$350 the cost of a nice presentation pocket watch during the Civil War?

major bill

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"In the morning of February 18 before again boarding the train for Toledo, the officers of the regiment presented Col. Norval Welch with what one of the newspapers called "a magnificent gold watch" of best American make, with fine heavy gold cases". On the front exterior of the case was engraved the Maltese Cross, the badge of the Fifth Corps, with Welch's name and regiment inscribed; on the back was an eagle and shield. On the inside of the front case were the names of all the regiments battles. On the inside of the back of the case bore the names of those who presented it. With a heavy gold chain and a keystone of white onyx bearing Masonic symbols, the watch, manufactured by Charles H. Dunks of Detroit cost l$350, the papers said."

Sounds like Col. Welch of the 16th Michigan got a very nice watch. I am not sure what watches cost in 1864, but this one was $350. What would a collector today pay for Col. Welch's gold watch?
 

Kirk Womack

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There were watches that cost as much as $750 in the mid 19th century. There was a watch manufactured by the United States Watch Co of Marion NJ in the late 1860's that retailed for over $400. So $350 wasn't unheard of for a high grade watch at that time. It was still quite a gift!
 

DaveBrt

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"In the morning of February 18 before again boarding the train for Toledo, the officers of the regiment presented Col. Norval Welch with what one of the newspapers called "a magnificent gold watch" of best American make, with fine heavy gold cases". On the front exterior of the case was engraved the Maltese Cross, the badge of the Fifth Corps, with Welch's name and regiment inscribed; on the back was an eagle and shield. On the inside of the front case were the names of all the regiments battles. On the inside of the back of the case bore the names of those who presented it. With a heavy gold chain and a keystone of white onyx bearing Masonic symbols, the watch, manufactured by Charles H. Dunks of Detroit cost l$350, the papers said."

Sounds like Col. Welch of the 16th Michigan got a very nice watch. I am not sure what watches cost in 1864, but this one was $350. What would a collector today pay for Col. Welch's gold watch?
Thomas R. Sharp, soon to be CSA QM Captain, spent $325 on an English watch in Richmond in 1859, so $350 was not out of line for a good watch.
 

Package4

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"In the morning of February 18 before again boarding the train for Toledo, the officers of the regiment presented Col. Norval Welch with what one of the newspapers called "a magnificent gold watch" of best American make, with fine heavy gold cases". On the front exterior of the case was engraved the Maltese Cross, the badge of the Fifth Corps, with Welch's name and regiment inscribed; on the back was an eagle and shield. On the inside of the front case were the names of all the regiments battles. On the inside of the back of the case bore the names of those who presented it. With a heavy gold chain and a keystone of white onyx bearing Masonic symbols, the watch, manufactured by Charles H. Dunks of Detroit cost l$350, the papers said."

Sounds like Col. Welch of the 16th Michigan got a very nice watch. I am not sure what watches cost in 1864, but this one was $350. What would a collector today pay for Col. Welch's gold watch?
Utilizing various inflation calculators the watch at $350 would be equivalent to $6,000-$11,000, in 2019, quite a gift.
 

James N.

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"In the morning of February 18 before again boarding the train for Toledo, the officers of the regiment presented Col. Norval Welch with what one of the newspapers called "a magnificent gold watch" of best American make, with fine heavy gold cases". On the front exterior of the case was engraved the Maltese Cross, the badge of the Fifth Corps, with Welch's name and regiment inscribed; on the back was an eagle and shield. On the inside of the front case were the names of all the regiments battles. On the inside of the back of the case bore the names of those who presented it. With a heavy gold chain and a keystone of white onyx bearing Masonic symbols, the watch, manufactured by Charles H. Dunks of Detroit cost l$350, the papers said."

Sounds like Col. Welch of the 16th Michigan got a very nice watch. I am not sure what watches cost in 1864, but this one was $350. What would a collector today pay for Col. Welch's gold watch?
Calling @CW Watch Collector !
 
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James N., thanks very much for calling this thread to my attention.

First, Charles Dunks of Detroit MI might have been one of a small number of independent small makers who turned out a few watches a year in the early 1860's, but I have never heard of him, and I have been collecting American watches from the mid-nineteenth century for over 35 years. The only contemporaneous true watchmaker (as opposed to a watch repairman) I have ever heard of from Detroit is J. H. Allison, but even he mostly just modified pre-existing watch movements from other sources. So Dunks was very likely just a retailer who sold watches. If he sold English watches, Dunks might have had the actual maker put Dunks's name on the movement and/or the dial in place of his own. We would call this a "private label" product today, and private label English watch exports to the US, including some high grade ones, were very common throughout the 1860s. A quick Google search on "Charles H. Dunks Detriot" turned up this, from page 359 of Michigan in the War, compiled by J. N. O. Robertson, MI Adjutant General:

"Before it [i.e., the 16th MI] left, the ladies of Detroit, through Mrs. Charles H. Dunks, gave the 16th, while in Camp Backus, a superb flag of the finest blue silk, inscribed thereon, 'Stockton's Independent Regiment,' with the state arms on one side, and on the reverse the arms of the United States, finely executed, on which was the motto, 'Stand by the Union.'"

The only two bona fide American watch "manufacturers" active during the Civil War were the American Watch Company of Waltham Mass, and E. Howard & Co. of Boston. In 1867, five domestic competitors began producing watches as well, including the aforementioned US Watch Company of Marion, NJ. (These five firms were all initially capitalized in 1864.) But none of these firms were located in or near Detroit.

Per Table 1, page 57 of my book, the 1864 "To the Trade" catalog of Robbins & Appleton, the exclusive sales agent for the American Watch Company (Royal E. Robbins was the AWCo's Treasurer and principal owner) gives the following wholesale prices for uncased watch movements:

15 jewel "Appleton, Tracy & Co." grade 18 Size full plate Model 1857 movements: $33 to $43, depending on particulars
15 jewel "Appleton, Tracy & Co." grade 16 and 20 Size 3/4 plate movements: $52.50 to $75, depending on particulars
19-20 jewel "American Watch Company" grade 16 and 20 Size 3/4 plate movements: $120 to $150, depending on particulars

The name "Appleton, Tracy &Co.," was that of the immediate business predecessor of the AWCo, which name the AWCo then retained as a grade designation on many of their movements. Every Waltham watch I have ever seen that bears a Civil War presentation to a Union Army commissioned officer has been of the AT&Co grade in a gold hunting case. These include five watches in my own collection, three of which were presented to generals. Waltham watches that I have seen that were presented to enlisted men by their units were of the lower William Ellery or the P S Bartlett grades, with 7 to 11 jewels in silver hunting cases. A quality 18 karat gold case might have contained from $40 to $50 worth of gold, and retail markups would have applied to everything, so one could imagine that an elegant presentation watch might have cost as much as $350, especially if it were a high grade European import, which were even more expensive than Walthams.
 
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