Gents Smiths De Luxe watch, box & papers, 1958.

This vintage Smiths De Luxe watch, dating from 1958, has a black dial and comes with its original box and guarantee. It is in great condition for its age and is keeping time well. It is very unusual to find a vintage watch of this age with its original box and papers. They are simply things that people didn’t think to keep in years gone by. However, it is significant to vintage and antique watch collectors because it adds some provenance to the watch in question. It probably adds about 10 – 20% to the resale value of a vintage watch if you have the original box and papers.

Smiths watches

Samuel Smith (1826-1875) started his career in 1851 as a jeweller, diamond merchant, and retailer of watches and clocks. He established the business at 149/151 Newington Causeway in London. His son, also named Samuel (1850 – 1932), joined him in this venture, and together they expanded their retail presence near Charing Cross. It’s important to note that during this period, Smiths did not engage in watchmaking themselves. Instead, they sourced timepieces and Kew certified chronometers with high-quality English or Swiss movements from various watch manufacturers.

Smiths’ precision watches were typically crafted by Nicole Nielsen & Co, a watchmaking firm located at Soho Square. At this time, Smiths were a retailer, rather than a watchmaker. The early 1900s witnessed the rise in popularity and accessibility of petrol-driven automobiles in the United Kingdom. British manufacturers like Wolseley, Austin, Morris, and Vauxhall emerged as key players in the automotive industry. Recognizing the potential in this growing market, Smiths, in partnership with the watchmaking firm Nicole, Nielsen & Co, introduced their first speedometer in 1904. This marked the beginning of Smiths’ move into manufacturing motor accessories and aviation instruments.

Cheltenham factory

As the late 1930s approached the threat of war loomed. The British government sought to establish domestic production of aircraft instruments and watch escapements, anticipating a shortage. Smiths secured Ministry of Defence contracts and contributed to the war effort by establishing a factory in Cheltenham. This facility focused on producing pocket watches and wristwatches for military use. Following the war, the demand for military watches declined, and government contracts diminished. Nevertheless, Smiths persisted in producing high-quality wristwatches for the domestic market from their Cheltenham factory. In collaboration with the London-based arm of the Ingersoll watch company, Smiths inaugurated a new factory in Ystradgynlais, Wales. This factory received government support aimed at revitalizing the British horological industry. The Ystradgynlais factory manufactured an assortment of budget-friendly, low-jewel Ingersoll and Smiths ‘Empire’ watches and clocks.

Smiths De Luxe watch, box & papers, 1958.
Smiths De Luxe watch, 1958.

27.CS movement

This vintage watch has a Smiths hand-winding movement, which is working well. The service history is unknown, however the clean movement is in excellent condition and keeping good time. It has a daily gain of around +40 seconds, which is perfectly acceptable for a vintage watch. Out of the factory, the 27.CS movement came with the following specifications:

  • Made between: 1947-1970 
  • Made in England (Cheltenham)
  • Power reserve 41h
  • 15-17 Jewels 
  • Frequency of 18,000 BPH

The Smiths calibre 27.CS is manual wind, with a jewel count of 17. It has a red-tipped sweep second-hand. When new it would have had a power reserve of 41 hours and a frequency of 18,000 BPH. The movement is numbered JC409598.

Smiths 27.CS movement.
Smiths 27.CS movement.

The stainless steel watch case measures 32mm in diameter excluding the winding crown and the lugs. The main body of the case is gold plated while the case back is stainless steel. There is a little rubbing to the plate and general light marking but this is barely noticeable without magnification. Overall, it is in a very acceptable condition for a vintage wristwatch dating to 1958. There are no markings inside the case back to indicate who manufactured the case. However, the case was likely made by the Dennison Watch Case Company, which was a highly regarded casemaker at the time.

The Dennison Watch Case Company Ltd.

The Dennison Watch Case Co. Ltd. was founded by Aaron Lufkin Dennison in 1871 in England. The company produced high-quality watch cases and supplied various watch companies including Waltham UK. Dennison became most renowned for their close working relationship with watchmakers and retailers such as Rolex, Tudor, Omega, Longines, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zenith, Smiths, J.W.Benson & Garrard. They supplied them with the highest-quality watch cases designed to house the finest-quality movements. The Dennison Watch Case Company Ltd. continued as a successful business until 1967 when it failed due to insolvency and the factory in Birmingham ceased production.

Dial and case

The “Smiths De Luxe” signed black dial is in its original finish. The print is a little faded, but this is partly due to the nature of the black dial. The hands are original and are of a unique faceted sword/alpha style in a gold tone. The central second hand is also original with a red arrow pointer to the end. They are in good condition with only slight signs of corrosion. The crown appears to be original and has a neat coin-edge finish. It has some wear to the gold-plated finish.

Smiths De Luxe, original box and guarantee, 1958.
Smiths De Luxe, original box and guarantee, 1958.

The watch comes with its original Certificate issued by the Horological Laboratory in Cheltenham / Guarantee from Smiths Clocks & Watches, dated 27 February 1958. Also included is the original Smiths De Luxe box (confirmed as the original as it has a label with a code which is repeated on the Guarantee).

Related content

Smiths Group at Wikipedia.

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