Saturday, 13 August 2016

J.W. Benson movements in Dennison cases.

Large numbers of Benson cases were made by Benson Bros[i] (no relation) of Liverpool, but carried the J.W. Benson mark and for solid gold and silver the London assay marks.
A witness mark (just to the left of the case screw hole)
showing that the movement does not belong in this case.
Note the Dennison safety bow on the case.
Benson watches from the 1930s with “standard” sized movements by Tavannes are frequently seen on eBay in silver cases by Dennison, most of these are marriages probably using movements that originally had a solid gold case. These frequently have witness marks from other movements visible on the case as illustrated here (I don’t buy these watches except for spares so the example shown is the movement from the watch below placed in a case from a Waltham watch).
Some however do not bear witness marks but could still be marriages with cases originally from Tavannes watches.
A 1933 Tavannes movement for J.W. Benson in
a Dennison silver case hallmarked 1933
Whilst Benson could have used Dennison cases when short of their own, for quite a while I considered that the majority of these Dennison cased watches were marriages but then saw some with provenance covering 40 or 50 years and I began to wonder, whilst I am very sceptical[ii] about family history, a relatively recent history (when the owner was not trying to sell) probably precludes a watch having been recently re-cased.
Having done some research[iii] I found that the Benson Bros business, including the contract with J.W. Benson, was purchased by Dennison in the early 30s, case making was transferred to Handsworth whilst the original Benson Bros operation was turned over to repair work.

This makes more sense of watches from the 1930s occasionally having Dennison hallmarks. The date of the transfer is not known but was certainly complete by 1934. All of those that I have handled without witness marks showing re-casing, are hallmarked 1933 apart from one, the only datable Swiss Benson I have had from from 1934. So probably these watches came during the transfer of the business.
The back of the watch shown above.
The Dennison case shown here is confirmation of this as the date of the movement (from the serial number) matches that of the case. Also the case is not typically Dennison of the period as it lacks their normal patented “Safety bow”, as do all of the gold and silver cases in my mid 1930s J.W. Benson sales catalogue.
It is also possible that the case was originally made for Benson but was sent to Birmingham for assay due to a queue at London or it was made for another third party and diverted.

[i] Previously the business founded by of R. Samuel, Benson Bros from c1894 and from 1902 owned by J.B. Eastham.
[ii] Well justified I think having been told several totally implausible histories saying for example that a hallmarked watch from the 1920’s was 19th century and the hallmarks were wrong, a London assay having been stamped with Birmingham date marks, because “it has to be that as it was definitely Great Gt… Grandad's 21st Birthday present” - although not engraved as such .
[iii] Primarily from Priestley “Watch Case Makers of England”, NAWCC Spring 1994.

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