Friday, 25 March 2016

Benson Watches of 1885

Click any picture for a larger view.
These clippings are from a broadsheet full page advert in the Illustrated London News of the 12th December 1885. It only shows the recently introduced keyset “Ludgate” watch although there are some interesting pointers to the rest of their range. From the snippet below we can see that they were selling watches for between two  guineas (£2 2s or £2.10) and £500, at this time an agricultural labourer’s wage was about £35 a year.


In terms of general buying power, £500 is equivalent to approximately £49,000 today and would have purchased quite a grand house. Unfortunately I don’t know what sort of watch that would have been but it may well have been a gold cased "complicated" watch such as a repeating chronograph.

The Ludgate was shown in 3 sizes, although more were available, and in silver ranged in price from £5.50 (£540 in todays money) for an open faced watch to £9.10 (£900) for a half hunter. Gold watches ranged from £12.60 (£1,200) to £29 (£2,800).

Advertising standards do not seem to have been of much concern. For instance the general description of the Ludgate claims that the watch is “jewelled throughout” when the watch actually has a maximum of 13 jewels. 17 or, arguable at the time, 15 jewels would be required for that, Waltham's 1877 model for example was being made in quantity with 15 jewels well before this date and I have seen a Rotherham Fusee from the 1870's with 15 jewels which would also have been made in some quantity.

They also claim the watch has “maintaining power” to continue the action during winding, this is rather misleading, a "going barrel" movement maintains power during winding without any special features, what they are probably trying to do is to avoid mentioning that the watch is a “going barrel” type rather than the much more expensive Fusee which was still common in the English market and generally (in UK) considered superior and which required an additional mechanism to provide maintaining power. The very cynical might also think that they were trying to imply the watch was a Fusee.

The “True chronometer” balance referred to was a cut compensating balance already in fairly widespread use, particularly in better American watches.


Top left section showing small (top) and medium size (bottom)

Top right section.
Bottom left section showing large sized watches.

Bottom right section.

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