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 seems to have made it's debut in early 1960 as a replacement for the earlier
1958-59 Westminster 15-20 watt V-front model. 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 : although there may have been early maroon & cream and later black & cream
versions. Early versions have a black control panel centered 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
two Elac 10" speakers. 2 channels, 4
inputs and tremolo. 2 EL 84s provide the output power.
In 1965, production of the V-front ceased and the Dominator was replaced by the
Custom 15 watt model for a couple of years or so. When the Custom 15 was deleted
from the catalogue in 1967/68, the Dominator returned in Mk II guise, with a styling perhaps considered more modern at the time. The
chassis remained similar to the previous models - 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 30
& 50 being replaced very soon after by the "All-Purpose" 25,35, 45, and 60 A.P.
versions. Apparently there was also a 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.
THE WATKINS WESTMINSTER TREMOLO COMBO AMPLIFIER (1958 TO 1959): (Forerunner to the Watkins Dominator model)
c1958/59 WATKINS WESTMINSTER 15-20watt
AMPLIFIER This looks like a "Dominator", but it is actually a
high-powered version of the
"Westminster" model. It must surely be the fore-runner (effectively the prototype)
to the V-Front Dominator! Unlike the Dominator, it is a twin-input,
single channel amp with a seperate volume control for each input and only a
speed control for the tremolo facillity. 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.
THE V-FRONT WATKINS DOMINATOR Mk I (1960 to 1965):
c1960 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. Note that a depth control has now been added
to the tremolo circuit. A valve complement of 3 x ECC83, 2 x EL84 and EZ81
rectifier feed 17 watts of raw power into two Elac speakers. Quite possibly the most striking looking amplifier ever
Early 1970's WEM DOMINATOR Mk II 15w
AMPLIFIER Around 1968 the Dominator name was reinstated, but 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.
Valves: 3 x ECC83; 2 x EL84; 1 x EZ81. For a short period in 1969
additional vesrions of the MkII were available equipped with reverb, together with "Super
Dominator" versions equipped with extra heavy duty speakers, with or without
reverb. As a further complexity, the
"Power Musette MkI" version of the Dominator MkII became available during
this period, The Muscette was intended for organ and particularly accordion,
and was identical to the Dominator except for
having a twin-cone speaker.
THE WEM DOMINATOR Mk III (1973 to 1978):
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.
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
THE DOMINATOR 30 & 50 (1975 TO 1977):
c1976 WEM DOMINATOR 30 AMPLIFIER The
first 30 watt Dominator, with 4 x EL84 power stage valves, and a 15"
speaker. Some examples of this amp are labelled as "Dominator 30
Lead", so maybe there was also a bass version available at the time?
THE WEM DOMINATOR A.P. "ALL PURPOSE" 25 & 45 (1978 to 1980):
Late 1970s-Early 1980s WEM DOMINATOR 25 A.P. AMPLIFIER Although
cosmetically re-styled and labeled "25", perhaps suggesting a 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.
1970s-Early 1980s WEM DOMINATOR 25 BASS AMPLIFIER This amp seems to
be a follow-on from the Bass Mk I Amplifier above, but with similar
cosmetics to the 25 AP model 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 could be a little misleading.
Late 1970s-Early 1980s WEM DOMINATOR 45 A.P. AMPLIFIER
similar to above 25watt AP, but with "double power produced by parallel
push-pull valves" - i.e 4 x EL84 power 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.
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
THE WATKINS DOMINATOR AMP-FIX REISSUE (2010 Onwards):
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 Dominator featured in a Watkins advertisement
from April 1961.
!!! 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.