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Thread: Sir Edmund Hillary's "Everest" Smiths -- and mine

  1. #21
    Member workahol's Avatar
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    I like the background in Ollie's Smiths advert. Where can I get a necktie in that pattern?!

    - Matt

  2. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by workahol View Post
    I like the background in Ollie's Smiths advert. Where can I get a necktie in that pattern?!

    - Matt
    That would make a totally excellent tie - I'd buy several in different colors.
    Cordially,
    ~Burgs


    I've been up early my whole life, and all that ever did was increase the amount of time during the day that something could go wrong... - Inspector O

  3. #23
    Member Carlton-Browne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simonk View Post
    W. Bill - Shetland pullovers
    I had a W. Bill viyella shirt bought when they had a shop in the Royal Arcade; I was heartbroken when it eventually wore out. I believe that they are still going strong but only as a wholesaler of tweeds and wool

    Quote Originally Posted by ianp View Post
    And Romney's supplied

    I wonder if they did the old hexamine-kendal mint cake swap routine on the expedition .

  4. #24
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    Given that I was at the museum earlier:


  5. #25
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    Fantastic watch Revo!!!

    I agree with your analysis. I have owned two Bensons because I thought they were as close to the Hillary wristwatch as you could ever get.
    This one is definitely one step better! AWESOME!

    I spent some time on the Rolex vs Smiths-questions a couple year back, but didn't find anything conclusive. A lot of other guys (not Hillary) can be seen wearing their Rolexes on the film "conquest of everest". Hillary wears two watches when he turns to the camera for the group picture after summitting.

    I read a couple books/memoirs, but only at one time during final ascent does Hillary write "I looked at the luminous dial of my watch...". It could be argued that the dial of the Smiths with large luminous Arabic numbers is waaay more "luminous" than the dial of a Rolex 6098 (with only minute dots) but I dont think it is conclusive.

    I had large hopes of finding some detail in written material because so much differ from the two
    Smiths = manual, sub-second, arabic numbers, black straight hands
    Rolex = auto, center second, small lume dots, shiny hands...

    but in the end I gave up

    I went to the museum as well, thinking maybe I could have a look at the original letter accompanying Hillarys Smiths, but only one hired guard sleeping at the door so no-one to ask really...

    at that time 2014 there was a copied article next to the watch about the rivalry smiths/rolex

  6. #26
    Senior Member Revo's Avatar
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    Thanks Niklas.

    Re that dial pattern being exclusive to Benson: yes, that's what I thought too until I saw the one I now own; it's the only example of a maxi dial with luminous numerals (i.e. a Benson) but marked up as Smiths. Assuming it's not a one-off then there must be others, although they are obviously rare. Mine is the only one I've ever seen.

    As I said, I'd be prepared to bet that Hillary's watch (and the other ones supplied to the expedition members) were the 16 jewel Benson* models but with the dial printed-up as Smith De Luxe for the publicity. Smiths took the extra effort to put special oil in them (effectively Winterising them with low-temperature lubricant) and would have made sure to have given their best watches to the team (if one had failed it would have been bad publicity) At that time Smiths' best model was the Benson.

    Just my opinion. One day I'll ask Sir George White to whip the back off and see of there's a centre pinion jewel -- the 16th -- and find out for sure!

    * A Smiths De Luxe 12.15 badged up for the London jeweller J W Benson. These had a 16 j movement -- at the time Smiths' best watches and sold at hefty premium by Benson.
    "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)

  7. #27

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    It is entirely possible that Smiths had developed a 16J model for their soon-to-be-launched DeLuxe for the 1953 season and had by opportune chance tested it on the Everest expedition... but as rationing was still in force in Britain, except for export (it was fully lifted in 1954), that the production run was dedicated to the Benson contract... but we will likely never know! However James Merrens certainly has the widest practical knowledge of these Smiths. These 16J models first appear, seemingly, for the 1953 season.

    It should not be forgotten that Smiths had extensive 'extreme climate testing facilities' at their aircraft instruments pre-war and vehicle heating divisions post-war which made testing a Smiths' watch on Everest an entirely academic - if rather exciting - exercise!

    A word of caution! Be very wary of museum / exhibition display captions... they are invariably inaccurate to some degree through lack of thorough research, but are taken alas as gospel. Alas these days far too much reliance is placed on 'internet sources' , especially Wikipedia, particularly by modern day 'librarians' and 'archivists' - more often straight from school or University - lazily citing 'budget cuts' for sloppy research. The days of truly worldly wise, bend-over-backwards helpful academics holding such posts are long over... blaming budget cuts!... so caveat emptor, et al!.. but let's hope, as Revo suggests, Sir George opens up this and the war-time centre-second 'Smith' assembled watch (Smiths plural is a post-war name).

    TTFN

  8. #28

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    interesting - I purchased one of these on ebay a couple of years back. I was pretty convinced it was a match for the Hillary watch (I'd previously owned one of the Bensons), happy to see it confirmed!

    Now to find the time to service her...


  9. #29
    Senior Member Revo's Avatar
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    ^^ Great stuff! So that's two -- which makes me feel better about mine (not a franken or put-together job). Can you post the movement serial no. (should start with a "C") and confirm the early style of dustcap with a single hole for the retaining screw (not the later cruciform-shaped one as you'd have had on your Benson).

    And is that an Everest Automatic dial I spy next to it?

    :-)

    P.S. other users please note how I have refrained from quoting the preceding post, thereby not duplicating the image immediately below the original. It's a small thing but forums would be the better for it.

    ---


    Quote Originally Posted by Brenellic2000 View Post

    A word of caution! Be very wary of museum / exhibition display captions... they are invariably inaccurate to some degree through lack of thorough research, but are taken alas as gospel. Alas these days far too much reliance is placed on 'internet sources' , especially Wikipedia, particularly by modern day 'librarians' and 'archivists' - more often straight from school or University - lazily citing 'budget cuts' for sloppy research. The days of truly worldly wise, bend-over-backwards helpful academics holding such posts are long over... blaming budget cuts!... so caveat emptor, et al!.. but let's hope, as Revo suggests, Sir George opens up this and the war-time centre-second 'Smith' assembled watch (Smiths plural is a post-war name).

    TTFN
    Barry -- good points! Re the jewels, Smiths were by this time making their own at Carfin in Scotland. Re the "museum exhibition display captions": duly noted with reference to the latest addition to the Mk X canon and the Science Museum's accompanying text* . . . !

    * http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...s-mark-X/page3
    "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)

  10. #30

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    yes, well spotted there's an Everest dial in there (shh! nothing to see here)

    I'll post the movement serial etc tomorrow, from memory the dust cap is as you describe it.

  11. #31
    Senior Member Revo's Avatar
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    Always good to meet another Smiths nut.

    There's a few others on here and also over at tz-uk (where the Smiths name has been resurrected by Eddie Platts, but lots of fans of the old original Smiths, too).

    Just don't be bidding against me on ebay now!
    "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)

  12. #32

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    One thing worth check checking on Hillary's watch at the museum is whether it has full seconds or 1/5th sec markers - later expedition watches often were 1/5th sec. Smiths also offered 'reissued' dial faces at different times, so unless we have an authenticated movement and sales/warranty chit it is not always easy to accurately date the movement and case - there are many late 1950s watches with early 1950s movements and vica versa... many have undoubtedly had their movements replaced at some stage...

  13. #33
    Senior Member Revo's Avatar
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    Barry, yes - "many have undoubtedly had their movements replaced at some stage" I'm assuming that because Smiths used a few movements in a lot of watches over a long period of time it would have been easier to swap out the old innards as a single module, especially in the case of total failure (e.g. water ingress).

    The 1215 was made from, say, 1946 all through the 1950s and was still being put in watches in the 60s; then the 17 jewel 27CS was made from about 1953 onwards for at least a decade and then the 19 jewel Imperial from about 1960 onwards (all dates are from memory, too busy to check right now; basically a new movement more or less every 10 years: '46, '53, '60 with a revision to the '60 in '64).

    That might explain why some of the GS De Luxes have the Slimline Astral movement (the thinner version of the 27CS, as used in the W10) which first appeared in c. 1964 yet these watches all predate that by some considerable time (ten years in some cases; even the DOS ones from 1961 are too early for that ebauche.)

    In the case of , say, a cracked jewel then a repair might make economic sense but many cases the parts and labour would not be cost effective and the whole movement would be replaced. That said, I don't see many watches with significantly "younger" movements and in the case (sic) of the GS the Dennison case should have kept water out rather well . . . . .
    "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)

  14. #34

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    The dust cover is the single-hole type and the movement serial is C93725






    I had a root around and discovered that I do still own the Benson as well, dial looks slightly nicer on the Benson (somehow more iridescent)


  15. #35
    Senior Member Revo's Avatar
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    Mine's C95999, so I reckon yours is 1950-51 and mine is 1951. The difference (2,274) between the two serial nos is less significant if you remember that the 1215 movement was being made for and (put in) several different models. Nice to see it up alongside the Benson, which is c.1953-5 and should have a much later serial no and later (cruciform) dust cap.
    "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)

  16. #36
    Senior Member Revo's Avatar
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    If Smiths made 100 movements a day, five days a week then these two nos are about a month apart; at 50 a day they are two months apart. Maybe Barry has an idea as to their output at this time, based on his work on the C-series serial nos.
    "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)

  17. #37

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    While researching Smiths, very few production figures were quoted - these are generally regarded as 'commercially sensitive' in competitive markets, but occasionally one or two 'escape': 'around 500 units daily were made at CH.2 (Cheltenham)' in the 1960s... ie nominally 10,000/month if on a supposed 5-day week, but these undoubtedly relate to the semi-automated 'Astral' production line, modified for mass production to cut costs, so it is perhaps a fair guess that normal De Luxe 12/15, 27CS production may have been around 300 a day (nominally 6,000/month). Rating at Cheltenham was over 12 days (24hrs at Ystradgynlais !) so they must have had a hall full of ticking time-pieces.

    Production of Smiths/Ingersoll watches peaked at 1.25 million per annum in 1966 (3,500 daily... in theory!) but by 1972 monthly production at Wales was down to 6,000 wristlets plus 24,000 pocket-watches, clocks etc. (Swatch watches were at 40,000 day!). I've no idea how many 'imports' Smiths 'assembled' but Smiths boasted 17.3 million 'watches' were made between 1954-1968... work that one out!

    Serial numbers always need to treated with great caution in judging production runs - they are meant to deceive competitors! Even I am not daft to say with any confidence which serial numbers apply to which years unless we have far far more authenticated records... and even then possibly +/- 1 year though even if the post 1959 monthly batch numbers are correct, without supporting serial numbers we are none the wiser!

    Barry

  18. #38
    Member Mr Curta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revo View Post
    I've never seen another like it: basically a Benson with "Smiths" on the dial. If you can find and show me another, I'll eat my hat.
    I'll fetch the salt and pepper ;-)

  19. #39
    Senior Member Revo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Curta View Post
    I'll fetch the salt and pepper ;-)
    Oi! Clear off Matthew! I only came over here to get away from you.

    P.S. Straps posted a couple of days ago, should be with you soon.

    P.P.S. some nice new shots of Hillary's watch here:


    Quote Originally Posted by Broussard View Post
    source: http://forum.tz-uk.com/showthread.ph...miths-and-mine
    "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)

  20. #40
    Member Mr Curta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revo View Post
    Oi! Clear off Matthew! I only came over here to get away from you.

    P.S. Straps posted a couple of days ago, should be with you soon.
    Sorry Oliver, I couldn't resist! Looking forward to the straps!

    It is good to see some quality images of Hillary's watch, one day I'll get to the museum. This is a fascinating thread, here's another gratuitous photograph of your old JW Benson; I love it.


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