Tag Archives: Dennison Watch

J.W. Benson

Having the watch bug, like many similar diseases, can be expensive. The solution is more often than not is to resort to elaborate man maths justifying the most recent acquisition. There is however an alternative; buy a used watch. This solution can offer some considerable savings especially if you broaden your search away from more recent watches and especially from the obvious brands.

Luckily for Grinidgetime, British brands offer considerable opportunities as many have dropped by the wayside with the passing of time. One such brand is J.W, Benson of Regents Street, London. I first really noticed these watches whilst searching for Smiths on e-Bay. One particular model caught my eye. The Tropical with a Smiths movement and a Dennison case. The historical British watchmaking brands in one watch – bingo. Unfortunately the prices being asked are starting to look expensive.

J.W. Benson “Tropical”

J W Benson originated in 1847, founded by James William Benson and Samuel Suckley Benson. They were regarded as one of Victorian London’s most prestigious retail jewellers and they also manufactured their own watch movements. Benson had prestigious premises at 43 Cornhill and, when the original partnership was dissolved and James William Benson took over the running of the business, they also opened a branch at 33 Ludgate Hill.

J.W. Benson – Ludgate Hill

A further branch was added at glamorous 25 Old Bond Street and JW Benson proudly boasted an elite client base made up of both British and European royalty and a selection of well heeled industrialists and business figures including the King of Siam, the King of Portugal, the King of Denmark, the Emperor of Japan, the Tsar of Russia and the King of Greece. JW Benson also supplied watches to Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. Throughout its history, J.W. Benson Ltd was also official watchmaker to the Admiralty & the War Department.

During W.W.I. the factory was bombed, destroying thousands of timepieces and from this point on the company no longer manufactured its own watches, but still continued as a retailer. The timepieces bearing the company name used high quality Swiss movements supplied by manufacturers such as, Vertex (Revue), Cyma/Tavannes, Longines and by the English maker, S. Smith & Sons.

J. W. Benson Ltd continued until 1973 at which time the name was sold to the Royal jewellers, Garrards.

 

Now back to my recent e-Bay find a 1960’s J.W Benson with a 17 manual wind Swiss movement.

My Benson

 

When the watch arrived in the post I was very pleasantly surprised. The condition was in much better condition than I expected. The 34mm case, in what I assume is gold plate is in great condition apart from a few scratches.

The movement

The movement looks in great condition, though I suspect is in need of a clean as it is running slow at the moment.

JW Benson is an interesting brand with some really nice watches in the back catalogue. Definitely worth hunting out – happy hunting

Dennison Denco53 – review

Just before Christmas I had the pleasure of using a Dennison watch for a week or so. I first came across the company at their launch at the Salon QP in 2015 and I had been keen to try the watches ever since.

Dennison in Grinidge
Dennison in Grinidge

The revived brand has a great story.  The Dennison Watch Case Co. Ltd was established in 1905 by Franklin Dennison and his son Major Gilbert Dennison, after acquiring the shares of Alfred Wigley.

Over the following 60 years, the company grew to become the largest watch company in England and known around the world for its fine Dennison Quality (DQ).

Dennison designed and manufactured watch cases for world famous explorers specifically for expeditions – in 1913 for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Expedition to Antartica on the ship ‘Endurance’, and in 1953 for Sir Edmund Hillary and his team’s successful Everest Expedition (image adjacent showing an advert from 1954 published in the HJ). During the same year, Lieut. Commander Lithgow broke the World Air Speed Record flying over Tripoli, reaching a speed of 735.7mph (1184km/h), whilst wearing a Dennison Aquatite cased watch.

Over the years, Dennison became most renowned for their close working relationship with watchmakers and retailers such as Rolex, Tudor, Omega, Longines, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zenith, Smiths, J.W.Benson & Garrard. Dennison supplied them with the highest-quality watch cases designed to house the finest-quality movements.

I picked up the watch from Toby Sutton the founder of Dennison complete with the all the packaging one would get if you bought the watch. This all looks identical to that shown at the launch.

The complete package
The complete package

Inside the leather watch case there is an additional strap and a very useful spring bar tool.

Inside the Dennison watch case
Inside the Dennison watch case

The first impression of the watch is how “natural” it feels on the wrist. The 38mm case is a very easy size to wear, slipping easily under a shirt cuff, should you need it to. Although the “black dial DENCO53” on this natural brown strap might not be your first choice for office wear. I did also question the dial description with Toby, to me the “black” dial is really a rather dark green he calls it “matt black – honeycomb”.

The overall design of the watch has a very pleasing traditional/retro look. The shape of the hands being quiet distinctive when compared to similarly styled watches, that tend to be more aviator in design with straight hands. The two elements that are really nice are firstly the copper-ish colour of the numerals and the the logo and the use of plexiglass which gives a different warmth to the more usual crystal. The only areas of the overall design that I thought could be re-looked at was the distinction between the bevel and the rest of the brushed steel case. Then purely from a nationalistic point of view “England” under the Dennison logo could be a little larger.

The caseback is solid, which I personally prefer as it is a great position for further interesting detailing. In the case of this watch you will see (below) you will see the number 116026 showing this watch was number 26 of the first batch of 2016.

Back of DENCO53
Back of DENCO53

Living with this watch is very easy, it feels indestructible especially given the 100m water resistance rating. This “wear and forget” feeling was further underlined when I switched the leather strap for a nylon NATO so avoiding any potential sweat/leather issues.

DENC053 on a NATO
DENC053 on a NATO

When changing the straps I fully realised the benefit of the drilled through lugs, making the change a breeze. I tried several colours, I think this sand colour being the best, it matches very nicely the lume on the hands.

So on one of the last shopping days before Christmas with some regret I dropped the watch back with Toby. I think Dennison have fully fulfilled their brief of producing a robust field watch – the sort of watch you never really have to take off.

For full technical details and pricing you should visit the companies website  at https://dennisonwatches.com/watches/denco53-black-dial/

 

 

Salon QP 2016 – Saturday

This event has now the highlight of my Grinidgetime calendar. It is an opportunity for me to meet in person many of the people I have been writing about over the year. Given the number of people that also want to meet these people I limit these meetings to a quick hello, just to put a face to Grinidgetime. Last year I managed to shake the hand of the great Roger Smith.  This year  there was at least his “Great Britain” watch.

Roger Smith - Great Britain
Roger Smith – Great Britain

Again, I have to mention I was disappointed that neither Meerson, Pinion or Schofield were exhibiting this year.  I was also disappointed that Farer did not have a stand, the brand caught me a little by surprise and I really like their new range of automatics.

Our first port of call was The Deep Time diver’s watch exhibition where I really enjoyed seeing an early Panerai, a Blancpain  Fifty Fathoms and an Eterna Kontiki  helps which remind us there are alternatives to Rolex Submariners. The first British stop was the Bremont stand, which disappointingly look identical to last year’s.  So I moved swiftly onto the first floor where  to see the Christopher Ward stand, this year featuring  Morgan three wheeler to highlight the relationship between the two companies. There was also  their star watchmaker Johannes Jahnke working away at a bench.

 Johannes Jahnke
Johannes Jahnke

Then up to the second floor where I almost literally bumped into Nicholas B-W of Fears Watches looking very pleased with himself. The show was going very well. Chatting with Nicholas he explained a little more to me about the philosophy of the brand. Apparently, he had been advised that the brands history would permit them to be much more upmarket. Nicholas explained that he thought this would be a betrayal of what the brand had been, good value watches with Swiss movements. He went on to explain that one key design feature of the Radcliff watch was legibility in the dark, interestingly having the date window is key in being able to orientate the watch.

My editorial assistant ( my just teenage son) was very impressed, He was even more impressed when Nicholas let him try on “watch No. 1”

#1 Redcliff + # 1 Son
#1 Redcliff + # 1 Son

The next stop was to say hello Toby Sutton to see how Dennison was going a year from their launch at last year’s Salon. He was wearing the material Denco53 with the French paratrooper strap which is a really great combination. This is the only picture I have managed to find, you must admit this strap looks made for this watch.

Next was Robert Loomes; I wanted to congratulate him on his talk the day before and of course to have a closer look at the new Stamford. I also had the pleasure of meeting his wife Robina, apparently the strategic mind of the couple. Robert was his usual enthusiastic self and was very pleased with the reception the watch had received at the show. It looks like he will be busy for sometime to come.

Our last “British” stop was to see the new “Portsmouth” at the Garrick stand. Here I had hoped to get some pictures of the watch, unfortunately exhibition cases and and an iPhone prevented this. So here is a picture from the Garrick website.

Garrick Portsmouth
Garrick Portsmouth

David Brailsford of Garrick was a another happy man. He told me sales at the show were going very well. They had sold out of there Regulator model and the Portsmouth was generating a great deal of interest despite the £17,995 price. So the Norfolk watchmaker is going to busy for sometime as well. Finally, I managed to resolve a doubt I had been harboring for a while, David confirmed to me that the watch was originally going to be called the Plymouth. Being Hampshire born I am much happier with this name.

So to sum up, another very enjoyable show this year. The best news being the great the great reception that the British brands exhibiting are receiving from everyone. Well done.

 

Smaller Better ?

This is not a purely “`British watch brand” question, but it is one I have thought about and discussed a fare deal of late. Is there a move back towards smaller watch sizes ? Personally I have never been a fan of 45mm plus cases and feel some where between 36 ( for example older model Rolex Explorer) and 40mm is the perfect size. The newly relaunched British brand came to market with a great 38 mm range.

Here is a piece from Monochrome Watches discussing the relative merits of a smaller Omega Planet Ocean.

Enjoy https://monochrome-watches.com/smaller-is-better-case-study-with-the-39-5mm-omega-seamaster-planet-ocean-600m/

Dennison Launch Event

Last week was a busy week for me, watch wise. The key event probably being the launch or revival of the Dennison brand. Important for me personally because I first came across the brand at the Salon QP last year where Toby, the founder, told me about their launch in February.

https://dennisonwatches.com
The New Dennison Range

 

The  original Dennison Watch Case Co. Ltd was established in 1905 by Franklin Dennison and his son Major Gilbert Dennison.

Over the following 60 years, the company grew to become the largest watch company in England and known around the world for its fine Dennison Quality (DQ).

Dennison designed and manufactured watch cases for world famous explorers specifically for expeditions – in 1913 for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Expedition to Antartica on the ship ‘Endurance’, and in 1953 for Sir Edmund Hillary and his team’s successful Everest Expedition. During the same year, Lieut. Commander Lithgow broke the World Air Speed Record flying over Tripoli, reaching a speed of 735.7mph (1184km/h), whilst wearing a Dennison Aquatite cased watch.

Over the years, Dennison became most renowned for their close working relationship with watchmakers and retailers such as Rolex, Tudor, Omega, Longines, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zenith, Smiths, J.W.Benson & Garrard. Dennison supplied them with the highest-quality watch cases designed to house the finest-quality movements.

The Dennison name fell dormant until 2010, when Toby Sutton of Watches of Knightsbridge registered the trademark and began working on a revival.

Inspired by the expedition pieces of the 1950s, the revival watches, have their cases produced in the UK using some machinery from the original Dennison factory. Inside are ETA-2824 movements .

The launch event was held in a private London club in association with Bruichladdich Whiskey.  I arrived too late to hear the Jon Gupta and Tony Douglas the two  brand ambassadors chat, but in time for the whiskey.

I then managed to have a quick talk to Toby to try on the prototypes. My first impressions, and those of everyone I heard around me , were very positive; at 38mm the case size is perfect for my  normal wrist. (below together with my Smiths)

https://dennisonwatches.com
Old and New Dennison

 

Toby will concentrate on the existing range of three watches for the foreseeable though he is passing an eye over historical Dennison models. One style that he has considered is the cushion shape, which we agreed is a style that is becoming more popular.

Vintage Dennison Cushion cased watch
Vintage Dennison Cushion cased watch

 

The first 50 watches will be ready for shipping on May 6th priced from £2400. To order or simply for more information visit their website www.dennisonwatches.com