If in case you have learn my Khanjar and Qaboos Rolexes: Are They The Classic Watch Business’s Blood Diamonds?, it’s possible you’ll recall that in 1969 I used to be purchased my first look ahead to my seventh birthday while on a household journey to Bahrain. I used to be sure that this watch had been misplaced to the sands of time, in one among many home strikes between Oman and Scotland.
My final reminiscence of it dated again to the mid-Seventies and, as I recall, the motion had seized up. Purely from reminiscence, I described the watch as “a manual-wind, steel-encased boys’ watch on a metal bracelet with a pink second hand and luminous Mercedes hour and minute arms that lit up like Blackpool tower at night time.”
So it’s little wanting a miracle that on a current go to to see my mom (shortly earlier than the COVID-19 ban on visiting aged kin), whereas tidying away some containers in her attic, I occurred to look into an open wood field and there, mendacity on its facet, now on an previous black leather-based strap, was my first watch!
And much more astonishing, after I wound it up it began operating completely! As you may see from the photograph, the case and arms are precisely as I remembered them, and the lume continues to be remarkably sturdy given its age.
The second factor I did was to verify the dial for the producer’s title, one thing I didn’t recall. The dial reads WEST END WATCH CO – SOWAR beneath the 12 o’clock mark and PRIMA and SWISS MADE above and beneath the 6 o’clock mark.
This despatched me scurrying on-line to seek out out extra about this firm. However the model title was greater than acquainted, and it seems that I had come throughout some West Finish Watch Co watches very lately and far nearer to house. Extra on that later.
In line with the West Finish Watch Co web site, not lengthy after being based in 1864 by Alcide Droz and Henri Perret as Droz and Perret, the corporate determined to focus on the Indian and Center East markets, establishing itself below the model title West Finish Watch Co because the main model in India, Nepal, and Tibet (making deliveries to the latter by yak when roads grew to become impassable!).
In 1886 Droz developed l’Imperméable, the primary waterproof pocket watch ever produced, which is now on show on the Worldwide Watchmaking Museum (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
In one other serendipitous reference to my Omani Rolex article, Chinese language mountaineer Wang Fu-Zhou grew to become the primary man to beat Mount Everest through the North Ridge in 1960 – sporting a West Finish Watch Co watch.
At varied instances West Finish Watch Co loved manufacturing tie-ups with Longines and Mido, till 1955 being the one model licensed to market Longines actions, together with the 12.68z, below its personal title.
By way of its Bombay and Calcutta places of work, the place the West Finish Watch Co title was first adopted, by 1914 the corporate had equipped 50,000 watches to British Indian troopers combating in Iraq and was supplying watches to a lot of the Indian Railway firms.
In 1917 it launched the Sowar model (Sowar means “one who rides” in Farsi and “cavalryman” in Hindi). My watch is a Sowar Prima, indicating that it was water-resistant and shockproof, as the corporate had created its personal waterproofing know-how and was an early adopter of Incabloc shockproofing.
Given the sturdy buying and selling hyperlinks between India and the nascent Arab Gulf States it’s subsequently not stunning that if we have been in search of a look ahead to me in Bahrain within the late Nineteen Sixties, a West Finish Watch Co mannequin would have been an apparent selection. As watch strap vendor David Boettcher states in his complete evaluation, “The West Finish model gave the Swiss-made watches a distinctly imperial really feel, and the intelligent juxtaposition of Swiss precision engineering and an Empire model title was successful.”
I’m pretty sure that my Sowar has by no means been serviced and that the again has by no means been opened because it left the manufacturing facility. This, mixed with the waterproofing system, would clarify why the dial and arms are in such good situation. The case again (on which I scratched my initials, undoubtedly with the compass from my commonplace concern “Oxford” mathematical devices package, proof that I took it with me to boarding college) is a decagonal type much like many dive watches of the interval.
Partially attributable to its small dimension (25 mm) I’ve been fairly unable to open it with the instruments in my possession, so I’m not capable of establish or present images of the motion, however I perceive it will have been an ETA (or an related firm). Nevertheless, I used to be capable of finding the next info on www.vintagewatchstraps.com:
“The exploded view of a West Finish Sowar Prima reveals how the watch was assembled utilizing a Taubert Decagonal case. The motion, full with dial and arms, is first dropped into the service ring and secured by the 2 case screws. The service ring is then inserted into the case from the again. The winding stem is then inserted by the stem tube, the place the cork seal is already in place, and is secured into the motion by tightening the setting lever screw.
“The case again has 10 flats, therefore the title Decagonal, that are gripped by the important thing used to tightening the again down onto a lead gasket. The lead gasket isn’t proven within the image, it’s already put in in the primary a part of the case on the backside of the threads that the case again screws into.
“The West Finish Watch Co grew to become thus one of many first firms to make use of the Incabloc shock resisting system of their watches, they usually used Taubert’s waterproof Decagonal watch case with the cork stem sealing and screw again from 1934 till 1954, when Taubert have been now not capable of sustain with West Finish’s demand, which by then had risen to greater than 2,000 instances per 30 days.”
One hanging facet of a model like this, given the pedigree of the corporate and the standard of its merchandise, is the truth that 100 years in the past there was little in technical, qualitative, and design phrases to distinguish manufacturers reminiscent of West Finish Watch Co from extra well-known producers like Ebel, Eterna, Minerva, and now-iconic manufacturers like Rolex, Omega, and Longines – as evidenced by the broad collection of producers included within the Soiled Dozen, even again within the Nineteen Forties.
This may increasingly sound fanciful, however the proof of this lies within the extent to which these firms equipped one another with actions and instances. West Finish Watch Co initially had its actions made at guardian firm Droz & Cie’s manufacturing facility in St. Imier, however for high quality causes, after 1907 sourced them from an organization referred to as Lavina and in addition from Longines, Mido, Tissot, and different high manufactures.
In another horological universe, Hans Wilsdorf might have determined to use his presence in London to launch Rolex as “the Empire watch,” with the consequence that Wang Fu-Zhou may need conquered the North Ridge sporting a Rolex and Sir Edmund Hillary would possibly simply as simply have climbed Everest sporting West Finish Watch Co timepieces reasonably than Rolexes!
The Sowar Prima continues to be in manufacturing in the present day in additional up to date 39 mm and 41 mm sizes, and most West Finish watches are powered by ETA automated actions.
These embody the next automated (ETA-powered) chronographs, retailing on-line from £425 as much as £875: the Queen Anne chronograph, an automated ETA chronograph with military-style soldered lugs; the Sowar Prima, an automated army type watch additionally obtainable with Arabic and Tibetan numerals; and the Classics, automated Sowar variants with a fluted bezel on a jubilee bracelet, a completely respectable different to sporting a counterfeit Rolex if it’s the Datejust look you’re after.
Nearer to house in Bordeaux
After I was first reunited with this watch, I used to be racking my mind attempting to recollect the place I had fairly lately come throughout West Finish Watch Co watches nearer to house.
Bordeaux, the place I dwell, is one thing of a desert in horological phrases: there are a number of licensed sellers promoting the customary Rolex, Omega, and Longines lineup, however if you would like an Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, or A. Lange & Söhne your solely possibility is the handful of pre-owned sellers. If it’s a Greubel Forsey or an F.P. Journe you’re after you’ll have to leap on a TGV to Paris.
Nevertheless, a number of years in the past a younger Bordelais referred to as Aurélien Cram opened Horel, a small boutique promoting primarily quartz style watches in Bordeaux’s previous city. He regularly upgraded his product vary by including inexpensive mechanical manufacturers reminiscent of Baltic, Oris, Junkers, Squale, and many others. and relocated final yr to a bigger retailer on Rue de la Devise to focus totally on mechanical watches.
And that was the place I noticed some West Finish Watch Co watches final yr, not realizing that that was what my first watch had been. As quickly as this horrible virus enterprise is over, I shall drop in and proudly present him my Sowar Prima.
For extra info, please go to www.westendwatchco.ch.
Fast Details West Finish Watch Co Sowar Prima 1916
Case: 39 mm, chrome steel, water-resistant to 50 meters, sapphire crystal, clear case again
Motion: automated Swiss motion
Features: hours, minutes, seconds; date
* This text was first printed April 22, 2020 at The Grail Of Attic Finds: Reunited With The First Watch I Ever Owned, A West Finish Watch Co Sowar Prima
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