No other gift bestowed upon me has given me as much pride to own than my late grandfather’s JW Benson manual wind Tropical wrist watch. Most probably because I never had the opportunity of knowing him, as he passed away when my mother was only 18. As a result it’s the greatest connection I have to him – that and a wonderful black and white portrait photograph (the watch in question can be seen on his wrist) which was taken just before World War II broke out.
J W Benson were a British watchmakers from a bygone era, operating between 1847 and 1973 (though the family ‘s horological roots can be dated back to 1749). They were the official watchmaker to the Admiralty in London and also held a number of royal warrants including Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales.
After the company’s factory was bombed during World War I, the business continued only as a retailer – watches using the Benson name from this point forward used out sourced movements.
My grandfather’s timepiece is known as the Tropical wristwatch because of its robustness in the field: water, sand and shock proof. Benson’s advertising literature states it’s for ‘The man who wants a watch that will give him absolutely trouble-free service under arduous conditions…the finest wrist watch made for use out-of-doors, in tropical climates and under abnormal conditions.”
This cushion case model dates from 1936 and is 9 karat gold Swiss made. Inside it holds the Cyma calibre 032K; a 5-jewelled lever movement and a shock-absorbing balance.
The cardboard box seen here is the original, and how lovely it is too, though the factory leather strap has worn away with time and so has been replaced. The original is kept in a safe place and treasured, just as the watch is, which incidentally still keeps perfect time after 80 years.