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mark French clock and watch industry

Posted: Thu May 24, 2018 6:50 am
by zilverik

These marks were used around 1800 for the clock and watch industry. In different books I have found different opinions about these marks. The years they were used differ from 1794 or from 1798? Till 1806 or till 1809? What was the use? FNB = Fabrique National de Besancon; FS= Fidélité, Sécurité. But one book says the have to be both on a silver watch, the FNB-mark as control-mark, the FS-mark as essayeurs-mark. Another opinion is that the FNB-mark is for bigger work, while the FS-mark is for smaller works. Who knows?


Re: mark French clock and watch industry

Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:45 pm
by blakstone
According to period legal documents, the Besançon watchcase marks were created by Directoire Decree #2737 on 3 Vendémiarie an VIII [25 Sep 1799], and were the result of an agreement among France, the national watch industry in Besançon and the newly-acquired Swiss territories. It permitted variant finesses (.760 or 18-1/4 karat for gold, .834 for silver) for watchcases and exempted them from assay duty; the feeling was that the large watch industry in Besançon was suffering an economic burden and loss of international trade due to the imposition of assay duty, the new lower national standards, and competition from the annexed Swiss watchmaking territories. Thus, the law applied only to the département of Doubs (which comprises Besançon, then and now an important watchmaking center).

The law stated that watchmakers in Doubs were to take their watchcases to the assay office in Besancon, where they were to be tested and marked by the assayer with the first mark – a compass with “FS” [Fidélité, Sécurité”] – and the maker’s name recorded in a ledger. The marked case was then then taken to the assay office controller, who struck them with the second mark – an hourglass and “FNB” [Fabrique National de Besançon] and kept a second ledger to be verified against the first as a record of the duty exemptions. (Some watchmakers in Swiss Mont-Terrible were permitted to take advantage of this law, but only those who had registered and been approved by the assay office.)

The law was abrogated on 2 Aug 1806 by Imperial Decree #1877 (which also created a new assay office in the Léman département, which included Geneva).

So, according to my reading of the laws, both marks should appear on watchcases made in Doubs (or possibly Mont-Terrible) from September 1799 to August 1806, and indicate a variant fineness of .760 gold or .834 silver.

Hope this helps!

Re: mark French clock and watch industry

Posted: Sun Jul 01, 2018 4:06 am
by zilverik
Thank you! Yes, this helps a lot. I am confused by, as it looks like, the different information about these marks. The writers can’t be all be right. A few examples:

Beuque, E., Platine, Or et Argent, Dictionnaire des Poinçons, officiels français & étrangers, anciens & modernes de leur création (XIV e siècle) à nos jours, Tome I, Paris 1928. See page 132, number 1.173 compass: garantymark for small articles from Besançon and page 133, number 1.188 hourglass: garantymark for bigger work uit Besançon: gold .750 and silver .800.

Carré, L., A guide to old French plate, Londen, 1931. See page 201. In use from June 19, 1798, until August 31, 1809. The small Besancon mark for clocks and watches, gold and silver ( the hourglass) and the large Besancon mark for clocks and watches, gold and silver.

Dongen Van, C.B. en Nieman, G., Keurtekens op zak: historisch overzicht van belasting- en waarborgtekens op edelmetalen voorwerpen vanaf 1795, Rotterdam 1998. Page 26. In use from 1794 until 1806. Gold .750 and silver .833. The marks were aproved by the ‘Comité du Salut Public’ allready in 1794. Together with the French annexation of Genève in 1806 and the installation of the garanty-office in Genève, these marks were replaced by the common French marks (with taxes). The marks kept their worth for a longer time. In the Netherlands until 1816.

Markezana, Y., Les Poinçons Français d’Or, d’Argent, de Platine de 1275 a nos jours, Paris 2005. Page 91. In use from 1798 until 1809.

Tardy, International Hallmarks on Silver, reprint, South Croydon 2014. Introduced on 16 priarial an II. Repealed on 12 priarial an XIII. Page 187: On 16 Priarial an II (4th June), 1794 a decree was issued by the ‘Comité de Salut Public’ concerning watch-making in the Départements of the Doubts and the Jura; it allowed free trade in gold and silver cases bearing the marks of the clock and watch-making industry. In those days checking the fineness of gold and silverware was relegated to the background.

So, who is right and who is wrong?