Founded in 1851 by Samuel Smith in London, England, Smiths began selling clocks and watches in a store in Newington Causway. Established as S. Smith and Son by Samuel senoir, in 1971 Samuel junior opened a larger shop on The Strand, London, and later shops in Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square.
During the early stages of the 20th century, and the beginning of the automative industry, Smiths manufactured the first British odometer ('mileometer') and speedometer. In 1904 Gordon Smithprovided a device to King Edward VII to measure the travelling speed of his car, the order ledger was entry 'No. 1, H. M. The King, Buckingham Palace'.
By 1914 Allan Gordon Smith was now running the firm, known now as S. Smith and Sons (Motor Accessories) Ltd. A move into even more parts and accessories for cars boosted the turnover to its highest so far. Expansion was endless during the 1920's as Smisth took a controlling share of British Jaeger Instruments.
In the 1930's Smiths agreed a trading deal with Lucas whereby the two would not compete in certain areas. Lucas at this stage began purchasing Smiths non-instrumentation assets.
As the automotive maret expanded Smiths Instruments became the dominant supplier of dashboard dials and engine gauges to British car and motorbike manufacturers.
During this time Smiths also acquired several clock making business to bolster their production levels and open new markets. As the war began to break out the deman for gauges in aircraft soared and Smiths used their expertise and manufacturing power to supply dials for aircraft and tanks; they also started manufacturing fuses for shells.
In 1946 Smiths and the Ingersoll Watch Company founded Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. Ltd., one of the largest watch manufacturers in the world at the time. By 1947 Smiths now employed 17,000 employees and this grew to 25,000 employees working in 27 factories in the UK by 1964. Smiths became known as Smiths Industries Ltd to better reflect their growing operations in different markets.
The 1970's bought new legislation for commercial vehicles that required them to operate with tachometers to record their driving hours. This upped production of tachometers from 400 per month to 4000 per month.
By the 1980's the clocks, watches, and automotive instruments divisions were all sold to Lucas as they eventually ceased to be significant markets for Smiths. This would later be sold to VDO, Birmingham, and today Smiths Gauges are manufactured by Caerbont Automotive Instruments under the blessing of Smiths Group Plc. This agreement ensures that classic engine instrument dials and gauges can continue to be replaced in classic boats, classic cars, classic vans, classic trucks, and classic launches to this day.