“Manis” wristwatch from 1955

It is very unlikely that you will be familiar with Manis as a watch brand, but if the watch displayed here is anything to go by they made high quality Swiss watches. According to the warranty certificate and original box, the watch was purchased on 22 October 1955 (eleven days after I was born) at C.W. Reynolds of 99 Upper Parliament St, Nottingham.

The watch has a diameter of 33mm, standard for a man’s watch of that time, albeit small by today’s standards. It features an A. Schield 1430 23-jewel manual wind movement with a stated power reserve of 41 hours (38 hours achieved under testing). A. Schield (now a part of ETA) made high quality movements used by many prestigious watchmakers including Jaeger Lecoultre. 23 jewels is a large number for a manual wind movement, although there was also a version of the AS 1430 with the more usual jewel count of 17.

Virtually nothing is known about Manis. It appears to have been a British company, registered by a Maurice Samuels in London. They were presumably a small UK brand using Swiss movements in their watches. A 1957 advertisement for the Manis Watch Company gives two addresses Рa main office at 34-35 Hatton Garden, EC1 and a showroom nearby at 94 Hatton Garden, EC1. The advertisement features a clock priced at £52 10 0, a considerable sum of money at the time, suggesting that their products were aimed at the at least reasonably well-to-do.

The warranty for the watch gives an address for repairs at the Hatton Garden showroom. The handling charge of 1/6d (approx ¬£2.00 at today’s prices) might sound modest, but it would not be permitted to make any charge for a warranty repair now.

Hatton Garden is London’s jewellery quarter and the centre of the UK’s diamond trade. 34-35 Hatton Garden today is home to two jewellers at street level, with offices and workshops to let on the upper floors. It has probably changed very little since the 1950s and would have been the likely setting for a small-scale watchmaker. It is probable that the watches were simply assembled from cases, dials, hands, and √©bauches sourced from third parties. The showroom at 94 Hatton Garden no longer exists and the address is now part of a building dating to the 1980s.

As far as I can tell from Google, C.W. Reynolds is no longer in business. The address corresponds to a 1950s block holding shops at ground level with offices above.

Although its positional accuracy is not great, the watch keeps outstandingly good time overall and was running at around thirty seconds fast after two weeks.

Unfortunately I know nothing about this history of this watch, though its fine condition and still-existent box and papers suggests that it was well looked after and possibly only came onto the market after the death of its original owner. It was supplied to me by Birthdate Watches for a very reasonable price which included servicing and replacing the hessalite crystal.