Concealed special grade Smiths 12 ligne English watch movements

Historically Smiths post war English movements went through more changes in the first year or two of production than the next ten. The evolutionary process would seem to have been due to production ease and costs as well as the gradual awareness that one or two features lacked the precision/robustness required for repetitive use. Interestingly the earlier less positive bolt springs (445) were not prone to breakage.

The subject of today's blog is a few selected movements from two different decades which were enhanced for unknown reasons.

The British Rail era watch movements can be occasionally found with the military shock resist setting from the Deluxe 6b ( also some Ingersolls) these watches can be found with partial Deluxe escapements or all Astral grade, but the defining difference is the crazy use of a different shock setting in a mass production environment. I could understand if it was just one watch but it isn't. So did the deliberately enhance the movements or was it a day when they ran out of parts? They're definitely not watches that were built for private use as they are dedicated presentation full BR watches. 

The rare ones that are coming to light are R.L. specials. Its a long shot but Robert Lenoir was the technical director and a senior figure in Smiths and may well have kept his hand in helping out with a few watch builds. The illustration will I hope show a hand drawn RL which is one so far two watches I have had one which recently sold to a very lucky recipient.

The early hand finished as most were Smiths 12 ligne movement was often initialled by the finisher or constructor of the movement. One person would have built an entire movement selecting the parts from trays or divided boxes. The final testing was a different department. The position of the initials suggests that first run testing was without dials and in a protective housing.  So rejects would be attributable to each individual person who had inscribed his initials where clearly visible on a plate that was later hidden under the dial. 

The RL initialled movements are very special, and perhaps give us a glimpse of what Smiths or more significantly Robert Lenoir originally intended for the Deluxe grade, but was not feasible due to the cost difference.

The differences of note are a polished ratchet wheel ( like the J W Benson and Gerrard pieces,) and superior escapement components, especially the balance assembly which is similarly as high quality as the Benson one. Presumably the costs exceeded permitted limits. 

There is no proof that these deductions are facts, but I invite you to look at the initials and compare them with his signature on Smiths warranties for comparison.

Robert Lenoir would have had the seniority to do what he wanted and yet the experience to work on the production line.  

One can only surmise that he did it for his own benefit as well as ensuring that the watches he built were the best that they could be reflecting his concept of a superior English watch.