**** Ulrich Bretscher's Pocket Watch Page ****
Last updated: 18. Nov. 07
General remarks about blind man's watches:
Before 1900 blind people usually were very poor people, mostly beggars or basket makers at best. Hence they couldn't afford a watch. It's no wonder, no Swiss watch museum I know has a blind mans watch with a verge escapement in it's collection (period 1845 or older). Though the first watch I'm introducing here is an example from 1800, made by the famous Swiss watchmaker Louis Breguet, called "montre a tact". According to contemporary advertisements, it was not intended as a bind man's watch, but as a "night watch", though it would have been very suitable for blind persons, too.
Admittedly, there were allways some rich blind beople; people who became blind e.g. due to old age. To those it was common to use repeating watches; - watches which rang the actual time on demand by pressing the pendant button.
It was not before 1900, that blind people got support from the public wellfare and from charity groups. As a rule, their watches were cheap, sturdy watches that allowed to feel the position of the hands in relation to digit marks on the dial (as the next example shows), or Baille numerals as an alternative. Usually all watches were aditionally equipped with regular numerals, so they could be set and read also by seeing people. As a rule, blind man's watches are allways hunter case watches, since these watches miss watchglasses and were to be protechted by a jump off cover.
Example 1: An early, real Blind Man's watch
System Roskopf, ca. 1910, manufactured probably by Cortebert.
Watch diameter ........52.2 mm
Watchmaker marks: None. The watch looks like it was never used.
"Gottes Gnade soll nicht von Dir weichen"
So this lucky blind man had a benefactor who donated this watch to him. The inscriptions meaning is: "The grace of God shall never abandon you".
Accordingly, this donated watch was a rather expensive pocket watch. Inside the case, made from argentane, beats a high quality movement with 15 jewels, a balance not temperature compensated, with a breguet hairspring.
Manufacturer: ....Cyma Watch Co, La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Movement: Swiss club tooth lever escapement. Breguet hairspring. Balance is not temperature compensated. Three quarter bridge. 15 jewels. Plates and bridges from silver plated brass.
Dial: From silver. Arabic numerals and Braille numerals. Hands from sturdy brass.
Example 3: One of the last sold blind man's pocket watches
Manufacturer: ....Gebr. Junghans Uhrenfabrik, Schramberg (Germany)
This watch left the manufacturer in Schramberg (situated in the Black Forest, Germany) in 1947. So it probably was one of the last blind man's pocket watches manufactured at all. Maybe, this was the reason why this watch was never sold and came from the retailer directly to a flea market. From about 1945 on, blind people prefered blind man's wrist watches.
In 1949, as a fourth grade grammar school pupil, I had a blind teacher. He usually came guided by his wife, who also watched us kids, so we had to behave decently, though our teacher couldn't see us. I remember this teacher very well , frequently flipping open his wrist watch and feeling the time.
Made from white plastic with position marks for the blind people and arabic numerals for the seeing people. The Numeral 12 is aligned with the pendant, which is unusual for a hunter's watch. Usually a hunter's watch sports the numeral 12 at the 9 o'clock position. Hands are made from blued spring steel.
A good quality club tooth lever escapement with a yellow, flat hairspring and an invar balance. Bridges construction with 17 jewels. "Invar" stands for "invariable", an alloy with a neutral heat expansion.
Hunter case from regular steel (no stainless steel!). This might have been due to shortages right after the end of the second world war in Germany. Case opened by pressing a push button centered inside the winding crown. The case is painted black, may be to provide minimal rust protection or to fake a gun metal case.
On reading the time on a blind man's watch:
On regular hunter case watches used by seeing people, the 12 hr numeral is usually found at the nine o' clock position of an open face watch. This way the time is easier to read, since the open cover doesn't hinder the reading.
Example 4: A modern blind man's wrist watch
I don't collect wrist watches and rarely repair them . So I don't possess an example of a blind man's mechanical wrist watch either. After a watchmaker friend took notice of my homepage project about blind man's watches, he lent me an example from his shop, so I'm able to introduce you to the most recent development of time keeping for blind people.
Dial: . ..Digital LED-Display for the seeing people. Announcement of the actual time by a female voice when the green button is pushed.
Time setting: After pushing a little mode-button, the hours and minutes can be set separately. While you are doing this, the loud speaker informs you about the progress of the setting.
Alarm-clock setting: Similar to the procedure of the time setting. The alarm rings for one minute, unless you interrupt it by pushing the green button.
Costs: SFr. 57.- (ca. US$ 40.-)
My conclusion: A very practical and helpful watch, suitable for blind people. It beats every traditional blind man's watch discribed above. Very inexpensive. Not a beauty!