The V-front Watkins Dominator is the stuff of legend, and a very rare and
collectable amp nowadays. Although it's 17 watts precluded it being used on-stage
by the main protagonists in the "beat boom" of the 1960s, just about every famous British guitarist either used one or
coveted one in the days before they
were famous. An icon!
It made it's debut in 1956. Charlie says that he thought the angled 10" speakers would give a better spread of sound.
Maybe so, but they certainly gave the amp a uniquely distinctive appearance. Most are seen in
turquoise & cream
coverings : there may have been early maroon & cream and later black & cream
versions. Early versions have a black control panel centred in the top of the amp.
Later versions have a blue control panel positioned at the rear and wrapping around into the back panel. All seem to have Elac 10" speakers. 2 channels, 4
inputs and tremolo. 2 EL 84s provide the output power.
In 1964 the V-front became to Dominator Mk II, in a styling perhaps considered more modern at the time. The
chassis remained similar, control panel chromed, mounted in a tall rectangular black cabinet with red/gold diamond pattern on
black grillcloth and a single 12" speaker (usually Goodmans). An all-but-identical Power Musette was introduced for use with organs, having a twin-cone
It stayed that way until circa 1970, when the Dominator Mk III was introduced in a large square 1 x 12 cabinet. The tremolo was omitted, either to reduce
cost or because it was considered old-fashioned by that time. The Power Musette Mk II and Dominator Bass Mk I shared the same cabinet and chassis but had
12" twin-cone and 15" speakers respectively.
Later in the 70s more powerful EL34-equipped versions of the Dominator combo were produced - the Dominator 25, 30, 50 and the solid-state Dominator 100.
Some were made as "piggy-back" head & cab versions. It seems that Dominators
were still being made when Wem closed down in 1982, a 25-year run. Up to very
recently, Charlie still offered a re-issue version of the
V-front, updated to the modern player's requirements.
c1956 WATKINS WESTMINSTER c15w V-FRONT
AMPLIFIER This looks like a "Dominator", but it is labeled as a
"Westminster". It must surely be the fore-runner (effectively the prototype)
to the V-Front Dominator! It has a very unusual (for Watkins) circuit
though, using 2 x ECC83+ 2 x EF86 in the preamp, plus 2 x EL84 + 1 x EZ 81
rectifier in the power stage. A very rare amp indeed.
Late 50's/Early 60's WATKINS DOMINATOR 17w
AMPLIFIER The classic V-front in turquoise & cream : the styling remained very similar from it's introduction in 1956 until it was replaced by the Dominator Mk II c1964. This example is an early version with it's black centrally-mounted control panel. A valve complement of 3 x ECC83, 2 x EL84 and EZ81 rectifier feed 17 watts of raw power into 2 Elac speakers. Quite possibly the most striking looking amplifier ever
Early 1970's WEM DOMINATOR Mk II 15w
AMPLIFIER Around 1964 the Dominator was completely re-styled both physically and cosmetically into a tall 1 x 12 cabinet.
With black vinyl, red/gold/black grillcloth and day-glo orange Wem logo in keeping with the new Wem image, considered more up-to-date at the time (by 1964 no self respecting guitarist would be seen dead with a coloured two-tone amp !). The chassis and circuitry remained similar to the V-front model. It stayed this way until around 1972. A
"Power Musette" version intended for organ and accordion was identical
except for having a twin-cone speaker. Price in 1971 £51 10s 0d.
1970's WEM DOMINATOR Mk III 15w AMPLIFIER Around 1972 the Dominator received another make-over : the 1 x 12 cab became larger and square, the chassis configuration changed to suit a front-mounted control panel, but the valve line-up and circuitry
remained similar except for solid-state rectification. The Dominator Bass Mk I and
Power Musette Mk II were identical save having a 15" and 12" twin-cone speaker respectively. Price £70.75 in 1973, rising to £107.00 by 1979.
1970's WEM DOMINATOR BASS Mk I AMPLIFIER The Dominator Bass Mk I is a version of the Dominator Mk III guitar amp with a 15" Celestion "spider-frame" speaker more suitable for reproducing bass frequencies, and otherwise identical. Price £83.00 in 1973.
Late 1970's WEM DOMINATOR 25 ALL-PURPOSE AMPLIFIER Although
cosmetically re-styled and labelled 25, suggesting 25W output, this is still
a 2 x EL84 amplifier very similar internally to the Dominator Mk III, so the
25 designation may be down to the marketing department rather than due to
any technical changes. Single 12" speaker.
WEM DOMINATOR 25 BASS AMPLIFIER This
amp seems to be a follow-on from the Bass Mk I Amplifier above. Still fitted
with 15" speaker, and the 2 x EL84 output valves, which indicates a 15
watt output. Hence, the "25" in the title is a little misleading.
WEM DOMINATOR 60 AMPLIFIER This
Dominator version seems to be very much the same as the above Dominator 25
All-Purpose. Maybe introduced as a replacement for the 25, but with a more
impressive model name ?? Information required please!
Late 1970's WEM DOMINATOR 45 ALL-PURPOSE AMPLIFIER Apparently
similar to above 25watt AP, but with "double power produced by parallel
push-pull valves". Also 15" speaker fitted. A reverb option was
available with the obvious title of Dominator Reverb 45, together with a
Dominator 45 Bass combo.
Early 1980's WEM DOMINATOR 30 AMPLIFIER Similar
to the Dominator 45, with 4 x EL84 power stage valves, and a 15"
speaker. Presumably Wem decided that the "45" designation was a
little misleading, and change the name to reflect the probable output of the
amp. Some examples of this amp are labelled as "Dominator 30
Lead", so maybe there was also a bass version available at the time?
1980's WEM DOMINATOR "35" Mk IV
really need more info and if possible further pictures of this Dominator
valve powered variant, with its single 12" speaker. The reinforced speaker grill is pure 1980's fashion
1980's WEM DOMINATOR "60" Mk IV AMPLIFIER From
the same design period as the one above, but fitted with 2 x 10"
speakers. This amp produces its power using 4 x EL84 valves, and has an
approx output of 30watts therefore. Thanks again to Oz in the UK for the
2010 WATKINS DOMINATOR RE-ISSUE AMPLIFIER The
V-Front Dominator returns!! This amp is now being produced again by John
Beer of Amp-Fix, who has recently
taken over the licence previously held by the late and much respected Barry
Spong of .British Amplifiers/Electro Acoustic Ltd. Charlie Watkins has
authorised the production of 100 of these amps, which are available in
Golden Brown, Red/Cream, and of course Blue/Cream. As at October 2011, 25 of
this total had already been sold. Further details are provided at the bottom
of this page.
And just by way of a change.............
WEM "POWERCAT" COMBINED GUITAR AMPLIFIER/TAPE ECHO UNIT Thanks
to John Beer for finally identifying this amp. It is a WEM Powercat, which
seems to be a version of the Dominator with a Copicat tape echo attached to
the top of the cabinet. Click HERE to see
more detail of the Copicat and an advert for the Powercat which features Bo
WATKINS/WEM 15 watt (?) DOMINATOR (?) COMBO
AMPLIFIER This very unusual amp appears to be a 1970's Dominator
MkIII amplifier inside a much earlier cabinet, similar in appearance to that
used for the WEM Scout. It has a 12" speaker, and an
"overdrive" control has been added in the past. Could this be a
prototype for the MkIII Dom ? At present it is doing a great job in
the studios of NERVOUS RECORDS
!!! THE V-FRONT DOMINATOR HAS BEEN RESURRECTED
I think we have all wished that the old-style amps were still
made. Well, now that dream has come true! Visit John Beer's AMP-FIX
WEBSITE to view the new re-issue of the Watkins V-Front Dominator:
The V-Front Dominator returns!! This amp is now being
produced again by John Beer of Amp-Fix,
who has recently taken over the license previously held by the late and much
respected Barry Spong of British Amplifiers/Electro Acoustic Ltd. Charlie
Watkins has authorised the production of 100 of these amps, which are available
in Turquoise/White, Red/Cream, and of course Blue/Cream. As at March 2014, 37 of
this total had already been sold.
John Beer is now the sole supplier of these amps, and is
building up his stocks. At present, the custom colours of Red/Cream and
Blue/Cream will for the time being be only built to order but the standard
Turquoise/White is available from stock.