A certain Monsieur Charpie created the company in the second half of the 19th century to import pocket watches to India. Initially there was no name on the face but after the creation of the International Bureau for the protection of Intellectual property he decided to add a Helvetia figure (as she appeared on Swiss coins); this proved a disaster as Muslims cannot accept reproductions of the human form so, in a panic, he ordered replacement dials bearing the word West End Watch Company (because he always stayed in, and appreciated, the West End on his visits to London.) There were two sales centres – Bombay and Calcutta.
- 1886 – Company bought by Messrs Droz and Arnstutz.
- 1917 – Creation of a Swiss holding company
- During WW1 British troops were deployed to the Persian Gulf via Bombay – they bought thousands of West End watches (the Queen Ann model) and the fame spread throughout the Far East: even Lawrence of Arabia bought one.
- From 1925 to 1935, again due to the British Army, the name spread through China and the Middle East.
- 1934 the Sowar (warrior in Hindi) was fitted with a new invention – Incabloc – and became the most popular model.
- 1946 West End won an import licence from the Indian Government.
- 1955 57 – Exclusive distributors of Longines in India.
- 1975 – Indian market closed to foreign companies.
- 77 – 83 1.2 million watches per year sold – in 1977 1000 watches per day sold in Iran!
- In 1973 the company had been bought by Aubry Freres – a Swiss Horological company. It was sold to a Chinese company in 1990 but bought back in 1993.
Today West End belongs to a Swiss movement company – Monnat & Charmillot -and they are trying to rebuild the brand, with a collection of well priced Swiss mechanical watches with the distinctive West End look. It seems that although the brand has changed hands a couple of times ownership has been pretty seamless and generally by a Swiss family firm, apart from the 3 years in the possession of a Chinese calculator manufacturer. It also seems that the watches were never actually bought and issued by HM Government, but British troops bought them in vast quantities.
This electric West End Watch contains the Landeron 4750 movement.
Note: For details on the use of modern batteries in Landeron 4750/4760 based watches, please see the relevant page in the Landeron section of this site.