This site is dedicated to Watkins / Wem / Wilson Guitars and Wem amps





Watkins/WEM/Wilson did not produce many bass guitar models. A Rapier bass was the first guitar I owned when I bought one for about £20 from a music shop in Wolverhampton in 1967. I still have the original (above right) which has now been fully restored. Unfortunately like most Watkins guitars the revolutionary polyester sprayed finish which gave such a beautiful deep colour and gloss when new, did not fair very well over the years and many finishes ended up with severe cracking due to the lack of flexibility with temperature change. My advice is to never store one in the loft however infrequently you play it !


The model shown on the left above is a later Wilson Rapier circa 1968 from my own collection (# 15356) and has a non-standard bridge. Otherwise it is a good example of the type. Earlier ones had all metal "elephant ears" tuners of the type used on the Fender Precision Bass and a wrap-around bridge which also incorporated a rubber damping strip for a more string bass sound. Later tuners on Wilson basses were Dutch, Van Ghent manufacture as used on Hagstrom and Egmond guitars.

WEM Rapier Bass below owned by 'Oz ' # 12,757 in the process of renovation.

An alternative colour offered for Rapier Basses was Ice Blue but these are quite rare.

Wilson Sapphire Bass

The pictures of this fine Sapphire bass were sent to me by Goran Walday

Here's another fine WEM Sapphire Bass with darker sunburst finish from Keiran Harvey


The Sapphire Bass below is approximately 1968 manufacture and is just on the transition between WEM and Wilson. Both logos are present on the guitar. The white scratchplate is very unusual on this model. #17723.Thanks to Matt Fisher for the photos of this bass which is now in my collection.

With the name change to Wilson, there were some style changes and different colour options on the Rapier Bass.

The pictures of the cream Rapier below are courtesy of Peter Kay.This one was last heard of in Norway.



Two views of a 'woody' Wilson bass which used to be in my collection. This is a mid-70s model.

Although it appears to be a 'through neck' it is in fact screwed to the body. The Precision Bass styling is clear to see but the Schaller pickups give a much wider tonal range than the P-bass and the two tone wood finish is very attractive. Whether it was commercially advisable to attempt to compete with the Fender Precision is another question but that had never bothered the company ever since the Rapier was sold as the "poor man's Strat ".

Here's one we found on the top shelf in Charlie's workshop in 2004. Looks like a late model Wilson but the nearest model I can find which resembles it is the Espana EL-24 made by WEM in the mid 60s. It was rescued from the factory when the guitar operation closed in 1982 and could have been lying around for many years being cannibalised for parts. It has now been renovated and plays beautifully.




The Wilson SAB Semi-Bass

The fine example below was sold on eBay in 2005. Normally they would be expected to fetch £250-350 depending on condition but this one made over £1200 due to its almost perfect preservation.



Wilson Rapier Bass ®

Under the Wilson name, a lot more adventurous colours were produced for the Rapier bass which had previously been either red or sky blue . Pickups and controls were largely unchanged since the earlier production under the Watkins trade mark.

More blue leftie Watkins Rapier Bass photos from Colin Woodford

Wilson Mercury 4 Bass
Many thanks to Paul Johnson for the pictures of his bass below. This is #16236 and was originally sunburst. This is not a common model to find.
Wilson Type-W

There were very few Type-W basses made and this bright yellow one #17818 pictured below is quite a rarity. Very 70s, very Austin Powers! Many thanks to Tim of "Ebony and Ivory" for these pics.

There have been some mods on the head of this guitar. There should be four in-line tuners but someone has moved one tuner to the opposite side like a 5-string. Why??!!


Strictly Copyright 2010 (c) Reg Godwin and individual contributors