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> IWC "Seeland" Watches ...
IWC "Seeland" Watches with UK Hallmarks
300 Discussions and Comments
OK Michael, the threads up, just has to be filled with life now ;-)
31 Discussions and Comments
In 1879 a Select Committee of the UK House of Commons (the lower house of parliament) was set up to look into the hallmarking of foreign items. In its report in May 1879 the committee said:
The chief complaint against the operation of the existing law comes from the manufacturers of watches and watch-case. They have established by evidence that within the last few years a practice has sprung up, and is rapidly increasing, under which foreign-made watch-cases are sent to this country to be Hall-marked with the British Hall-mark, and are afterwards fitted with foreign movements, and are not then unfrequently sold and dealt in as British made watches; and they assert that this not only injures their own reputation and lowers the credit of British workmanship, but is contrary to the spirit and intention of our legislation. The Assay Offices are unable legally to refuse to Hall-mark these foreign watch-cases when brought for assay by registered dealers, though their officials are practically able to distinguish them from cases of British manufacture.
That Parliament has recognised the distinction between foreign and British plate is shown by the provisions of an Act 30 & 31 Vict. c. 82, s. 24, which requires all imported plate to be marked before sale with the letter F in an oval escutcheon, "in order to denote that such gold or silver plate was imported from foreign parts, and was not wrought or made in England, Scotland, or Ireland.
Until the practice of Hall-marking foreign watch-cases sprang up, the British Hall-marks were taken to indicate British workmanship, and your Committee cannot doubt that foreign watches in watch-cases so Hall-marked are frequently sold as of British manufacture. The Committee are therefore of opinion that all foreign-made watch-cases assayed in this country ought to be impressed with an additional distinctive mark (the letter F, by reason of its resemblance to existing marks, is not sufficiently distinctive) indicative of foreign manufacture, and that the law ought to be altered accordingly.
It is interesting to note that the report says that the practice of having foreign made watch cases marked with UK hallmarks had started recently (i.e. not long before 1879) and was rapidly increasing.
The committee were concerned that although, since 1867, a letter "F" was legally required to be struck alongside the other UK hallmarks, this was not a sufficiently distinctive mark, and could easily be confused with other marks usually struck in the case. The general public only looked out for the well-known lion symbol and on seeing it assumed that the case, and therefore the watch, was made in the UK. They didn't mention that some foreign manufacturers were still managing to get cases hallmarked without the "F" mark even though this was by then illegal.
The committee recommended that all foreign-made watch-cases be impressed with an additional distinctive mark, and the law was altered later that year so that from 1 January 1888 completely different hallmarks were struck into foreign watch cases, and the lion mark was no longer used.
Are the dates of this report in May 1879 and the disappearance of Seeland in the summer of 1879 just pure coincidence? Or had Seeland built his apparent success on passing off his new designs of watches and their UK hallmarked cases as British, thereby achieving higher prices for them? We shall probably never know, but the coincidences are interesting.
Regards - David
2,643 Discussions and Comments
So, David, the real challenge is to look for IWC "Seeland" watches which have besides the British silver marks an additional letter "F". I wonder whether these cases exist!