As readers may have noticed, I have been at sixes and sevens of late abode-wise. This has caused a major hiatus in various ways – including neglecting Watchlogic matters. Whilst I am not yet in my “forever” lodgings, I am now at least in the place I want to be and can exist for the moment with peace and stability whilst I seek something I really want! I have though still been garnering some watch material to write about and this is a small soupcon to be going on with. I do have a couple more meatier items in the wings so fret not.
Whilst in a small market town “up North” recently, I came across a modest jewellery and watch shop. As well as the display of cheapish modern watches etc in the window, I also noticed a few older watches too. As such I went in and enquired if they had any more – but higher end. The owner was doubtful and said not really, but did have one thing vaguely fitting the bill and proffered a small watch with no strap. It turned out to be a Vertex from the 50’s, but the owner seemed to have little idea who they were! I was assured that it was running OK and could be mine for £200. I asked if he could pop the back and the workings appeared to be reasonably clean and unmolested. I asked if he would take less than £200, plus fit a brown strap. We agreed £190! I have had the watch a few days now and, after a couple of tweaks to the advance/retard adjuster, it does in fact keep very good time.
Now, I was not really in the market for an old, small type dress watch, but the name Vertex piqued my interest. A few year ago I met Don Cochrane, the great-grandson of Vertex’s founder. He had recently revived the business with a range of military-type timepieces and I did in fact buy one from from him. Interestingly, and unlike some other resurrected businesses, he has concentrated on the military side to date.
The Vertex Watch Co commenced in 1912 by one Claude Lyons. They were based in Hatton Garden and mainly produced watches with Swiss movements but cased in Britain. During the Ist WW they supplied watches to the military. In 1916 they opened a factory in La Chaux de Fonds in Switzerland. Mens and ladies watches were offered – mainly in steel but occasionally in gold and platinum. In 1931 a joint venture commenced with Swiss manufacturer Thommen Uhrenfabrik on a range of steel watches and also movements. It should be noted that this company commenced in 1853 and by the early 1920’s were very large and not only made watches but also aero instruments and other equipment. In 1938 Henry Lazarus (son-in-law) joined the firm. In 1940 the factory and showroom in Hatton garden were destroyed by Nazi bombing. In 1941 the British military put forward requests to various watch manufactures (now known as the “Dirty Dozen”) for a specific military type watch. Vertex were one of the successful invitees and by 1943 production commenced with the Vertex calibre 59 WWW navigation watch and some 4,652 were delivered in time for D Day. To be noted is that their Swiss supplier also made a similar watch for the German military with the same movement! In 1951 Vertex became the official importer for Thommen who had trademarked the name Revue, so in 1956 the watches were co-branded Vertex Revue. In 1960 a range of sports and diving watches were launched and these are quite collectable today. Sadly, due to the effects of the quartz crisis and the expiration of the lease in Hatton Garden, Henry decided to close the business in 1972. Thommen kept going and made watches under various names like Vulcain – but that is another tale.
Fast-forward to 2015, Claude’s great-grandson, Don Cochrane decided to resurrect the business under the Vertex name. The first piece in 2016 was the M100 which was based on the 59 caliber. Since then a few other pieces have emerged – including a monopusher chronograph in 2019 which was inspired by a stillborn Vertex project for the military. These new Vertex watches are sought after by military enthusiasts and are only made in fairly small batches.
In terms of this little piece, I have no great knowledge. It is a mere 31 mm in width and has delicately cranked lugs and a correct (in appearance) crown.
The 9ct gold case is in three pieces with the front and back both snap-ons. The latter has had a name engraved on it (could be one Simon Whatty) but has been subject to an attempted erasure! On the inside of the case back there are two reference numbers and a full set of hallmarks from Birmingham dated to 1954/55. In addition there is the ubiquitous initials ALD which shows that Dennison made the case.
Inside, the movement is the caliber 59, so is the WW2 hand-wound engine. As mentioned earlier, it seems to be in good condition visually and in action. Vertex Revue is noted along with 15 jewels and the number 59. There is also the usual Advance/Retard adjuster. Finally, on the lower plate the intertwined initials/logo of the movement maker – possibly Gedeon Thommen or MSR? Needless to say there is no decoration.
Turning to the dial, this is of a champagne-type colour. The arabic numbers appear to be applied gold as are the leaf-like hands. There is a running seconds dial at 6 o’clock with a guilloche snailing-like design. This has “eaten” into the number 6, but has been nicely done. Interestingly, just the name Vertex is noted by 12, rather than the more usual Vertex Revue which appears on most pieces. This perhaps lends credence to an early model or simply using up some old stock!
OK, the watch is probably nothing too special, but it is a pretty little thing! It is nicer than some of the pieces I have seen whilst scouring the internet – for the following reasons; Firstly, it is in gold. Secondly, it has the running seconds dial. Thirdly it has a full set of gold Arabic numbers (rather than the usual partial with indexes) and Fourthly, no Revue on the dial. This all may not add up to a row of beans, but I am sure it is worth a little more than the £190 paid! I shall in due course make contact with Don and try to get some more information.
Update: Don has come back and is very impressed! Not much more data imparted – other than he thinks that the Vertex Revue dials started in 1963.
Images & Words: The Writer