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66 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
As most of would know from the time of the first world war many countries had high import duties on complete watches which led to many manufacturers exporting bare movements to be cased up at their destination.
Australia was one of those and probably Australia's largest case maker was J W Handley in Melbourne
Established in Victoria St Abbotsford in the mid 1920's they moved from the corner of Church St to 655 Victoria st in 1929 into a new purpose built factory.
Other businesses they ran out of these premises were Aluminium & Plate P/L, Pyramid Plate & Aluminium, and Crusader Plate P/L. These companies produced a
variety of hollow and flat ware.
In 1928 Mr Tilley went to Switzerland to source "the most modern" machinery for watch case manufacturing. From press reports of the day his visit was far from well regarded by the Swiss watchmakers and threatened anyone who supplied him with machinery with sanctions. They even approached police to have this "undesirable trader" deported ( which had previously happened to two Canadians).
The machinery was subsequently purchased and contacts obtained to produce cases for brands such as rolex.
In 1929 100 staff were engaged in watch case manufacture.
For whatever reason Handley and Tilley parted ways on 3/3/1934, with Tilley signing an agreement not to work in the industry for a given time.
In December of the same year all the assets of Handley & Tilley were sold to J W Handley P/L.
Up to this point the trademark had been an open hand with the text HANTILY.
Subsequent to the split the text was changed to HANDLEY.
(the Handley and Tilley company was officially deregistered on 11/4/1935)
In 1935 Handley launched legal action against Tilley for breach of the 1934 covenant when Tilley set up a company in his wife’s name and starting making cases and trying to poach customers from J W Handley P/L. Handley won the case and received 1000 Pounds in damages.
J W Handley went on until the 1960’s and made a great variety of products- during WWII they produced such things as compass cases and gun sights for the military.
They eventually ceased production in the 1960’s while the Crusader Enterprises business continued making hollow and flat ware up to the 1980’s.

66 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Handley & Tilley
J W Handley

Known to have made
cases for




Company Summary

ACN: 004 239 169
Previous state number: C0023054J
Previous state of registration: Victoria
Registration date: 19/10/1942
Next review date:

Status: Deregistered
Date deregistered: 5/04/1990
Type: Australian Proprietary Company, Limited By Shares
Locality of registered office:
Regulator: Australian Securities & Investments Commission

1,997 Posts
Great piece of history! Thanks very much. Had no idea that Australia has a industry like in the USA which produced fine brands like Benrus, Helbros and Gruen.

What became of the Australian company that was manufacturing jewelery watch out of Australian gems? They were in business as recently as 15 years ago.

Is anyone in Australia still manufacturing gemstone watch dials? there used to be several parties doing so.

923 Posts
Hi bomber157

I was in the Richmond area earlier today and found the old Handley building complete with faded sign. I took a quick snap to add to this thread. In the background every Melbournian will recognise the old skipping girl neon.

I just caught up with thread . This brings back old memories. Richmond/Abbotsford /Collingwood area was my old stomping ground as a kid back in the late fifties. FWIW the original skipping girl sign was bought by Heywood panel beaters ( who repaired my dads trucks) where it was left in parts .There was such an outcry when it was demolished that a radio station got a fund going and Crusader ,a Handley company lent their roof for the new skipping girl back ,I think , in the late sixties.
And to think I am looking at a watch with a Handley case and did not connect.
thanks James.
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