Historic British watchmaking name J. W. Benson comes up for sale

JW Benson Bond Street

For investors and groups with an eye for the past and the future of watchmaking, then this story could be an opportunity for you.

Vintage watch collectors, particularly in Britain, will be familiar with the watchmaking name of J. W. Benson, a business that can trace its origins back to the mid-19th century in London and held a royal warrant by Queen Victoria for the creation of perfectly crafted timepieces and exquisite jewellery collections.

The business and its watches have a fascinating history after being founded by brothers James William Benson and Samuel Suckley Benson in 1847.

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In its heyday, J. W. Benson was making watches, jewellery and other valuables in its East London workshops and selling them through stores in the Royal Exchange next to the Bank of England and from the same unit on Bond Street that is now occupied by Tiffany & Co.


J. W. Benson became an official watchmaker to the Admiralty and the War Department during World War I; manufacturing thousands of trench and service watches.

World War II was even tougher on J. W. Benson as its premises at Ludgate Hill in the City of London was bombed, destroying the steam factory, a retail premises and an inventory of 12,000 watches, as well as halting the manufacture of in-house movements.


It rebuilt after the war and even made a watch taken to the peak of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, but its star was fading and the business was eventually sold to to the Royal jewellers, Garrards in 1973, and then to American retail giant Sears Holdings.

It never made watches again.

But this may not be the end of this story because the J. W. Benson name and intellectual property — including global trademarks and web domains — have come up for sale again by United Heritage, a specialist in generating value from legacy brands called United Heritage.

So much value in modern watchmaking comes from historic stories, brand equity and archive watch designs, so the sale of J. W. Benson is expected to generate considerable interest in the UK and abroad.

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Tags : British Watchmakersbusiness for saleJ. W. BensonUnited Heritagevintage watches
Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder