M. I. Tobias was a well known watchmaker who made mid to high grade watches (mostly fusees) in the early to mid 1800's. During his lifetime, a number of well-made forgeries of his watches were made by various English and Swiss makers. In addition, at some point around the mid 1800's lesser-grade watches started showing up with obvious 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.

This particular watch, however, is actually a genuine Tobias watch. It measures 50mm in diameter, has a fusee movement with an early Massey Type II escapement, and is key wind and key set. The watch is housed in a heavy, solid 18K gold, open-face case which bears English hallmarks dating to 1824. The watch is very highly jeweled for this time period, and has the distinctive large, clear jewels commonly referred to as "liverpool windows". The movement is marked "M.I.TOBIAS & Co.", "Lord Street", "Liverpool" and "7223". The balance cock is marked "PATENTED" and "DETACHED". The inner lid of the case and the inside of the removable dust cover are both marked with the same serial number that is found on the movement, which indicates that the movement is original to the case. The outer lid of the case is marked with the casemaker's initials, T.H. & Co. (which I've been told stands for Thomas Helsby, a well-known Liverpool case maker), as well as "T & C" (which I've been told stands for "Tobias & Co.")

Having spoken with a well-known expert on Tobias watches, Mr. Michael Edidin, I have recently learned that watches produced by the Michael Tobias's company were signed with different names according to their grade, and that “M.I. Tobias & Co.” was reserved for top grade watches. In addition, the very finest of these were also signed “Lord Street,” which would make my watch among the very finest. Mr. Edidin has also informed me that the serial number on my watch makes it the earliest known example of a Lord Street model, which explains why it has the earlier Massey Type II escapement instead of the more common Massey Type III usually found in these watches.

Dust Cover 1
Dust Cover 2

Oh -- and just in case anyone is wondering what the difference among a regular lever escapement, a Massey Type II, and a Massey Type III is, here are some images I shamelessly swiped from http://www.antique-watch.com:

Standard lever escapement

Massey Type II

Massey Type III

The difference between the Type II and Type II Massey escapements is rather subtle, and has to do with whether the cylindrical "roller" jewel is supported at both the top and bottom or just at the top.

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