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Quick dating guide

Quick guide to the date of a Smiths Clock

COPYRIGHT Barrie Smith 2005
Please do not steal any part of this publication and republish it on the Internet or in any other form.

When did it all start?

The Smiths group plc claim an ancestry dating back to 1851 when a Samuel Smith had a shop in Newington Causeway, London. but it does not appear that Smiths considered the manufacture of domestic clocks seriously until 1931 when a new company called "Smiths English Clocks Ltd" was formed for that purpose. See the "origins " file for detail of the company development.

Earliest Date for a "Smiths Clock".

The earliest date possible for one of the mass production clocks commonly referred to as a "Smiths" is 1931 when "Smiths English Clocks Ltd" was formed.
This does not apply to items such as car clocks made by S Smith & Sons (Motor accessories) Ltd.

The name on the movement case or cover gives a useful date indication.

smiths english clocks If the name is "Smiths English Clocks"
it was made between 1931 and 1955

smiths clocks & watches# If the name is "Smiths Clocks and Watches" it dates to 1955 or later.

smiths Industries# From about 1966 the name "Smiths Industries" appears on some models.

smiths IndustriesClock Co# In 1977 the clock division became "Smiths Industries Clock Company" so that a movement so marked is no earlier than 1977

Clues from the type of movement:

If it is a synchronous clock (ie mains powered) then:

smiths first movement # 1. The first movement, dating from 1931, had a large black bakelite housing of about 3.6 inches diameter.

See the file " movements " for more information

# 2. In around 1936 a "de luxe" movement was introduced in a rather similar housing.

# 3. Electric strike and chime clocks introduced circa 1935 used other types of synchronous motor as also did the Smiths mystery clock, and the Synfinity.

sec # 4. From 1937 the trademark "Sectric" appears on their synchronous models.Usually on the dial but sometimes also on the back cover. Early clocks had a prominent "T" in sectric.

smiths bijou # 5. The Bijou motor developed around 1938 was very successful and remained in general use until circa 1958.

There are several minor variations in case style and the handset knob can project either from the back or below the movement.

See the file " movements " for more information

qat # 6. A motor called the QAT was developed in 1953 and used in some models.

See the file " movements " for more information


# 7 The next motor was the QEMG introduced in 1957.

See the file " movements " for more information

qgem # 8 That was followed in 1963 by the QGEM.

See the file " movements " for more information

The file " movements " gives more notes on identifying the various types and other comments.

If it is a "wind-up" (mechanical) clock then:

# 1. Chime and strike clocks marked Smiths Enfield on the dial or Smith-Enfield on the movement date from 1949 or later.

Reasons for this statement:

Smiths was not established as a company until 1931, and the Enfield Clock company was not taken over by Smiths until 1933. Following the takeover, Smiths allowed Enfield to continue trading under its own name until after the second world war... until circa 1949 when the Enfield production was moved to Wales... so that although Smiths may well have used Enfield movements from as early as 1932 (when the Enfield company commenced business), they did not use the "Smiths Enfield" name until 1949.To the best of my knwledge it first appeared in the Smiths catalogues and advertising in 1950

# 2. If the clock has a floating balance movement it dates to 1956 or later.

Smiths licensed the floating balance from Hettich but by 1960 had developed an improved version capable of easier adjustment using an external calibated adjustment.

smiths first floating balance smiths later floating balance

sec # 3. Chime or strike clocks were available from 1933 or before but models with an acoustic chime which had a better sound were not introduced until 1954

Acoustic chime movement shown from front with dial off.
# 4. Smiths offered a selectable Westminster/Whittington chime as far back as 1940 but the acoustic chime version was not introduced until 1956

If it is a Smiths battery model then:

sectronic # 1. The earliest possible date is 1962 when Smiths introduced their "Sectronic" mark I
(It does not appear in the catalogues until 1963.)

sectronic2 The Sectronic Mark II appeared in 1968 but both models were complex and difficult to manufacture or repair and production ceased, I believe, in 1970.

Smiths 1970 catalogue still offers Sectronic models

#2. The Smiths 1971 catalogue offers "battery" models but does not use the term "sectronic" This may be the first appearance of a moving magnet type.

mark4 # 3. The Mark IV battery movement was introduced in 1973. This had a moving magnet movement (like continental clocks). It was introduced as a "Transistorised Battery Movement" .

I also have a technical information leaflet issued after the 1977 change of company name which shows a very similar unit (though with minor differences) and which is headed "Jewelled Electronic Battery Movement". Visually it would look like the Mark IV apart from the company name. I have not yet seen an example.

sec # 4. If it has a "tuning Fork" movement then it dates from 1971 or later.

Movement shown without normal transparent cover.

If it is a Smiths Quartz clock then:

# 1. it dates to 1975 or later.

# 2. If the dial says Smiths quartz but the movement is not of Smiths manufacture then it is probably 1978 or 1979.

Smiths ceased production of domestic clocks and watches in 1979

There are a couple of interesting anomalies in connection with the close down.

IF you have read this far it is just possible that you are one of the very few who like to "do things right"and you may, therefore, like to get the terminology right.

If you intend to sell on eBay it makes people think you know what you are talking about!

"Bakelite" is how to spell the hard early plastic used among other things for clock cases.

Whilst 'fingers' or 'pointers' may be understood, it is more usual to talk of the 'hands' of a clock.

Smiths clocks which strike once at the half hour and strike x times at the hour to show it is x o'clock are STRIKING clocks, NOT chiming clocks. Smiths themselves called them "hour and half hour strike" They have two winding arbors (and so have two winding apertures or keyholes in the dial if the clock is wound from the front).

CHIMING clocks have three winding apertures (keyholes) . They sound a sequence of notes at each quarter hour. The longest sequence is at the hour, followed by the the hour being struck often on a deeper gong or chord of gongs. This is similar to "Big Ben" and indeed the most common chime is the Westminster chime made famous by Big Ben.

Speaking of eBay, if selling, do please include a picture of the back as well as the front of your clock. If it's an old clock that could make quite a difference to the price. Make sure the pictures are sharp and that the clock is shown against a plain, light colour background so the details are clear.

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