This post is about a pocket watch that I actually I wasn’t considering buying, mainly because it isn’t yet antique. However, it did have an interesting brand name which I have seen a number of times before. It got me interested in doing some research on the brand. The timepiece in question is a Bravingtons Renown half-hunter pocket watch dating to 1925. The movement was made in Switzerland specifically as a private label for the English market. The movement was sent to England where it was cased and sold.
Bravingtons was a well-known British jewellery company that was founded in the early 19th century. The company was particularly famous for its high-quality watches and other luxury goods, and it became one of the most prominent jewellery stores in London.
It is difficult to pin-point when the company was founded. According to Companies House, they became a limited company on the 8th of April 1924. However, they were advertising in print well before this time. In the early 1920s, they were advertising for the sale of ex-Royal Artillery pocket watches, which must have been surplus from WW1. Other advertisements in the 1920s promoted wristwatches that had a guarantee of 10 years, but were also backed by 100 years of “reputation”. This would suggest that Bravingtons would have been in business from the early 1820s. However, I cannot find any proof of its existence before the 1920s. A Frank William Bravington trading as Bravingtons, Pentonville Road & Ludgate Hill, London registered some silver makers marks with the Birmingham Assay office as early as 1921.
They were particularly well known for their range of high-quality Swiss made watches. These were sold under the brand names Renown and Wetrista. The Bravington “Wetrista” was very popular in the UK as an early WW2-era military type watch. They were supplied to British Civil servants working in the War Office and other government departments via a voucher system, as well as to military personnel working in operation rooms. The watches were very well made with expensive Brevet cases manufactured by Taubert & Fils. Their trade mark was an FB (Francois Borgel) with a Geneva key underneath. Taubert & Fils was one of the better-known Geneva-based case makers specialising in water-resistant cases.
During the 20th century, Bravingtons continued to thrive, and it became a popular destination for shoppers looking for high-end jewellery and luxury goods. The company had a number of stores in London, including Pentonville Road, King’s Cross. They had several other stores in different parts of London, including Ludgate Hill, Trafalgar Square, Brompton Road and Orchard Street.
However, in the 1970s, Bravingtons began to face financial difficulties, and it was eventually acquired by the Ratners Group in 1986. The new owners attempted to rebrand the company as a more affordable jewellery retailer, but this strategy was largely unsuccessful, and the Bravingtons name was eventually phased out. The business is listed as dissolved by Companies House, but it doesn’t give a date as to when this happened.
Today, Bravingtons is remembered as an iconic British jewellery brand of the 20th century, and its legacy continues to live on through its vintage and antique watches, which are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts alike.
The watch has a Swiss made stem-winding movement which is working well. It has been tested for accuracy and is within +/- two to three minutes over 24 hours, which is considered respectable for a vintage watch. The high-quality nickel 3-finger bridge movement has a lever escapement with a micrometer regulator. The movement is signed “Renown, 17 Jewels, Swiss Made”. The savonnette movement is in 95% mint condition. The movement is protected by an inner hinged cover which has some markings on the edge where it has been opened in the past. The movement has screw set jewels which is another sign of quality.
The case is in good condition, with just general light surface marking, and a small indentation to the back of the watch. This would be considered patina by most collectors and would detract from the value of the watch. The watch measures 51mm in diameter excluding the winding stem and the loop. The case material is silver and there are British hallmarks inside the three outer covers for Birmingham 1925. Additionally, there is a case maker’s mark for Aaron Dennison. As case makers go, Dennison was probably the most prolific manufacturer in Britain.
The Dennison Watch Case Company was formed in 1874. Initially, it operated out of a small workshop attached to the Dennison family home in Birmingham. Aaron Dennison died in 1895, and he was succeeded in business by his son, Franklin Dennison. The company grew to the point that it was producing 100,000 high-quality watch cases per year. The company was renamed the Dennison Watch Case Company Ltd in 1905. It continued as a successful business until 1967 when it failed due to insolvency.
The front cover has a small central lens surrounded by blue enamel filled Roman numerals. The winding crown pushes in to open the front cover. Inside, there is an acrylic lens which is in good condition. The enamel dial is in very nice condition. It has its original blued steel hands including the special double spade shaped hour hand that allows the time to be read when the cover is closed. The dial has Roman numeral hour markers, a railroad-style minute track running around the exterior of the dial and a subsidiary seconds dial at 6 O’clock.
It took me several weeks to complete this research. I must admit that I found it frustrating to be unable to identify when the Bravingtons business was founded. However, I did learn all I could about the company from the early 1920s. The Bravingtons Renown watch itself had been sold long before I started my research. However, the Bravington brand regularly appears online, so I am sure I will have further opportunities to add a Renown watch to my collection.
Bravingtons at the British Museum.