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Thread: Smiths De Luxe movement serial nos.

  1. #1
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    Default Smiths De Luxe movement serial nos.

    Thanks to James Dowling (a true gentleman and a pleasure to deal with) I'm now the proud owner of 111/60 and it's a lovely watch.

    But something is puzzling me -- and not just me: Barry (Brenellic2000) has done some sterling work on Smiths' serial numbers and is equally puzzled.

    I'm also indebted to Anthony (Rebus) for his list of De Luxe caseback issue serial numbers here: http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...Smiths-De-Luxe

    Here's Rebus' list:

    FA

    12504/54
    12506/54
    12538/55
    1819/56
    12619/56
    12658/56
    12777/56
    12787/56
    12800/56
    111/60
    122/60
    126/60
    130/60
    133/60
    146/60

    TA

    182/61
    221/61
    243/61
    247/61
    252/61
    415/61
    443/61
    447/61
    547/61
    556/61

    AWRE

    W330
    W809

    Other

    BN36
    NA/GS/0020

    So: the 111/60 watch is clearly "1960" issue, right? But when was it made?

    The movement is engraved “C304881 M" and so therefore would have been made in 1955 or 56; it is also stamped "6011” (presumably Nov 1960).

    The chronology is the key thing here: a movement engraved “C304881 M" would have been made in 1955 or '56; that it is then stamped "6011” (Nov 1960) presumably just means it was in Smiths' stores for 4 or 5 years.

    Nor is this the only one:

    These two are both 1960 issued watches with C30xxxx / 6011 movements:

    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...tion-Part-Deux

    Summary of that post is that movements C304720M 6011 and C304589M 6011 can be found in watches 126/60 and 130/60

    The fact that the serial numbers on both the case and movements are only a few away from mine, suggests that this use of C30xxxx mid-1950's movements with "6011" date stamps and xxx/60 serial numbers seem to be norm rather than the exception.

    Some theories:

    Maybe a batch of these was made in the mid-Fifties all starting C30xxxx and giving the code letter "M" (for military?) and then kept in the drawer (marked "M" reserved for military orders?), to be called upon when needed? So the 1954, 5, 60 and 60 watches were all made at the same time (1954) but dribbled out into circulation over a six year span (although none was issued in 1957, '58 or '59).

    That said, the military ("M"?) 27CS movement seems otherwise identical to the normal, civilian one: -- although whether it has e.g. a Breguet overcoil or other refinement I do not know. John (obsoletewatchparts) has the service manual as seen here and that says they are (or should be) hacking (Smiths call it "stop-work") but mine isn't. See here: http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...smiths+de+luxe

    So, having been made in in the mid-Fifties and therefore given the date code C30XXXX these movements were then pulled out of storage on an "as needed" basis (this one in November 1960; when they were also possibly assembled and/or gilded and/or tested in different positions?), stamped with the "6011" date code. It was then put in the Dennison case and sent to the MoD.

    Or possibly these were fully assembled in the mid-50's and all cased-up but not required until 1960, when it was drawn down from Smiths' stores and at which point Smiths gave it a final inspection and test and stamped it "6011" before shipping it off.

    This may be odd, but at least it's the right way round: a 1960 movement in a 1955 caseback would be problematic. This is an issue with two of Hans' De Luxes which have the later "Slimline" 27CS movement, as per the W10 watches (1967-70). I believe that movement wasn't first made until 1963 or '64 but these are watches issued in the late 50's and in 1960 / '61. That must mean that a later, replacement module has been put in the case, either by Smiths or the MoD while still in service or afterwards by a dealer or collector. It would be a bit like finding an old Austen Mini from the 1960's or '70's with a new BMW Mini engine under the bonnet (not that it would fit, but you get the idea: it can't be original.) You can see Hans' four variants at post #6 here: http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...smiths+de+luxe

    Fascinatingly, two have the later "Slimline" 27CS movements -- the second and fourth watches, you can tell at a glance by the shape of the top plate or bridge, it looks a little like an artist's palette.

    And that is the extent of my research at the moment.

    Over to you.
    "Early this year I saw ex-army watches exhibited in a showcase at a little under 4 each. A week or two later I succeeded in buying one of them for 5. Recently their price seems to have risen to 8." (George Orwell, "As I Please", Tribune, 29th November 1946)

  2. #2

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    'alf a mo!

    If we accept that C30xxxx is a sequential serial number which tallies with the mid-1950s and the number is applied by necessity before the watch is assembled and tested, then there is no way Smiths would stamp 6011 onto the bottom plate - 4 years later - without fully dismantling the watch. They simply would not entertain that! It is certainly the case that Smiths would likely be contracated to hold, say, a 10% of production in reserve for immediate dispatch to MoD workshop as in-service replacements but again, they wouldn't stamp or engrave an assembled movement!

    If we accept that 6011 is a November 1960 'calendar batch number', as increasingly seems likely - it is applied to all Smiths high grade movements (both civilian and military) before final calibre machining - there is no way Smiths would then retrospectively apply a 1955 C3xxxx serial number, especially one so crudely engraved. The UK Customs & Excise required accurate records of manufactured products which attracted Excise or Export licences; they would not allow corrupt records - nor as a Government contractor would Smiths risk it.

    If we also accept that 6011 is correct and the manufacturing process by necessity uses parts drawn from stock (these may well be 2 months old) then there is a reasonable expectation that the case back may have a very high xxx/60 or a low xxx/61 code; I do not believe that 6011 (or other dates) are directly indicative of date of final assembly and despatch. Factories don't work like that!

    The 'M' appears to be indicative of Military, but some civilian movement carry J and K - for no apparant reason! Is the 'M' series coincidental to both military and civilian movements?

    My gut feeling is that this C30xxxx and 6011 mismatch is - ummm, suspect!

    TTFN

  3. #3
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    Hi Barry

    Thanks for this. Re the C3xxxxx 6011 watches being wrong 'uns ("ringers") -- I'm not so sure. Have a look at the two "barn find" examples here:

    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...tion-Part-Deux

    These two are both 1960 issued watches with C30xxxx / 6011 movements:

    (TL;DR -- The summary of that post is that movements C304720M 6011 and C304589M 6011 can be found in watches 126/60 and 130/60)


    These certainly didn't look like they'd been knobbled but were in very "honest" (tatty!) unrestored condition, seemingly completely unmolested and sold on ebay for a song (160 each iirc). Surely a dealer / collector have done relatively simple cosmetic jobs such as changing the plexi and fitting a seconds hand before or at least as well as going to the lengths of faking a Smiths' serial number on the ebauchment? And would be charging a lot more than 1/10th of the market rate!

    The fact that the serial numbers on both the case and movements are only a few away from mine, suggests that this use of C30xxxx (mid-1950's?) movements with "6011" date stamps and xxx/60 MoD issue numbers seem to be norm rather than the exception.

    The bottom line for me is that Smiths worked in mysterious ways and C3xxxxx on 1960 watches (6011 on the movement and xxx/60 on the caseback) is right (i.e. original) even though it looks wrong if going "by the book"

    Remember this is a company who are often a little odd in their sequencing and systems!

    Cheers

    Oliver

    The Rev'd. Oliver Harrison
    "Early this year I saw ex-army watches exhibited in a showcase at a little under 4 each. A week or two later I succeeded in buying one of them for 5. Recently their price seems to have risen to 8." (George Orwell, "As I Please", Tribune, 29th November 1946)

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