9ct gold Art Deco J W Benson wristwatch, 1947

Last Updated on May 27, 2024 by Jason

The features of Art Deco design have recently caught my eye and I am keen to add a watch to my collection that captures the charm of the period. In this instance, during my initial research, I have come across this Art Deco J W Benson wristwatch dating from 1947. It is made in the Art Deco style with a rectangular 9ct gold case, with a quality Cyma calibre 335 movement.

Art Deco style

Art Deco is a term, short for Arts Décoratifs, that was derived from the 1925 “Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes” (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) held in Paris. It is a visual arts style developed in France during the 1910s, which spread across Europe and America in the 1920s. It brought a sense of modernity to design through the use of geometric and repeating patterns. In wristwatch design, this expresses itself in several ways. Rather than the traditional round case, Art Deco embraces more unusual shapes with rectangular, square, tonneau and cushion shaped timepieces epitomising the style. The dials also have a similar geometric focus with sector dials, railway minute tracks and cursive or Roman typefaces being common elements.

Art Deco J W Benson wristwatch, 1947.
Art Deco J W Benson wristwatch, 1947.

J W Benson

J W Benson was founded in 1847, by James William Benson and Samuel Suckley Benson. They were regarded as one of Victorian London’s most prestigious retail jewellers. They also retailed their own watch movements. In 1892 J W Benson became a limited company and moved to a new ‘steam’ factory at 38 Belle Sauvage Yard. It is not clear if Benson was manufacturing movements or merely assembling and finishing movements supplied by other watchmakers. Either way, the company flourished and proudly boasted a client base including British and European royalty. There was also a selection of wealthy industrialists and business figures including the King of Siam, the King of Portugal, the King of Denmark, the Emperor of Japan, the Tsar of Russia and the King of Greece. J W Benson was also awarded a Royal Warrant to supply watches to Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales.

As with many watchmakers, J W Benson embraced the newly introduced wristwatch during the first World War. Some reports suggest, that Benson’s factory in Belle Sauvage Yard, London, was destroyed in a Zepplin raid in 1914 and that they started using imported Swiss movements from this point. This is unlikely, as the Zepplin raids didn’t reach London until 1915. In fact, Benson were using Swiss movements, such as Revue and Cyma from the early 1900s. It is much more likely that Benson’s found the Swiss movements more financially viable and slowly wound down its manufacturing. It is more likely that the factory was destroyed during the Blitz in 1941. From a collector’s point of view, both the British and Swiss made J W Benson movements are desirable and comparable in quality.

Cyma calibre 355

The Cyma 335 calibre was launched in 1935, based on the calibre 334. The main difference was that the 334 had 7 jewels and a 3/4 movement plate. The 355 had 15 jewels and a separate train bridge. Both measured 7.75 ‴ x 12 ‴ lignes (17.5 mm x 27.4 mm) and had Swiss lever movements. The movements were manual winds, with an extraordinary power reserve of 75 hours on a single wind. There is little information online regarding the 334 and 335 calibres. The little I have uncovered comes courtesy of the Ranfft website.

Cyma calibre 355.
Cyma calibre 355.

Case and dial

The watch measures 20 mm wide excluding the winding crown and 32 mm high excluding the lugs. It would suit a slimmer wrist, just like mine. The case is 9 carat gold and there are British hallmarks inside the case back for Birmingham 1947. Additionally, there is a case maker’s mark for Aaron Dennison. The Dennison Watch Case Company was a Birmingham based manufacturer and supplier to various watch makers. The case has general surface marks, but nothing too detrimental, and a hint of unevenness just above the lens. All of the markings would be considered patina rather than damage and, if nothing else, add to the charm of the watch.

JW Benson case back.
JW Benson case back.

The glass crystal lens has a 1mm scratch and some nibbling around the bottom left edge but again, very acceptable. The dial is signed with the name of the original retailer, J W Benson of London. The dial is in its original finish with original hands, a subsidiary seconds dial and outer minute markers.

Summary

This is an exceptional Art Deco J W Benson watch. It is in remarkable condition for its age. The 9 ct gold case in good condition, with the expected patina from normal use. The movement is running well and reliably keeping time to within a few minutes a day. Unfortunately, this watch had sold before I completed my research. However, there are plenty more Art Deco style vintage watches out there and one will no doubt end up in my collection soon.

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