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W. Watson & Sons, Ltd. 1881 telescopes

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#1 Starman1

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 12:39 PM

I have a 9-3/8" and 6" refractor, both with brass tubes and identical brass and oak alt-azimuth mounts.
There are no identifications on the lenses, but the star diagonals are marked:
W.Watson & Sons, Ltd. 01-06-81 (that's 1881).
Now Watson could have been the manufacturer of only the star diagonals and Herschel wedges, but I have no way to tell.
The brass eyepieces are unlabeled.
Is it possible Watson made the refractors?
And if so, who would the lens maker have been?

#2 Fred Ley

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 03:44 PM

Hello Don,

I am not familiar with the firm, but there is a refernce to a Sir William Watson in Henry C. Kings book "The History Of The Telescope". He was friends with William Herschel. This places him earlier then the date of 1881 on your telescope. The King book is published, if still available, by Dover Publications Inc. Perhaps the instruments that you have were made by a descendent.
-Fred

#3 Starman1

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 05:54 PM

Fred,
I note a W.Watson & Sons, Ltd. that made microscopes and spyglasses and was in business until the 1920s. That's why I thought it was possible they were only the manufacturer of the eyepieces, diagonal, etc.

But, in that era, usually one firm made everything from the ground up, increasing the odds that the entire scope was made by that firm.

Alas, I can find no record of the firm ever making larger scopes like these.

I figured it would be good to post here to avail myself of other people's knowledge.

I only presumed 1881. The date actually reads '81, which could be 1781.

I found this:
W. Watson and Sons, Ltd

Top of page
Abstract

"MESSRS. W. WATSON AND SONS, LTD., of 313 High Holborn, London, W.C.I, have issued a booklet detailing the history of the firm in celebration of its centenary. Founded in 1837 for the manufacture of optical instruments by William Watson at 71 City Road, the business continued at this address until 1861, when it moved to 313 High Holborn, where it has since remained, and has been continuously carried on by members of the Watson family. The microscope was becoming a feature of the Watson firm in the 'seventies of last century, together with cameras and lenses, since when telescopes, X-ray equipment, cinematographs, projection lanterns and other optical instruments and apparatus have been manufactured. A pleasing portrait of William Watson, the founder, forms a frontispiece to the booklet, which concludes with a series of plates illustrating the products of the firm during the hundred years of its existence."

#4 tim53

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 06:35 PM

pictures?

#5 Jon Marinello

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 09:32 PM

:gotpopcorn:

#6 Ducky62

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 11:58 PM

A 9-3/8" refractor is kinda big. Not exactly a "grab-n-go". What do you house it in? How are the views?

#7 Nave

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 11:27 AM

Don't know if you've seen this, but there are three ads on this site that identify Watson as "Telescope manufacturers."
http://www.philharrington.net/old.htm

Another ad (post-dating 1881) reflects the claim:
http://www.gracesgui...24Gr-Watson.jpg

Lastly (not sure the link will work), but this appears to be the 1920 minutes of the Faraday Society. A company named Swift has made certain claims of its apochromatic lens. A representative of Watson & Sons indicates that they might wish to include their lens in the analysis, since "we have made apochromatic objectives for some years."
http://pubs.rsc.org/...tf/tf9201600086

#8 Astrojensen

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 12:06 PM

It should be noted, that in the excerpt from the Faraday Society, they are talking about microscope objectives, not telescope ones.


Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark

#9 Nave

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 12:08 PM

It should be noted, that in the excerpt from the Faraday Society, they are talking about microscope objectives, not telescope ones.


Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark

D'oh.

:foreheadslap:

#10 Ken Launie

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 12:39 PM

W. Watson & Sons appears to have been a very well established and sizeable outfit that also made all sorts of scientific and cinematographic instruments, given the number of trade catalogs they published.In one of mine I brought with me to work, "The Glory of the Heavens", Astronomical Instruments by W. Watson & Sons, Ltd (ca 1910), a 42 page hard bound copy, you can see that they offered objectives of various sorts, including their "Watson-Conrady" series, in even sizes up to 10 inches (as well as smaller increments up to 5 inches). They show various altaz and equatorially mounted complete scopes up to 6 inches, though larger sizes could be made on special arrangement. They also sold many eyepieces and accessories separately, so it may be difficult to identify the maker of your scopes. They do sound very interesting, so pics would be appreciated!
Regards,
--Ken

#11 oldscope

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 04:36 PM

A 9-3/8" tripod mounted refractor? :confused:

Of the few W. Watson telescopes that I have seen (such as the Watson "Century" telescopes) or have seen photographs of, they have all been signed. It is hard to believe that they would not sign large telescopes such as yours.

Some photos would be greatly appreciated.

Bart

#12 Starman1

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 06:21 PM

The scopes in question (my camera is at home and I am at work, where the scopes are) have brass telescoping tubes set in a brass cradle and mounted in an alt-az manner.
The tripods are crutch-style oak and 6 or more feet tall. There are telescoping brass rods that run from two tripod feet up to a hinge on the bottom of the focuser.
The scopes have star diagonals, full sets of eyepieces and Herschel wedges.
The only marking on the scopes are on the bottom of the star diagonals, where the label merely reads:
"W.Watson & Sons, Ltd"
and one of them is also marked:
"01-06-'81"
It looks like the 6" may be an f/15, while the 9-3/8" scope may be as short as f/12-f/13.
We are in the process of restoring them, and I was seeking some guidance on the manufacture.

#13 Starman1

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:16 PM

As a further note, these scopes both have similar tube diameters. It's possible that one lens was damaged or broken and replaced with a smaller lens housing in an oversized tube.
Some restoration was made at some point because one of the tubes has aluminum joints while the other has brass joints.
And the base plate for both focusers is aluminum, not brass.
We figure the aluminum pieces were added much later, possibly during an earlier restoration.
They came to us from the collection of someone who could no longer house them--nearly 30 years ago. Unfortunately, that person no longer is alive, so we cannot ask questions about the derivation of the scopes.

#14 clintwhitman

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 01:21 AM

Hi Don.
Clint (aveman here. are the scopes in Simi or Costa mesa? Have you ever had them out for a session? You should come to the Classic Star Party at Mount Pinos this year at the end of July. We would be glad if you made it.

#15 Starman1

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 10:20 AM

Clint,
They are in Simi, and if you'd like a look, stop on by.
They are not in a condition to be used, yet. The lenses need cleaning and the focusers need a little TLC.
But they are assembled, and I'd welcome any insights you might have after looking at them.
The last weekend in July is New Moon weekend, and I'll be at Pinos unless weather interferes (unlikely that time of year).
[P.S. check the spelling in your signature line]

#16 Ian Poyser

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 09:54 AM

Hello Starman1.
W. Watson and Sons did make telescopes in London. Here, in the UK, Watson ranks alongside Cooke and Dollond as one of our most respected makers.

If you want to see a photo of a Watson equatorially-mounted refractor (I'm guessing it's a four-inch O.G.) go to the website of the Whipple Museum, which is located in Cambridge (England). Their home page has a photo of the ground floor of the museum and the Watson is right in the middle of the picture. (www.hps.cam.ac.uk/whipple/aboutthemuseum)

I went to the Whipple Museum a couple of times when I was researching 'classic' British refractors (I'm a telescope maker) and I took lots of photographs of the Watson, so I could have a reference for the design of the wooden tripod, the equatorial mount (brass!) and the telescope itself (also brass!) The whole thing is a beautiful piece of engineering. Curiously, the telescope is NOT signed. The name of W. Watson and Sons is engraved on the brass disc at the side of the equatorial mount. Since your telescopes are not signed you may well have a couple of Watson originals, in which case you are a very fortunate man.

I have to say that I found the staff at the Whipple to be singularly unhelpful; perhaps you will have better luck than I if you contact them (there's no 'phone number on their website, but I'll find it if you need it).

If you want to see the photos that I took of their Watson just get in touch with me and I'll e-mail them, provided that you do not want to use them in a publication of any sort, because the photographs are, of course, copyright Whipple Museum.

Best wishes from a wintry West Wales, UK.

Ian Poyser

#17 DKST

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 09:11 AM

I would also be interested in seeing the photographs as William Watson is a relative on my mothers side of the family. My brother has collected a history of the company which I would share with you. We both have items made by the company, a microscope and a pair of binoculars.

#18 oldscope

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 09:16 AM

Hello Ian,

I would be grateful to receive a copy of your brother's W. Watson history. You can send it offline to oldscope(at)nyc.rr.com.

Thanks in advance,

Bart Fried
Antique Telescope Society

#19 dave brock

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:19 PM

Hi Don, bit of a coincidence as I recently phoned you about an eyepiece order.
Sorry I didn't see this thread 18 months ago. I found this thread by Googling Watson Century refractor. I've had a 6" Watson "Century" refractor minus mount ( an equatorial mount did come with it but it's home made, likely 50yrs old )for almost 20 years. I'll post some pics. One per post I'm afraid as I don't know how to do more.

Dave

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#20 dave brock

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:20 PM

Pic 2

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#21 dave brock

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:22 PM

Pic 3 Spectrascopic eyepiece

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#22 dave brock

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:26 PM

Pic 4 Sun diagonal

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#23 dave brock

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:29 PM

Pic 5 erect image eyepiece

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#24 dave brock

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:32 PM

Pic 6 Eyepiece, note this and previous has slide cover for eyelens.

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#25 dave brock

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:34 PM

Pic 7 Mount

Do you still have yours?

Dave

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