Smiths Imperial (1957)

£ 750
This is an English made Smiths Imperial, dating from 1957. The case is 9 carat gold and in very good condition, it does not have any presentation inscription so it must have been a private purchase. The dial has applied gold indices and an arabic 12 marker, it has aged to a lovely off-white tone. The design and overall appearance is a really good example of late 1950s design and has a lovely feel for that period.

Imperial was the designation that Smiths gave to watches which used their new and improved movement which was released in the late 1950s (the cal 104). This new production movement is a much improved piece of engineering compared to the original 1215. The movement is both reliable and easy to service. The Imperial branding was relatively short lived - it was superseded by the "Everest" branding which was used from around 1960.

The movement has shock proofing which means a flexible jewel setting has been fitted to the balance staff to protect it from damage caused by sudden impacts or shocks (things like dropping your watch accidentally). The balance staff is the really delicate part at the heart of the mechanism - it is responsible in very large part for the precision of the time keeping.

The movement has been fully serviced and regulated and the time keeping is excellent. This is a super, wearable watch and perfect for the person who cherishes the tradition of the English-made watch.

Case diameter (excluding winding crown): 32mm
Case material: 9 carat gold, hallmarked Birmingham 1957
strap width: 16mm
time keeping: grade A

about 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.

We aim to dispatch all orders placed before 12pm (GMT), on the same day working day. Where this isn't possible, we will try to inform you via email.

When your order is dispatched you will be emailed the tracking details.

Please allow extra processing time for watches with a customised engraving or strap, during busy sales periods this can take an extra 5-10 working days.

If you are in a hurry for your watch, please email us.

Shipping guide for watches:

UK: FREE next working day delivery with DPD
United States & Canada: FREE Fedex shipping, 1-3 working days
The EU: FREE DHL Express shipping, 1-3 working days

 

Click here to see the full shipping guide for watches

Straps and t-shirts (unless purchased with a watch): 

Free Royal Mail 1st Class / International tracked shipping, 2-14 working days depending on location. You can see a more accurate timescale when you input your address at the checkout.

Please note, during busy sale periods dispatch may take a little longer (this is quite rare). These delivery times are a guide based on the carriers terms of service, products may, in some unusual cases take longer to arrive. If this happens, please get in touch. 

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