Dennison: a new British brand launched at SalonQP

Salon QP article

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We’re proud to be able to say that SalonQP has a long and successful history of launching brands – Schofield, Pinion, Meerson, and Emmanual Bouchet to name but a few. This year was no different, with Czapek & Cie perhaps the most high-profile brand to make its debut.

But there was also Dennison. It may not be a name that springs readily to mind, even for really battle-hardened watch enthusiasts, although it does have some interesting connections. Set up in 1871 by the founder of Waltham Watch Company (who had recently moved to England, settling in Birmingham), Dennison made a name for itself as a casemaker. In 1914 it produced water-resistant pocket watches for Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition, and the following year it began supplying the British military.

Working for Rolex, Omega and Longines, Dennison spent the 1920s and 30s growing its output to 250,000 cases per year. It worked with Rolex on pre-Oyster cases, and in the 1940s cased Omega’s earliest automatics. Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC and Zenith were also clients. In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary wore a Dennison-cased Smiths watch to the summit of Mount Everest.

Production came to a halt in 1965, however, and the Dennison name fell dormant until 2010, when Toby Sutton of Watches of Knightsbridge registered the trademark and began working on a revival. This year at SalonQP, we saw the result of his efforts: two new Dennison watches, presented for the very first time.

Inspired by the expedition pieces of the 1950s, the Revival watches (as they are being called), have their cases produced in the UK using some machinery from the original Dennison factory. Inside are ETA-2824 calibres – solid, no-fuss, dependable movements that suit the watches very well.

The dials are where the most effort seems to have been expended; we have black and white versions with a very on-trend vintage-style “honeycomb” lattice dial pattern, and oversized triangular hour markers and faceted dagger hands that put one in mind of a Tudor Oyster Prince or an Omega Ranchero. There are 6-9-12 Arabic applied numerals, a date at 3 o’clock and luminova on the hands.

The case is 38mm wide (again, bang on trend as well as relatively faithful to the scale of the 1950s originals – they were 32mm but Sutton rightly admits that that’s just not a workable size for a men’s watch in 2015) with a screw-down crown. The watches also use plexiglass for that retro feel, and are offered on some rather nice leather straps.

The watches will retail at £2400.

Salon QP

I visited the exhibition on Saturday which is probably the busiest day but it is not always so easy to find time. Despite the number of people you could get round and see what you wanted to see.

Unfortunately, some things/people I would have liked to see were not present this year, the most notable being Pinion and Robert Loomes which was a shame. As you can imagine events like this are not really the place to have a conversation especially on the busiest day. From my “day-job” I have learnt that the best strategy is to make a face to face introduction which can then be followed up on later. To this end I think I had a pretty successful afternoon, I did get to speak to Roger Smith (objective N0. 1), Richard Hoptroff and very briefly Alexandre Meerson.

As you can imagine the Roger Smith, stand was pretty well attended. You will remember from my previous post that Roger was showing his series of four watches for the first time, but “shock-horror” the watches were show watches not the actual working models.

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I also managed to have slightly longer chats with the man I spoke to last year on the Schofield stand and try on their latest watch, the Signalman Silver Top (above)  which as you can see is a pretty hefty piece. One feature I had not previously appreciated on this watch is the GMT sub-dial which could be pretty useful for international travelers.

Then I made an un-expected find, Dennison a revived British brand that is due for re-launch in February. Dennison famously made the cases for Sir Edmund Hilary’s Smiths Everest watch. THe revived brand will rely on Swiss movements – watch this space for more news.

Roger Smith – Salon QP

So far the biggest news emerging from London’s Salon QP show is the full range of Roger Smith watches. This is the Series 4 below.

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I wanted to put something on the blog about this as soon as possible. The quickest way was to attach this link to the excellent Hodinkee article.

Hodinkee article

I hope to give my own view after I visit the show this Saturday.

Hop stuff: meet the maker of the atomic watch – Daily Telegraph

He’s the creator of the world’s first atomic-powered timepiece, as well as devices that marry smart technology with traditional aesthetics. The Daily Telegraph meet Richard Hoptroff

Read the article here or below

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The familiar environs of the fine watch world – the rarefied factories of Geneva or the glossy stores of Bond Street – are a world apart from an unassuming street in south London’s Elephant & Castle. The tiny workspace that makes up British timepiece specialist Hoptroff’s HQ is like the horological equivalent of the Old Curiosity Shop, only with a dash of luxury fairy dust sprinkled throughout. For it’s here that physicist, archaeologist and amateur pilot Richard Hoptroff is pushing the boundaries of watchmaking through a series of pioneering innovations that have changed the watch world.

We like challenges here,” he says, by way of understatement, referring to the project that will launch at fine watch fair SalonQP next month; the Hotblack True Tide. This timepiece will be able to tell the tide times at over 3,000 ports across the world, syncing up with a smartphone containing information relayed via Bluetooth into a chip in the watch, with the traditional dial on the face swinging to the relevant numbers. But what sets Hoptroff’s technical wizardry apart from the smart phone generation is that this complex technology comes in the form of handsome, classically designed watches that look mechanical rather than digital.

“The watches are ‘smart’ but they are traditional looking, beautiful pieces. Primarily a watch is a thing of beauty not utility. We don’t even need watches to tell the time these days so you wear it to look good and feel good. The ‘smart’ element is displayed in a more considered way than just a screen,” Hoptroff says.

It’s this thread of innovation that led Hoptroff, who started working in forecasting software, to create the Atomic, which lays claim to being the most accurate timekeeping device of its size, not to mention being the world’s first atomic-powered watch. It was developed in 2013 using chips taken from US military cruise missiles (and no, he can’t divulge what’s in them – it’s top secret) and runs at an accuracy of 1 second to every 1,000 years. In layman’s terms, it’s more accurate than Big Ben.

Currently working on refining the size of the timepiece to make it viable for the wrist, Hoptroff has also recently created the No.9, a watch that tells the share prices on a dial on the face, synced up once again to an app, and the No.15, a watch with an embedded compass that indicates the direction to Mecca and relays the exact times of prayer.

In his inventor’s studio, overflowing with devices such as a Crookes radiometer, circuit boards, balance springs, cogs, studs and escape wheels, Hoptroff’s mission statement has always been to test the technological status quo. “We’ve refined our processes by trial and error. It’s not rocket science,” he says, although it sounds like it, “but you realise that by adding just a little bit of smart technology in an intelligent way, you can do amazing things. We employ technology but we do so in a personal way, so for your prayer times, or the device on the watch I’m wearing that tells me when anniversaries, birthdays and important dates are on a dial”. All this innovation in a package that’s infinitely more beautiful than a standard smart timepiece makes Hoptroff one to watch.