Friday, 29 April 2016

J.W. Benson Sales Catalogue - Part 1.

I recently obtained a J.W. Benson sales catalogue, unfortunately the first 8 pages are missing but with so little information available on the company, and much of what is available contradictory, it is worth spending time analysing what I do have.

The first thing to do was to date it, this was not as easy as hoped for, many of the watches shown were in production in one form or another for c 50 years and in any case there are unfortunately very few pictures of the movements to aid dating. It soon became clear that this 67th edition makes use of text and pictures that span many years. 
One movement is engraved “By Warrant to H.M. the late Queen Victoria” which I have previously only seen on movements from 1901/2 to c 1907 and there were extensive quotes from the 7th edition of the Royal Geographical Societies “Hints to Travellers” which was published in 1893 but superseded by the 8th edition in 1901 and the 9th in 1906.

Yet the Swiss watches shown are from their style and size are clearly much later, nor are they from the makers I have seen resold by Benson prior to 1910.

The give-away was a partial view of the movement of their Swiss “Greenwich Watch”, this is an exact match to the Tavannes Hunter movement, the earliest datable examples I have come across of this movement branded by Benson are from 1931/2 (probably 1932) prior to which the Swiss watches were generally by Revue and before that Longines.  Based an a large number of these movements I have seen the technical description of the "Greenwich" also implies a production date of 1936 or later. 
So the catalogue is from the 1930’s Bensons having been bombed out in 1941 with, according to the bombing report the loss of 12,000 watch movements, and they are unlikely to have produced a catalogue in 1940 or 1941, particularly offering an 18 carat gold Swastika fob medal (75/- or £240 in todays money[i] ).
J.W. Benson (Tavannes) 15J
half hunter, 1940.

Elsewhere there are hints that the catalogue is probably from the late 1930s, for instance it is unlikely that Bensons would have offered a Swastika medal prior to the Nazi party coming to power in January 1933, or that an example engraving would be dated January 1937 much before that date.
I think therefore that it is reasonably safe to date the catalogue from between 1935 and 1939 inclusive and certainly no earlier than 1932.

[i] Assuming a date for the catalogue of 1935.

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