Watkins Guitars

Posted by Phil Giddings on Thu, 07/01/99 - 19:13:12.

I am the proud owner of a Watkins Rapier 44, circa early 1960s. Can anyone tell me anything about them, other than the fact that they're pretty rare - as far as I know.

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Re: Watkins Guitars

Watkins wre one of, if not the first production electric guitar in England. The rapier came in 22, 33 or 44 with two, three or four pick ups respectively. They came in red or black finish and production, started from 1961.
At the time, they were budget instruments. Watkins, were mainly manufacturers of amps and effects (Like the Watkins copicat).
Later on Watkins became WEM(1970s)and later still Wilson(1970's and 1980's) were they were producing guitars until 1982.
They also made some guitars for Vox.
Being budget models, then they are still relatively inexpensive now, you can buy good 1960's 22s or 33s for around £300 and I have a few and seen a few others but you can pick them up very cheaply becuase most people have never hard of them, I'm talking about £30 -£50.
I've never seen a 44 so they must be rarer than the others and so I reckon you could add £100 to that figure.
Hope this helps.

Re: Watkins Guitars

: Watkins wre one of, if not the first production electric guitar in England. The rapier came in 22, 33 or 44 with two, three or four pick ups respectively. They came in red or black finish and production, started from 1961.
: At the time, they were budget instruments. Watkins, were mainly manufacturers of amps and effects (Like the Watkins copicat).
: Later on Watkins became WEM(1970s)and later still Wilson(1970's and 1980's) were they were producing guitars until 1982.
: They also made some guitars for Vox.
: Being budget models, then they are still relatively inexpensive now, you can buy good 1960's 22s or 33s for around £300 and I have a few and seen a few others but you can pick them up very cheaply becuase most people have never hard of them, I'm talking about £30 -£50.
: I've never seen a 44 so they must be rarer than the others and so I reckon you could add £100 to that figure.
: Hope this helps.
Have got a 1960's red Watkins, twin pick up (Rapier 22??). I have managed to break one of the machine heads, do you or any one else out there know of a source who could supply a replacement? Any help gratefully received.

Re: Watkins Guitars

I am in possesion of a watkins bass guitar, i know nothing about it, all i know is my father bought it in kit form and built it himself, and that's all he said about it before he passed away, if anyone thinks they could help me find out what it is, keeping in mind i have very little guitar knowledge, e-mail me and i'd be very grateful.

Re: Watkins Guitars

I own a Rapier 44 - bought for £20 in 1978! I saw several Rapiers in 'Rock Bottom' in Croydon - mostly 33s going for about $300 each - the 44 may be worth more. Why noy call them? Do you have any spares for yours? I need a scratch guard and pickup covers...

Re: Watkins Guitars

Hello Phil! Would you believe I bought the neck of a guitar back in around 1972 and it was painted orange. The guy charged me $75 which was pretty costly considering that it wasn't a Fender or any recognizable type neck (at least to me) but somehow in the back of my mind I recall the luthier telling me that it was a Watkins! Now this has to be what it is because I've never heard that name before. However, I have no clue what the actual body looked like but I can tell you that the neck is almost identical to a stratocaster neck except the headstock is longer but sort of shaped like the Fender headstock and somewhat straighter (not as fanned out). I'm not sure what the length is, it looks just a tad shorter for some reaon that a strat. I made a start body when I was 15 and am now 42 and still have not put them together because I had bad liuck with a router and my first trial telecaster body. Looked like moon craters when I finished with it. hehe so nexyt week I am taking the Watkins neck and start body replica I cut out of an old deconstructed upright piano and going to put Buddy Guy type lace sensor Fender pickups, the whole nine yards Fender and see how it works. The neck action is beautiful and smooth as a baby's bottom with that oiled looking rosewoood with real dot abalone pearl inlays. Fret wire looks pretty think also. Let me know if you have a pic. My email is yes@sgi.net I can also scan and send you one of the neck if you like. Take care. Frank McLaughlin

Re: Watkins Guitars

: Hello Phil! Would you believe I bought the neck of a guitar back in around 1972 and it was painted orange. The guy charged me $75 which was pretty costly considering that it wasn't a Fender or any recognizable type neck (at least to me) but somehow in the back of my mind I recall the luthier telling me that it was a Watkins! Now this has to be what it is because I've never heard that name before. However, I have no clue what the actual body looked like but I can tell you that the neck is almost identical to a stratocaster neck except the headstock is longer but sort of shaped like the Fender headstock and somewhat straighter (not as fanned out). I'm not sure what the length is, it looks just a tad shorter for some reaon that a strat. I made a start body when I was 15 and am now 42 and still have not put them together because I had bad liuck with a router and my first trial telecaster body. Looked like moon craters when I finished with it. hehe so nexyt week I am taking the Watkins neck and start body replica I cut out of an old deconstructed upright piano and going to put Buddy Guy type lace sensor Fender pickups, the whole nine yards Fender and see how it works. The neck action is beautiful and smooth as a baby's bottom with that oiled looking rosewoood with real dot abalone pearl inlays. Fret wire looks pretty think also. Let me know if you have a pic. My email is yes@sgi.net I can also scan and send you one of the neck if you like. Take care. Frank McLaughlin

Hi Frank, I'll get a pic for you, as you've probably worked out they used a strat style body, mine was originally red though someone has painted it black, which has worn thro to the white primer.
Funny you should say bout the Buddy Guy pickups, my guitar has been signed by Buddy when he came to the venue where I work, not sure if he played it though.

Re: Watkins Guitars

Hey Phil, sorry for the 3 year delay! I just saw your post back. My email addy changed so that's probably why I never got a copy. Mine was probably red like yours but it may have faded to look orangish. I still haven't put that darn thing together. You're lucky to have Buddy Guy sign that. I have a hat he signed from his Buddy Guy's Legends Chicago club. Well good luck! Thanks for your feedback. Frank

Re: Watkins Guitars

I seem to have become a Watkins Guitar collector by default since it was never my intention to start collecting them.
I have had a Rapier Bass since about 1967.It is currently in pieces and needs renovating.The action was always terribleIt is an awful pink/red colour.Many years ago I removed all the frets and converted it into a fretless bass.

My second Watkins is a red (possibly 33 but no other markings to identify) which I bought from a second hand shop in 1968 for 20 pounds, which seemed like a lot of money then.Serial No.14462.
It has rather a strange body shape, like a strat but with the horns rounded off.Action is very good.

My final purchase was 1998 again in a second hand store, a Rapier 44 for 100 pounds.I don't think the shop owner realised it was a vintage guitar or it would have been much more.It had been badly hand-painted black body.When I renovated it, there were signs that it had been red but since I already had a red Rapier, I resprayed it a light blue to match the early strat colour.Serial No.17211.
Action is good but not as good as the 33.

Both my Rapiers say Wilson on the baseplate.Anyone know why not Watkins or WEM?

Does anyone know how to date the Rapiers fron serial No.?Charlie Watkins is on e-mail but not very keen to answer trivial questions from the masses (understandably).

Would anyone else like to leave details of their Watkins guitars?

Re: Watkins Guitars

Hello Watkins also made amps in the late 60's (WEM) so they re-named their guitars to Wilson. Thats why both your rapiers say wilson on the base-plate.

Re: Watkins Guitars

Sorry Reg I seem to have copied your message. I was trying to say I have a Watkins Sapphire guitar from the 60s. 3 Pickups (I think humbuckers), tremolo bar (which is a flat bar unlike the strat) sunburst, body like a heavy,larger strat but neck and heads are different... 3 tuning heads on each side like a Gibson. It is all original and plays very well. Have a Selmer truvoice Diplomat amp of same era which also works well. Have you heard of or have any info about the Sapphire?

Re: Watkins Guitars

: I seem to have become a Watkins Guitar collector by default since it was never my intention to start collecting them.
: I have had a Rapier Bass since about 1967.It is currently in pieces and needs renovating.The action was always terribleIt is an awful pink/red colour.Many years ago I removed all the frets and converted it into a fretless bass.

: My second Watkins is a red (possibly 33 but no other markings to identify) which I bought from a second hand shop in 1968 for 20 pounds, which seemed like a lot of money then.Serial No.14462.
: It has rather a strange body shape, like a strat but with the horns rounded off.Action is very good.

: My final purchase was 1998 again in a second hand store, a Rapier 44 for 100 pounds.I don't think the shop owner realised it was a vintage guitar or it would have been much more.It had been badly hand-painted black body.When I renovated it, there were signs that it had been red but since I already had a red Rapier, I resprayed it a light blue to match the early strat colour.Serial No.17211.
: Action is good but not as good as the 33.

: Both my Rapiers say Wilson on the baseplate.Anyone know why not Watkins or WEM?

: Does anyone know how to date the Rapiers fron serial No.?Charlie Watkins is on e-mail but not very keen to answer trivial questions from the masses (understandably).

: Would anyone else like to leave details of their Watkins guitars?

Re: Watkins Guitars

: : I seem to have become a Watkins Guitar collector by default since it was never my intention to start collecting them.
: : I have had a Rapier Bass since about 1967.It is currently in pieces and needs renovating.The action was always terribleIt is an awful pink/red colour.Many years ago I removed all the frets and converted it into a fretless bass.

: : My second Watkins is a red (possibly 33 but no other markings to identify) which I bought from a second hand shop in 1968 for 20 pounds, which seemed like a lot of money then.Serial No.14462.
: : It has rather a strange body shape, like a strat but with the horns rounded off.Action is very good.

: : My final purchase was 1998 again in a second hand store, a Rapier 44 for 100 pounds.I don't think the shop owner realised it was a vintage guitar or it would have been much more.It had been badly hand-painted black body.When I renovated it, there were signs that it had been red but since I already had a red Rapier, I resprayed it a light blue to match the early strat colour.Serial No.17211.
: : Action is good but not as good as the 33.

: : Both my Rapiers say Wilson on the baseplate.Anyone know why not Watkins or WEM?

: : Does anyone know how to date the Rapiers fron serial No.?Charlie Watkins is on e-mail but not very keen to answer trivial questions from the masses (understandably).

: : Would anyone else like to leave details of their Watkins guitars?

Re: Watkins Guitars

I recently purchased a "Wilson" left-handed semi-acoustic six-stringer for the princely sum of £50 from a guitar shop as it had no bridge on it. It appears to be based on a Gretsch Country Gent. After havin a Gibson style bridgea on it and a re-set up it's playing like a dream and the pick-ups are just class!! I would put them slightly behind my Ibanez Artists humbuckers but not by much. If anyone has any info on the guitar I'd be over the moon to hear from you!

Re: Watkins Guitars

My first electric guitar was a Watkins Rapier 33, bought in 1962 for £30 (7 weeks wages!). I've been through the Fender and Gibson phase and now, in my dottage, want to turn the clock back. So, I've just acquired another Rapier 33. I didn't realise they were so lightweight and a lot louder than they were through my 15 watt amp.

I'm after a tremelo arm - can anyone help me? Also a headstock logo.

Thanks.

Re: Watkins Guitars

I've got a Rapier 44 and seem to be missing the watkins
logo and also the wa wa bar. Does anyone know where
i could find one.

Re: Watkins Guitars

: I've got a Rapier 44 and seem to be missing the watkins
: logo and also the wa wa bar. Does anyone know where
: i could find one.

Re: Watkins Guitars

: : I've got a Rapier 44 and seem to be missing the watkins
: : logo and also the wa wa bar. Does anyone know where
: : i could find one.

There's someone selling the funny "backwards" Watkins logo transfers at this moment on eBay at about £7.00.
Not sure about the trem, but try modifying a strat or mustang replacement.
Good luck.

Re: Watkins Guitars

sorry about the last posted message an error on my part!
Anyway back to my real reason for posting a reply I have a Watkins HiLo Vibrato Strat copy pink in colour...circa 1963/4..is anyone interested in owning it?

Re: Watkins Guitars

Hi there,

I bought a WEM bass late 2000, from musical exchange in B'ham. The serial number is 106249 and I am trying to find out info about it. ANy help??

Re: Watkins Guitars

: : I seem to have become a Watkins Guitar collector by default since it was never my intention to start collecting them.
: : I have had a Rapier Bass since about 1967.It is currently in pieces and needs renovating.The action was always terribleIt is an awful pink/red colour.Many years ago I removed all the frets and converted it into a fretless bass.

: : My second Watkins is a red (possibly 33 but no other markings to identify) which I bought from a second hand shop in 1968 for 20 pounds, which seemed like a lot of money then.Serial No.14462.
: : It has rather a strange body shape, like a strat but with the horns rounded off.Action is very good.

: : My final purchase was 1998 again in a second hand store, a Rapier 44 for 100 pounds.I don't think the shop owner realised it was a vintage guitar or it would have been much more.It had been badly hand-painted black body.When I renovated it, there were signs that it had been red but since I already had a red Rapier, I resprayed it a light blue to match the early strat colour.Serial No.17211.
: : Action is good but not as good as the 33.

: : Both my Rapiers say Wilson on the baseplate.Anyone know why not Watkins or WEM?

: : Does anyone know how to date the Rapiers fron serial No.?Charlie Watkins is on e-mail but not very keen to answer trivial questions from the masses (understandably).

: : Would anyone else like to leave details of their Watkins guitars?

Re: Watkins Guitars

: : : I have recently aquired a Left handed Watkins Rapier 22 (red) S/N 11135. Being left handed I am very pleased to have come across it. The action is low having been modified to suit the previous owner. Anyone else come across a leftie?

Regards,

Robin

: : :

Re: Watkins Guitars

I acquired a left-handed 1958 Rapier Deluxe a few years ago. It was in pretty bad shape (missing bridge, neck warped) but I got a guy to repair it, and it plays awesome. Great old school jangle. Still has the original vinyl carrying bag, too! As someone with the last name Watkins, I had to have one. :)

Parts occasionally come up on e-Bay, but there's no one who supplies them regularly. You can get good history and dating information here:
www.watkinsguitars.co.uk

Re: Watkins Guitars

Good friend of the late Reg Watins, who I'm afraid died earlier this year.I have come into possesion of a 33 that was one of Reg's favorites and he kept for himself when he closed the factory. Chrome a bit pitted as it was in his loft for years. Gonna spend a lot of time and effort to renovate this guitar in respect for Reg. Mine has Watkins in the headstock.

Re: Watkins Guitars

: : : I seem to have become a Watkins Guitar collector by default since it was never my intention to start collecting them.
: : : I have had a Rapier Bass since about 1967.It is currently in pieces and needs renovating.The action was always terribleIt is an awful pink/red colour.Many years ago I removed all the frets and converted it into a fretless bass.

: : : My second Watkins is a red (possibly 33 but no other markings to identify) which I bought from a second hand shop in 1968 for 20 pounds, which seemed like a lot of money then.Serial No.14462.
: : : It has rather a strange body shape, like a strat but with the horns rounded off.Action is very good.

: : : My final purchase was 1998 again in a second hand store, a Rapier 44 for 100 pounds.I don't think the shop owner realised it was a vintage guitar or it would have been much more.It had been badly hand-painted black body.When I renovated it, there were signs that it had been red but since I already had a red Rapier, I resprayed it a light blue to match the early strat colour.Serial No.17211.
: : : Action is good but not as good as the 33.

: : : Both my Rapiers say Wilson on the baseplate.Anyone know why not Watkins or WEM?

: : : Does anyone know how to date the Rapiers fron serial No.?Charlie Watkins is on e-mail but not very keen to answer trivial questions from the masses (understandably).

: : : Would anyone else like to leave details of their Watkins guitars?
Good friend of the late Reg Watins, who I'm afraid died earlier this year.I have come into possesion of a 33 that was one of Reg's favorites and he kept for himself when he closed the factory. Chrome a bit pitted as it was in his loft for years. Gonna spend a lot of time and effort to renovate this guitar in respect for Reg. Mine has Watkins in the headstock.

Re: Watkins / Wilson Guitars

: : Would anyone else like to leave details of their Watkins guitars?

I got a Wilson Rapier 22 from a shop in Kent for £80 last year (2000), reduced from £120. The action is nice and it has quite a mellow sound. Tremelo is great - a simple but very effective mechanism. Condition overall is excellent, but there are some pits in the chrome and cracks in the body finish.

I think the change from Watkins to Wilson was in the late '60s, but there are lots of other small changes over the years, control layouts, types of knobs and switches and the style of name cut into the scratchplate.

Mine has metal knobs like a Vox, with a plastic 'boost' switch and the name in capitals - the scratchplate is three-ply white-black-white and the name is machined into the top layer of plastic, showing the name in black. I have seen the name in lower case italic elsewhere and with cheaper plastic knobs, and one with a metal switch in s different position. The funny little pickup switches don't seem to change.

Also I have seen one with a black neck and red body. Most were red, but black blue and white have also been spotted. Watkins ones have a decal on the headstock, Wilsons only have the name on the tailpiece. Don't know about wems.

Very nice guitars, not deserving the snobby derision of those who only saw them as stepping stones to the holy Strat.

Simon in London

Re: Watkins Guitars

I have a watkins that is non-wem and has a watkins hi-lo vibrato that is the best thing iv'e ever tried of its kind as far being strong at both tuning stability and resonance volume/tone loss-really takes alot of whamming and stays in tune for alot of it-a really great guitar pickups look like dearmond humbuckers

Re: Watkins Guitars

I emailed charlie watkins, ages ago about the same thing and he said to me that the serial are random and bear no relation to dating. As far as I can tell there is no easy way to date a watkins, other than gut feeling, they range from very early to quite recent, as I'm sure you know.
They only came in black and red so anything else has been resprayed. If it has WEM, written on the headstock this is a later model and, obviously not as valuable as a plain one.
Wilson evolved from Watkins (Not sure when) but they continued production untill 1982 (For more info and a picture on this see the Ultimate Guitar Book).
Any other questions, feeel free to mail me
P.S I have two 1960's watkins, if you want to buy one a 33 and a 22 :-)

Re: Watkins Guitars

I have a Rapier 33 which has been lovingly restored by a friend. However there is an exceedingly faint image of the Watkins Rapier logo on the finger plate and would love to get a clearer, sharp copy of it so I can have a new transfer/sticker made up. Does anyone know where I can get a picture of how it looked in showroom condition? I also need a Tremelo handle.

Re: Watkins Guitars

hi!
I have a rare WEM project 4 guitar.
check it at my site:
http://www.ts808.com
all the best ,
jacqyes

Re: Watkins Guitars

Hi Phil I have a watkins rapier 44 it has a black headstock and a red body but has at some time been painted black to match the head the tremolo has the logo Wilson on it I believe that was a subsidery of watkins a british firm I also have an old catalogue with pictures of the 22,33,44 guitars but with a slightly different scratch plate to mine

Re: Watkins Guitars

Hi Steve,
I'm interested to see the pictures of your Rapeir 44. It would be a very kind of you. Thank you in advance. Santi. (santi008@hotmail.com).

Re: Watkins Guitars

I would also like to see the pictures of your 44.
I have one but dont know how original it is, never having seen another.

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