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

  1. #121
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    OK Smiths fans some news: the Hillary watch Dennison case is number 73359.

    Anyone tell me some Benson case numbers? Be interesting to see how close they are to that.

    A J Merrens' website has Bensons with 62261, 80126, 87389, 106707, 123665 so the one in the museum fits in that range nicely.

    Mine is 56531, I can't read mrjones' watch from the picture.

    Working hypothesis: Smiths made the ones like mine and mrjones' in c.1951 but in very limited numbers. They then dedicated that dial layout to the 16j Benson watches c.1952-'55. Some of these were pulled aside to be supplied to Hunt's expedition. They were Winterized and had their dials printed-up as Smiths De Luxe.

    I'm awaiting news on the WW2 centre-seconds. I'm 99% certain that it's a Jaeger LeCoultre cal. 450 that went through Smiths due to the existing collaboration between the two companies in aircraft clocks and the "S. S. & Sons" Weems watches. In fact, I'd bet that this watch is sterile except for "S. S. & Sons" on the back, hence it's mis-identification as a Smiths.
    "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. #122
    Member Mr Curta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revo View Post
    OK Smiths fans some news: the Hillary watch Dennison case is number 73359.

    Anyone tell me some Benson case numbers? Be interesting to see how close they are to that.

    A J Merrens' website has Bensons with 62261, 80126, 87389, 106707, 123665 so the one in the museum fits in that range nicely.

    Mine is 56531, I can't read mrjones' watch from the picture.
    Well, well. How did you find out the Dennison case number of the Hillary watch? You didn't risk arrest in South Kensington, did you?

    Do you now know whether the Hillary watch definitely has a 16j movement?

    mrjones' watch case appears to have a five digit number, but that's about as much as I can make out.

    This one, that I'm currently custodian of , is 108821.


  3. #123
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    I'm doing a slow reveal, striptease-style.

    Here's one for you Smiths fan -- the display back of the the prototype 25 jewel automatic in the Science Museum.



    As I understand it, Smiths developed a 19 jewel movement in the late 1950s to go in a super-accurate Navigators' watch. Unfortunately, the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux rejected the three prototypes so Smiths -- having done the R&D and maybe tooled-up -- went into civilian production with this new movement. It was sold as the "Imperial" range from c.1959.

    In 1961 Smiths offered the clever option of a self-winding mechanism (rotor etc) added on top of the 19j base ebauche (making it into the 25 jewel automatic). Apparently Smiths' in-house designers Amis and Good just copied this from IWC's Pellaton system and Smiths were sued (or at least threatened with legal action) so had to discontinue this from their retail line-up. Notoriously temperamental, many turn up without their rotors -- it seems the bearings / bushing are a weak spot -- and spare parts are impossible to source. Basically, Smiths were attempting Swiss levels of engineering without Swiss skills or materials.

    Smiths Automatics first appeared in 1961 under the "Imperial" name. Two gold ones (SW.502 with crocodile strap, presentation case and real gold indices on the dial was £50 15/- and the SW.501 -- gold case but with cheaper leather band). The stainless steel one (SW.201 -- you gotta love the Smiths numbering system!) was £25 7/- and 6d.

    By 1964 they were re-branded with the Everest name in red on the dial. The steel SW.201/E was now only £21 (a price drop!); the SW.501/E was £37 10/- and the SW.502 with posh strap and box was now only £46; they also added a fourth model to the lineup: SW.301/E in a gold-plated case, same price at the SS version (£21). Worth remembering that in 1964 a Rolex sub was £100.
    "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)

  4. #124
    Member simonk's Avatar
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    In case potential punters were sceptical about this wanton addition of corundum, the 1958 catalogue states '19 jewels all of which are essentially employed.', their italics not mine.

    Also in this catalogue alongside the Everest models there are the Antartic models - A456, A459, A460, AB478, with mention of The Great Transantarctic Expedition, Australian Antarctic Expedition, British South Georgia Expedition as well as Kangchenjunga Reconnaissance, New Zealand Karakoran Expedition, RAF Himalayan Expedition and Sahara Expedition.

  5. #125

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    hmm interesting - I didn't know this was part of the clockmaker's collection, will have to make a trip to the Science Museum

    Incidentally the prototype looks different from this one which was sold at Antiquorum back in 1995:
    http://www.antiquorum.com/catalog/lots/lot-121-257

    I guess this one is rather closer to final production version...


    @simonk
    "In case potential punters were sceptical about this wanton addition of corundum, the 1958 catalogue states '19 jewels all of which are essentially employed.', their italics not mine."

    This is true in my experience - the 19 jewels in the imperial represent the whole train being jewelled on both sides (17) plus the addition of cap jewels on the escape wheel, an 'honest' jewelling unlike some other manufacturers...

    Slightly eccentrically they changed this for the 25 jewels of the automatic, where the centre wheel was no longer jewelled and they added two captive shock protection jewels to the lever (something which is of dubious worth especially as the lever pivots were not rounded at the end). This kept the jewelling count in the train at 19; the other jewels to make the 25 are: roller jewels (2) / top + bottom pivot of self-winding ratchet (2) / top + bottom pivots of swinging frame (2)

  6. #126
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    I see A J Merrens briefly had one of the Hillary-esque Smiths for sale . . . for £1,750!

    It sold (presumably for the full amount or very close) very quickly.

    http://www.smithswatches.com/collect...watch-c-1952-3

    And Mr M believes these to be frankens -- a real Smiths dial and movement re-cased in a Dennison Aquatite. He is very knowledgable and more than entitled to his opinions although I disagree and believe them to be "as made" by Smiths in that dial and case combination.
    "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. #127
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjones View Post
    hmm interesting - I didn't know this was part of the clockmaker's collection, will have to make a trip to the Science Museum

    Incidentally the prototype looks different from this one which was sold at Antiquorum back in 1995:
    http://www.antiquorum.com/catalog/lots/lot-121-257

    I guess this one is rather closer to final production version...


    The 19 jewels in the imperial represent the whole train being jewelled on both sides (17) plus the addition of cap jewels on the escape wheel, an 'honest' jewelling unlike some other manufacturers...

    Slightly eccentrically they changed this for the 25 jewels of the automatic, where the centre wheel was no longer jewelled and they added two captive shock protection jewels to the lever (something which is of dubious worth especially as the lever pivots were not rounded at the end). This kept the jewelling count in the train at 19; the other jewels to make the 25 are: roller jewels (2) / top + bottom pivot of self-winding ratchet (2) / top + bottom pivots of swinging frame (2)

    Great stuff mrjones, good to have you aboard the Smiths train (jewelled on both sides of course)

    Incidentally, A J Merrens' example of the Hillary-esque Smiths has movement no. C128478 and case no. 78040 which compares with mine @ C95999 / 56531 and mrjones' @ C93725 (can't read the case no.). Seems likes a big jump from 95xxx and 93xxx to 128xxx so maybe Merrens' is indeed a put-together franken as he says it is, or at least a replacement movement? But then what do I know? Very little, it seems. Nice watches anyway, pretty much the "perfect" quintessential Smiths. Shame they're so rare, makes me wary of wearing it. Hey ho, nice problem to have!

    Edit: looking the pics of the movements it does seem that A J Merrens' one is later as it has the "15 Jewels" engraved above the barrel and the "Made In England" following the dog-leg curve of the main plate's edge whereas mine and mrjones' have the earlier, simpler "15 Jewels" on the main plate by the balance cock, so it's not just the numbers (which may be wrong) but the whole layout. In fact, it may be that the 128xxx movement is too late for the early iteration of the Smith logo on the dial and the non-cruciform dustcap --- I will have to check Barry's serial number database later.
    "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)

  8. #128
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    Update to this year-old thread.

    The story so far ... I was very excited at finding a Smiths with same dial pattern as Hillary's -- i.e. lumed arabic numerals and an "uncircled" sub seconds dial with the early track layout and non-counterbalanced hand. This configuration was thought to only exist on the 16j watches that Smiths made for J W Benson watches c.1953-55. These say “Benson” on the dial not “Smiths” on the dial so when I found one marked up as “Smiths” was delighted. (Hillary's has the "De Luxe" script below the Smiths logo as is common after 1952; mine is identical apart from that and I believe it dates to 1951.)

    As far as I am aware there are four known “Mk X” (plus two movements: one re-cased and one uncased). There 39 known examples of the “GS Luxe” Smiths.

    Prior to this week I knew of four “Hillary” pattern Smiths: mine, create’s, mrjones’ and A J Merrens. (See previous posts in this thread.)

    Well, in the last three weeks three of them have come up for sale on eBay. Three in three weeks after years of never ever seeing a single one.

    The first to surface was in a gorgeous 9ct gold Dennison three-piece case, 16mm square profile spider lugs, hallmarked for 1950. Vgc++ Movement s/n C87557

    The second was in a very good condition Dennison three-piece case, 16mm drilled lugs chrome and ss back. No damage or loss of plating. Movement s/n : C89382

    The third was a three day auction for the real deal: an early Dennison Aquatite screw-back case (s/n 60873) as per the watch in the OP. This was in honest / tatty condition with much brassing and a replacement crown. Now at Steve Burrage (Ryte Time) for an overhaul. Rare early dustcap with single hole. Movement s/n 100864

    And, yes, I bought them all. I think they all date to 1951 (possibly late ‘50 – early ’52). They are all, in their own way, rather wonderful.

    Pictures, I hear you cry, we need pictures!

    Well, ok.

    Group shot



    Dennison Aquatite



    Chrome 3-piece some issues with the lacquer on the dial between 4 – 6 o’clock



    Gold. Almost mint.







    Dennsion with back off showing rare early dustcap



    Backs





    All together

    "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)

  9. #129
    Member TickaTicka's Avatar
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    Well deserved, enjoy
    Stuart.



    "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get
    its pants on. "

  10. #130

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    Wow, that gold cased one is lovely - congratulations!

  11. #131

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    Hmmm! I'll have to revise my serial number database if these are original matches as 8xxxx would usually suggest circa 1953 by when Smiths watches were marked DeLuxe...

    I wonder if the plain 'SmithS' dialled models were kept in production for a year or two as a budget version for dealers? Catalogues don't always show every model produced.

    By the way, do we know the serial number of Hillary's Everest ascent watch? I presume it's gilt signed?

    Barry

  12. #132
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    Thanks chaps.

    The one in the Dennison three-piece chrome case is now with Owen Gilchrist and will be re-housed in a Dennison screw-back Aquatite (with the original case retained so I can restore it should I need to). Interestingly that watch has a Kif shock-protected staff which Smiths didn't introduce until about 1956/7 (I think the 1954 GS De Luxe are shockproofed but they are an exception) so I guess the balance assembly has been replaced at some point. With that added safety feature and a decent case (not least the 18mm lugs = bigger strap) it will be a definite daily wearer.

    The close grouping of the serial nos. make me think this dial layout was quite a small production run and probably from a few months in 1950 and/or '51. To find three in three weeks is unbelievable; to have bagged all three is fantastic.
    "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)

  13. #133

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    well done revo!knowing that they have all gone to a good home i can't be envious.....................

    Mark L

  14. #134

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    I've adjusted my (very approximate) movement dating guide based on the assumption the 'C' prefix begins in 1948 and ends 1958 when the 'Batch Number' takes over and the serials have reached around 450000+. This is based on a non-linear production rate - it is 'inaccurate' in that some movements are clearly replacements - which doesn't help - and there may be movements in the 460000 range! Starts from a theoretical January!

    Production capacity was a theoretical 500 movements a day on the semi-automated Astral line but that is clearly not possible on the fully manual DeLuxe production line. It is unlikely 500 were made daily!

    1948 - 1
    1949 - 30000
    1950 - 60000
    1951 - 90000
    1952 - 130000
    1953 - 170000
    1954 - 215000
    1955 - 260000
    1956 - 305000
    1957 - 350000
    1958 - 395000
    1959 - 440000 e&eo

    The Kif was applied quite early on. Smiths' preferred option was the long flexible stem Vibrax (in theory the wide flange with 2-screws).

    Revo: do we know the Hillary's movement serial number?

  15. #135
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    ^^^ thanks Barry that is great work! 30,000 a year divided by 247 days (52 weekends plus a fortnight) = c. 120 movements a day, 15 per hour in an 8 hour day. Of course that was across the range and assumes full (sequential) numbering in series production. There might also be a (high?) failure rate and repairs / returns.

    I'm hoping to get Hillary's s/n . . . . The case no. too, which should be visible on the outside of the back if an early DA; inside if later -- the change seemed to happen around about 1952 (when, coincidentally, the better Smiths become "De Luxe" and the coronet device was added to the dial.)
    "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. #136
    Member Mr Curta's Avatar
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    Cracking trio, well done indeed!

  17. #137
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    Here's an early Smiths of mine. Serial number appears to read as 5112:



    Dial is the same as Revo's acquisitions above.

  18. #138
    Moderator Revo's Avatar
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    ^^^ nice. Dial shot please!

    I guessing the s/n is a "pre-prefix" i.e. xxxx -- it then went Axxxx, then Bxxxx and finally Cxxxx. C was the last major revision or at least the last one they changed letter for, which -- in typical Smiths illogicality -- makes no sense as I think the A and B both have mini-variations as Smiths developed and evolved and then the C-series itself also undergoes some changes, but Cxxxxx what they stuck at and is what you will see far, far more of as they were made from about 1948 right into the late 1950s or possibly even as late as '60 or '61 (see Barry's post #134 above). Even after other movements had been added to the line -- most notably the 27CS and 0104 "Imperial" -- the 1215 C-series just kept coming and coming . . . .
    "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)

  19. #139
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    Here's the dial:



    The engraving of "Smiths" on the movement looks almost hand engraved. Even compared to this similarly, but not-quite-so-early model at the Smiths Watches website:


  20. #140
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    Thanks Roddy -- that's as I expected: one of the "RG" range c.1947-9. The ones with solid ss cases are especially lovely. But notice the circled sub-seconds -- so not quite a Hillary pattern (on such details hang big differences . . . !) That fits better with your s/n as I think the Hillary ones are all 1951 (possibly late 50 - early 52), just before they introduced the "De Luxe" wording and branding.

    Interestingly, there is a Hillary-dialled one in Barrie Smiths book of catalogues, used as a random illustration on the title page -- Hillary dial AND "De Luxe" but in a three-pice case with horn lugs (looks like a gold case, hard to tell as it's a b/w picture).
    "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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