My time with the new Vertex M100 prompted me to investigate the famous “Dirty Dozen” watches a little further. Fortunately, the information is really easy to find.
Despite none of these watches being from British brands and them being made in Switzerland I feel justified in writing about them on this blog as the watches were ordered and specified by the British government.
During the Second World War the British armed forces, like their equivalents in other nations, needed reliable watches for their service people. The British industry was converted to the production of war materials, so the War Department placed an order for custom-built wristwatches with twelve Swiss manufacturers, Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex. These needed to be accurate, reliable and durable, which meant they had to be regulated to chronometer standards, and also be waterproof and shockproof. More specifically the watches also had to have a black dial, arabic numerals, luminous hour and minute hands, luminous hour markers, a railroad minute track, a shatterproof crystal, and a stainless-steel case. Powered by a 15-jewel movements. This specification was known as WWW – watch, wrist, waterproof.
The different manufacturers delivered different quantities. The rarest being Grana with between 1,000 to 5,000 pieces whilst the numbers for Omega and Record reached 25,000 each.
Production numbers based on estimates published by Konrad Knirim’s in his book entitled “British Military Timepieces”
I will now be keeping my eyes open for a Grana or failing that a nice Vertex which would give me the opportunity to also buy one of the new M110s.
Vertex is not the only British brand to make their watches in Switzerland, but when I was thinking of a watch that would make the perfect companion on my family ski trip, it was the first watch that came to mind.
The first reason being the new M100 is clearly a watch made to wear when doing stuff , a robust military style tool watch. Secondly, I liked the idea of taking the watch back home. Fortunately, Don Cochrane, the founder of the brand, was happy to lend me one.
Founded over a century ago by Claude Lyons in London’s jewellery heartland, Hatton Garden, Vertex quickly grew to become one of the most successful watch companies in Great Britain.
During the Second World War the British Military selected Vertex, along with eleven other leading watchmakers, to supply the army with a new watch built to an exacting bespoke design. The specifications were precisely what you would expect of a military watch – waterproof, luminous, regulated to chronometer level and rugged. On top of that, the dial needed to be black with arabic numerals to maximise legibility. This select group have became known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and are highly collectable.
Don Cochrane is the great-grandson of Claude Lyons and proud owner of Vertex Watches. His passion is to continue his great-grandfather’s legacy and pay tribute to these watches through the new Vertex M100, produced in Switzerland with significantly more attention paid to their manufacture than their predecessors made for the Ministry of Defence.
The details of the new watch are:
Custom ETA 7001 mechanical movement with rhodium finish and Cotes de Geneve decoration.
Moulded Super-LumiNova ® dial
Brushed steel case, box crystal glass, waterproof to 100m.
Hand wound with 42 hour reserve.
Black dial with arabic numerals to maximise legibility, in homage to the Vertex W.W.W watch of 1944.
Packaged in a Peli case with two straps – a black leather two-piece strap, with contrasting red lining and a bespoke nylon NATO-style strap in Admiralty Grey.
An attractive package, but there is a catch, to be able to buy one of these watches you either have to be the owner of one of the original watches or be referred.
The first time I actually saw and touched one of these rare watches was at the pre-Salon QP Watchmakers Club evening. Once over the initial excitement of seeing and handling one, the next thing you cannot fail to notice is the amazing lume on the numerals on the face, it is really very thick.
The M100 comes in a distinctly non-retro box, a Peli case, which you could realistically use as a travel case.
The watch arrives with two straps, a grey Nato and a more conservative black leather.
When I first discussed the watch with Don the first point we discussed was the 40mm case size, would a smaller case not be a more faithful reproduction of the orginal watch ? Maybe, was Don’s reply. Though as you will see from the images above the the more “modern” size wears well even on my scrawny wrist.
For a bit of variety Don also gave me a choice of a couple of their accessory nato straps. I picked one green and one a steel grey. These straps are made of nice thick fabric with Vertex branding on the keepers.
Unfortunately, for me I found these really nice straps too long for me. Which left me using the standard issue nato strap.
Thanks to its manual movement the M100 rewards the wearer with the opportunity for a moments contemplation when you reach for it in the morning to wind the mechanism. One of the reasons many of us enjoy owning a mechanical watch. Before leaving for Switzerland I wore the watch every day on the nato strap and could easily imagine being my “one watch”.
Whilst packing my bags for the week I wondered how the watch would suit my MN strap, after all both the watch and the strap are “military” style.
I think it worked really well, so kept it like that for a week. This combination proved to be the perfect companion on the ski trails; this week I was trying Nordic skiing for the first time. The watch being being really legible in all conditions. The “not huge” case allowing the watch to slip easily inside the different layers of winter clothing and elastic of the strap meaning I never had the crown digging into my wrist.
The style of the watch does not give the wearer the opportunity to show the world how wealthy/macho they are like some more instantly recognisable brands. The wearer does though get the satisfaction of being “in the know” being part of the Vertex community.
This “community” is the clue to Vertex brand. When I returned the watch to Don he explained this was how he wanted people to experience the brand, he did not want people to buy into the brand just by writing a big cheque. He wants people to have to make an effort to get one of his watches. This brings me back to why I started writing my blog in the first place. Why do people buy one watch rather than an other? As I have commented previously there are companies like Bremont that are constructing heritage through their various special editions and military collaborations. The Vertex approach is a more subtle, slow burn strategy. It will take longer to see whether it is a successful strategy, but assuming the watches Don produces are well accepted by the watch buying public and people do actual bother to make the effort required to possess one he could up with a solid brand based entirely on its own products; with a strong community of fans. From a purely business/marketing point of view I wonder what the numbers might need to be to make this strategy sustainable . It is however a very interesting approach that you could easily applied to other product categories.
So it was with some regret I gave the watch back, I had already been doing the “man-maths” to work out how to pay for this addition to my collection.
The good news is that Vertex are working on some further launches, which will enable a few more people to join the community. Watch this space if you can excuse this pun.
To find out more you can visit the Vertex website.
Yesterday evening I was lucky enough to attend Bremont’s Townhouse event in London. This evening is the occasion during which Bremont present their new watches for 2018.
The evening kicked of with a presentation by the Arctic explorer and Bremont ambassador, Ben Saunders. As with other similar talks given by Bremont ambassadors, Ben gave a really interesting talk which make you feel like a super coach potato. Ben, with the help of Nick English, also managed to explain elegantly the justification for his relationship with Bremont. An explorer needs a reliable accurate watch to aid them with navigation which is especially important in the featureless terrain of the Arctic. The watch needs to be mechanical as quartz watches become less reliable in the extreme cold. An interesting fact I did not know.
The presentation of the watches was done with the usual Bremont style. I would only criticize the level of lighting, the low lights made it difficult to see the details of the watches well.
The star watch of the evening was the new Supermarine Endurance, the watch Ben used in the Arctic.
The second most eye catching new model for me was the U2/51-Jet.
This is an update of the existing popular U2 model with the addition of the vintage lume previously seen on the limited edition P-51 watch.
I then managed a quick try of the new S-501 divers watch which adds the more vintage styling of the S-300 series to the larger watch. This change works very well as you can see below.
I finished off my quick visit with a quick look at the understated Airco range, in particular the new white and blue dialled variants.
It blue the colour for this year ?
A big thank you to the Bremont for yet another well organised and enjoyable event. I hope to look at these and other new watches more in depth in future posts.
My posts have been a little infrequent of late. This is broadly as a consequence of real work, tax returns and another holiday. To try and put this right and buy myself a little time to write my next review I thought I would share my latest horological discovery – the “time4apint”podcast. Chris Mann produces these charming little chats on what seems like a monthly basis. They are an excellent way to pass a little dead time waiting for trains and other idle moments.
In particular and the most pertinent to the British theme of this blog was podcast 39 that was published last week, entitled “Jonathan’s Modern British watches” in which Chris discusses with collector Jonathan Hughes some of his watches. A Schofield, a Pinion, a CWC and a Bremont.
You can listen to it yourself following this link :
After several years of admiring the distinctive watches from Sussex’s most famous watch company, I managed to exchange a few words with the founder Giles Ellis. On an off chance, I asked if there might be the opportunity to do a review.
Just after the Christmas break an e-mail arrived out of the blue. Giles had remembered and asked if I would like to do the first review of their new Telemark, a watch I had admired at its launch during the Salon QP week.
The Telemark sits within the ‘Markers’ family of Schofield watches, which was originally pioneered by the Daymark. This model being inspired by the 1960s war film ‘Heroes of Telemark’.
This watch has features common to previous watches however, the Telemark stands alone as a bold addition to the Markers collection. It is Schofield’s first white dialled watch, Schofield’s first fully numerated dial and even Schofield’s first design to be inspired by a coastline outside of the British Isles.
Before giving more details I think it is important to describe what this very particular watch is like to wear.
But before covering the watch I cannnot ignore the very impressive black Osmo Ash box, below. Though it does make you wonder whether someone with a collection of several watches can find space to store the increasingly large and impressive packaging.
After a lifetime of relatively regular sized watches I have recently got used to my slightly larger than my usual, Pinion. The 44mm Telemark takes my “large experience” to another level, especially the case height.
To my surprise once on my wrist it actually doesn’t feel that large and it is perfectly possible to almost not notice your wearing it and I didn’t even once risk bashing it on walls or furniture which I frequently do with my personal Speedmaster. The watches distinctive character though does not really come from it’s size but the design itself and the white dial in particular. The white/grey/brushed steel combination does express a wintery “Telemark” vibe.
The first thing I did then was to put the watch to my ear, The dial does not mention automatic and I had not yet read the specifications, I wanted to understand wether it was an auto or manual. To my surprise I couldn’t hear the sound of a rotor inside the case. To be sure I then checked the spec sheet and discovered it was in fact an auto. I imagine the case thickness keeps the watch quiet.
Design wise there are some many details to be appreciated. The most obvious on my particular watch being the fucsia lining to the grey strap and the design of the caseback.
Should this strap not be to your taste one of the wonderful features of the Schofield range is the wide choice of straps available making the watches even more individual. Then we shouldn’t forget the customised straps from Schofield+Cudd. I kept thinking this watch would be great on one of the Harris tweed straps, something I would never consider for any other watch I can think of.
Once turned over the more design details become visible, for the first few days I continued to see something I had not noticed. For example the Schofield brand name being written very discretely in the number 6 position on the dial. There are so many little quirky features I will resist the temptation to list them but for me the dial hand combination works really well.
Then there is my favorite detail of all the crown and the groove in the case that makes it really easy to operate.
The Technical Details Are:
Fully numerated submarine dial
Dimensions – 44mm diameter base, 42mm bezel, 15.1mm high
The word ‘Schofield’ replaces 9 minute marks on the chapter ring
The hour markers in the chapter ring are black anodised appliqués filled • with Super-LumiNova C5
Case – Vapour-blasted stainless steel
Weight – 134 grams with strap
Date disk reprinted for horizontal readability at 4:30
All the parts of the hands and the windows line up when overlapping
The second hand tapers towards the tip and the counterpoise
The second hand counterpoise is filled with lume
The case has a nail rebate for pulling out the crown
The crown also has a groove for your nails to grip to pull out
The case has a slight radius on the outer edge of the bezel
The box is Osmo ash, the queen of English timbers
Colour – Silver
Crown – Push in, machine finish stainless steel, engraved
Case back – Stainless steel, engraved with Jomfruland lighthouse
Crystal – Sapphire
Water resistance – 200m
Strap – Your choice
Strap bars – Stainless, vapour-blasted
Buckle – Brushed stainless steel, engraved
Serialisation – Sequential numbering
Warranty – 2 years
For more information and lots of really super images you should visit the Schofield website.
So in conclusion, I really enjoyed my time with the Telmark. The perfect location for a review would have been my February ski break, but I already had other horological commitments for that. At the same time I was really pleased to have the opportunity to write the first review which I did not want to postpone. Maybe I have another chance for next February.
My thanks to Melodie of Schofield for organising the logistics of this loan and for her cheery notes.
After their first successful Kickstarter launch of the H1 diver’s watch the Southampton based brand is coming back with a second watch.
The difference this time is the new watch will use a Swiss automatic movment, an STP 1-11 from the Fossil Group. It also features a 316L stainless steel case in a choice of brushed or matte black PVD finish, a ceramic bezel, and grade-A Swiss Super-Luminova to aid legibility.
As well as the choice of case finishes the watch is available with a variety of different coloured Super-Luminova.
The watch is initially being offered for £269, with website accepting orders from January 30th.
I received an e-mail from Christopher Ward today telling me about their sale. I usually give the sale a browse to what bargains are on offer. Of the latest offers one really caught my eye, the C9 Pulsometer COSC.
This great looking chronometer is calibrated for use in measuring a person’s heart rate.
The tachymeter-style pulsometer scale of the dial is calibrated for 30 heart beats and both its red colour and the beautiful contrast of the optic-white dial make for easy reading.
Blued hands, a caduceus design on the second hand counter-balance and the finesse of the C9 case . This limited edition of only 250 pieces is on sale for £525. If it wasn’t for it being just after Christmas and just before the tax deadline I would be surly tempted to press the button on one of these.
If you are of the same mind have a look https://www.christopherward.co.uk/events/januarysale/30-percent-chronometers/tbc-fafcb5
For some reason I have steered slightly clear of Christopher Ward as a brand, I have not warmed completely to them. I think this might be because their positioning is based on a very commercial message, great value well made watches. I think I might have been doing them a disservice especially when you consider some of their recent launches.
Over the Christmas holidays I had the chance to see one of their watches for a little longer than the cursory trial at a show. My brother turned up with a Trident GMT on a “Bond” nato strap.
Although this model is one of the many “homage” to the Rolex Submariner, hence the Bond strap, it does have enough design details that make it a little more individual. For starters the case is 42mm. Then there is the trident shaped second hand and the textured ( I am sure there is a technical description) finish on the dial. The final obvious difference on this watch is the red second time zone hand.
Adding to the charm of this particular watch is the steel bezel and the old style Chr. Ward logo.
My brother tells me he bought this watch a few years ago in the sale, duty free, so paid well below the £700 plus of the current model. For this he has a well made GMT tool watch which he says he uses when visiting “dodgy” countries, were his more normal wrist wear might attract the wrong sort of attention. Maybe I should start checking eBay.