WEM Watkins Electric Music


Watkins guitars and WEM amplifiers launched the careers of many British guitarists in the 60's and 70's. They were regarded as 'the British Strat' but were available at a price which most teenagers could afford. The company was started in London by the legendary Charlie Watkins and his brothers Reg and Sid. Charlie was really the 'amp man'. Sid and Reg Watkins made the guitars in their factory in Chertsey Surrey. In the late 60's the decision was made to split the guitars away from the amps as a separate company and the name Wilson was adopted. Wilson was the maiden name of the brothers' mother.

Sid joined the company after completing a contract in Hong Kong where he had been employed in the communications industry. He adapted well to his new role of luthier and became a well respected guitar craftsman.

As a teenager my first guitar was a Rapier bass and I still have it after forty years. Later I acquired a Wilson Ranger 2. The guitar brand names changed from Watkins to WEM in 1964 then after 1968 to Wilson until the factory closed in 1982. Over the years the basic designs remained the same and the most popular models were the Rapier 22, 33 and 44 which had 2, 3 or 4 pickups respectively. Early models had no adjustable truss rod in the neck but of all the old Watkins guitars which have passed through my hands, very few have had neck warps due to the use of metallic internal bracing.


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