M. I. Tobias was a well known watchmaker who made mid to high grade watches (mostly fusees) in the early to mid 1800's. At some point around the mid 1800's, however, watches such as this one started showing up with Swiss movements, Swiss cases, and with the name "M. J. Tobias" on the dust covers instead of "M. I. Tobias". Many, if not all, of these were made for export, and the general consensus among experts is that these are basically "Swiss fakes" that used the name "Tobias" as a marketing ploy. There is such a wide variety of quality and workmanship of watches so marked that it is clear that many different companies were involved. Although all the M.J. Tobias watches I have seen used standard Swiss ebauches, a number of them at least came with solid (albeit thin) gold cases, gold dials, lever escapements, and a fair amount of jewels. Others, however, were really bottom of the barrel and had silver or base metal cases, plain enamel dials, cylinder escapements, and as little as 6 jewels. The engravings found on the cases and dials of these watches also vary widely from the very crude to the wonderfully ornate.

As M.J. Tobias watches go, this one is actually rather nice. It is key wind and key set from the rear, has a flawless gilt dial and an ornate 18k gold case, and measures 45 mm in diameter. The movement, although a typical Swiss ebauche from the mid 1800's, has a lever escapement and 13 jewels. The back of the case has engine turned engraving with a small uninitialed shield. The dust cover has fancy engraving with inlaid enamel and reads "DETACHED LEVER", "13 JEWELS", "No. 12044", "M.J. TOBIAS" and "LIVERPOOL". The rear cover is marked with the name "F.H. LOCKWOOD" and the same serial number as the dust cover. This watch was most likely made for the American export market, as evidenced by the American eagle engraved on the gold dial. Again, a pretty nice watch, even if it is "just" a Swiss fake.

I basically traded with a friend for this watch. At the time, he collected railroad grade watches, and I preferred old keywind watches. So, I gave him a nice 21 jewel Bunn Special plus $100 for this watch. I'm not sure who made out better, but we're both happy....

Dust Cover

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