It is 1969 and the streets of London are still swinging. As a young horology student, at Hackney Technical College, I am wondering where I will be able to get my hands on some top quality watches for practice. Surprisingly, owners of fine watches are not willing to risk their precious timepieces to an impecunious, novice watchmaker like myself.
As soon as I was old enough to roam free, I discovered the wonderful delights of exploring London on foot, putting real life memories and images to those evocative, Monopoly Board Game street names.
Now of course, I found the Kings Road, Carnaby Street and Soho, enjoyed the Royal Parks, and in the summer months, the unfeasibly short mini-skirts. But I had, and still have, this obsession – watches – so these three expensive (on the Monopoly board) streets, Oxford St ( green £300) Regents St (Green £300) and Bond St (Green £320) drew me to much window shopping. But how could I get my hands on watches of this quality?
All big cities have them, they are not so well known, not so fashionable, the brown and the light blue streets on the Monopoly board, this is where you can find the real watch treasures.
First – Leather Lane, a narrow street, at the side of Gamages (a large department store – long gone and much missed), filled with market stalls every lunchtime. Close to Clerkenwell, at that time, still the centre of London's watch industry, these stalls were full of quality movements, mainly pocket watch. These movements had been stripped out of gold cases so that the gold could be melted down for scrap value. This is a sad and barbaric practice that happens at times of high gold value ( like now) but it allowed me to obtain for shillings various beautiful movements. Very slim Hamilton “Minute Man” calibres, Elgins, and a Waltham Riverside Maximus – “Kew A”. This is one of the finest pocket watch movements I have ever handled and sparked my admiration for Americas watchmaking abilities (also, all parts of these movements are interchangeable – unmatched at that time)...