Rare Telegraphy watch, circa 1900, with 1st World War morse code dial.
Heavy double back nickel case, sponsor's mark JWB (Benson) and numbered 530, the rear cover engraved with the government 'Broad Arrow' and the military (Army) number 496. Benson's three-quarter plate keyless going-barrel 'Railway Guards' movement, also engraved BEST LONDON MAKE, within Benson's Patent movement ring. Single-roller detached lever escapement. Compensation balance, spiral balance-spring. Signed enamel dial with bold numerals and blued-steel hands, with additional lettering in red used by the telegraph operator to transmit the time in morse code. 55.5 mm diameter.
James Walter Benson, 62 & 64 Ludgate Hill, London’s biggest and most energetic watchmaking and watch retailing firm of the second half of the 19th and the first half of 20th centuries. Benson’s London made watches were marketed under the names ‘The Bank,’ ‘The Ludgate’ and ‘The Field, and later were often engraved 'BEST LONDON MAKE. This is one of few I have seen marketed as Benson's Railway Guards Watch and was presumably requisitioned for wartime use.
See also Knirim British Military Timepieces, page 282, for a similar example by Benson and a description of how the watches were used for Telegraphy and Telephony by the Army, prior to and during the 1st World War.
I lovely original condition, not having been cleaned or restored, but with the usual hair crack in the dial. Serviced for its previous owner and appears to be working well, but can be freshly serviced if wanted.
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