The celebrated house of Tiffany & Co., founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812-1902), opened his first store in New York in 1837. Ten years later, his catalogue incorporated French watches and clocks.
Tiffany probably became acquainted with the quality watchmakers Antoine Patek and Adrien Philippe at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and three years later agreed to import Patek Philippe pocket watches into the US. In 1868, Tiffany started advertising its own dial names.
By 1874 Tiffany had become a veritable Swiss watchmaker, producing timepieces by the lake in Geneva at 10 Grand Quai, today Patek Philippe's prestigious Salon on the renamed Rue du Rhône. In that same year, Charles Tiffany opened an ultra-modern factory on Place Cornavin and shortly after, his company was acknowledged as the leading watch and clock retailer in the US, alongside its substantial jewellery business.
The movements were made by Tiffany or other manufacturers in Geneva, most notably Patek Philippe but also Ekegren, the cases were often produced or embellished in the firm's New York headquarters.
Stem-winding watches and "Tiffany Timers" as the early chronographs were popularly known enjoyed great success and the house soon counted famous personalities, notably William H. Vanderbilt, Henry Flagler, J. Pierpont Morgan, General Sherman, Alexander Graham Bell, Jay Gould and John D. and Theodore Roosevelt, amongst their faithful clients.
The present watch is a fine example of such a "Tiffany Timer" made in their Geneva factory and certainly sold to one of these illustrious patrons requiring a watch not only allowing to measure two events simultaneously but also to count the passed hours, quarters and minutes besides showing the times in two different zones - possibly a magnate involved in the booming railroad industry, such as the Vanderbilts.
For the illustration of a "Tiffany Timer" with split seconds chronograph mechanisms and regulator dials see Tiffany Timepieces by John Loring, no. 6406 on p. 12, no. 15734 on p. 75. Interestingly, no. 6406 was purchased by William H. Vanderbilt who managed his father's Cornelius extensive railroad holdings and presented to his business associate John H. Starin as a Christmas gift in 1870.
Chronograph watches fitted with a regulator dial, placing the emphasis on the chronograph display as opposed to the traditional time display are extremely rare. The split seconds and minute repeating mechanism further add to its exclusivity.
Another highly unusual feature of the present watch is the two time zones function as, when it was manufactured around 1875, the establishment of time zones was still in its early years. On 1 November 1884, during the International Meridian Conference in Washington D.C., it was agreed to establish international zones according to the same system. GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, was considered the "time zero" and the twenty-four standard meridians marked the centres of the zones. The International Dateline was placed along the 180-degree meridian in the Pacific Ocean. Around the world, clocks were reset to adapt to the new system of timekeeping.