England’s finest

A simple and stylish English under-statement of timekeeping – a Smiths Astral gold plate Gents watch from the 1950’s.

Smiths Astral 17j

An elegant watch indeed and with “Made in England” below the 6 makes it a rarity these days.  Produced by the Smiths Watch Company in the 1950’s it shows all the best attributes of English watchmaking.
Lovely blued steel hands on a virtually unmarked clear dial plus a red filled tip centre seconds hand and with neat raised numerals – it is quite simply – a classic.

Smiths 17 jewel lever movement with centre seconds

A neat Smiths 17 jewel hack shockproof lever movement is fitted underneath an unmarked well fitting press stainless steel back keeps this watch ticking along nicely.

Sometimes mistaken for a Jaeger LeCoultre movement, whilst it has some technical similarities it has nothing to do with that Company at all.  This is a common misconception as the only link with that company was because Robert Lenoir, Smith’s Technical Director was an ex LeCoultre employee.

High quality models were manufactured at Cheltenham mostly whilst the lower market models were produced at Ystradgynlais in Wales in a joint venture with Ingersol.   Usually noted by the dial inscription “Gt Britain” or “Made in Britain” – which is quite a useful way of identifying the origins of particular watch models.

Classic dial Smiths.

So it would appear that this particular model is not a product of the Anglo-Celtic Watch Co of Wales, but from the Smiths factory at Cheltenham.
The Astral model is perhaps not top of the range or as popular as the “everest” models, but I think does represent the classic elegance of a “Made in England” watch to perfection.

This particular movement is going as strong now as when it was new.  This one is a manual wound version which feels nice and strong when wound and set.  Perhaps a little wear in the hand setting I admit but easily sorted should this be necessary.

The watch is also a good size at 34mm diameter without crown and 39mm top to bottom with a strap size of 18mm and in consequence wears very well –

At 34mm diameter – a nice size for the wrist.

So another nice purchase for my “UK” – “Made in England” vintage collectors cabinet and this one will hold quite a decent position in that box.
Not a UK built or assembled watch with a Swiss movement, but an English watch built with an English movement too – and in reality a darned good one at that – so a bit unique in my opinion.  AND as it happens this one is pretty much original and in superb condition – another plus.

I’m sure this one will receive quite a bit of wrist time which is always a good sign as my philosophy on watch collecting is simple – if I get it I must wear it – these watches are for wearing and every watch I own MUST work – that’s what they do best.

My next purchase though may be a little bit different.  A choice of two really.  One an early “electric” watch (around 1962) and the other a “direct read” watch from about the same era  – a mechanical “digital” if you will and somewhat different from their more commonly seen “mystery dial” style.

I’m I’m looking forward to posting both here – so watch this space.

Categories: Spotlight, Watch reviews


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