Monday, 20 March 2017

J.W. Benson Inter-war Period Manufacturing.

J.W. Benson "Field" dated from the silver case to 1920.
A good number of sites on the web state that Benson stopped making watches during WWI following a bombing raid which resulted in the loss of 12,000 watches (or some other large number).

Whilst I am told that there was bombing in the Ludgate Hill area during WWI, it did not destroy the factory and they continued to manufacture at least well into the 1930's and probably until they were bombed out in 1941.

Here is some of the collateral for this statement:
  • Horological historian Max Cutmore writes: “In 1892 a steam-powered factory was opened at Belle Sauvage Yard (in Ludgate Hill) at which their well-finished, elegant three-quarter plate pocket watches were produced in considerable numbers until 1941 when the factory was destroyed by Bombs.”[i]
  • The Horological Journal in April 1935 reports a visit to the factory [which was making watches].[ii]
  • The 1941 Bombing report says 12,000 watches were destroyed [in 1941, not in WWI].[iii]
  • My Benson Sales Catalogue c1935, referring to the "Field" watch explicitly says  “Manufactured in our London Factory”, other watches are described as “our best London make” which is a bit ambiguous.[iv]
  • A Letter from J.W. Benson Ltd, which I have seen a photograph of, dated 1957 clearly states “our Ludgate Hill premises were destroyed by enemy action in 1941”.
I hope that demonstrates that Benson undoubtedly had a factory and made watches after 1917/18!

This is another picture of the "Field" watch from 1920 shown above.

[i] “Watches 1850-1980”, M. Cutmore, David & Charles, 2002, p111,
[ii] “High Grade Watches made in London”, HJ,77, April 1935, 254-7 quoted in [i].
[iii] Letters from Garrard & Co Ltd dated October & November 1985 quoted in [i].
[iv] 67th edition “A” catalogue, J.W. Benson c 1935, and definitely after 1932.