the Story of BELvILLE 1892
As a passionate watch geek visiting the Greenwich Observatory in London was an absolute must. Which is where, more or less by accident, I came across “Ruth Belville” and her fascinating story:
180 years ago clocks were not as accurate as they are today, so John Henry Belville, a London businessman had the bright idea to sell people the right time. He would start his day by going to Greenwich Observatory to set his pocket chronometer to Greenwich Mean Time before visiting his customers in the City and in the West End and setting their watches correctly. By 1836 he already had 200 clients.
He died in 1856, whereupon his widow Maria continued the business until passing the reins to her daughter Ruth Belville (1854 – 1943) who ran the business afterwards.
In 1908 St John Wynne of the Standard Time Company - which wanted to synchronize all watches using a telegraphic signal - used a speech to ridicule Belville, claiming, "that her [Belville's] methods were amusingly out of date" and also implied “that she might have been using her femininity to gain business."
Following the publication of this speech in The Times newspaper, Belville was besieged by reporters interested in her business and the resulting publicity resulted in an increase in sales. Belville said that all Wynne had managed to do was to give her free advertising.
The BELVILLE story nicely echoes today’s smartwatch vs quality timepieces discussion. While some people claim that classic timepieces are rather out of date, we believe in tradition and that a classic watch will never go out of fashion.
Obviously, no one NEEDS a watch, but life is just not as good without one...