Friday, 19 December 2014

J.W. Benson "The Ludgate"

Left: Size 13 Benson "Ludgate" 13J 1886, Right a size 22 "Ludgate",

The restoration of these Benson "Ludgates" have just been finished, the one on the left from 1886 and is a typical size 16, the one on the right is a size 22, yes 22, and is also in an oversize case. This post explains an interesting feature of the Ludgate design and illustrates a conundrum in dating the larger watch.

The movements are both engraved

J.W. Benson
patent No 4658
best London make
To H.M. The Queen, Ludgate Hill, London
which is a good stating point for both topics I want to cover. Firstly the Patent No 4658, this was for an integrated dust ring which also acted as a movement carrier.

If you look at the movement to the right you can see that the face plate is considerably bigger than the top plate forming an extended lip around the edge, also the barrel (bottom and just left of centre) extends outside of the top plate of the movement so clearly it cannot fit directly into a normal watch case.

Instead it fits into a substantial carrier and that slides into the watch case and is secured there by three cams. Normally the dust cover is hinged off of the carrier which means that it can only be removed from the case by removing the back cover first, a tedious, difficult and fortunately normally unnecessary operation. This size 22 movement does not work like that having the dust cover hinged, as on most watches, from the case itself.

I am not sure what was achieved by this patented design, a dust ring in light metal as used by Waltham and others would be much lighter and more convenient and give as much protection. It probably did not give any substantial protection either as, being key wound and set, there were two quite sizable holes in the back dust cover around the key guards which without a cover around the balance cock (as seen on some Swiss designs) would let in more dust than would ever get in from the sides.

Dating the Size 22

The case on the size 22  measures 2.23" / 5.67cm in diameter excluding the crown and has approximately 76 grams of silver in it with the complete watch weighing in at 169 grams - so you might list a bit carrying this watch in a waistcoat pocket! The other problem is the date.

The case has London hallmarks for Sterling Silver, 1918 and the makers mark of J.W. Benson. It also has a serial number which matches that of the movement, that is rare on a Benson, and proves that the case was made for this movement.

But the movement is earlier than that. The inscription shown above dates the watch to before or shortly after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 after which Benson inscribed movements "To the Late Queen" and a 19th century date is consistent with the type of movement although I have seen a few into the very early 1900s..

There is some speculation that a character in front of the serial number is a date year but this is not helpful as this watch has a "B" on the face plate and a "G" on the top plate, also Cutmore says that the Ludgate has a pure numeric and that is confirmed by checking my 10 other Ludgate movements (including another S22) so this movement looks to be an odd ball. In any event is was probably made in the 1890s.

So it was probably expensively re-cased by the makers in 1918 or the movement was held in stock for twenty years or so before being cased.

See the for technical details etc.

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