Robert Loomes – Everest Watch

Here is link to a nice little video about the watches Robert Loomes supplied to a Royal Gurkha Regiment expedition to climb Everest.

I imagine there is a special connection between the Smiths movements, that Loomes modifies for their watches, and Edmund Hilary Everest expedition.

Subsequently the expedition have been caught up in the earthquake disaster. You can follow there progress on the Robert Loomes website.

http://www.robertloomes.com/everest.html

Film – The Watchmaker’s Apprentice

You can see the trailer here

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he Watchmaker’s Apprentice is fundamentally a documentary about two very special men, whose skills are unparalleled in the world today – the only men in history to master an art so completely and perfectly, that between them, they are successfully reviving an ancient industry.

The documentary is also about the passage of time, about making every moment count, about life and – ultimately – about death; itʼs about our fleeting existence, and the opportunities we have to leave an eternally lasting imprint on the world should we choose to push ourselves and our creative, scientific and ‘human’ abilities to their full potential.

It’s about obsession. Passion. Personality. At the very heart of the story lies the fascinating and vividly colourful relationship between the two protagonists – The Watchmaker himself, George Daniels CBE, and his Apprentice Roger W Smith, the only man George ever deemed worthy to pass his hard-earned knowledge and skills to in order to continue his life’s work.

Their relationship is captivating – one of mutual respect and arms-length friendship, with a healthy dose of competition, somewhat akin to a father and son working in the same field, but made all the more interesting because of their entirely disparate personalities.

It was only when George passed away sadly before this documentary was completed, aged 85, that the true depth of the admiration the men had formed for each other began to become apparent: in Roger’s final interviews, the moving eulogies at the funeral, and in George’s generous and heartfelt final gesture revealed in the execution of his Final Will and Testament…

The Watchmaker’s Apprentice, made by independent production company DAM Productions on the Isle of Man, contains the last interview George Daniels gave, just months before his death in October 2011. As a result of the relationship built with our team over 18 months of filming, the story will be told through the compassionate eyes of a friend; unbridled access has enabled us to acquire fascinating footage of Georgeʼs workshop (exactly as he left it before it was dismantled), his wonderful collection of vintage cars and his beautiful home – the contents of which have since been distributed to auction houses around the world.

The documentary is narrated by acclaimed British actor, John Rhys-Davies (‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Indiana Jones’), and features interviews with numerous esteemed friends, family and colleagues of both men. Music includes songs by Manx artists Davy Knowles and Christine Collister, 3D animation and character illustration by Manx 3D/Maya artist Andrew Martin and additional graphical representations by Gary Myers.

The Best Of British Watchmaking – Fashionbeans

This is an article from the beginning of the month. I am not sure if I agree with the choice of brands included, but as we have seen what constitutes “British” is not conclusive. Anyway I thought this was worth posting,

The Best Of British Watchmaking
Article By Murray Clark on 1st April 2015 | @Murray__Clark
Five of the UK’s trailblazing watch brands
The Best Of British Watchmaking
britishwatches

Homegrown Horology
Fine watches, or haute horlogerie if you’re really on your A-game, have long been the territory of the Swiss, famed for intricate levels of craftsmanship and an unerring dedication to tradition. And, for the most part, they’ve deserved it, having persevered through the Quartz Crisis.

However, times are changing – and no more so than on our home soil here in the UK. British watchmaking may have suffered peaks and troughs over the past 150 years or so, but recently we’re seeing a resurgence that shows no signs of abating. From the 1600s to the 1800s it was Britain, not Switzerland, that was considered a world-renowned watch mecca, and several brands are keen to bring the heritage home.

“It’s an exciting time for the British watch trade,” says Adrian Maronneau, buying director at DM London. “There are a lot more brands coming through that want to push the British strapline and shoppers also want to buy into this heritage.”

British-made watches are becoming increasingly popular, but the term ‘British-made’ can be problematic in itself. Just two British watch brands can rightfully boast complete manufacture within the UK, while components from Switzerland are still commonly used.

This is mostly borne out of necessity rather than simply watching overheads, as there’s a real shortage of required skills, labour and factories that can deal with the demand. This too is changing though, and there’s plenty to suggest that many volume-friendly brands will take all production completely in-house in the near future.

There’ll always be a place for Swiss watches – that much is certain. But if our rundown of the UK’s finest is anything to go by, Britain is proving itself a worthy adversary in the global arena.

The Luxury Leader: Bremont
Based in the idyllic town of Henley-on-Thames, Bremont has a distinctly British flavour. Brothers Nick and Giles English (how apt) founded the company after their father died tragically while training for an air show, and the sibling’s passion for watchmaking has only grown since.

Aeronautics and timekeeping have always been closely interlinked and no British brand’s more keenly aware than Bremont: the U-2, ALT1-C Classic and Boeing collections all showcase the finest in aviation watchmaking, made to fit with the modern wardrobe.

Another of the brand’s most notable achievements is The Wright Flyer: a limited edition line that cleverly incorporated the actual muslin used on the wing of the first ever flight in 1903. Needless to say, owning this little piece of history doesn’t come cheap.

More recently, Bremont produced three limited edition pieces to feature in Kingsman: The Secret Service, which marked the company’s first starring role. Each model – available in DLC (diamond-like carbon), rose gold and steel variations – combines practicality with quintessential British sartorialism.

Rarely does a brand establish itself as a leader in the manufacture of sports, aviation and dress watches, but that’s exactly what Bremont has done. Currently in the process of moving all production to the UK, Bremont is set to be one of the leading names in British watchmaking for generations to come.

Web: www.bremont.com

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The Artisan: Roger Smith

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Arguably the most lauded name in British horology, Roger Smith is the only apprentice of George Daniels – a man widely regarded as the 20th century’s greatest watchmaker.

Daniels saw the advent of the quartz movement in the 1960s as a real threat and in true pioneering fashion pledged to combat foreign imports with a completely British-made watch. As the watchmaking trade had long since declined within the UK, Daniels went on to master the thirty-two individual skills required to manufacture a quality timepiece.

It’s this same holistic approach, dubbed the ‘Daniels Method’, which Smith has adopted, making all of his watches in the Isle of Man, from start to finish.

The Roger Smith studio produces around ten pieces every year and sourcing one is even more painstaking than the laborious production process. As with other fine watches, limited production runs mean heightened exclusivity, which leads to hefty price tags.

Though Smith’s stylish timepieces will price out many watch enthusiasts, they really are at the pinnacle of British watchmaking.

Web: www.rwsmithwatches.com

The Designer Brand: Burberry

Although partly produced in Switzerland, Burberry puts an unmistakably British stamp on its watch collections.

Many UK brands lean towards classic design, but Burberry – true to form – offers a more contemporary approach with steel bracelets, simple leather straps and statement dials in navy, white, black and beige. What’s more, with relatively low price points for Swiss-produced watches, they won’t break the bank.

The recent Britain Classic collection has quickly become a flagship line for the label, with sizeable yet subtle cases that make a real statement on the wrist. Alternatively, the City range offers a more minimal circular dial complete with understated steel and leather bracelets that are perfect for the office.

Within the horological world, fashion-led brands such as Burberry may not receive the kudos of heavyweights like Jaeger-LeCoultre or IWC, but what they may lack in watchmaking heritage they more than make up for in brand prestige.

Web: www.burberry.com

Burberry Britain Watch Collection

Burberry Britain Watch Collection

The Luxury Up-And-Comer: Schofield

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At just four years of age, Schofield is the perfect poster child for the British watch industry, mixing a wealth of experience with exceptionally modern designs.

Up until 2013, Schofield watches were designed in England and made in Germany. However, since then its timepieces have been assembled in the UK, and newer models are almost entirely made in England – hence many now having it proudly stated on the dial.

The brand’s three major families: Blacklamp, Signalman and Beater, all manage to strike the balance between optimal wearability and uncompromising style. The Beater, for example, was launched at Britain’s biggest watch trade show, Salon QP, this year, delivering “rugged practicality” with a touch of dress watch sophistication. Stripped of complications, it features an enamel dial and casing that’s hand-finished – meaning no two watches are the same.

Although this Sussex-based brand’s timepieces won’t be to everyone’s taste, the relative absence of complications and a lack of variety aren’t reasons to write this label off – on the contrary, Schofield knows its strengths and plays to them well.

Web: www.schofieldwatchcompany.com

The Affordable Brand: Larsson & Jennings

As the new kid on the block, Larsson & Jennings is part of the cooler contingent in an industry that can often be seen as stuffy and uncompromising. Minimalist Scandinavian-inspired design is infused with the trend-setting cool of London street style – and the impressive results speak for themselves.

Full disclosure: although conceived and designed in London, Larsson & Jennings watches are produced in Switzerland. That said, the label does go to the lengths of sourcing British-made leather and incorporating British design markers like royal crests where fitting.

Five families make up the main range: the Saxon, Kulör, Chain Metal, Lader and Liten. Each offers a different take on the everyday watch and some – the Chain Metal and Saxon, particularly – boast a distinguished formality that makes them well suited to combining with tailoring.

If you’re looking for an affordably priced timepiece that’ll work for both on- and off-duty days, this brand should be your first port of call.

Web: www.larssonandjennings.com

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Aftercare & Servicing
Buying a fine watch is similar to buying a car – there’s no point in investing without committing to further maintenance. With mechanical movements, upkeep is essential, and you should always reserve a small pot of cash for servicing.

Failing to look after your timepiece means it’ll deteriorate, and that would be a terrible way to spoil a piece that probably cost you a fair amount of money in the first place. Department store Selfridges in both London and Manchester offers a service centre that provides reasonable tariffs on watch maintenance.

Otherwise, independent service providers are available throughout the country but will probably cost considerably more, depending on what’s available in your local area. Ensuring you book in for a retiming, general service, case refinishing and crystal replacement every year or so will ensure your investment piece stays as good as new.

Final Word
There are many different interpretations of what makes a British watch: does it need to be manufactured entirely on home soil? Or is a watch that’s been designed in the UK but produced elsewhere still British?

The question is very much up for debate but one thing is certain: more and more brands are cropping up in the UK that are looking to play on the heritage theme – something us Brits have heaps of in the style stakes.

Any other homegrown brands you’d like to recommend? What do you think is in store for the UK watchmaking industry?

PINION FORMING: how designer Piers Berry created a suave young watch brand – Salon QP

ISince launching in 2013, British watch company Pinion has blossomed as a street-smart modern brand that wears its traditional influences lightly. Founder Piers Berry tells QP how he’s built a brand from nothing.
By Chris Hall.

It is a cold fact that only a minority of new watch brands succeed. And much as it’s satisfying to have witnessed several making their world debut SalonQP over the years, it’s even better to see them return stronger subsequently. Oxfordshire-based Pinion has done just that. Having launched at 2013’s Salon with the warmly-received Axis Automatic – a watch whose sleek, military-tinged looks reflected the design pedigree of its creator, Piers Berry – Pinion was back last November with a new chronograph, the Revival 1969 (below).

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Pinion has also recently been taken on by San Diego specialist in independent watches, Passion Fine Jewelry, where it will sit alongside the likes of Habring, Speake-Marin and Lang & Heyne. According to Berry, further retail developments are in the offing. It’s not bad for a company whose founder, prior to launching, had no experience of the watch industry.

Connoisseur to entrepreneur
On paper at least, it would look like Pinion was born in a storm. Three years ago, with Britain still mired in recession, who would have put money on a digital designer of 20 years’ standing leaving the world of pixels, apps and wireframes – just as the first generation of smart watches emerged, no less – to found a watch brand rooted steadfastly in past traditions?

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That, however, is exactly what Piers Berry did. A digital designer who had been running his own creative agency for a decade before he launched Pinion, Berry was bitten by the watch bug in 2004 when he came across a friend’s Panerai. “I had had an interest in watches from the point of view of product design since the ’90s,” Berry says, “but it was mostly Casio G-Shocks, that sort of thing. It didn’t really take off until about ten years ago when I discovered Panerai. I was absolutely bowled over by their watches from a design perspective.”

After a few years, he had bought his own Panerais, and started to make contacts in the industry which would later prove valuable. Nevertheless, he was finding himself increasingly dissatisfied with the watches he encountered, and gradually started forming a plan to do something about it.

“As a designer, I always felt that there was something missing. Maybe I was being hypercritical but I’d see a watch and think, ‘If only they’d done this, or that’,” he says. “I had a vision of owning my own watch company, but from my initial enquiries it seemed too difficult.”




Pinion forming
Nevertheless, Berry started sketching out his own designs, toying with the idea in his free time, working to a few basic criteria. “I had no experience in watch design whatsoever but I had an idea of what I wanted,” he explains. The designs were rooted in the tool watch tradition, with functionality trumping embellishments.”

“I wanted a watch which was no-nonsense that I could produce in a few flavours,” he says. “I was interested in a raw bronze case, because you could only get a bronze watch for £15,000 – like a Panerai – or £500, which was something less satisfying. There was nothing in between.”

After making contact with potential Swiss movement suppliers, dial specialists and case makers, Berry began to see that his dream could become a reality after all. In 2013 Pinion watches was born, launching its debut collection, the Axis, at SalonQP – with, as Berry had hoped, a bronze-cased watch at its core. This model, notable particularly for its green dial iteration, became the lynchpin of Pinion’s fledgling collection.

Axis-Bronze-Pinion

For Berry, however, getting even this far had been a rollercoaster ride in itself. “When the brand launched at SalonQP, I didn’t actually have any watches until two days before the event. Six weeks before, we didn’t think there were going to be any watches at all. I had to start again from scratch quite late on,” he says. A lack of physical product in fact resulted in an extra watch being added to the collection at the last minute. “The only reason I launched a DLC version is that it was the only watch I could mimic accurately enough in Photoshop to show online how it was going to look,” Berry admits. Inevitably the watch, the Axis Black (below), sold out.

The Axis Black


Next steps
Immediate interest in the Axis suggested Pinion was clearing one of the toughest hurdles facing any new brand, which is to prove it has a viable idea in the first place.

Next Berry needed to show he could keep developing the idea. First came a limited-edition collaboration, the Axis Iron Heart, produced with a high-end Japanese denim manufacturer. Next was the Axis Pure, also limited in number, which played to retro tastes by replacing the ETA 2824-2 movement of the Axis Automatic with a hand-wound Unitas 6498, and adding a small seconds subdial and applied markers. This is available in both steel and bronze iterations.

Axis-Pure


 

 


 

Having produced variants of a time-only watch, with nods to classic British military stylings, it might have seemed logical that Pinion’s next move would be a chronograph. But Berry was not, initially, too keen. “I’m not a massive chronograph fan”, he declares. “They don’t come naturally to me; I don’t like busy dials with tachymetre, telemeter scales. Doing the Revival 1969 was a challenge for me to do one that I liked.”

Going manual
Key to that was finding the right movement, and top of Berry’s wish list was a manual caliber that would increase the sense of functional, tactile engagement with the watch. Manual chronograph calibers, however, are not produced for supply these days, and Berry had resigned himself to designing the R1969 to suit the tri-compax layout of the perennial Valjoux 7750 movement.

However, Berry has been able to source a batch of unopened ebauches – unassembled blank movement kits – for another historic Valjoux movement, the 7734. The ebauches were made in 1969 but never assembled, and had remained packaged up in their boxes, as new, for 45 years.

valjoux-7734-movement


The 7734 was used by a number of brands in the 1960s and ‘70s, including Breitling, Heuer and Tudor, and was seen as a rugged and reliable workhorse. Today, with handwound chronographs (aside from Omega’s Moonwatch) pretty much the preserve of the haute horlogerie sector, the open case-back affords a pleasing look back into history; while one of the movement’s most recognizable features, the v-shaped chronograph bridge, has been customized with an engraving of the Pinion logo.

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The dial is, as promised, free of calculating scales, but on close inspection is full of finely-nuanced details. The subdials, the hour markers, the outer minute track and the raised centre section are all cut to different heights and given different finishes.

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The Revival 1969 is being created in a limited run of 100 pieces (there being 100 movements), priced at £4,950. A heady price, perhaps, but then it’s an unusual watch created with a deeply independent spirit, as Berry points out.

“Part of the ethos of Pinion is that it’s totally self-funded, self-financed. We own all the stock, with no debt, no overdraft, and full control over our destiny. It’s nice knowing that it’s all yours,” he says. “There are a lot of people who think they could make their own watches, and think theirs would only cost £400, and they could do it all just from sitting at a desk. They don’t do any of it. It’s not as easy as it sounds – it’s more than just the sum of its parts.”

Revival-1969-01

The “British” question
One thing about which Berry is more circumspect is the notion of Britishness within what he does. It’s a fact that while movements are assembled on these shores and Berry uses British-made straps, the rest comes from Switzerland, and that’s unlikely to change in the near future. While he proudly inscribes “England” on the dial of his watches, the much-vaunted “revival” in British watchmaking – overhyped, undercooked – is something from which he distances himself.

“We’re a British brand but we don’t try to shove Britishness down people’s throats. I think the product and the design should do the talking,” he says. “People often say to me ‘oh it’s not a very British design.’ You wouldn’t say that if it was an Australian watch company. I think people pick up on things too much. Why can’t we be British and look Swiss, or Japanese? I want Pinion to be able to go anywhere in the world and for people to not know where it comes from.”

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Now that the Revival 1969 is out, Berry’s aim is to keep building the collection, with GMT and titanium models both in his sights, and both vintage and modern movements on the cards for future watches. That’s all down the line though. “This year I want to focus on widening awareness of the brand, and with that in mind we’re hosting a series of evenings with Pinion for customers and anyone interested, to acquaint themselves with us on a more intimate scale.”

For more information on Pinion’s gatherings, which take place at Century Private Members Club on Shaftesbury Avenue, have a look here

BREMONT UNVEILS NEW TITANIUM BOEING TIMEPIECES

BREMONT UNVEILS NEW TITANIUM BOEING TIMEPIECES WITH ADDED GMT FUNCTIONALITY
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Much of Bremont’s DNA is deeply rooted in aviation. Co-Founders Nick and Giles English, both pilots themselves, set out to make high quality watches of classic design durable enough to withstand any pressures an aviator’s timepiece may endure. 2014 saw Bremont announce a partnership with an aerospace giant, The Boeing Company. Nick English explains, “Boeing is arguably the most famous aircraft company of all time and one of the world’s most innovative engineering leaders. With its one hundred years of aerospace achievement, Boeing’s history reads like the annals of aviation.” Having seen a fantastic response to the debut Model 1 and Model 247 timepieces Bremont is delighted to be presenting further additions to the range at Baselworld 2015.

Through the partnership with Boeing, a world leader in material research, Bremont now works closely with The Advanced Material Research Centre with Boeing (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield to develop exclusive new manufacturing processes. Nick English sums up the two organisations as ‘an incredible dichotomy’. The first watches in the Bremont Boeing range, the Model 1 and Model 247, are characteristically Bremont in design but use highly durable aviation-grade materials never used before in watch manufacture. The Bremont Boeing range is an exciting collaboration between three industry front-runners using cutting edge expertise and engineering excellence to celebrate the rich history and continued leadership in innovation synonymous with the Boeing brand.

Working with Boeing’s material research expertise and AMRC’s development of advanced manufacturing processes, Bremont has set a new standard in aviation timepieces. Using inventive and more modern materials, the Bremont Boeing Model 1 and Model 247 are stunning advanced designs that act as classic tributes to an earlier era in Boeing’s rich history. The clean design of the Model 1 timepiece reflects the early simplicity of Boeing’s very first aircraft design whilst the Model 247 was inspired by Boeing’s progressive twin-engined Model 247 airliner from the 1930s. Developing these designs further has led to the introduction of the new Bremont Boeing Model 1 and Model 247 Titanium GMT timepieces, manufactured from Boeing aviation-grade Ti 6-4. This is a special titanium that is significantly stronger than commercial titanium and used widely in both airframes and engine components.
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This is the first time that Bremont will be offering lightweight aviation grade titanium cases in any of its core range pieces. New GMT functionality in these Boeing models extends the current range and also responds to a demand led by the flying fraternity, an important addition for any serious pilot. Taking forward the GMT success already exhibited in select Bremont ranges, these Boeing timepieces feature a very clear GMT hand, using a tried and tested format seen on the Terra Nova. Designed for absolute clarity and legibility, white SuperLumiNova® hands stand out against a black (Model 1) or dark grey (Model 247) base dial with highly visible applied indexes also using SuperLumiNova®. The signature Boeing ‘tick’, a nod to the aerospace company’s logo, can also be found at the end of the centre seconds (Model 1) and chronograph seconds (Model 247) hands. Whilst the original Bremont Boeing watches incorporate a sapphire bezel, these GMT models feature an anthracite ceramic bezel with highlighted minute markers signalling the first time Bremont has used ceramic in any of its watches to date. The beautifully finished automatic movements in these GMT watches are protected in Bremont’s anti-shock movement mount, all finished in Boeing blue and visible through the exhibition case backs.

Nick English, Bremont Co-Founder; “It’s fantastic to be working with a company like Boeing and the response we have had from the introduction of the Bremont Boeing range of watches last year was very special. This year, having again worked hard on the technical specification with Boeing, the new GMT models were born. The beautifully simple clarity of the dial, twinned with the lighter aviation grade titanium case and the ceramic bezel, means that we have achieved everything we set out to do with these wonderful timepieces. We’ve only just begun in terms of what the two companies can do together and there will be a lot more exciting projects to come, particularly surrounding Boeing’s upcoming centenary year.”
model247_collage_600_523_90

THE ADVANCED MANUFACTURING RESEARCH CENTRE WITH BOEING

The AMRC with Boeing was set up to identify, research and resolve advanced manufacturing, machining and material challenges. Nick English described the benefit to Bremont: “We wanted the watches to be special and unique within our range whilst adhering to our core principles like longevity, robustness and the aviation DNA that runs through our brand. When we talked to the AMRC we fell in love with what they were doing. They are about being as efficient as you can with manufacturing processes, and they’re spending a lot of time on the materials. This is a very interesting thing for us as a brand and enabled us to start experimenting on what we could do with these watches. The end result was us designing a watch and using AMRC’s expertise on the materials and the manufacturing process.”

Bremont joined the AMRC as a research member but soon took the partnership further: “We realised that AMRC are very focused on similar things to us. For example, they’re very passionate about bringing back manufacturing to the UK which is something Bremont is devoted to. We are based at Henley-on-Thames and have a facility for making parts in Silverstone. All our watches are assembled here in the UK.” To further this aim and bring back as much watch manufacturing to British shores as possible, Bremont created a role at AMRC for a PhD research student to work at the Centre and investigate watch parts and movement manufacturing processes. As Nick concludes, “The relationship has become a lot deeper than we first thought possible, which is really wonderful”.

THE HISTORY OF BOEING

Not many companies can lay claim to be launching into their second century, but aerospace giant Boeing is looking forward to celebrating its centenary in 2016. When Bill Boeing saw a piloted flying machine for the first time in 1909, it launched a curiosity for flight that would one day make him a household name. He purchased and learned to fly an aircraft in 1915 but realised he could manufacture an improved version to his own design. That first instinct – to Build Something Better –lay at the heart of every advance by the company from that time through its first 100 years.

In June 1916 Bill Boeing built his very first aircraft, the Model 1 seaplane, and decided to make aviation his business. Boeing designed, manufactured and sold seaplanes to the US Navy during World War One. The end of the conflict marked a lean spell for aircraft production so the company switched to making furniture to survive until the market became more buoyant. The 1920s saw Boeing produce seaplanes, military fighters and mail-planes, with the Boeing Airplane Company fast becoming a leading light in a rapidly developing aviation industry. By 1938 Boeing opened up world travel with legendary aircraft like the Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat, carrying Pan-Am passengers on transoceanic routes. During World War Two, European skies saw the silhouettes of thousands of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. William Boeing passed away in 1956 but lived long enough to see the company he founded enter the jet age. BR_Boeing_Hero_600_400_95_s_c1

The Horological State of the Union Jack – Gear Patrol

This is an article from last February. It is still worth a read.

hat’s the first country that comes to mind when you think of timepieces? Switzerland — that’s what we thought. Next? Maybe Japan or Germany. But there was a time when the center of the horological universe was that rock hanging off of Europe, the United Kingdom.
British watchmaking? Sure, there’s Big Ben, but few know the names John Harrison, John Arnold, Thomas Mudge, Thomas Tompion or Robert Hooke — all of them British, all of them major contributors to the science of horology (that is, watchmaking). Truth is, Britain’s watchmaking history is filled to the brim with excellence. Now, a new crop of British watchmakers are forging ahead to build on their country’s tradition — and to create an entirely new one.

Before we look ahead, we need to look back. The Brits played a huge role in early watchmaking technological advances. Thomas Tompion kicked things off in the late 1600s and is often referred to as the father of British clockmaking, thanks in no small part to the many apprentices he took under his wing. Thomas Mudge gave us the lever escapement, still in common use today and a milestone of watchmaking. Robert Hooke is known in scientific circles for Hooke’s Law, which describes the properties of springs — which, last we checked, is kind of critical to the development of a timekeeper which depends on a mainspring and a hairspring. He was buddies with, and a sort of patron to, Tompion.

In 1759, Yorkshire carpenter John Harrison solved a little problem that had been pestering sea captains for a century and a half: determining longitude at sea. Along the way, he perfected or made major contributions to numerous aspects of precision timekeeping. John Arnold was the first to design a simple, accurate watch, picking up where Harrison left off and enabling higher production rates for marine chronometers beginning in the 1780s. In fact, it was Arnold who coined the term “chronometer”.

By 1800, Britain reportedly made half the world’s watches — around 200,000 a year. A hundred years later, production numbers had fallen to roughly 100,000, though worldwide consumption was by then in the millions.
Keyless winding, automatic winding, the chronograph, the minute hand and the center seconds hand were all arguably invented in England. Take away all that and we’d still be measuring time with hourglasses, which are damned inconvenient to wear on one’s wrist. Say it with us now: “Thank you, British timekeepers.”

The 1700s were the halcyon days of horological innovation, and as we’ve just proven, most of it was happening in the British Isles. By 1800, Britain reportedly made half the world’s watches — around 200,000 a year. A hundred years later, production numbers had fallen to roughly 100,000, though worldwide consumption was by then in the millions.

So what happened? Well, it turned out that Switzerland and the United States got better at mass production quicker than those manufacturers in Great Britain. Thus the British watchmaking industry faded. There was a small resurgence after World War II, but the so-called Quartz Crisis, which nearly felled the Swiss, did the Brits in (along with the U.S. watch industry).

Today there’s a British watchmaking renaissance afoot. An anecdote, and one with a dash of poetic justice, perhaps best exemplifies this rebirth. Robert Loomes, the descendant of a family that traces their British watchmaking roots to the 17th century, is on a personal mission to build an all-British watch. A few years ago, Loomes went looking for parts suppliers in order to make the limited-edition watches his company had designed. While on his search, he found shops that were using the very machines sold off by foundering British watch companies decades ago. Those machines are once again making parts for which they were originally designed and built.

So who are these British re-pioneers? The recently deceased George Daniels, developer of the co-axial escapement found in nearly every OMEGA, hailed from Great Britain. Daniels only made 37 watches in his lifetime, but is considered the greatest horologist of the 20th century. His protégé, Roger Smith, leads a small team to produce about a dozen bespoke timepieces a year on the Isle of Man.

Rumor has it Bremont is getting close to an in-house, all-British movement in the next few years. Anglophile watch nerds await with bated breath. A much smaller start-up, the Great British Watch Company, was founded by British watchmaker Colin Andrews to further the idea of a British watchmaking renaissance. Christopher Ward makes their watches in Switzerland, but recently went on record to say they’re working their way back to England. The brand believes the nation can again become an intellectual leader in the industry. In fact, company founder and namesake, Chris Ward, will sit on a panel at the London Watch show this summer, discussing the revival of the British watchmaking industry.

Most British brands are designing and assembling (and will continue to design and assemble) watches in the U.K. from a mix of Continental and British parts. Schofield, Dent London, Meridian and Pinion are revivals or newcomers, each building watches with movements procured in Switzerland. For them, there simply isn’t the watchmaking infrastructure to support 100 percent UK-built watches. Yet.

Then there are brands that’ve taken on the persona of their namesakes, but have no real ties to either former brands or the persons whose names they’ve adopted — companies like Arnold & Son, Graham, and J&T Windmills. In fact, Arnold & Son and Graham are not British at all, being Swiss-based and now owned by Citizen.

So while there may be no return to the halcyon days of 250 years ago, the story of British watchmaking is no longer merely ancient history. There are an increasing number of brands, a quiver of British-based watch magazines and websites, and two annual timepiece expositions. The horological state of the Union Jack is solid. The sun may have set on the British watchmaking empire, but there’s a glimmer of daylight and it’s getting brighter.

THE BREMONT WELLINGTON – April Fool ?

A FITTING TRIBUTE TO BRITAIN’S GREATEST MILITARY VICTORY.

A WATCH THAT PLAYS ‘WATERLOO’.

Bremont_wellington_hero_600_400_95_s_c1

This year is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

We’re marking the occasion with a limited edition timepiece: the Bremont Wellington.

Like every Bremont, it’s a beautifully-engineered, hand-made mechanical chronometer.

But with one important difference.

Every evening, when the time reaches 18.15, the Bremont Wellington plays the familiar strains of ‘Waterloo’ from a tiny, built-in speaker.

A tasteful and sensitive tribute, we’re sure you’ll agree.

To find out more, please email our new Head of R&D Ralf.Opilo@bremont.com

I am convinced the give away is the tune -Waterloo 🙂