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This topic could have also been given the topic description "From Brighton to the world" but I chose the description I did for a reason that will later become obvious.

I have recently posted an article on a company that operates very near Brighton - the Schofield Watch Company - but apart from the fact that both the SWC and Ben Sherman have Brighton area origins and both have been concerned with the production of self-branded watches, these two companies are like chalk and cheese. For a start, with the Schofield Company, there is no Mr. Schofield, whereas at least with Ben Sherman we have someone who proudly put his name to his company after, and while the SWC is concerned with the production of very high-end watches, Ben Sherman watches are truly "democratic." There is also the fact that the Ben Sherman company has a real pedigree which gives it a genuinely interesting fashion and design history. So, having said these things, I had better start to tell the Ben Sherman story and justify myself in my positive feelings towards the company and its watches.

Arthur Benjamin Sugarman (1925-1987) was born in Brighton, the son of parents who owned a gift shop in the town. Feeling ambitious and believing he needed to get away from selling rock and seaside gifts in war-ravaged Britain, the 20-year-old Sugarman went to Canada, then moving southwards to the United States, where he changed his nationality to American and his name to Ben Sherman, wanting to chose a genuinely American sounding name. I am not sure where Ben Sherman worked in America during the period of his first two, failed, marriages. However, with his third and successful marriage, he worked for the clothing company owned by his wife's father-in-law, and he brought up a family in the San Fernando Valley.

In 1961, Benjamin Sugarman, now Ben Sherman, returned to Brighton, and proceeded to purchase a shirt factory, during which time he was living with his family in Ditchling Road, Brighton, opposite Hollingbury Park near the golf course - not more than about ten miles from my own home in Newhaven.

Ben Sherman was extremely astute about the young people of early sixties England and what they wanted out of fashion and clothing. In particular, he saw the importance of the rise of the mods and the early 1960's London-based jazz fans who were eagerly buying American button-down shirts in Oxford cloth showcased by visiting American jazz artists and made by such brands as Brooks Brothers, Arrow and Hathaway. Before Ben Sherman came on the scene, launching his company in 1963 under the brand name, "Ben Sherman Originals", these shirts were only available through official importers, and so he decided to major on this type of shirt, using higher grade cloth and better stitching than the imported products. As another line, Ben Sherman also produced other more colourful clothes, designed for resort-ware which was becoming popular

around the beach resorts of the Mediterranean and the United States. By the by, some of his products, including the sun glasses case shown here, feature an RAF roundel, which is sometimes called the mod target:

Ben Sherman sunglasses and a (probably earlier) Ben Sherman leather case for sunglasses with the roundel mark:

(picture from author)

By 1965, the Ben Sherman company had opened a small office on the upper floors of an office block in a London backstreet, which acted as a showroom for their shirt and beachware collections. But, quite fittingly, it was in Brighton that the first Ben Sherman store was opened, in 1967. His shirts had been an immediate success, originally with the mods but then also moving more directly into the pop world - with groups such as The Kinks, The Troggs, The Animals and The Who sporting Ben Sherman products. The famous shirts were also favoured by a section of youth who were influenced by the "exclusive" Ivy League American universities.

What is extraordinary is how this simple button-down Ben Sherman shirt became a fashion icon and remained so for longer than just the mod culture of the 1960s. Indeed, the shirts also became part of the Skinhead culture in 1968 and went on to be associated with two-tone and ska, and even Britpop. In fact, the company is still well-known for its shirts. Another sixties coup that is, in my mind, a worthy mention is that it was Ben Sherman who introduced skate boards to England in the mid 1960s.

In the late 1960's production went up a notch and the company bravely moved its factory to Derry in Northern Ireland, gaining the respect of both sides of the divide - who declared it "off-limits" as far as hostile actions were concerned. The company had continued to expand its outlets also, and by 1970, it had opened a store in Carnaby Street, and soon afterwards, two other stores in London. As for his original Brighton shop, it was now apparently called "millions of shirts inc. ltd." and it is true that Ben Sherman could hardly keep pace with demand. There is indeed a tale that in 1970, the company ordered 1 million yards of Oxford cloth, a quarter of a million yards of gingham fabric, and a quarter million of colourful striped fabric from their American suppliers.

The company continued apace until there was a dip in sales in the late 1970s, but by then Ben Sherman, who until the mid 1970s had remained at the helm of the company, had left. He decided to do this because his mother became seriously ill, and so in either 1973 or 1975 (probably the latter), he sold the firm and then moved to Australia, where he died in 1987, aged 62.

In the years following Ben Sherman's sale of his company, the firm passed through various hands until, in 1993, British Investor "3i" backed a management buyout of Ben Sherman Ltd. from Northern Ireland based Dunkeld fashion Group, which was itself in receivership, for 4 million pounds. The result was the Sherman Cooper group. Then, in 2000, another management buyout was organised and backed by 3i, to create Ben Sherman PLC.

It is perhaps a bit sad that all British elements in the ownership of Ben Sherman finally came to an end when in mid-2004, Oxford Industries Inc. of Atlanta purchased the Ben Sherman brand for 80 million pounds from 3i and Irish venture capital company Enterprise Equity. The name continued but the product lines changed. Oxford Industries abandoned the womenswear and childrenswear collections in 2010 and in that same year, a Ben Sherman store was opened at No. 39 Savile Row. In 2011, the company launched its Plectrum collection of better menswear and on 31 October 2011, Ben Sherman launched its new e-commerce website. So, as it stands today, Ben Sherman is described as an international clothing company with British roots, selling shirts, sweaters, suits, outerwear, shoes and accessories primarily for men. It is titled, the Ben Sherman Group Ltd., and although it has been American-owned since 2004, there is a certain Britishness that remains in its products and ethos. And as far as the latter is concerned, it is worth noting that the company is involved with a charity called the Teenage Cancer Trust.

I do not apologise for having so far not mentioned watches because the history of this company, with its roots that are local to me, is important, partly because those English roots still have an echo in the watches which, for a time, were an "ambassador" product for the company, just as the Ben Sherman Jewellery was. However, there is a real mystery here, which I cannot completely unravel. Firstly, I am not sure exactly when watches and jewellery were added to the Ben Sherman product range, and secondly, I cannot understand if or why and when watches were completely discontinued by the company - hence the "disappearing watches" of my title description.

The arrival of men's watches branded Ben Sherman seems to have been part of a more general shift in focus at Ben Sherman. Certainly, it does appear that watches are a relatively recent arrival to the Ben Sherman brand - possibly even as late as the beginning of 2011 - but I would need additional confirmation of this as my source comes from indications on the Watchuseek forum and I feel sure in myself that I saw Ben Sherman watches before then. As for the demise of the watches from the range, I have no idea when this occurred or if it has indeed really happened. The problem is that while there are Ben Sherman watches for sale on many sites and from many retailers, the actual Ben Sherman website contains no watches in its Accessories section. In fact, the Accessories section contains no watches, jewellery or sunglasses. Instead, it consists mainly of wallets, belts, braces, pocket squares (handkerchiefs to you and me), bags and holdalls. More confusing still is that if you Google "Ben Sherman Watches" you will find a reference to "Accessories/Ben Sherman" and this specifically mentions watches and sunglasses, yet if you click on this, you will arrive at the current Ben Sherman site, where there are no watches mentioned or for sale. The latest Ben Sherman site is dated 2014, so it must have been pretty recently that watches were discontinued - or were they? (answers on a post please). What I would say is that there are certainly many Ben Sherman watches available at discounted or sale prices, but then this is also true of other watch brands that are not now out of production.

So, finally, let us turn to the watches themselves. It seems unfair that you have read through this topic only to find that there is not a huge amount to actually say about the watches. But in this case that is a good thing rather than a negative. On Amazon, the Ben Sherman watches are priced in the main around the £20 mark, going up to about £50. However, there are more expensive Ben Sherman watches on the market.

So, what is there to say about Ben Sherman watches. Firstly, let us just look at my own example, which is a simple 3-hand watch, well-made and powered by a decent Miyota quartz movement. I show it here:

It has a sturdiness to it in terms of quality and materials that would seem to be a hallmark of most Ben Sherman watches. In fact, what really surprises me is just how many very good reviews Ben Sherman watches have received on Amazon and also generally, given that they are not expensive nor exclusive. I also think that many of the designs show a pedigree and a Britishness which is partly encompassed in the history of the Ben Sherman Company. On Watchuseek, posted on 19 April 2011 under "Ben Sherman Watches - 21st Century Mod Fashion", the Moderator states that "The whole collection closely follows the ethos of the clothing division of the brand. These watches are simple, refined and ooze that working man dandyism Ben Sherman are renowned for." The Moderator praises particularly the black Ben Sherman chronograph with orange luminous hands and markers, and a black croc leather strap.

I don't know how many pictures I am allowed to post on a topic so I will give a couple more examples of what variety of watches is still available in the way of Ben Sherman. Before I end with these pictures, I will just state the obvious and then make a final conclusion. To state the obvious, I will say that, of course the watches branded Ben Sherman are not actually made by the company although I have read that they are designed in-house, and I can believe that, given their style. Also, the company does not sell any mechanical watches nor any chronographs (except perhaps one or two digital models). We are not talking about a high-end watch brand here but neither are we talking about a watch brand to be sneered at. I hardly knew what the range of Ben Sherman watches looked like before researching this article, and I can conclude that I am quite impressed. Ben Sherman watches are clearly well-made for the money and well-designed. Some of them are really quite "classic" in my mind, and I wouldn't mind a couple more in my collection! And if anyone knows when Ben Sherman started and stopped the production of their watches then please post an answer.

Steel Ben Sherman watch: Picture from us.asos.com:

Black rectangular Ben Sherman watch from Deals Direct, showing the Ben Sherman target motif in the advert (photo from dealsdirect.net):

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That's for post, another good informative read. I had know previous knowledge of Ben Shermans history. It is very interesting though I'm not sure whether I'd where one of their watches or not. At least it's got some proper roots.

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That's for post, another good informative read. I had know previous knowledge of Ben Shermans history. It is very interesting though I'm not sure whether I'd where one of their watches or not. At least it's got some proper roots.

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Ah, Ben Sherman eh? Brings back memories of the early 70's - Used to be a badge of honour to have one of their shirts, along with a Harrington, sta-prest strides and fringe and buckle loafers - not to mention monkey boots! I think the love affair with that lot lasted less than a year, but the 'Oxford shirt' remained with me.

I'd never thought about Ben-Shermans history, they were just there, so a really interesting read. Brutus was another popular make from that time, I've just checked and they're still around as well.

Sorry, but I never knew Ben Sherman made watches.

Edited by Caller
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Thanks for your kind and interesting replies. I must admit that until I started researching the topic, I knew virtually nothing about Ben Sherman, but when I heard that the company had its roots in Btrighton, I felt honour bound to look into it and write a topic for the Forum. And today, as if by majic chance, I have just bought a second pre-owned Ben Sherman watch - very nice piece in diver style with magnified date window, champagne coloured dial and stainless steel strap. Not bad for a fiver.

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UPDATE

I have just discovered something about Ben Sherman watches which might be of interest to those readers of my topic on the subject.

It would seem that the designers at Ben Sherman were not only responsible for designing watches bearing the Ben Sherman name, but they also had a hand in the deisign of certain other watches. I have managed to trace two of these, the first of which I actually possess and is still available at a ridiculously low price considering its complexity and how well it has been reveiwed. This first watch bears the Kahuna brand name and is a full chronograph with a wide good quality leather cuff strap:

Brown Sherman-designed Kahuna chronograph with leather cuff strap

(picture from watchsale.org.uk)

kahuna-mens-multi-eye-brown-cuff-leather-strap-chronograph-watch_3845_300.jpg

So, it seems that I was not quite correct in asserting that Ben Sherman watches do not include analogue chronographs, although this is the only example I have found. The second watch that I have found of Ben Sherman design is a Sekonda easy-read wrist watch which looks far better than it sounds. That watch also has very good reviews and it too is available at a very reasonable price. In fact, both watches are available for under £25 each on certain websites. So, here is the Sekonda example, and a very well-designed watch it is too:

Ben Sherman-designed Sekonda "Easy Read" wrist watch with stainless steel case and leather strap:

(Picture from amazon.com)

51DglvH%2BO6L._SY300_.jpg

I have to say that my opinion of Ben Sherman has gone up even further, having found that these two pieces are of Ben Sherman design. The Kahuna chrono is perhaps rather clumsy in design but it makes up for that in the fact that it really does all it claims, and for the price, I would rate both watches highly. My favourite has to be the Sekonda, and I certainly wouldn't mind an example of this model in my collection.

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Ah, Ben Sherman! Yeah, remember my paper round and buying a BS shirt from Peter Brown's in Acton around 1971 (brown and beige)- along with a budgie jacket, Fred Perry polo shirt and high waist check flares! I recall a radio blazing during my purchase of JoJo Gunn's 'Run Run Run'. Great vivid memories. Then BS got into to cheap quartz watches. Oh well....

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  • 6 years later...

I have been collecting Ben Sherman watches for some time now and would like to know if you have any idea if a complete list exists of watches. The Ben Sherman company doesn't have one nor does any museum I have contacted. Would you be able to point me in any right direction.

Thank you

 

Stuart

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On 12/05/2014 at 20:18, Caller. said:

Ah, Ben Sherman eh? Brings back memories of the early 70's - Used to be a badge of honour to have one of their shirts, along with a Harrington, sta-prest strides and fringe and buckle loafers - not to mention monkey boots! I think the love affair with that lot lasted less than a year, but the 'Oxford shirt' remained with me.

 

I'd never thought about Ben-Shermans history, they were just there, so a really interesting read. Brutus was another popular make from that time, I've just checked and they're still around as well.

 

Sorry, but I never knew Ben Sherman made watches.

Monkey boots? There's a blast from the past...didn't they used to have the word MONKEY down the centre of the tread pattern? 

 

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4 hours ago, Watch-and-C said:

Monkey boots? There's a blast from the past...didn't they used to have the word MONKEY down the centre of the tread pattern? 

 

 

Not that I remember.

£40 off Amazon,

71GDqRoqJPL._AC_UY395_.jpg

1011.1.jpg

Beware of expensive imitations.

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Never bought one of their watches, although have seen them, but like many others here, bought quite a few of their shirts in the early 70s, along with the usual gear that was popular at the time, although Monkey boots weren't a thing around here, Dr Martins or Baseball boots were the order of the day.

 

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On 12/05/2014 at 20:18, Caller. said:

...the 'Oxford shirt' remained with me.

 Even to this day. I hate shirt collars with any kind of stiffness about them so I have worn button-down collars at work for as long as I can remember.  I do own a couple of white shirts with double cuffs and more formal collars, but I only wear them when I absolutely have to. 

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20 hours ago, WRENCH said:

Not that I remember.

£40 off Amazon,

71GDqRoqJPL._AC_UY395_.jpg

1011.1.jpg

Beware of expensive imitations.

Last night I was on a page about monkey boots to look this up. They were originally a Czech design for a cheap boot and with the popularity, there were several makers with differences in design. 

 

"as some originals remember, a monkey boot with ‘monkey’ spelled along the sole in the tread pattern appeared." 

https://creaseslikeknives.wordpress.com/2017/12/26/do-the-monkey-eastern-bloc-boots-for-east-end-kids/

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On 12/05/2014 at 18:42, Always"watching" said:

Certainly, it does appear that watches are a relatively recent arrival to the Ben Sherman brand - possibly even as late as the beginning of 2011

What I can say for certain is I have a Ben Sherman which I bought 2001. At the time I was a publican and remember wandering around Makro Wholesale and buying 2 BS, one for myself and one for my son. I sold the pub in 2003 and retired so could not possibly have been after that.

I still have the case, pricemarked £9-99 but at Makro that would have been plus vat, and the guarantee. I have a vague recollection of searching a London based watch company a while back and BS was one of the brands it supplied.

As regards my own watch I wore it almost every day since bought until it stopped working a couple of years ago. I then bought a new Miyota module and fitted it, so again wear it every day.img%5Dimg%5D

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Thanks for that helpful update, dear @eezy. Your quote from my topic was a  bit "partial" in that if you had continued with my following remarks, you would have seen that I personally believed that Ben Sherman watches were on sale before 2011.  My topic on Ben Sherman was written back in March 2014 and I am not sure what has happened with regard to the Ben Sherman brand subsequent to that date; certainly, Ben Sherman watches are still around today via certain retailers.:)

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1 hour ago, Always"watching" said:

Thanks for that helpful update, dear @eezy. Your quote from my topic was a  bit "partial" in that if you had continued with my following remarks, you would have seen that I personally believed that Ben Sherman watches were on sale before 2011.  My topic on Ben Sherman was written back in March 2014 and I am not sure what has happened with regard to the Ben Sherman brand subsequent to that date; certainly, Ben Sherman watches are still around today via certain retailers.:)

Apologies If I gave the wrong Impression old friend. My comment was intended to be in addition to rather than in conflict with yours. I tend to be briefer than I should be when it comes to the written word. :thumbsup:

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On 03/09/2020 at 16:41, Always"watching" said:

No probs, dear @eezy, and I always like updates to my topics so thanks for posting.:)

Always watching-

Ah, a rare flash of inspiration! I mentioned above that I thought it was a London based watch company. I'm pretty sure it was a 'manufacturer' you actually wrote the history of a while back. The Henderson Group based at Bolton. I've searched t'net to find anything about the connection to no avail but it's deep in my subconscious. Also the guarantee in the box lists a Bolton address.

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