The history of Harrods, London’s most famous department store, is important in the development and history of vintage watches. One of the very earliest ‘waterproof’ wristwatches was the Harrods Aquatic watch, which was marketed in 1916 as a “genuinely waterproof watch”, stating in newspaper advertisements at the time that Harrods tested each watch under water for 14 days before placing it on sale! Harrods then even gave a three-year guarantee. This beat the first Rolex Oyster, which is popularly accepted as the first commercially successful waterproof watch, by an astonishing 11 years! It was also very interesting that Harrods was marketing gentlemen’s wristwatches as early as 1906, as it is popularly accepted that the wristwatch did not gain favour over the pocket watch until the 1920s.
Harrods as a department store, was of course, never a manufacturer of watches, but contracted the best suppliers of watch cases and dials, to realise its own designs, which were then fitted with high-quality Swiss movements. It is important to appreciate that while Harrods today caters to a wider society, prior to WW2 it was far more exclusive, as a supplier of only highly priced luxury goods to London’s social elite. It therefore had a huge reputation to protect and so it would have never put this at any risk, by putting its name to any watch which was not of the highest quality. Harrods watches, therefore, were not sold to compete on price with watches of similar quality from Omega, Rolex and Longines and the rest, but more to give the customer additional choice and additional reassurance they were buying a watch of the highest quality.
To a significant degree, Harrods helped popularise the gentleman’s wristwatch as it was an early adopter and marketer of the concept and it was the generally held view, that if a product was offered by Harrods, then it was both prestigious and desirable.
The watch we see here is a beautiful example of a high quality art deco case in yellow and white gold. The dial is also very redolent of the period with beautiful original Breguet blued steel hands.
While this watch would have originally been marketed as a gent’s watch, the size, at 24mm x 32mm excluding the crown, is perhaps a little small for most gentlemen today, so can be equally considered suitable as a lady’s watch.
The white art deco style dial is very typical of the late 1920s, as rectangular shaped watch cases and dials became very popular during this period. Alternate black batons and numerals are a classic design on this shape of dial as they neatly answer the challenge of keeping the numerals in proportion, particularly in the corners and at 3 and 9.
The dial carries its original, beautiful 1920s ‘Breguet Antique Roman’ blued steel hands, along with the small square shaped subsidiary seconds dial. The dial is signed ‘Harrods’ and ‘Swiss Made’ at the very bottom of the dial.
This is the original dial which has been restored to the very highest standards by our dial restorers which are considered to be the best in the UK.
The Watch Case
The high quality, original, 9ct white and yellow gold case is in the classic 1920s art deco style and is of a sleek design, being quite low in profile. It is also beautifully made and highly attractive. The design and quality of workmanship are excellent, as is the use of white and yellow gold. It is also in almost flawless condition with no scratches, dings or other signs of wear visible to the naked eye, which is quite amazing considering the age of this watch. This, along with the condition of the movement, leads us to believe this watch has been very carefully owned and very lightly used.
The case is hinged at the rear to allow access to the movement and dial. The structural integrity of the case and the hinge are excellent with the case-back snapping shut with a firm push, so there is no possibility of this happening accidentally.
The case measures 24mm across, not including the crown. It also measures 30mm in length and 39mm across the diagonal, meaning the watch wears much larger on the wrist than a 24mm diameter round cased watch. It could be worn by a gentleman with small wrists, but is perhaps more suitable as a ladies watch today.
The case-back is of full thickness and has never been engraved. The inside of the case back is signed M&J and was made in the UK for Harrods by Marson & Jones of Birmingham. The case also carries London 9ct hallmarks which date this watch to 1928.
Please note our standard advice applies: Vintage watches should be kept clean and dry at all times.
The original high quality Swiss movement, as can be seen, is in pristine condition which is remarkable for any watch of this age. Although it is not marked, it could well have been made by one of the top Swiss watch manufacturers, as Harrods would have settled for nothing less at the time, for a watch marketed under their own name.
The movement has been thoroughly overhauled and serviced by our watchmaker and carries our 12 months warranty. When tested this watch was running within 11 seconds per day which is excellent for any watch of this age. We are therefore more than happy to offer this watch with our 12 months warranty.*
*Please note, our 12 months warranty is only applicable if the list price is paid.
The Strap and Buckle
The strap fitted is a new Brown Crocodile leather strap with gold plated buckle. Please note if a different colour or style of strap is preferred, please let us know and we will do our best to oblige, free of charge. We carry tan, conker, dark brown burgundy and black straps in stock, in plain, padded leather, alligator, crocodile or lizard skin.
The Box and Papers
Although there are are no original papers with this watch, the reference numbers, markings, signatures and hallmarks are all correct, dating the watch to 1928.
Detailed particulars will be included with the receipt, along with our 12 months Warranty*. A separate insurance valuation for the replacement value of this watch will be provided at the time of sale along with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ which states: “If this watch proves to be anything less than totally authentic, or not as described, Vintage Gold Watches of London will offer you a full refund at any time”.
The watch also comes complete with the original Harrods presentation box as shown in the photographs.
This is a most elegant and attractive timepiece, produced and marketed by the most famous department store in the UK. It is from a truly glamorous age, when for its very fortunate first owner, no doubt a fully paid up member of ‘the high society’, may have well trusted in Harrods, more than Rolex, Omega or Longines, to produce a gent’s wristwatch. At the time, still quite a novel concept.
It is of evident high quality and while these early Harrods watches have perhaps been overlooked until recently, we feel that with the enormous rise in the interest of vintage watches over the past five to ten years, this may soon no longer be the case.
A word on our prices… We always try our hardest to acquire the very highest quality watches we can find, before we then restore them to the highest possible standards. We then offer our watches at the fairest prices we can, taking into account our pre and post sales care and service. This approach means we will never be the cheapest, but nor will we be the most expensive. Indeed there are some well-known stores in West London which are highly successful charging between two to three times the price you see here. We therefore consider our prices to be fair, given the quality of watches we have to offer.
We are happy to accept payment via Paypal as this is the quickest method of payment. However, if you would like to pay by UK cheque or by bank transfer, we will be pleased to assist you with this and pass on a 3% saving in transaction charges to you.
*Note – 12 Month warranty only included if the list price is paid.
If you have any questions please call on Landline 0207 727 7095 or Mobile 07515 949250
Or if calling from overseas on Landline +44 207 727 7095 or Mobile +44 7515 949250
Please note we welcome part exchanges.
Please take a look at our other vintage gold watches.