Black Cabs – London’s Taxis

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Any visitor to London cannot fail to notice that aside from the usual array of private cars, bikes/scooters and delivery vans that the streets are punctuated with two of perhaps the World’s most recognizable and iconic vehicles. The red London Bus – see our previous post here that features the New Routemaster Bus – Thomas Heatherwick – and the Black Cabs – London’s Taxis or more properly “Hackney Carriages”.

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It may be just an impression but certain parts of the West End, that are not already bus and taxi only, but fall within the Congestion Charge Zone – and a daily rate of £11.50 – have taken on a new character. They seem to flow better and are sparsely occupied by private vehicles but are dominated by well managed public transport provided by Transport for London (TfL) – see here our piece on the iconic London Transport Roundels –  London Transport roundels  – and the Carriage Office – the body responsible for the Black Cabs.

The Black Cab is undergoing a revolution. The streets are a battleground where private mini-cabs, recently licence-reprieved Uber cars and Black Cabs vie to secure a ride but they reflect a clash of cultures. The Black Cab driver knows where he/she’s going having successfully completed the Knowledge see our previous post here – London A-Z street atlas – The Knowledge  – whilst the mini-cab or Uber drivers world is linked to one of the many digital street services following pre-selected routes that guide the driver to the chosen post code. Simple but not foolproof!

Price is an issue but I tend to prefer the comfort of Black Cabs. However, with respect to those Uber drivers that I have met, the London Cabbie is often overall much better “value”. They tend to be better informed about London, its Mayor and its political life, the perils of supporting one of London’s eleven football teams, the most recent celebrity they carried and the best route to avoid congestion.

Cabbie’s opinions matter. In a recent and highly effective Twitter piece, Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson, the US Ambassador to the UK – probably as a result of looking for someone to go “Sarf of the River” to the new US Embassy in Vauxhall – toured several of the thirteen remaining London’s Green Cabbie’s shelters. The driver’s opinions on Brexit and the US President seem very welcome. US Ambassador Cab Shelter Tour 

A new Black Cab appeared on the streets of London at the end of 2017 competing with the most recent diesel version of the iconic Black Cab, the TX4, that was produced between 2007 and 2017. Called the LEVC “TX” and seen below next to an older TX4, the cab is built in a new Chinese owned factory outside Coventry and combines a 1.5l petrol engine with a 110kW lithium battery driven electric motor. Conforming perfectly to the zeroing of diesel emissions and the promotion of the recharge economy.

 

A recent journey in the new cab, that tend to be rented by Cabbie’s for under £200 per  week on a five year deal, suggests the comfort is still very much there. The new cab’s driver explained the electric motor delivered around 70 to 80 miles on one 50p electricity recharge and whilst the TX leasing arrangement is slightly more costly, the fuel saving is expected to be around £100 per week. Will this bring cab fares more in line with Uber’s prices?

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Other cities around the world have their own distinctive cabs, the canary Yellow Cabs – Medallion Taxi – that have superseded their checker forerunners – in New York, the Black Body and Yellow Doors in Barcelona but in its own right London’s iconic Black Cab – a vehicle designed and built for a single task – should be seen a beacon of security in an unfamiliar city. Just don’t try and flag on done if its yellow roof light is not illuminated – its occupied!

Images used with grateful thanks – Transport For Londons, Daily Telegraph and LEVC TX.

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A Rare Rolex – The Submariner 6536

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Anyone who knows me will attest three things: I adore Rolex Submariners, I am truly fascinated by the processes of design and I am generally astonished by the extent that some people go to both understand their subject and display their knowledge.

The first is proven by the extent to which I have sung the praises of the iconic Rolex Submariner on many occasions in the pages of Aestheticons – see here a couple of our earlier pieces – Rolex Submariner and The Submariner

The second is fundamentally the reason that Aestheticons exists and I hope is amply demonstrated by our success amongst the likeminded.

Finally, and I cannot claim the credit here, which must go to Paul Altieri and the nice people at Bob’s Watches and Monochrome Watches – both who have links at the end of this piece. Their devotion to the study of the Rolex Submariner and are an illustration of why these fabulous watches have become virtually an “investment class” as would be understood by financial professionals.

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When we walk into a Rolex dealer or look at the array of excellent pre-owned models on-line we tend to be looking at the most readily and commercially available. There are few of us who will get the opportunity of seeing yet alone owning one of the often early and ultra rare version of Rolex’s iconic diver’s watch, the Submariner.

The Submariner with case number 6536 is a case in point. Given the time it now takes to bring a new version to market the early days of the Submariner were marked by an ability to introduce and retire models frequently. The 6536 is such a model. It was released in 1955 and made for just one year and I understand that only around 100 pieces were ever made.

So how can you identify a 6536? It features an unprotected 6mm crown – giving a 100m depth rating – with no side guards built into the case. Early – very rare versions – had the depth written in red ink on its face. Some ultra rare versions came with the Explorer dial but the majority featured a mix of round indexes and stick batons with the inverted triangle at 12 – as used in the modern Submariner. There are one or two specimens with the Arabic 3-6-9 markings of the Explorer.

The Explorer came with the same Mercedes-style hands that first joined the Submariner range from 1954. The very earliest models retained the longer types, with a minutes hand that overlapped the dial’s outer chapter ring, before being shortened at some point during the production cycle.

The 6536 was powered by the Cal. 1030, a 25-jewel automatic caliber first introduced in 1950 – you won’t find any with the ‘Officially Certified Chronometer’ text on the dial – it became a long terms Rolex favorite.

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Link to Paul Altieri’s of Bob’s Watches excellent piece here Rare Rolex Submariner

Ok so let’s understand what we mean by valuable – here’s the full link to Monochrome Watches detailed piece Valuing Rare Rolexes

 

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Running left to right in the above photo –

The 1955 Rolex SUBMARINER Ref. 6536 with Red Depth rating –
Rolex Submariner Ref. 6536 100m Red Depth Rating 5 digits serial number is for sale for €80.000

The 1955 Roles SUBMARINER Ref. 6536 with Ultra-Tropical “Explorer” dial
Rolex Submariner Ref. 6536 explorer dial ultra tropical and 5 digits serial number is for sale at €280.000.

The 1956 Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 with “Big Crown” and Red Depth Rating – Legend has it that this is the one worn by Sean Connery in the James Bond 007 movie “Dr. No”is for sale at €175.000.

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Images courtesy of Bob’s Watches and Monochrone Watches.

James Smith & Sons – Umbrellas

I am a huge advocate of the “find the one thing you are good at and do it well” maxim.

I have a some reticence about “brand extension” where a brand that is known well for its shoes, belts or watches allows its name to be affixed to sunglasses, rucksacks or perfumes. I get it, if the brand is well known for a product that costs £1000.00 and a bottle of eau de toilette is a snip at £75.00 then the market at £75.00 for association with an aspirational brand is much larger than at the higher price. Hence the value of their perfume lines to many up market brands.

To me it is so solidly satisfying to see a business like the remarkable James Smith & Sons Ltd to have a single focus on one product group, in their case, umbrellas, canes and walking sticks.

Founded by James Smith in Foubert’s Place (London) in 1830 – with umbrellas being made in a small workshop behind the shop – further branches were to follow in Saville Place – where the shop was so narrow it necessitated going outside to open an umbrella – and Burlington Street – which was later destroyed in a bombing raid in the Second World War.

In 1851, Samuel Fox invented a lightweight steel frame for umbrellas and James Smith II was one of the first umbrella makers to use Fox Frames. As a result the Smith business grew and in 1857 bigger premises were needed.

The new store at Halewood House, 53 New Oxford Street was refitted in 1865 and its traditional Victorian character remains to this day as a perfect example of Victorian shop-front design.

In 1930, Mr R Mesger, the great grandson of the founder returned from Tasmania to run the business.

Short of losing an umbrella the staff at James Smith and Sons advise that they can repair any part of a broken James Smith supplied umbrella. Indeed many are made by hand in small family factories or otherwise in their own basement workshop below the store.

It is said that until the 1960s, James Smith & Sons accepted customers’ umbrellas for repair without requiring claim tickets. The then owner is reported as having said that he didn’t need them as his shop was for gentlemen – “And we would always trust a gentleman.”

Nearly a hundred years on James Smith & Sons are still plying its familiar trade with Robert Harvey the fifth generation in charge. Customers continue to be reverently attended and those who plump for a classic “single-stick” umbrella are obliged to await the few minutes that it it takes in the basement workshop to correct the length of a new umbrella for the customer’s height.

I have had a nearly six decades of relationship with London and can easily remember many of these fine single product shops, with Fribourg and Treyer on the Haymarket blenders of snuffs and tobacco being a particular favourite. They do still exist in the depths of Jermyn Street and St James’ – the associated arcades but they have shrunk in number but will hopefully prevail as our tastes for quality continue to mature.

Image from James Smith & Sons Ltd.