Smiths Imperial (1962)
This is a lovely example of Smiths 1960s output - a 9 carat gold dress watch, with a glossy black dial, all powered by the cal 0104 manual wind movement. What is particularly nice about this example is that it has a presentation inscription on the reverse from Smiths themselves, to one of their employees for 25 years service.
The case of the watch is hallmarked for 1960, although as can be read, it wasn't presented until 1962. Little is known about Smiths sales volume in this period, but I suspect a certain batch of cases were set aside for company presentation watches in 1960 and they were still being used up in 1962.
The watch has been fully serviced and regulated and the time keeping is good. It is supplied with a new old stock leather strap. This is a rare watch and very wearable for the person who cherishes the tradition of the English-made watch.
Case diameter (excluding winding crown): 33mm
Case material: 9 carat gold, hallmarked in London 1960
strap width: 17mm
time keeping: grade A
about Smiths watches
Smiths were the last English producers of quality watches. Their watches aren't very well known today because it's over 30 years since they stopped producing, but the quality of their watches bears comparison with anything the Swiss were producing. Smiths produced a variety of styles of watch for both ladies and gentlemen in chrome, steel, silver and gold cases. The gold cased watches were particularly popular as long-service presentation gifts and the casebacks are often engraved with a long-service inscription. We don't remove these inscriptions as we feel they are an important part of the story of each watch. They developed an automatic movement watch and also were contracted by the British army to produce a wristwatch for general service use (the automatic and the military Smiths are amongst the most sought after and can command high prices).
These days we associate the Swiss with high end mechanical watches, but in the 19th century it was English watches that occupied this prestigious position. The Swiss began to compete with the English watchmakers by producing low cost watches. The English were slow to adept to this new competitor, they took great pride in the relatively small volume of high-quality hand made watches that were produced in England. The Swiss gradually swamped the watch market - beginning with low cost watches, later they produced watches of a comparable quality to the English hand-made watch, but at a lower price. The Swiss developed machine production of watches, this meant that the quality could be kept consistent and replacement parts were interchangeable. Ultimately the English industry couldn't compete and by the early 1930s pretty much all watches were imported.
In the run up to the second world war, the government became concerned that there was no indigenous watch industry left. They turned to S. Smith & Sons who were a long established a watch and clock producer and underwrote the development of a new factory in Cheltenham. Precise timing mechanisms were important for the war in things like bomb timers, as well as more traditional time pieces.
After the second world war, Smiths switched over to civilian production with the first of their watches coming onto the market in around 1947. They continued production up until the late 1970s, when they rather suddenly split up the watch and clock division of the company. By this time Smiths Industries was more focussed on civil and military avionics and I guess felt that the watches were part of their past. It seems odd that nobody else sought to take over the business as they were clearly profitable, possibly the impact of quartz watches was a factor in their decision to end the business.
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