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How to collect Smiths watches - the best-value vintage timepieces of them all
By Adrian Hailwood
22 December 2018
Welcome to the collector's watch everyone can collect: S Smith & Sons watches, long on military history, short on the kind of valuations that preclude everyday investments into certain other brands. Better still, affordable hoardables don't come more home-grown....
It is sad to think that the country that once led the world in watchmaking quality, innovation and accuracy now has only one company that makes the entire watch themselves. And that, for pedants, is only if we stretch the definition of British to include crown dependencies, as I am referring to Roger Smith OBE, based on the Isle of Man.
Once, another Smith gave the Swiss a run for their money, and the rolling Cotswold hills took on the might of the Jura Mountains. Borne of the government’s desire for wartime self-sufficiency regarding watches, clocks and timing mechanisms, funding was given to S Smith & Sons, watch and clock makers since 1851, who had since diversified into motor, aviation and marine instruments. This finance came in the form of MoD contracts, which were ongoing from the start of WWII. Fearful of enemy bombing, the high-grade watchmaking facility relocated to Cheltenham in “stealth” factories (single story with grass roofs) and against the odds, in straitened conditions managed to produce, from scratch, pocket watches, and by the end of WWII, wrist watches. The market for them settled at a solid but reasonable price: in 1959 an Imperial Automatic in stainless steel would have been £25 (£550 in 2018 money), the same thing manual-wound would have been £12 (£260). The post-war civilian market was tough, and despite introducing new models and movements, fine watchmaking ended in Cheltenham in 1971. During this brief period, they produced unique and distinctive watches that make a fascinating study for the fledgling collector.
There are three types of Smiths:
Cheltenham-made These are the ones you really want, as they have the highest grade movements and more effort in the dials and cases. The dials say Smiths, Smiths De Luxe, Smiths Everest, Smiths National, Smiths Astral, Smiths Imperial or some later ones say just Astral. In a few cases they are dialled Benson and some nice 18 jewel movements were made for Garrard.
https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/h ... hs-watches
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