The US Watch Patents

Seth Thomas pocket watches were not patented. The familiar dates milled on the plates of the 18-size Models 1 through 5 were patent issue dates awarded for a specific component or an improved type of design used on a given model. It was individual inventors who came up with the concepts, not the watch companies, and it was the inventors who applied for their patents, which could be granted or denied based on a records search involving existing similar designs.

 

Patent applications were accepted at the US Patent Office year round, and it could be months before the outcome was known. In the early 1800s patents were awarded in small batches every few days, and after 1850 patents were granted every Tuesday in no particular order with regard to category. There are six known patents relating to Seth Thomas 18-size pocket watches - two for Herman Reinecke and four for Charles Higginbotham. 

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Reinecke's January 1885 Patent

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Herman Reinecke's patents were for components of the Model 1, issued on the same dates that are stamped on its plates. No. 310,865 was the 315th out of 348 granted on January 13, 1885, and the second, No. 325,568, was one of 421 awarded on September 1, 1885. Of the 769 patents issued on those two days, only Reinecke's have anything to do with pocket watch movements made by Seth Thomas, so it's clear that the dates on the Model 1 point to his design improvements and not at the watch itself. 


​Reinecke was master watchmaker for two years, and it's interesting to speculate if the company paid him for his designs. Of course, the Model 1 was discontinued right around the time that he left Seth Thomas, and neither of his innovations were carried over into any of the new 18-size models.


For more information visit the Model 1 page.


Reinecke's Septemeber 1885 Patent

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Herman Reinecke's patents were for components of the Model 1, issued on the same dates that are stamped on its plates. No. 310,865 was the 315th out of 348 granted on January 13, 1885, and the second, No. 325,568, was one of 421 awarded on September 1, 1885. Of the 769 patents issued on those two days, only Reinecke's have anything to do with pocket watch movements made by Seth Thomas, so it's clear that the dates on the Model 1 point to his design improvements and not at the watch itself. 


​Reinecke was master watchmaker for two years, and it's interesting to speculate if the company paid him for his designs. Of course, the Model 1 was discontinued right around the time that he left Seth Thomas, and neither of his innovations were carried over into any of the new 18-size models.


For more information visit the Model 1 page.


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Higginbotham's 1887 Patent

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Charles Higginbotham's first known patent was No. 374,359, the 197th one issued out of 430 on December 6, 1887, which is the same date milled on the pillar plates of the Model 2 and Model 3. The patent was for a T-end mainspring brace, which had already been in use for years and had nothing to do with the design of the Model 2 or the Model 3.  None of the other patents awarded on that day in 1887 were related to Seth Thomas.


​For more information visit the Model 2 and the Model 3 pages.


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Higginbotham's 1st 1890 Patent

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Charles Higginbotham was awarded two more patents in late 1890, and the first of those was for a new type of hairspring stud that improved accuracy. It was No. 440,877, issued 263rd out of 558 on November 18, 1890, and while that date has not been found on any Seth model, the design was used exclusively on all Henry Molineux grades.


The first known Molineux watches are SN 55,001 for Model 2 and SN 47,212 for Model 3, and both make use of this stud. Since both examples were made sometime in 1889, it's interesting that the patent issue date came a year later, in late 1890.


For more information visit the Model 2 and the Model 3 pages.


Higginbotham's 2nd 1890 Patent

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Higginbotham's second of two patents from 1890 was No. 440,878, issued sequentially from his previous one for the hairspring stud used on the Models 2 and 3, also granted on Tuesday, the 18th of November, 1890.


​The application was for a split-level stem-setting mechanism, and it's not clear which watch it was intended for, because it doesn't resemble any of the standard production models. It was the first of his two stem-set designs and was very different from his 1891 patent, which incorporated the shuttle that was already in use on every 18-size Seth Thomas watch from the Model 2 up to the Model 13 Century.


Higginbotham's 1891 Patent

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Higginbotham's final known patent while he was still at Seth Thomas was No. 458,366, issued on August 25th, 1891. A total of 420 patents were awarded on that Tuesday, and again none of the others had anything to do with watches by Seth Thomas, even though this date is stamped on the Model 5.


The patent application was for another setting mechanism, apparently destined for the Model 5. The invention was very complicated, using over two dozen separate parts and requiring five pages of drawings and six more of text to illustrate it.


​It would be a few years before a stem-set variant of the Model 5 was available, starting at around SN 228,301, and the design used from that point forward had nothing in common with the patent. If Higginbotham's concept was indeed scrapped, it's curious that an updated patent application for the final design was apparently never submitted. 


​For more information visit the Model 5 page


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