Who Made This Watch?

James Russell & Cie, Hartford Conn

#20146 by Ron Price

As James Russell watches go, this watch is high quality, including its coin silver open face case (if original). The number on the barrel bridge is 146, but the number inside on the pillar plate is 20146.

This watch looks very much like an 1859 15 jewel Appleton Tracy Model 57. See top and pillar plate photos below comparing it with AT&Co S/N 16447. It is equipped with a sprung under expansion balance with 3.5mm translucent jewels in real jewel settings secured with 3 screws. It has the standard M57 train, 16200 beats per hour, 3-arm blunt-end escape wheel and enclosed English style pallet. It does not have stop works on the main spring; nor does AT #16447 (stop works started around S/N 19000 with the Appleton Tracy). It has a cantilevered potance (holds bottom arbor of balance) which looks like the standard factory part #215 (see picture on Russell #22899 page).

The top plate and pillar plate measure 42.7mm and 45.8mm, respectively, approximately the same as the standard Model 57. The top plate encircles the barrel as on early Model 57s. As best I can determine with dividers, the position of all arbor holes measure exactly with standard Model 57. Several factory dials I tested fit (e.g., AT #27902); although some would line up but the dial feet were a bit too large. The winding arbor seems a little small; e.g., a #6 key fits the winding and setting arbors better than a #5, whereas it is typically the other way with standard model 57s (not always, though). As with the winding arbor, the sizes of many parts vary quite a bit from movement to movement; and therefore comparing these parts with those on the Russell might be meaningful only if they are close (several examples are given below). For example, the size of the winding guard cup varies a lot. I did get consistent measurements for Russell's applied index, screw to screw (14.3mm), with 5 other sprung under movements which ranged from 14.3mm to 14.5mm (PSBs 17053, 24428, 96770, 260518 & 344590). And I also got consistent measurements for the length of Russell's barrel bridge at its base (33.3mm) with 6 other movements which ranged from 33.1mm to 33.4mm (AT 27902 and PSBs 17053, 24428, 96770, 260518 & 344590); the shape of this part is difficult to measure which contributed partly to the variance.

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James Russell #146 on barrel bridge. Both numbers 20146 & 38 on underside of top plate. Note poor Swiss-like gilding.
Appleton Tracy #16447 on barrel bridge; #47 on underside of top plate. Diamond end stone on balance same as on Russell.
The balance bridge on the Russell sure looks a lot like the balance bridge on the Appleton Tracy. It is a bit larger, but maybe not because I have found considerable variance among M57 movements. These bridges are not all that interchangeable as shown in below table comparing total length with head and base width. [I no longer have access to AT #16447 to make measurements]
Movement Russell 20146 PSB 17053 PSB 24428 AT 27902 PSB 96770
Total 31.1mm 30.6mm 30.2mm 29.8mm 30.3mm
Head 16.8mm 15.3mm 15.2mm 14.6mm 15.0mm
Base 11.9mm 12.5mm 12.5mm 11.9mm 12.0mm

Both numbers 20146 and 38 stamped on pillar plate. The number 38 is in the standard M57 location for its subassembly number. Note jewel for the lever arbor was replaced with brass bushing; also makeshift case pin - poor repairs!
The subassembly number 47 is stamped on pillar plate. Note the Russell has the same style 1st series click, oblong ratchet bridge and long bridge. Both movements have the standard peep holes for observing the escapement in motion.
The differences with the long and ratchet bridges are quite small; perhaps the parts are correct, just out of acceptable factory tolerance. Ratio of edges are measured so that they can be compared with photographs; e.g., width/length of the Russell ratchet bridge is 0.592, close to PSB 17053's bridge with ratio 0.576 and PSB 24428's bridge with ratio 0.574. Russell #21147's is 0.621 (a bit larger); #22899's is 0.578. Width of long bridge on Russell 20146 is 7.1mm; PSB 24428 is 7.1mm; AT 27902 is 7.0mm; PSB 260518 is 7.2mm. The foot of the Russell long bridge does have a little different shape, consistant with other Russells.

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Both numbers 46 and 38 are stamped on the underside of the Russell balance bridge. Perhaps #38 is the subassembly number for a factory part. Note the pry slot shown here and in the right and bottom photos. This cut out is not on a Waltham bridge, nor on most Russell bridges.

Train is standard Model 57.

Except for the expansion balance, this watch looks very much like its brother 20145 with the number 145 on the barrel bridge and extra subassembly number 37. Interestingly, the extra subassembly number on 20146 is 38.

One big difference is the dial. This Russell #20146 has the dial with Arabic numerals in script in the style of Moorhouse as on other Russells, but the abbreviation for Company is French, Cie; in fact, ditto for #19841, #19970 and #20093. Both movement and dial are signed James Russell et Cie on #19841. These are the earlier production watches, which sort of kills the idea of being English made. The #20146 dial has the number 46 written on the back.

The signature on the movements like #20146 is in block letters facing the center (i.e., like AT&Co. grade) whereas the signature on the movements like #21147 is in script facing the edge (i.e., like PSB grade). The James Russell watchmaker apparently produced two grades of watches.

There are other differences with factory movements. Note that the ends of the pillars on the pillar plate are not smooth with the surface. The finish of the Russell is not as good as a Waltham M57, to say nothing of the poor gilding.

There are no numbers on the underside of the hour and minute wheels. This is not a big deal, but they are not interchangeable with standard M57 movements that I tried which are interchangeable. The wheels are identical except the holes are smaller to accommodate the smaller cannon pinion and minute wheel stud on the Russell. For example, the minute wheel stud on Russell 20146 is 0.8mm but 0.9mm on the AT #27902. The wheels are interchangeable with Russell #22899. I wonder how they compare with AT #16447. The cannon pinion and minute wheel stud on AT 16447 look smaller in the pillar plate view above.

Screws are another difference. The case screw on Russell 20146 seems to be the same size as on PSB 24428, AT 27902 and PSB 96770, but the threads do not match. The screw is even a different size on Russell 22899. Ditto for the pillar screws with the PSB movements, but the screws are loose in the AT 27902 movement; however, the PSB pillar screws are not interchangeable with the AT screws either. Wish I had acess to AT #16447 to compare its screws.

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