The History of Fusee Pocket Watches

Buy English Fusee Pocket WatchesCurrently, fusee pocket watches are in high demand as collector’s items. If you’re not familiar with watches, you may not know exactly what a fusee pocket watch is. To understand the fusee watch, you need to first understand the fusee. A fusee is a cone shaped pulley with an attached chain that winds around a mainspring barrel. It is not entirely clear when the first fusee first appeared or who invented it, however it is unlikely that the technology was invented for watches originally. Drawings of military machinery using a fusee exist from 1405, while the first known fusee clock didn’t come around until 1525. For this reason, it is more likely once the technology was invented; it was later applied to pocket watches.

By the 1700s the fusee was standard in most watches and clocks. In the late 1700s the majority of the chains used for a fusee were made in Christchurch, New Zealand. The industry began under the direction of Robert H. Cox, however two competitors also set up shop in Christchurch In the early to mid-1800s, Jenkins’ and Hart’s.

The work required to make the chains used in a fuse was extremely detailed. The chains were so small that some of them could fit through the whole in a needle. Minute versions of tools that are used for making larger chains were used for making these smaller ones. The majority of the workers making these chains were young girls, and in fact many women made these chains in their own homes and sold them to the factories. While fusee pocket watches ceased in production due to more advanced technology, the antique time pieces can still be purchased today.

Antique stores and some watchmakers will carry fusee pocket watches. They can be quite expensive depending on the quality of the piece, the date of the piece, and the maker. During much of the time that fusee pocket watches were created, watches were seen as more of a show piece than a useful piece of technology. For this reason, many of them were extremely fancy with decorative casings, gems, and artwork. English Royalty during the 17th and 18th centuries were often known for having a variety of fusee pocket watches of various designs.

Antique Fusee Pocket Watches

Because the watches needed to be taken apart to keep them working, both the outside and the inside of the watches were very fancy. The outer cases and inside portions were both initials, and you can sometimes tell that a piece does not have its original casing by the two sets of initials not matching. Some fusee pocket watches are one of a kind because many were handmade. These pieces, particularly the older ones, can be quite valuable.

While it is unusual to come across a piece of this magnitude, some fusee pocket watches, roughly three hundred years old, once owned by royalty, are valued at three million dollars. Other pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries can easily be valued into the thousands and tens of thousands, and beyond. For collector’s just starting out, or those who may be interested in owning a fusee watch for the novelty of it, but not looking to spend a fortune, cheaper fusee watches are available in the hundreds range.

Types of Fusee Pocket Watches

There are three main types of fusee pocket watches:


    • The fusee cylinder has been known to be created in the early 18th century, but it is debated as to when the first one was found. There is also debate regarding who designed it, however the widest theory states that George Graham was the maker. This piece was not easily made, and is therefore often difficult to locate for a collection. It was primarily made  by the English, but has been known to be also made by the Swish and the French.
    • The fusee level watch was made almost exclusively by the English and was made from the early 29th century through the early 20th century. This was made because it was extremely efficient, but it continued to be made into the 20th century primarily because of tradition.
    • Another Fusee pocket watch that is highly collectible, is the fusee duplex. This piece often incorporates rubies into the balance staff, as well as many jewels into the train. This watch is not only accurate, but also very beautiful. Like the fusee cylinder and the fusee lever, it was an English style, however it is much more difficult to find as it was not as widely made.

Fusee pocket watches are great pieces of history that were hundreds of years in the development and making. The technology is extremely simplistic, yet quite effective. In additional to their value in horology, fusee pocket watches are often so beautifully designed that they hold value in their art as well.

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peter watson October 5, 2015 at 12:54 pm

I have an 18K Fusee with gold chain. My grandfather owned it. There is a note he or someone wrote in the box I found it in: “US watch Co, Waltham #143433, Dueber 20 Yr YGF (clamshell)HC# 3504128 Ca 1892

Anyone have any idea what that means. It’s a pretty piece

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