Hope that my English is good enough to be understood1)
The West End Watch Co., a little known maison (at least in Italy) that was the first to mount the antichock on an industrial scale on their watches, was among the first to adopt the water-resistant cases FB as well as having significantly contributed to the spread of Swiss watchmaking in the Far East, has often given me pleasant surprises.
West End Watch told me that the watch has been manufactured in the late '30s, presumably at the turn of 1938 and 1939
I would like to be able to tell you something about Mr. ARL Baker, Irish in Belfast
Under the caseback, I found a little surprise
So Mr. Baker was an Official of the 'Indian Civil Service in the early '40s and I went straight to requests for information both to London and India, but despite several reminders, I got only silence ..........
It remains, however, the consolation of having a discrete movement (based FHF 30)....
....and a watch with a little of history
It is not a precious watch, but of those that I like.
This is a watch that, at least initially, appeared an anomalous one to me.
Logo absent and not gone for external agents.
The movement, and so far nothing in particular, is the classic Longines 10.68Z with blued screws.
The case begins instead to be outside of the usual canons
The most that leaved me puzzled was the dial on which stood the absence of the Longines logo.
Seized from the doubt that it was an assemblage, I contacted Longines
"Dear Mr. Xxxxxx,
Thank you for your e-mail as well as for your interest in LONGINES watches.
#serial number 6’618’295, Wristwatch in steel with leather band. It has a movement caliber 10.68Z
It was invoiced to Messrs West End Watch, at that time our agents for the India, on 05.02.1944.
It is possible that the case was changed by our agent.
You can consider this watch as a original LONGINES watch.
We hope this information is convenient to you, we remain on your disposal and send you our best regards,
West End Watch was then allowed to mount Longines movements in other cases.
I therefore turned to the West End
"Dear Mr Xxxxxx,
Thanks for your message and interest in our West End Watches.
Before West End Watch was purchasing watches bearing its brand name from several historical brands (such as Longines, Cyma, Tissot, Mido, Omega, IWC, Aubry, etc.) West End was the only brand for which Longines was producing watches without the Longines name on dial and case. The West End Watch Co. had started in Bombay. The founder was Mr Droz, whose family company was located in St-Imier and they were neighbours with Longines. West End was also the agent for Longines in India until the late 1950s when the market was closed for the importation of Swiss watches.
The West End Watch Co. was taken over in 1973 and offices moved from Geneva to Le Noirmont (Jura). Then, again, in 2001, the company was taken over and moved from Le Noirmont to the present place Leytron (Vallese). Not all archives have followed over the decades, not speaking about the offices in India which were closed down in the 1950s and 2000 for the last one.
However, the date you mentionate is absolutely realistic; Longines has supplied West End until the 1950s.
Regarding Borgel cases, see the very interesting article under The history of François Borgel, Louisa Borgel and the Taubert family - watch case makers of Geneva, Switzerland
We remain at your entire disposal for further information
With best regards from Canton Vallese (not far away from Milano!).
WE/J. Monnat Jr - CEO"
I learned something really interesting about the relationship between Longines and the West End Watch Co, as well as between West End and Borgel.
Here the "anomaly" is repeated in this watch: a West End-Multifort
Caseback marked WEW and properly coupled with the case
The movement, the classic Mido1941 based on AS, is marked WEW
Let’s compare this watch with a “classic” Mido; case and dial (except for the different spheres and finishing) are the same
Casebacks and serial numbers have the same style
The watch has been manufactured by Mido and it is registered in their archives
“Dear Mr. Xxxxxx,
We thank you for your request and for your interest in Mido watches.
All we can say about this watch is that the year of manufacture is 1942.
We stay at your disposal for any other information.
What does West End Watch say about this watch? Here is an excerpt of the correspondence with.
“…West End has been the agent of several brands for the Indian market. Longines, of course, was the most significant one. But West End has also been the agent of Mido from 1938 to 1951, when the Indian market was closed to importations after the independence. I have read it in the history of the brand - written by the late Mr. Foex, who has been director from 1920 to 1973! - that West End has sold several thousand (if I remember about 5,000) such automatic WE-Multifort in India, but they were suffering of weaknesses with the automatic system…
…After a few years, the owner of Mido, Mr. Schaeren, has wished to fly by his own wings on the Indian market. Mr. Foex writes that Mr. Schaeren could not sell a single watch on the Indian market without the West End support…
…I have checked in the old files and as far as we could understand, the watches were 100% supplied to West End. It means they were produced with the West End marks by Mido...”.
This is an other important testimony on how the Swiss watches has been marketed in India by West End Watch Co.
Now a touch of color, all three watches bear on the caseback the owner's name and both the Sowan and Mido come from Belfast.