1871 Gold Waltham Presentation Pocket Watch with Freemason Provenance

Value (2009) | $6,000 Auction$10,000 Insurance

Well, it's a watch that has been handed down through my family from an ancestor named William Cooper. He became the Supreme Grand Commander of the Sovereign Grand Council of the Ancient and Accepted Rites of the Scottish Freemasonry, the Prince Hall Division in New Jersey. It eventually went down to... passed down to my great-great-uncle right here, William Davis, and I think that's the watch fob right there that you can see. And he eventually willed it to my father.

So has it just been sitting in the bank, not really being used?

It's been sitting in a safe for a long time. But every once in a while we pull it out to enjoy it.

He was born in 1828, and this is from your family bible.

That's correct.

The book is done on the hundredth anniversary of this Masonic order. Inside in the first couple pages it talks about all the original officers in the commandry. Your ancestor was one of the first African American 33rd degree Freemasons in the commandry. He was given the watch as a presentation by the other members in December 11, 1876. The watch was made by the American Waltham Watch Company in Waltham, Massachusetts, and it was made in 1871. It has an engraving on the inside which is dated 1876 that he was presented by other members of the commandry. There's an amazing engraving on the inside cuvette of the watch, which is what they call the dust cover, which has a crest of the 33rd degree of Freemasonry. The watch is made out of 18-karat gold. It's literally in unused condition after 140-some years. It's a lever set, which means to set the time there's a little lever on the dial, and that lever pulls out. You then adjust the time on the crown, and you push the lever back in. This is an amazing piece of Americana. It appeals to a lot of different collectors. It appeals to watch collectors. There's a lot of Masonic collectors in the country. It also appeals to African American collectors. A solid gold watch from the mid-19th century presented to a 33rd degree African-American Freemason is a very, very rare find. It also comes with a beautiful gold chain, a gold fob and a retractable gold pencil from the 19th century. It would easily sell in the $6,000 to $7,000 price range at auction.


Although since obviously it's been in your family for many, many generations, you would want to have an insurance appraisal at least in the $10,000 price range. This is just an unbelievably gorgeous watch with an unbelievably fabulous provenance.

That's fantastic.

Appraisal Details

Radcliffe Jewelers
Towson, MD
Appraised value (2009)
$6,000 Auction$10,000 Insurance
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)

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