The William Rountree Pocket Watch

Rowntree and Rountree Family History 1521 – 1953 by J. G. Rountree (self-published, 1959) is an odd little paper, filled with notes and correspondence collected by the author and covering all sorts of Rountrees.

On page 15 is a reference to what appears to be our William Rountree – a William Rountree who “emigrated [from Dublin, Ireland] to U.S.A…. died near Huntsville, Alabama.”  Although it skips a generation, this information was contributed by two brothers who we know were great-great-grandsons of our William Rountree.  They reported that they possessed an old silver watch supposedly purchased in Dublin, Ireland and brought to this country by the William Rountree who died in Huntsville.  The watch, they said, had been passed down through the generations to from one William Rountree to the next William.   The watch was described as being key-wound with a case and covered dial.  I have no idea how much of this legend is true.

A little research into antique watches discloses that key-wound pocket watches matching the description were being made as early as the late 1700s and as late as the early 1900s.   Up until about 1850, these watches were made individually and were quite expensive.  After about 1850 most were produced in factories.  Although stem-winding watches were made after 1860, many key-wound watches continued to be produced.  Several manufacturers were located in Dublin.  The brothers did not mention any peculiarities ( like the absence of a minute hand, unique decorations, or unusual bulk) that might suggest the watch was produced as a one-off in an earlier period.  From the description, therefore, it would seem the brothers were describing a watch made in the mid or late 1800s, thus probably not as old as their great-great-grandfather’s time.