Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat Smiths 18 carat
This is most expensive model that Smiths ever produced - it has a large size (35mm) case, made in solid 18 carat gold. In addition to the quality of the case, the movement is significant;y enhanced from the standard model - there are an additional three jewels (cap jewels on the escape wheel, plus jeweling to the centre wheel on the top plate). These jewels are both intended to enhance the smooth running of the movement, but in addition the hairspring has a Breguet overcoil, which gives enhanced accuracy in different positions and there is shock protection on the balance pivots.

The performance of the movement is significantly better than a regular Smiths movement, indeed I believe their 18 jewel movement bears comparison with the top Swiss brands. The 18 carat gold model is rare in any size, but this one is much more wearable size than the small size version which Smiths also produced (in 29mm and 31mm diameter).  

The dial has aged nicely - there are some minor speckling marks, but I think this just enhances the beauty of the watch. The watch is paired with a new old stock pigskin strap, which I think harmonises with the tone of the gold wonderfully.


Specifications:
Case diameter (excluding winding crown): 35mm
Case material: 18 carat gold
strap width: 17mm
time keeping: grade A


Smiths watches

Smiths were the last English producers of quality watches. Their watches aren't very well known today because it's over 30 years since they stopped production, but the quality of their watches bears comparison with anything the Swiss were producing. Smiths produced a variety of styles of watch for both ladies and gentlemen in chrome, steel, silver and gold cases. The gold cased watches were particularly popular as long-service presentation gifts and the casebacks are often engraved with a presentation inscription. We don't remove these inscriptions as we feel they are an important part of the story of each watch. They developed an automatic movement watch and also were contracted by the British army to produce a wristwatch for general service use (the automatic and the military Smiths are amongst the most sought after and command high prices).

These days we associate the Swiss with high end mechanical watches, but in the 19th century it was English watches that occupied this prestigious position. The Swiss began to compete with the English watchmakers by producing low cost watches. The English were slow to adapt to this new competitor, they took great pride in the relatively small volume of high-quality hand made watches that were produced in England. The Swiss gradually swamped the watch market - beginning with low cost watches, later they produced watches of a comparable quality to the English hand-made watch, but at a lower price. The Swiss developed machine production of watches, this meant that the quality could be kept consistent and replacement parts were interchangeable. Ultimately the English industry couldn't compete and by the early 1930s pretty much all watches were imported.

In the run up to the second world war, the government became concerned that there was no indigenous watch industry left. They turned to S. Smith & Sons who were a long established a watch and clock producer and underwrote the development of a new factory in Cheltenham. Precise timing mechanisms were important for the war in things like bomb timers, as well as more traditional time pieces.

After the second world war, Smiths switched over to civilian production with the first of their watches coming onto the market in 1947. They continued production up until the late 1970s, when they rather suddenly split up the watch and clock division of the company. By this time Smiths Industries was more focussed on civil and military avionics and probably felt that the watches were part of their past. It seems odd that nobody else sought to take over the business as they were clearly profitable, possibly the impact of quartz watches was a factor in their decision to end the business