roland Ranfft wasn't that encouraging (the parts of the main players are complicated enough, so good luck with the smaller ones!) but that was obviously reverse psychology, to spur me on.
 
I felt that my watch was not a 'bitsa' because the Harwood movement, the Harwood case and the Harwood bezel are interconnected and inseperable from the purpose and function of self-winding, and so not the sort of thing that gets re-cased.  Also, even the strap looked of the age, and has tiny initials scratched on the buckle, only visible under a loupe, so the strap had presumably been on a piece that someone thought valuable (hopefully my 'Harwood').  Moreover, there have been a number of other Selza branded watches (So far I have found Luxor, Organa, and Solix) containing Harwood movements on sale too.  Too many, to my mind, for that to be a coincidence.
 
But evidence for the involvement of Selza, where to find it? - Well, while in Switzerland John Harwood stayed at the home of Victor Gisiger, the owner of Selza watches [1], who put him in touch with Cesar Schild (who went on to make the  Harwood movement blanks) and Schild in turn was a friend of Walter Vogt the owner of Fortis who made the first production run of watches, and launched them at the Basel Watch Fair in 1926. 
 
Although the French / Spanish license (Blancpain) and the American license (Perpetual Self Winding Watch Co) had been granted by Harwood in 1928 [2], it does not appear to me that Fortis paid Harwood for a license to use the technology straight away, because there is evidence that Vogt did pay (for what he believed to be exclusive rights to the technology) towards obtaining that license in July 1929, and only then as part of a company including one of Harwood's original backers - Philip Alexander .
 
20Jul29VogtHarwood2.jpg.7da5d07d1126ae3935216c47cd37ac41.jpg
 
Instead, in those early times, it seems more likely that Fortis were being employed by The Harwood Self-Winding Watch Company Limited or an associated entity (e.g. Harwatch Syndicate) to produce watches to which Harwood "prudently" still owned the rights[2] to distribute and license to other brands. 
 
Harwood-Katalogtitel.png
 
So the Fortis Factory would also be the Harwood Factory,   https://www.fortis-swiss.com/brand-heritage :
 
image.png.b8993b6628b55ee029d15e0397dc31cf.png
 
and there is evidence that John Harwood hand finished the early production runs (Horological Journal Issue 99 1957), although John Harwood Jnr, talking about his father to Simon De Burton, simply said "he supervised its manufacture" (QP magazine "A Visionary's Tale").
 
Harwood's entrepreneurial venture, The Harwatch Syndicate, comprising John Harwood, Harry Cutts and two brothers from Manchester[3] - Louis and Phillip Alexander - had been capitalised by the brothers to the tune of £62 000 [4] in 1926 to pay for the production of ebauches and watches  ( Approx £3.2 million in today's money  https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator) .
 
And now back to Selza, owned by Victor Gisiger - could they find a slice of the action in this slender window between Harwood going into production and the later bullish warnings by Vogt to other manufacturers to beware of patent infringement?  I think so.
 
Heinz Hempel, on p11 of his book 'Automatic Wristwatches of Switzerland' (Schiffer Publishing Ltd) notes Selza as a re-seller operating mainly in Switzerland - Thanks for that steer go to a Harwood (and other early self-winders) collector from the NAWCC.
 
'Lotteman'[5]  on a Swiss forum was already on the trail back in 2007 where we find Selza in the same breath as the vaunted protagonists, Fortis and Blancpain: "Was ich noch rausgefunden habe ist, daß Selza neben (und nach) Fortis und Blancpain Harwood-Uhren gebaut hat."

The same three are mentioned here: https://www.lexpress.fr/tendances/montre/un-nouveau-regard-sur-le-remontage-automatique_1042535.html

And the real prize, for me, was a note from Michael Stern confirming to me that Selza were licensed to produce Harwood's invention, paraphrasing his text from a 2001 paper, and possibly the fount of the synoptic declarations since:

"So hat, wie die Ebauches-Hauszeitung ausführt, die Firma Selza Watch einige Jahre später die Harwood-Uhr auch auf den Markt gebracht. Es waren aber die Firmen A. Schild AG und Fortis AG, die Initianten zur Fabrikation der automatischen Armbanduhr waren und dafür Pionierdienste geleistet haben." [6]

Don't miss the next thrilling instalment ....  If you can prove any of my info, or my suppositions, wrong, even better, please drop me your sources!  My aim is to get every line evidence based.  Thanks for reading.

[6]          'Die Automatisch Uhr' , 2001  M. Stern retrieved from https://www.info-uhren.de/pdf/die_automatische_uhr.pdf
 
Edited by Jet Jetski
comma missed out
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I really enjoyed this post, I was really expecting Alan who has a 'bumper' and other classic enthusiasts here to contribute further. Maybe they just haven't picked it up yet. There's a fair amount on here about Harwood now.

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