Tavannes Watch Company Serial Numbers
Henri-Frédéric Sandoz (usually just Henri Sandoz; born 1851 Le Locle, died 1913 Tavannes) founded a watch manufacturing company in his own name in 1870 in Le Locle. Henri departed from the company in 1891 and another family member, Jules Sandoz, continued the business.
Tavannes Watch Company Serial Numbers
In 1891, Henri Sandoz set up a watchmaking company in Tavannes, a small municipality in the French-speaking canton of Bern in the Jura mountains. The factory had been constructed by the municipality of Tavannes to attract just such a business to the town.
Sandoz was a talented engineer and under his direction the company developed its own calibres (watch movements) and also advanced automatic machines (specialised lathes, milling machines, etc.) to manufacture them. Tavannes also supplied watchmaking machinery to other manufacturers under the name Tavannes Machines Co. SA.
Occasionally watches are seen that have "Tavanne's Watch" on the dial. This is a grammatical error and a mystery. The name of the town is Tavannes, which is singular and requires no apostrophe. The name of the company was "Tavannes Watch Company" and again an apostrophe would be wrong.
The Langbourne watch has a screw back and bezel case similar to the Submarine watch also made by Tavannes and described in the next section. The Langbourne case is not waterproof; it does not have the gland in the stem tube or recesses for gaskets in the screw back and bezel that the Submarine case watch has. Langbourne cases all carry a reference number 3305910, only three digits short of the reference number seen in all Submarine watch cases, 3305913. This suggests that these numbers are Tavannes case design reference numbers, and that the fully waterproof case of the Submarine watch was a development of the Langbourne case.
All the Submarine wristwatch cases that I have seen carry the same number 3305913 and a shorter three of four digit number. The number 3305913 appears to be a case design reference number, the shorter number seems to be a serial number for the specific watch. The case measures a shade under 35mm diameter, about 34.8mm. This is a typical case size for a Great War era wristwatch with a 13 ligne Swiss movement.
During the Great War, Tavannes supplied watches to Birch & Gaydon who were one of the premier jewellers in London at the time, later acquired by Asprey. The Langbourne has a screw back and bezel case similar to the Submarine watch. The Langbourne case is not waterproof; it does not have the gland in the stem tube or recesses for waxed cotton gasket in the screw back and bezel that the Submarine case watch has. Langbourne cases all carry a reference number 3305910, only three digits short of the reference number 3305913 seen in all Submarine watch cases. This suggests that these numbers are Tavannes case design reference numbers, and that the fully waterproof case of the Submarine watch was a development of the Langbourne case.
It is interesting to note that someone has thought carefully about making the numbers on this dial as visible as possible in low light conditions, . Watches with black dials either have the numerals outlined in skeleton form on an overall black dial, relying on infill paint to make them visible, or blocked out in white as this watch. Block white numerals such as this give the greatest contrast to the black of the dial and are clearly visible even when the paint is missing. The white background of the numbers ensured that light emitted backwards from the luminous material was reflected forward, maximising the luminous effect, rather than being absorbed in the dial as it would be with a black background. The hands are skeletonised to carry luminous paint, and unusually for a watch dial of this period, the seconds hand is also skeletonised and carries luminous paint, as described in the Horological Journal article. It is usually only the hour and minute hand that carry luminous paint and the seconds hand is a simple unadorned baton.
Pictured here is a watch with an interesting case. The trademark of the initials FB over a Geneva key shows that the case was manufactured by the Geneva case making company Borgel, which was then owned by Taubert & Fils. It was made to a design patented by Schwöb Frères. These watches are sometimes thought to be related to the Rolex Oyster because they look similar, but that is the only connection, a visual similarity.The movement in this watch is a 15 jewel Cyma, and the watchcase is 9 carat gold. These watches are also seen with movements marked only Tavannes, and sometimes with both Cyma and Tavannes. Whatever the marking, the movements were made in the Tavannes factory.
The cases of some Tavannes watches appear to have a consistent series of reference numbers. For example, see the case in the image here. It has two numbers, 3305900 and 17548. The longer number appears to be a case design reference number, because it fits into the series shown below.
When this legend appears on the movement it shows that the keyless mechanism was designed on the "negative set" or "American system" principles. These movements are seen with either normal or negative set mechanisms. In Britain the negative set versions are usually in Dennison cases, which is not surprising given that the Dennison watch case company was set up to make cases for imported American Waltham movements.
Adams & Perry Movement with Perry's Patent Plate Design HighlightedThe premier watch movement introduced in 1874 by the Adams & Perry Watch Company features an elegant swooping plate profile that appeals to anyone with an eye for aesthetics. This unique plate design was patented by Edwin Hathaway Perry on April 11, 1871, several years before Perry partnered with John C. Adams to organize their watch company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. U.S... Continue Reading
Please use the following tables to help determine the approximate age of your watch. Remove or open the back cover from your watch and look for a number engraved into the movement; this is the serial number for your watch, and by using it, you can find the closest years it was made on these tables. Please note there is a difference between the number marked on the movement and the one marked on the case. These tables are only accurate for the movement serial numbers.
Since 1971 the Sandoz brand name has been split into four main areas of production, due to its licences being leased or sold. This has led to four separate brands, Sandoz Singapore, Sandoz Hong Kong, Sandoz Swiss, and Sandoz Spain (Munreco). All of these produce watches under the Sandoz name, but each production company has its own line of products. Sandoz Swiss manufactures high quality watches, while Sandoz Hong Kong and Sandoz Singapore manufacture cheaper watches of lower quality. Sandoz Hong Kong products are assembled in Hong Kong using Swiss movements from ETA SA.
This page contains INSTRUCTIONS for using the serial number look-up tables that are found on many of our watch company history pages. The example below uses information from the American Waltham Watch Company, but that is just an example. You should consult the serial number table for the specific brand of watch movement you are trying to date by selecting a company from the menu on the left.
Not all vintage watches can be dated using the serial number. Some American watch brands did not use a consistent series of serial numbers, but most of the big manufacturers did. Most vintage Swiss pocket watches did NOT have serial numbers and can't be dated by this method.
Many watch companies made hundreds of thousands of watches, and some companies made millions of watches! It would be impractical to list the individual serial numbers of EVERY watch made... that would make some really long pages! Our serial number tables list RANGES of serial numbers. So to determine when your watch was manufactured, you will need to find where your serial number fits within the range of numbers.
Let's say you have a Waltham watch with serial number 21,607,210 as shown in the photo below. Note that we're using the serial number from the watch movement, not from the watch case. Looking at the table of Waltham serial numbers (see example below), you can see that number 20,900,000 was made in 1917 and 21,800,000 was made in 1918 (marked in red in the table below). Since your serial number falls between those two numbers, you know that your watch was made in 1917 or 1918.
You must use the serial number from the MOVEMENT of the watch... the working part with the wheels and gears... not the serial number from the watch case. Cases and watches were often made by different companies and each usually has its own serial number. You usually have to take the back off the watch case to see the movement serial number which may appear anywhere on the watch movement.
The various numbers on your watch generally serve to date it and to prove its authenticity. While the reference or model number stands for the whole watch, components like the case and movement also have numbers. They tend to be used to determine if a particular component is an original part of the watch. This is especially important for fans of vintage watches with original parts.
The reference number is the model number. It identifies the watch model as a whole. Using the reference number, you can usually learn information such as the watch type, material, dial, and the movement. Since there is no standard rule as to what information has to be included in a reference number, you may find watches with identical reference numbers that are actually different versions of the same model. This can sometimes be the case with Rolex watches.