The watch magazine for pocketwatches, antique watches, vintage watches and modern watches

A life of time: Bruce Reynolds, Train Robber

by Michael Weare
1 March, 2013
Join the discussion | Discuss this article

About the author

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

Bruce Reynolds

We first published this article in August of last year. With the death of Bruce Reynolds on Thursday February 28th, we re-publish it. Bruce didn’t make it to August, which would have been the 50th anniversary of the robbery. So that just leaves ailing Ronnie Biggs.

Criminal mastermind Bruce Reynolds spent one hour of his life executing the Great Train Robbery, and a whole lifetime trying to live it down.

The Great Train Robbery took place on August 8th 1963, and rocketed the likes of Bruce Reynolds and Ronnie Biggs to worldwide notoriety. The story is frequently retold in some detail, especially on important anniversaries – and next year will be a major one as it will be the 50th anniversary. If the gang were to celebrate it’s likely to be a party of one, or maybe two, provided old lag Ronnie Biggs manages to cling onto life for a little while longer. All the other key players have slipped into anonymity or long since given up the ghost.

But the mastermind remains, and what most people do not know is that Bruce Reynolds was living a successful life of crime long before the Great Train Robbery, raiding country houses from the early fifties onwards, after walking out on a dull job as an accounting clerk in the Daily Mail’s offices.

The good life

Bruce Reynolds Aston Martin

During the long stints when Bruce was not in jail, he was living a life of champagne and Savile Row suits, driving his Aston Martin down to the South of France, racing his friends along the near deserted highways at a time when you were likely to be stopped for not driving fast enough by the French gendarmerie.

Austin Healey keys

There the gang would spend the next two to three months living off the proceeds of the latest successful robbery, using ‘research and planning’ of the next job as the excuse for basically having a really good time. It was Bruce’s ambition to make his mark as a legendary criminal that led to the Great Train Robbery, and he has come to describe the world famous heist as a curse.

Savile Row tailoring

 

“At my peak,” which was just before I got nicked, I had three cars, including a Zodiac convertible, and I was paying about six quid a week for a flat in Streatham, which was quite a bit of money. I was mixing with an older crowd at that time, who dressed well, had nice cars and I had some excellent mentors in this respect. Everything was new: I got my first car, it was a Triumph TR2 and then an Aston Martin, and I was having my suits made in Savile Row.” Bruce Reynolds

 

 

Star In Belgravia

 

“We had one pub, the Star Tavern in Belgravia, which at that time was a bit of a hangout but all sorts of people came there. Once your reputation started then you start getting invites to things and people think oh, good worker, and also the great thing was, everyone wants to be with someone who’s lucky, who is successful and if they see you’re successful they think it’s going to rub off on them.”

Split-second timing

 

Great Train Robbery

 

The Train Robbery, in the early hours of August 8th 1963, was conducted with split-second timing. The bulk of the stolen money was never recovered. Three robbers were never found, two convicted robbers escaped. One who was convicted was most likely never involved, and died in prison.

The 50s and early 60s was a great time for clean and elegant watches; long before the days of 45mm of high tech ceramics, PVD and fancy precious metal mammoths that adorn the wrists of today’s young tearaways.

Most people who could afford it would opt for a quality gold watch, and Bruce would probably have had his pick of them thanks to his regular raids on the homes of the landed gentry.

These beautiful timepieces from Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, Rolex and Omega were typical of the era:

18k gold Vacheron Constantin

1950s Patek Philippe

 

1950s Rolex 14ct gold Oyster Perpetual

 

Omega Chronograph in 18k gold

Bruce Reynolds today

These days, at 81, Bruce’s days of crime are long since over, the spirit is still willing but the flesh is weak. He managed to reinvent himself as a media commentator on criminal activities. When asked what his lifestyle was like in between jobs Bruce replied:

“Basically, living as expensively as I could. All the best restaurants at the time. You’ve always got Le Caprice, not so much The Ivy; all the big hotels. We all used to like to go to the south of France, you’d have two or three months of fun in the south of France.”

Even now, looking at the picture of Bruce Reynolds, you just know there’s a quality watch tucked under those bespoke double cuffs.

 

 

Michael Weare | Website

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

Discuss: A life of time: Bruce Reynolds, Train Robber

0 Comment You can be the first one to leave a message


Add your comment