John Forrest Watches

John Forrest and the Lancashire Watch Company

Recently, as a member of the NAWCC and Chapter 159, I came across an article by Ken Johnston in the NAWCC’s ‘British Horology Times’ Number 50.  The article was published in May 2010.



















‘British Horology Times’ is the journal of Chapter 159, British Horology, the North American National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC).

Article above reproduced here with kind permission of Ken Johnston and the NAWCC.

Knowing I had access to LWC watches bearing the John Forrest name I decided to research ‘John Forrest’ a bit further, which included a series of emails between Ken Johnston and myself.

Articles about John Forrest and his watches have appeared in

January 1863 Horological Journal – describing his display of 76 watch specimens in the International Exhibition of 1862.

February 1894 Horological Journal  – giving details of the court case referred to in Ken’s article above

March 1894 Horological Journal – a follow up letter from W. B. Crisp, a respected horologist of the day, which stated

“…Forty years ago a watch of his make was put into my hands for my opinion, as bearing the name of John Forrest, maker to the Admiralty. My remarks were, Forrest is no “maker to the Admiralty” at all, and his name never appeared on the Greenwich lists, and he never made a chronometer in his life.”…“It is a thing thoroughly understood in the trade that, to be a maker to the Admiralty, a maker must sub­mit chronometers or watches for test, or on trial for purchase, at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, under such restrictions as the Astronomer Royal may suggest from time to time. But, Mr. Editor, I am bound to say that John Forrest was not the only manufacturer in Clerkenwell anxious to obtain this distinction without going through the ordeal of depositing chronometers at Greenwich, and succeeding in the sale of them. W. B. Crisp.”

August 1990 Horological Journal – an article ‘John Forrest, Chronometer Maker to the Admiralty’: The Forgery of Victorian Watches’ by David J. Boullin.  In the article he brings together many of the facts, then makes the statement ‘The story of the forgery of the name ‘John Forrest’ is complicated but I will simplify it: Forgery did not commence until after he died in 1871”

October 1990 Horological Journal in the correspondence, ‘A. Taylerson’ ‘gives the pot a stir’ and raises further queries relevant to the whole story.

Whilst I am certain to have missed more articles/correspondence on this topic, I can give some information on the basis of watches I have seen.

Below are details of a sample of LWC watches which have ‘John Forrest’ on the dial, for which I have looked up their entries  in the LWC ledgers.

Movement Number

175503                        Dial and movement signed for John Forrest.  Sold to Wolffe Bros.

200971                       Sold to D Levy

213048                       Customer name not readable with certainty in the ledgers

324945                       Customer name not readable with certainty in the ledgers

402689                      Sold to Houghton Menzies

465939                       Sold to Jacobson & Co

507662                       Sold to Jacobson & Co

740812                       Sold to H Gollan & Son (Note 1)

802610                      Sold to Thomson & Williamson (Note 2)


Note 1 The ledger page has written in red ink ‘86 – 90 John Forrest plus TMark’ at the top of the column 801 – 900.  Entries 811 -820 have ‘John Forrest & undecipherable’ down the left hand side of the ten entries.

Note 2 The ledger page has handwritten, in red ink, ‘John Forrest + trademark’ above columns 601 – 700 and 701 – 800.

Reference to John Forrest is also made in entries 740851 – 740900.  Indeed entries for 740880 to 740893 have a horizontal line against them reading ‘John Forrest’ in red ink.  In these entries customers’ names include ‘Jacobson & Co’ and the same name, still undecipherable to me, as in 213048 and 324945 above.

So….the LWC took an order from a retailer; the retailer must have asked for the dial to bear the John Forrest name and logo, and in some cases the movement was also marked with ‘John Forrest’.

It becomes a moot point as to whether LWC was marketing them to the retailer or responding to the request from the retailer.  In either case, the LWC was fully complicit in continuing the use of this ‘premium’ trademark.