Wednesday, 26 April 2017

J.W. Benson, 19J, 1904.


J.W. Benson 1904.

This is a very rare, perhaps unique, watch and it perplexes me.


The inside of the Benson 19J movement showing the Geneva stop work
on top of the barrel and the English Lever escapement.

It is a high grade London made size 18 movement with 19 jewels, a Breguet hairspring, gold balance screws and Geneva stop work. And I suspect it is a Half Chronometer (adjusted) movement.
 
But it is branded the "Bank" watch.
 

A Benson "Bank?" from 1904 but with 19 Jewels, a Breguet sprung
cut compensating balance with gold screws and Geneva stop work.

It has the same frame and design as the normal "Bank" watch of the period but I have records for 59 other "Bank" watches in various sizes, in silver and gold and in Hunter and open faced configurations (and I have seen pictures of an awful lot more). None have Geneva stop work and all have 9 or 11 jewels with an over-sprung rather than Breguet sprung balance - which is in accordance with the literature and my Benson catalogue from the 1930s.


A typical Benson "Bank" with 11 jewels from 1920. This is a later version with 4
plate screws rather than the earlier 3 and a slightly different layout of the train.

From the Benson adverts I have seen it was their normal practice to give names to most of their watches, but only the "Bank", "Ludgate" and "Field" had the name inscribed on the movement, others such as their high end "presentation grades" - the "Heirloom", the "Superlative" etc. are simply marked "Best London Make" or similar and with the Benson name, address etc.

The Benson "Superlative" from c 1903, probably an upgraded "Field" and still
in my Catalogue from c1936 then costing 70 Gns as a Gold Hunter or Half
Hunter in it's standard size and £100 as a large (2.5") Hunter.

I can’t understand why Benson would have branded a very high grade watch with the name of what at the time was their entry level London made watch.
 

A "Bank" type watch but with 15J for Sir John Bennett 1893, almost
certainly by P & A Guye.

My best guess is that this was an expensive mistake by the engraving department at  P & A Guye who made a lot of watches for Benson, including almost certainly the "Bank", but who also made variants of the same movement in various grade for Benson and the trade.
 
The earlier version of the "Bank" watch made into the early 20th Century.
Those from the early 1890s had 9 jewels, later increased to 11. The two
plate designs were probably made in parallel for 10 - 12 years. This design
appears to have been unique to the Benson branded "Bank", those sold into
the trade, and some sold by Benson, having the plate design of the later "Bank".
 

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