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 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.
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.
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 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