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Precista Watches: An Enigmatic History


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The Precista watch brand is a genuine enigma and deserves an attempt by me to solve the puzzle as best I can. The essential enigma centres on the fact that the company behind Precista engaged in producing Precista branded for the British military in the 1980s and well into the 1990s and yet left no substantial history. Indeed, although we do have information on the Precista brand after its sale by Southerns to Apollo in about 1997, virtually nothing is known about the long history of the brand before then. So, using research on textual sources plus illustrations of surviving watches, I hope to provide some sort of historical picture of Precista.

On 29 November, 2007, a certain CR posted a quote about Precista on MWR Forum, by an Eddie Platts which ran as follows:

“Precista was never registered as a trademark before I registered it. Southerns, a watch & clock materials house (amongst other things) had Precista watches made for a number of years and supplied several models to the Ministry of Defence. Southerns went out of business in about 1997 and their assets were bought by Apollo Straps. Apollo didn't continue to have Precista watches manufactured and I registered the name in 2003.”

In fact, Edward (Eddie) Platts has been using the Precista brand name since his acquisition of the name, and it appears on a number of homage military watches produced and retailed by his company, Timefactors. I am not going to discuss Timefactors here nor illustrate/review the Precista branded watches produced by Eddie Platts, because I am after the history of Precista pre-2003 when Eddie registered the brand.

The above quotation is really a first step to any attempt to unravel the history of Precista watches, and my research has essentially consisted of finding and scraping together what other pieces of textual and pictorial information are out there, before hanging them on the skeleton provided by Platts in the above quote.

The first question to be answered concerns the beginning of Precista as a watch brand, and it is evident that although the main period of Precista watches commenced after World War Two, we have a tantalizing reference to a Precista watch in a Cambridge auction catalogue of 2004 (Taken from a post by Rizzio on TZ-UK Forum, 19 July 2008): “283 A lady's 18 carat gold wristwatch, signed Precista, the circular bezel set with diamonds, the case import mark for 1915, on a 14 Carat gold expanding bracelet. Estimate: £800-£1000.” Unfortunately, I have reason to doubt the age of this World War One period date attribution because I have now seen two Precista branded watches illustrated where pre-War precious-metal cases have been reused by the insertion of new Precista "innards" after 1950.

Frustratingly then, we do not know who, if anyone, was manufacturing, producing or retailing Precista watches prior to World War Two.  or indeed, did the brand start after the last War, with Southerns? In fact, from the hard evidence we do have, we are forced to jump in time to the period immediately following World War Two for the foundation of Precista watches. In this connection, I have discovered another tantalising quotation about the beginning of Precista on Pinterest from a short-lived modern company using the web address, precista.com, apparently unrelated to Eddie Platts and Timefactors, that attempted to revive the Precista brand with two quartz models - a chronograph and a UTC (GMT) watch both with 200 metres water resistance. This quotation claims that the history of Precista starts in the 1950s, with the watches being made in Tavannes, near Biel, Switzerland.

More importantly, I have also come across a Southerns advertisement for its stopwatch range (also illustrating a Precista chronograph wristwatch), dating to about the mid-late 1960s, that gives us the full title and address of the firm at that date This document is shown here below (pic from Terry_s47 at photobucket.com). Note that the street numbers and postcode are difficult to read but the address at Precista House seems to be 48-58 High Street, Orpington, with the postcode of BR6 0JH:

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A gold plated hand-wind Precista chronograph with anecdotal provenance dating it to the late 1940s, though I would have expected it to be slightly later than that, say early to mid 1950s (pic from Candaff at oi696. and lower two at i696.photobucket.com):

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So to sum up, given the above references/quotations and the information gleaned from Eddie Platts, as well as a look at photographs of Precista watches, it would seem that we have an wristwatch brand that dates from about the late 1940s or beginning of the 1950s, probably starting out life under the proprietorship of Southern Watch & Clock Supplies Ltd., an English watch materials company based in Orpington, Kent, who used the Precista name on watches that they produced and sold wholesale under their own brand name. Interestingly, Southerns also sold Precista branded clocks in addition to stopwatches, and chronograph/timekeeper wristwatches, and as we know from the above, some of these watches were for military use by British armed forces. Precista watches were not manufactured by Southern Watch & Clock Supplies Ltd., although the firm probably had control of design specifications, also ensuring that Precista watches for the military complied to relevant specifications. Southerns seem to have used a number of (mainly) Swiss companies to manufacture the watches and movements; it was essentially a wholesale business, and may have contracted out all manufacture and assembly of Precista branded watches abroad. It is also not known whether Southerns used any other brand names on watches marketed by the firm.

 

 

Precista automatic gents wristwatch from about the mid-1960s with 33.5mm steel case, and 25J ETA 2472 automatic movement (pics from poshtime.com):

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The history of Precista watches from the 1950s is most visibly “written” in the extant watches, and seems to go through the normal design phases that mark the 1945-1996/7 period, if somewhat erring on the conservative side. Having managed, by a considerable amount of research, to place more flesh on the bare bones of what we generally knew previously about Precista, I feel that I can rest knowing that we have now rescued the history of this interesting brand from obscurity and brought it out into the open. Hopefully, the pictures and captions accompanying the text of this topic will further stimulate collectors to consider Precista watches as worth collecting, and not just the already desirable original Precista military watches.

 

 

A rare "snake-head hand" Precista Royal Naval stainless steel dive watch dated 1982 with asymmetrical 39mm screw-back case with fixed bars and screw-down crown. Signed, Racine Swiss, and with issue markings commencing 0552/.... Powered by an ETA 2783 movement (pics from cdn.globalauctioncatalogue.com):

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A fine Precista RAF maritime-aviator chronograph dating to 1981 with 39mm stainless steel case (excl. crown) and powered by a hand-wind Valjoux 7733 movement (First pic from i1.wp.com/gregoriades.com, then from gregoriades.com):

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A gold plated 17J Precista automatic gents watch from the late 1960s (pic from i.ytimg.com):

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A stainless steel cased (35mm excl. crown) Precista automatic gents watch with graduated dial and an AS caliber, difficult to date but probably late 1970s

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A rare and interesting Precista wristwatch dating to the mid-1970s and with the mark "Wyler Lifeguard" on the caseback. Powered by a Technos automatic movement (pics from thumbs.worthpoint.com):

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A 1988 military issue quartz Precista dive watch (pics from grahamefowler.com)

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Apologies that I had to carry on working on this topic to complete it while it was actually already posted. This one entailed up-to-the-deadline journalism, and I had to keep editing as the last pieces of the jig-saw puzzle came my way. In addition, a couple of problems have emerged with photographic illustrations suddenly disappearing, and I shall do my best to correct such faults for a while. It does seem that the longer a topic is kept available on the Forum, the greater the number of illustrations vanish as they become no longer available.:)

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Another informative and interesting read thanks Honour, I too have been trying not to look at the LE in the sales corner as I have a pre-order on one that could easily turn into three near future buy's.

@Jonesinamillion the PRS 18Q COSC really is a nice watch as was it's predecessor which I wish I had kept hold of also, they do come up on the bay and always worth keeping an eye out for. 

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Great post. I just want to keep this post coming up. Here is my Issued 93 Precista. And some adverts found on the web adbooma.com. They are from 1954-1956. As you can see they supplied watch cases and movements, I wonder if they could produce watches themselve.83bce3a894b6e9fab1b59d66981d6990.jpgcd00b97d4d1af551c6cc35218c1fd95b.jpgcab6501795d8f78c28b505922acfc5bb.jpg0cc7402ac41f942a45bb8e4951815a2b.jpg

Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

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Just to add a couple of Precista MOD issue stopwatches form probably the very last contracts. Side slide which was only supplied to the RN is from 96 and I believe made by Gallet and the other issued solely to the British Army and possibly manufactured by Hanhart (Made in Germany) is dated 97.

 

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I have not scanned all of the pages I have, but you might want to look into this: 

https://www.watchrepairtalk.com/topic/18681-southern-news-swcs-watchmaker-supply-leaflets-from-1960s-history/?tab=comments#comment-159815 

I am going to see if there is anything useful for this topic in these leaflets and post it here if there is.

 

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