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Object Record

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Object Name Watch
Catalog Number 2007.5.5
Collection Watch
Other Name Hermetic Watch
Date c. 1930
Description Brief description: Square silver and Niello clam shell case, manual winding, detached lever, hermetic (purse) watch.
Square metal gold Arabic dial with luminous (radium) numerals and hands, subseconds at 6 o'clock, mounted in a silver and Niello-decorated case that pops open to reveal the time by a single pusher.
Dial marked BOREL, SWISS
Crown at "3" winds and sets hands.

Producer name: Borel Fils & Cie
Production date: Circa 1930
Made in: Europe, Switzerland
Dimensions: 35 millimeters (case)
Movement: 13 jewels, 505539
Case (inside):

Curator's comments:
Borel Fils & Co. SA, Neuchatel, founded in 1850.
A 1931 advertisement said that it assembled watches and produced precision watches and others of good running quality; it specialized in men's gold watches, gold wristwatches, and watch movement boxes.

Niello is a black metallic substance of silver, lead, copper, and sulfur heavily used in the 1900s; it is now banned.

This timepiece is stem wound and set, with detached lever escapement and brass movement.
(See also NAWCC object ID: 86.37.3, 2007.5.2, 2007.5.3, 2007.5.4, 2007.5.5, F553.99.)

Hermetic, from the French word hermetique, means sealed.
This style of watch, also known as the purse watch, was introduced in the mid-1920s. These hermetic/purse watches were enclosed in a protective case (shell). Although total numbers produced were small, many styles and innovative methods of opening the cases exist.
They are now regarded as both timepieces and art objects. The watch movement is usually Swiss made.
The hermetic or sealed watch was pioneered by the Swiss watchcase manufacturers Huguenin, Davoine, and Huguenin of Le Locle, who traded as Huguenin Frères et Cie, Fabrique Niel. Their English patent No. 278,669 of October 11, 1926, details the construction and performance of a watchcase made in two halves, which closed to seal the watch inside.

Initially, these watches were designed to be wound in the normal way using a button on the movement. However, the firm of Movado in La Chaux de Fonds took over the concept and in 1927 patented its modification of the system to incorporate an automatic winding system that used racks fitted inside the case to rotate a winding pinion when the case was opened and closed. The mainspring was provided with a slipping system to prevent it from being overwound. The design was given the English patent No. 296,721 on September 6, 1927. (See NAWCC vertical files "HERMETIC.)

The hermetic was developed to create a completely sealed watch that could be carried anywhere in a pocket, purse, or handbag. The movement and dial were contained within the two halves of the case, which were pulled apart to reveal the watch. One disadvantage of the early versions was that they required both hands to open and close it.

Maker Borel Fils & Cie
Place of Origin Neuchatel, Switzerland
Notes Donated by Edwin P. Gargel
Serial Number(s) 505539