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Vintage Watch Store
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1903 Silver Benson Traveller / Explorer

An immaculate and very rare solid silver English high-grade 21 jewelled keyless pocket watch, fully serviced, overhauled and keeping good time and guaranteed. The watch is fully signed and with movement number 32384 and made by James Wilson Benson of London. The watch no doubt commisioned to the specification set by the Royal Geographical Society for use on one of many of their expeditions to areas where severe climatic conditions were found, such as the Arctic and Antartic regions and deserts. The watch is decribed as a "30-hour Explorers' and Travellers' Watertight Watch", (see also

English Explorer watches were made in very small quantities and it has been noted that their value has increased dramatically in recent years as collectors have found just how rare they are and also how finely made. This grade of watch represents the near ultimate English watch for every-day use in very aggressive conditions, only surpassed by those with Karrusels or Tourbillions. The majority of these watches were commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society for use on expeditions.

The firms of Usher & Cole, Frodsham, S. Smith & Sons, Dent and Benson made the majority of these watches. They are found with either reverse fusee and power reserve and free-sprung or with going barrel and fully jewelled train and also free-sprung. Searching the RGS web-site for further information on the specification for watches used on their expeditions was not successful. No doubt they have the relevant specification in their records and it is well worth searching for this.

The available literature: The Camerer Cuss Book of Antique Watches, page 293; the NAWCC Bulletin, February 1991, page 48 and Beobachtungsuhren by Norbert Eber, page 176.

See also for example Scotts polar watch : A 30-hour Explorers' and Travellers' Watertight Watch made to the specifications of the Royal Geographical Society. Accurate watches were important to navigators in unexplored areas of the world, so they could work out their position accurately. The pocket watch is inscribed on the back: 'Presented to Comr. R.F. Scott by S. Smith & Sons. 9 Strand London. This watch having been his never failing companion during his voyage on the Discovery 1901-1905'. This watch is located at the National Maritime Museum.

For similar watches, see the "Pieces of Time" web-site at,, and a more recent find in the USA,

This is a beautifully made high grade English keyless wound man's watch, dating from ca. 1903. The watch is clearly marked silver and in its original period case. The watch is in full working order and comes complete with a presentation box.

The Dial:
100% mint, the white enamel dial with black Roman numerals, with subsidary seconds and in very bright condition with no chips or hairlines. The dial with blue steel spade hands. Diameter is 52 mm. The crystal is in excellent condition.

The Movement:
100% mint, with gilded 3/4 plate and finely gilded balance cock. A diamond endstone setting to balance cock and blue steel screws. A cut two arm bimetallic balance, with over-coiled Breguet hairspring and jewelled to the balance staff and English lever escapement in very good condition. The movement with 21 jewels, with screwed in jewelling, escap and lever pivots with end-stones and anti-banking to the end of the pallets. The movement fully signed by J. W. Benson Ltd, 62 & 64 Ludgate Hill, London, and number 32384. The movement with free-sprung balance and hand-set if required via a central square to rear plate. The watch ticking away very strongly and just cleaned and overhauled by my watch-maker on 15/04/2007.

The Case:
100% mint, the substantial solid silver case measures an impressive 60 mm outside diameter. The screw-on covers both closing tightly and with ribbed edges. The case marked with London hall-marks and sterling silver marks for 1903-04. The case with a silver sponsor mark of "FT" for the famous and highly respected maker, Frederick Thoms, 25, Spencer Street, Clerkenwell, London.

The screw on front bezel and silver case back close onto leather lined rebates, thereby ensuring a completely dust and moisture free seal. A silver chain is atached to the screw on silver shroud cap over the gilt winding crown, which also seals down onto a leather lined rebate. The hand-set is adjusted by depressing a small gold-pin next to the winding crown and then turning the crown.

This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 06 May, 2008.
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