Paul Morphy’s Pocket Watch

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Paul Morphy’s Pocket Watch

    Paul Morphy’s Pocket Watch

    April 19, 2017

    The American Watch Company was a pocket watch maker arising from a consolidation of brands in 1859. It manufactured approximately 425 watches per day in its heyday around 1877 and employed around 900 people. It was renamed The American Waltham Watch Co. in 1885.

    In the year of American Watch Company’s founding, American chess master Paul Morphy (1837-1884) was honored by the New York Chess Club with a pocket watch made by the company. Morphy was a chess prodigy, and many considered the New Orleans native to be the best player of his era.

    The pocket watch was gifted to Morphy after he returned from a successful tour of Europe, during which he further established his name among the greats of the game.

    The dial is white enamel with chess pieces in red and black representing the hours. In the top centre is the designation:

    Paul Morphy
    BY THE

    Upon his return from Europe, Morphy retired from chess to begin his career in law just as the Civil War broke out. The watch disappeared at some point after 1921, more than 37 years after his death, but the dial survived and is now on display at the NAWCC Watch and Clock Museum in Pennsylvania, a place where Roland Murphy spends a lot of time.

    And it was here that Murphy spied the unique enamel dial boasting red and black chess pieces representing the hours instead of numerals or markers: kings at 12 and 6 o’clock, queens at 1 and 11 o’clock, bishops at 2 and 10 o’clock, knights at 3 and 9 o’clock, rooks at 4 and 8 o’clock, and pawns at 5 and 7 o’clock.

    I was curious as to why the chess-themed dial interested Murphy so and found out that the watchmaker also plays chess. “I love chess and history,” he enthused. “Of course, the tie to Paul Morphy was a draw for me as well: his historical family name was changed to Morphy when his great-great-grandfather moved to Spain from Ireland (their name was previously Murphy). It’s also an American story.”

    There are photos of the original dial of Paul Morphy’s pocket watch and the new RGM Chess in Enamel timepiece. The design is pretty faithful to the original, with only the wording in the upper half of the dial changed. It now reads

    RGM Watch Co.
    Lancaster, Penna, USA

    25 of these watches have been made and the price for one is $13,900.


  • #2
    Paul Morphy’s Pocket Watch

    April 10, 2020

    I started this thread three years ago.

    See also:

    And now, a watch by a not-so-famous chessplayer is up at auction on eBay:

    Famous Wrist Watch: FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Stainless steel, waterproof.

    Pre-owned, new, never used.

    The face of the watch has alternating dark and light squares and the FIDE logo and the name KIRSAN.

    The reverse says: All Stainless Steel, Khanty-Mansiysk 2010 Water-Resistant

    The band is genuine leather.

    There is a Buy It Now of USD 90 with $10 Standard International Shipping.


    It is not clear whether this is Kirsan’s personal watch or a brand of watch.

    The following article makes it clear that it was meant as a souvenir of a visit to Chess City:

    In September of that year (1998), the world’s best chess players battled it out in the Palace of Chess. International grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov was there as a member of the U.S. team. Kaidanov and his teammates were greeted by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

    "He was very unusual. Let's put it this way," Kaidanov says. "He gave us a bag of souvenirs, which included a watch with the name 'Kirsan' on it and a bottle of vodka, which was called 'Kirsan,' too. And some other little things. But almost every souvenir had his name on it. So I thought it was kind of funny."

    Grandmaster Nick de Firmian was also a member of that 1998 U.S. team.

    "We all got caviar. Because the Caspian Sea is there," de Firmian says.

    "So you don't still have your watch or the vodka?" I ask.

    "I believe that the team used the vodka to good cause during our efforts there," de Firmian answers with a laugh. "The watch — no, I don't have."

    The players talked with Ilyumzhinov. He was full of stories. Some of them were … unusual.

    "Kirsan told everyone that he was abducted by space aliens and taken up in their ship," de Firmian recalls. "And this is such a strange story to hear from somebody who's running many businesses, running a little country, someone in good stead with Putin. So that was a sort of strange, curious thing.