A 1952 J.W. Benson Watch

1952 J.W. Benson Watch

I made a video about my 1952 J.W. Benson watch, which I hope you will enjoy. It has a 15-jewel Smiths movement and a sub-second dial with Arab numerals.

James William Benson (12 April 1826 – 7 October 1878) was an English scientific instrument maker and watchmaker who enjoyed an excellent reputation in London in the late nineteenth century. He was born in Reading, Berkshire, England. He was the son of William Benson and Phoebe Suckley.

J.W. Benson Ltd was a highly regarded London watch/clockmakers and gold/silversmiths who traded between 1847 and 1973. The Benson family had been watchmakers since 1749. A company, trading as S.S. & J.W. Benson, was founded in 1847 by James William Benson (born in 1826 in Reading) and his older brother Samuel Suckley Benson (born in 1822 in London). The partnership was dissolved on 27 January 1855 and James William continued the business under the name, ‘J. W. Benson’.

James William Benson died on 7 October 1878, aged 52, and his sons James, Alfred and Arthur took over the running of the business. Throughout its history, J.W. Benson Ltd was official watchmaker to the Admiralty & the War Department and also held a number of royal warrants, being watchmakers to Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, the Tsar of Russia and several other royal families. The company’s premises were: Cornhill (1847–64), Ludgate Hill (1854-1937), Old Bond Street (1872-3), Royal Exchange (1892-1937) and their original workshop was at 4-5 Horseshoe Court (at the rear of their Ludgate Hill premises). In 1892 it became a limited company and moved to their new ‘steam’ factory at 38 Belle Sauvage Yard.

During W.W.I. the factory was bombed, destroying thousands of timepieces and from this point on the company no longer manufactured its own watches, but still continued as a retailer. The timepieces bearing the company name used high quality Swiss movements supplied by manufacturers such as, Vertex (Revue), Cyma/Tavannes, Longines and by the English maker, S. Smith & Sons. J. W. Benson Ltd continued until 1973 at which time the name was sold to the Royal jewellers, Garrards.

A 1950s Fero Antimagnetic Watch

Here is a 1950s Fero Antimagnetic watch with a 15 rubis Ebauche Bettlach (EB 1343) movement and a peripheral second hand. The dial is exquisitely designed, with guilloche reliefs in the shape of circles and solar rays and a hexagonal star in the center. I call this an early version of a skeleton watch, because it’s sealed between two panes of plexiglass. You can see the movement when you turn it over and you can also see through it.

The downside to this is that I cannot open the watch because the seal (which accords it a certain resistance to water and most definitely to dust) will be broken. The upside is that the plexiglass modulates the ticking of the movement, making it softer and more interesting. This effect can also be seen when the watch is wound, and you’ll be able to hear both those processes in the video.

You can tell this watch was loved, because it’s well-worn. The gold plating is barely visible anymore but in spite of all the wear, there are no significant scratches on it. This means its previous owner(s) wore it a lot and cared for it.

The movement ticks at 18,000 beats per hour and it has a power reserve of 37 hours. The diameter of the watch is 37 mm and the distance between the lugs is 18 mm. The movement itself has a diameter of 25.6 mm and is only 4.2 mm thick.

The Fero brand, trademarked in 1959, belonged to the Fero Watch company, founded by Roger Ferner as Fero & Cie. before WWI in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The Fero name actually comes from its founder and is made up of the first two initials of his two names (FErner ROger). Fero also made watches with the following names: Feldmann, Ceneri, Farad, Ferio, Hello, Legation, Maloja, Pantheon and Tango.

Fero did not manufacture its own mechanisms. Instead they purchased and installed movements from some of the best Swiss watchmakers such as Anton Schild, Bettlach, FHF and others. They did design their own watch cases and their designs were quite distinctive, as you can see here. Fero watches are quite rare these days and it’s fairly difficult to find one in as good a shape as this one. I know, because I found another, likely older than this one, whose bezel and case are completely corroded, so I’m not sure how I’m going to restore it.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos!