Welcome to the Nicole Nielsen & Co. website.
You will find a brief outline of the companys history, and pictures with descriptions of the watches they produced.
In due course more items and services will be added.
The firm was started by Swiss born watchmakers Charles Victor Adolphe Nicole and Jules Philippe Capt in 1839 and initially operated as Nicole & Capt from 80b Dean Street, Soho, London. By 1858 they had moved to larger premises at 14 Soho Square where they remained until the company finally closed in 1934.
The single most important event regarding the firm output was Patent No 10,348 taken out by Adolphe Nicole in 1844. Among the inventions described, it contains the first practical keyless work for both fusee and going-barrel watches. This was to provide the mainstay of future production for the firm and pointed the way for watch development worldwide. Also included in the Patent was chronograph work that allows a second hand to be ‘returned to zero’ by use of a heart shaped cam, a feature still used in mechanical chronographs today.
Around 1870, Danish born Sophus Emil Nielsen joined Adolphe Nicole, and by 1876 the firm had changed their name to Nicole, Nielsen & Co. In the 1880s the business was being run by Emil together with three of Adolphe’s children: Charles Nicole, Harriet Victoire Nielsen and Zelia Louise Nicole. In December 1885 their partnership was dissolved and three years later the business was converted into a limited liability company under the title Nicole, Nielsen & Co. Ltd. The main shareholders were the North family and Harrison Mill Frodsham. In 1898 Robert Benson North took over the position of manager from Emil Nielsen, becoming managing director in 1900.
Nicole & Capt and its successors were regular exhibitors at the various International Fairs that were then popular, winning awards as far afield as Antwerp, Paris, Philadelphia and Sidney. During this period it became important suppliers to many of the best known retailers – both E J Dent and Charles Frodsham in London – and many smaller retailers in England, America, Australia and China.
By 1904 the firm began to diversify into the new motor vehicle business and at the outbreak of the First World War were also manufacturing speedometers, taxi meters, magnetos and motor accessories from additional premises in Watford, Hertfordshire. In 1917 the company name was changed to North & Sons Ltd and by 1922 had also began to manufacture car clocks. The firm remained registered as watchmakers at 14 Soho Square until it finally went into liquidation in 1934.
The high regard in which some of the best watch retailing firms in London were held is due, in large part, to the work of ‘Nicole Nielsen’. They could make watches of any design, with any escapement and had the ability to supply calendar, chronograph and repeating watches, as well as special complications including tourbillons of the highest quality. In short, Nicole Nielsen’s watches are always superb.
|Line engraving, taken from the original Patent, showing the winding and setting mechanism which was used by the firm up to the late 1880s.|
|A good example of Nicole & Capt's earlier work with Duplex escapement, retailed by Dent. Gold open face case with repeating slide on the band, hallmarked 1846, casemaker AN (Adolphe Nicole). Note also the early and stylish shape of keyless button. This watch is a quarter repeater with lovely signed enamel dial, offset seconds and blued fleur-de-lis hands.|
|The underdial quarter repeating work of the watch shown above. Note the beautifully and perfectly functional steel work for witch the company was justly famous in the trade.|
|Close up view of part of a Duplex movement, showing the kink in the outer coil of the balance-spring and the pin in the arm of the balance with which it acts if the arc of the balance gets too large.|
|A simple ‘split-seconds’ chronograph in a gold half-hunter case, retailed by Beckman. London & Sidney, Hallmarked 1861, casemaker AN (Adolphe Nicole). Signed enamel dial with chronograph action in the offset seconds, the hands shown split. Blued-steel hands of typical ‘spade’ shape, the double spade hours hand as always used with an English half-hunter case. 50mm diameter.|
|The underdial chronograph work of the watch shown above. Pushing the pin at 12 in the band allows the spring to engage the edge of the steel disk and pipe, on which is mounted the stop seconds hand; beneath the disk is a small coiled spring which connect the two hands. The drawback of this system is that events of more than about 60 seconds cannot be timed, otherwise the spring gets fully tightened forcing the stopped hand to move, or the watch to stop.|
|A chronograph watch with enamel dial of ‘regulator’ layout retailed by the famous London firm of chronometer makers, John Poole. Gold openface case with standard shape of winding button, hallmarked 1874, casemaker AN (Adolphe Nicole). Signed enamel dial with centre-seconds chronograph hand operated by the button. Blued-steel hands. 49mm diameter.|
|Movement of the chronograph watch above, showing the standard Nicole & Capt three-quarter plate movement and keyless work. This is of the improved type with the intermediate wheel permanently attached to the winding wheel.|
|Underdial chronograph work clearly showing the castle wheel (at 9.30) and the heart shaped cam at the centre. As shown, the centre-seconds hand has been zeroed.|
|Unusually, this watch by Nicole, Nielsen & Co. bears their own Trade Mark and Logo. Even more unusual is the survival of the original leather-covered box containing spare glass and mainspring. Gold openface case hallmarked 1887, casemaker EN (Emil Nielsen). 49 mm diameter. Post 1884, three-quarter plate lever movement.|
|Nicole Nielsen & Co split seconds chronograph bearing their unique style of seconds hands: the top in gold, with star, the underneath in blued steel. Hunter cased in 18 k gold, London hallmark for 1884, casemakers CN over EN (Charles Nicole, Emil Nielsen). White enamel dial, offset seconds at nine, signed on the dial Drummond & Co. Melbourne.|
|Movement of the split second chronograph with three-quarter plate movement and standard keyless work, signed Nicole Nielsen & Co, showing part of the split seconds mechanism.|
|Large, 20-size, hunter watch of case style called ‘dog-collar’ due to its flat band. Gold case hallmarked 1889 casemaker EN (Emil Nielsen). 55 mm diameter. The half plate movement, designed by Richard Bridgeman, has a ‘standing’ barrel in which the barrel containing the mainspring is not covered by the top plate and is pivoted within the bottom plate only. This allows a taller, stronger mainspring to be used.|
|View of flat band of 'dog collar' case.|
|View of Bridgeman's design of half plate movement with a 'standing' or 'hanging' barrel.|
|Line engraving of one of the most expensive watches, Type 52, from the Nicole Nielsen & Co. Ltd. trade catalogue of circa 1910, of which a reprint is available for £15 plus £1 p&p (click here for details). This watch, most likely a clockwatch, combines minute repeating, split-second chronograph, perpetual calendar, equation of time, moon phases, temperature and state of wind indications. No price is stated in the catalogue and it is doubtful if very many were made.|
|Nicole Nielsen & Co. also involved themselves with the beginning of the wristwatch and are known to have supplied them to the London firm of Dent. This shows on of the very few recorded examples of a wristwatch bearing their own name. Silver case hallmarked 1931, casemaker RN (Robert North). Well finished three-quarter plate movement with 19 jewels, 34mm diameter.|
|In early 1900, at the advent of the motorcar, the firm diversified from watchmaking and under the direction of Robert Benson North started producing speedometers. This is a very early model, although difficult to date, it bears their name and was certainly made before the First World War.|
|The outbreak of the war brought other changes to Nicole Nielsen & Co. Ltd. The firm started manufacturing magnetos at Watford, Hertfordshire, and continued to do so throughout the 1920s. In 1917 the name was changed to North and Sons Ltd.|
|By 1922 the company began to manufacture car clocks. View of dial signed North & Sons Ltd, Watford & London|
|View of movement of the above car clock, datable to the mid 1920s.|
Dates events and manufacturing process are those generally accepted on the basis of current research and knowledge.
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