Author Archives: Alastair

About Alastair

A British watch enthusiast living in Royal Greenwich, England. Hence, the name of the blog, "grinidgetime" the local pronunciation.

Vertex – AcquaLion Diver

This watch took me a little by surprise, I like to think in pre-pandemic times I would have been a little more on the ball. Well, I was not, so surprise a diving watch from Vertex. On reflection this should not be a surprise as most watch fans would expect every self respecting watch brand to have a diver in their range, with the honorable exception of Fears of course. The difficulty is to produce a watch that can be identified/classified as a dive watch without it being a submariner homage.

M60 AcquaLion – no date

So Vertex offer us all the essentials:

  • 40mm stainless steel case
  • The usual selection of straps, steel, rubber & nylon
  • Sellita SW300-1 Chronometer automatic movement
  • Date or no-date option
  • Ceramic uni-directional bezel
  • 600m rating
  • Meeting ISO 6425 professional dive watch standard
  • Solid caseback

You will all probably now think of Vertex as a British watch company producing modern updates on the their historical military models. With this watch there is also a “back story” it is directly linked to the work of Claude Lyons who founded the firm back in 1916. A decade before establishing Vertex, Lyons borrowed £1,000 from his father-in-law to set-up another dial name called ‘Dreadnought’ which was symbolised by a mythical creature, half lion, half fish. All watches also carry a serial number on the case back and the movement that starts with ‘FN’ “Fear Nothing” being the natural translation of dreadnaught.

The M60 AquaLion – which is available with or without a date display (‘M60 D’ and ‘M60 ND’) – is also equipped with a uni-directional dive bezel made from matte-finished ceramic and featuring knurling based on the sight adjustment mechanism found on the Bren light machine gun introduced at the start of WWII. The Vertex-ness is added through the use of the moulded Super-LumiNova dial markings . In the case of the AquaLion, the Super-LumiNova used is of the latest ‘X1 Grade’ that glows considerably brighter and for up to 1.6 times longer than the standard material, offering unrivalled visibility in low light conditions both in and out of the water.

VERTEX M60 AQUALION – SPECIFICATIONS. Case: Stainless steel, diameter 40mm, thickness 14mm. Case back: Stainless steel, screw-down type with engraved AquaLion trademark. Crown: Screw down type. Bezel: Scratch-resistant matte ceramic with engraved dive scale filled with Super-LumiNova Grade X1. Dial: Matte black with moulded Super-LumiNova X1 Grade hour markers and Super-LumiNova X1 Grade coated hands. Water resistance: 60 Bar/600 Metres ISO Rating: 6425 (international dive watch standard) Movement: Sellita SW300-1 (with or without date). Hours, minutes; hack seconds. Power reserve: 42 hours. Straps/Bracelet: One stainless steel bracelet; one single-strand Zulu strap; one rubber dive strap.

Packaging: Multi-purpose Peli Case ‘Ruck’. Waterproof, buoyant. Price: £2,850 Including UK VAT £2,375 Excluding VAT

I think Don Cochrane has succeeded in presenting us a very clearly “Vertex” diver – well done

For more detail visit – https://vertex-watches.com/collections/m60

Schofield – Treasure

Schofield in my mind are watches that do not go unnoticed, they are large purposeful pieces that generally would not be considered “dress” watches.

The case design and height not making them ideal to slip under a shirt cuff. The case materials add to their almost industrial no nonsense appeal. So I was very surprised when these watches appeared on one of Giles Ellis’s “Six Pips” newletter. These are not the Schofields we are used to.

The Treasure Watch has a stepped black dial and brushed gold handset but two different cases, one fully polished steel, the other is thick gold-plated brass. Gold and silver treasure! The case back shows an X marks the spot, runic script, mountains, rivers and the sky above. Each watch is serialised with the name of a treasure hoard found in the UK. Number 1 is Sutton Hoo, number 2 the Ringlemere Cup and 27 others making a limited edition of 29 watches

Two metal variants, both highly polished, one in stainless steel and the second a heavy gold-plate over a brass body. Using brass for the gold-plated version visually protects the watch. Both cases have matching strap bars and buckles. The gold X on the case back is formed by bonding a gold-plated brass disc (gold coin) behind the wire-eroded aperture in the multi-stepped stainless steel part. One of our most elaborate designs yet. DIAL Schofield favours dials that have a clean layout, the Treasure Watch is no exception, it is open and uncluttered and designed for legibility, it features our slash-zero at 12 o’clock and a stepped dial first seen on the Signalman. We have also included a printed luminescent ring around the outer circumference similar to the original Schofield Blacklamp. Using Super-LumiNova C3 with a green emission. These black dials offer high night-time visibility. The handset features a play on the original Sign-of-Life hand found on some Beater models, here it is a counter poise only, indicating time is passing but without the need for to the second time-telling. Here Schofield use the same luminescent compound but with a blue emission making things a little more interesting. The hands are brushed gold and match the gold ring in the middle of the crown. Gold and silver treasure through-out. INSIDE The Treasure Watch is powered with a fully gold-plated Automatic ETA 2824, the movement holder is an overbuilt gold anodised aluminium ring.

Priced at £3480 for either the gold or silver version. These watches are certainly not for shy and retiring people.

For more details visit https://schofieldwatchcompany.com/product/gold-treasure-watch/

Bremont – New Movement

Last Wednesday week’s I was very disappointed, Bremont were having a major event at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, 850 metres away from my house and I didn’t get an invite. This was especially disapppointing because as well as the launch of Bremont’s latest limited edition watch, the Longtitude, it was the announcement of a new Bremont proprietary movement. Given all the fuss about “in-house, not in-house”, especially at Bremont this is potentially an important moment in the revival of the British watch industry.

The Longtitude

The Limited Edition Bremont Longitude, available in steel, white or rose gold, houses the brand’s first manufactured movement the new ENG300 movement.

Bremont has acquired the full rights to manufacture and
re-engineer the celebrated K1 calibre from the Swiss firm “THE+” and launches the ENG300 movement series. The machining base components and assembly will all be carried out in the new Bremont Manufacturing & Technology Centre “The Wing” based in Henley-on-Thames. Bremont has re-engineered 80% of the base calibre, including making a number of design improvements, in order to build a proprietary movement to their unique specification. After their contraversial claim in 2014, when they claimed total proprietorship over a movement that proved to have been created by La Joux-Perret this time Bremont have gone to great lengths to justify their defintition as “proprietary”. I have read that they have upgraded 80 percent of the movement in-house and that they are manufacturing 55 percent of the movement by weight in Henley (five parts in all – the base plate and four bridges). “By weight” seems an unusal measure, which you might gain further insight to by listening to the Scottish Watches podcast on the subjet. It will be very intersting to see how this is all taken by the watch world. The movement is rated to “Chronometer” standard, but not COSC certified, as this is reserved for Swiss made movements.

As you will see from the images above the Longditude does have the “dressy” look of previous special editions like the Victory or Wright Flyer. As with these earlier watches and also incorporates some material of “historical” interest, in this case original brass from the historic Flamsteed Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory Greenwich on the outer edge of the movement.

The other neat feature is the small power reserve indicator that mimics the Time Ball on the top of the Royal Observatory. The Time Ball was first used in 1833 and still operates today. Normally each day, at 12.55pm, the time ball rises half way up its mast. At 12.58pm it rises all the way to the top. At 1pm exactly, the ball falls.

You can find full details of the watches on Bremont’s website . The real story here though is the movement. I look forward to seeing how it develops. Let’s hope this really is the beginning of volume production of watch movements in Britain

Fear’s 175th Bash

Any readers who might have visited this blog before will be aware that I have known Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, the 4th Managing Director of Fears Watches for a few years. I was therefore very pleased to receive an invitation to the celebration of this important anniversary. Given the recent lack of any watch connected social life the invitation itself regardless of the location would have been accepted in double quick time, but this party was held on the top three floors of the Shard in London. Apparently the tallest building in Europe – wow.

An idea of the view

The event as well as a great excuse for a party was an opportunity for Nicholas to showcase his latest book of the company’s history and the limited edition commemorative watches.

The book I have already covered in a recent post has received a positive reaction from those that have seen it. I particularily enjoyed Nicholas’s exhaustive background explanation as a guest on a recent Scottish Watches podcast ( here’s a link)

You will notice commerative watches, plural. The commerative series is known as Archival and it comes in two variants, both of which based on a 1930’s model suitably scaled to a more modern size. Consistent with Nicholas’s attention to detail the size increase is 17.5%.

The inspiration

The two variants are the Archival 1930 and Archival 1930 Small Seconds. The series will be limited to 175 pieces, one for each year ot the history of Fears. Each watch will have the number of a year engraved on the case back.

Of the entire series 39 will be the small seconds version, these watches representing the years that the Fears company was dormant before being re-started by Nicholas.

The two models differ by the movements that power them, with the two-handed Archival 1930 (136 watches) using a new old stock manual winding movement dating from the 1960s. While the three-handed Archival 1930 Small Seconds uses a new old stock manual winding movement dating from the 1930s. Both are movements that Fears used in the past. Each movement, having never previously been used, has undergone a full re-build and recondition in the workshop while receiving an upgraded mainspring to enhance reliability. The small seconds version using a NOS Swiss made ZentRa 185/ETA 717, circa 1935, and in the two handed version you will find a ETA 2360, from circa 1968. Both movements are manual wound running at 18,000 vph.

As we have come to expect from Fears both of these watches are beautifully made. I was lucky enough to have the chance to see and try the in the metal a few days before the anniversay event.

The17.5% size increase nicely satisfies modern tastes, this is a watch that sites very snuggly on the wrist, this helped by the gentle curve of the caseback. This stikes me as being a watch that offers similar utility to the Brunswick, a watch that can be dressed up or down by using a different strap. I continue to suggest to Nicholas how good his watches can be “casualised” using prelon straps. You can just see this watch on wrists at the Hamptons over the summer.

The hint in much of the the Fears literature is that these watches are the first of the Archival series. I am sure many of us will be looking at the back catalogue and will have our own ideas of what should be next. Always be wary of suggesting a dive watch, how many times has Nicholsa been quoted as saying he cannot swim. Maybe if he had swimming lessons he might change his mind.

Here are the full technical specs:

Archival 1930 specification

CASE316L stainless steel, 40mm x 22mm rectangular-shaped with curved front and back (depth 8.54mm). Closed caseback. Made in Germany
LUG WIDTH20mm
MOVEMENTNew-Old-Stock, Swiss made ETA 2360, circa 1968, manual winding, 17 jewels, 18,000vph (2.5Hz) and 40 hr power reserve.  Reconditioned, serviced, and fitted with an upgraded main spring in the UK
GLASSSapphire Crystal to front with ARdur® Swiss anti-reflective coating on inside and outside. Crystals made in Hong Kong, Anti-reflective coating applied in Switzerland
DIALVintage Champagne with 18ct yellow gold coating. Polished and matte finishes. Glossy black printing. Made in Germany
HANDS‘Fears’ hands – Bevelled, diamond polished and Blued. Made in Germany
FUNCTIONSTime
WARRENTY2 Year guarantee from date of purchase
STRAPOxblood Red, British calf leather, lined in Alcantara®, handmade. Leather tanned in the UK, Strap made in Belgium
SERIAL NUMBERIndividually numbered, sequentially
LIMITED EDITIONEngraved with a unique year from 1846 – 1976 and 2016 – 2021
MODEL REFERENCEBS8-1930-0
RETAIL PRICE£3,500 inc. VAT (£2,916.67 ex. VAT)

Archival 1930 Small Seconds specification

CASE316L stainless steel, 40mm x 22mm rectangular-shaped with curved front and back (depth 9.28mm). Closed caseback. Made in Germany
LUG WIDTH20mm
MOVEMENTNew-Old-Stock, Swiss made ZentRa 185/ETA 717, circa 1935, manual winding, 15 jewels, 18,000vph (2.5Hz) and 38 hr power reserve. Reconditioned, serviced, and fitted with an upgraded main spring in the UK
GLASSSapphire Crystal to front with ARdur® Swiss anti-reflective coating on inside and outside.  Crystals made in Hong Kong, Anti-reflective coating applied in Switzerland
DIALVintage Champagne with 18ct yellow gold coating. Polished and matte finishes. Glossy black printing. Made in Germany
HANDS‘Fears’ hands – Bevelled, diamond polished and Blued. Made in Germany
FUNCTIONSTime with subsidiary seconds at 6 o’clock
WARRENTY2 Year guarantee from date of purchase
STRAPOxblood Red, British calf leather, lined in Alcantara®, handmade. Leather tanned in the UK, Strap made in Belgium
SERIAL NUMBERIndividually numbered, sequentially
LIMITED EDITIONEngraved with a unique year from 1977 – 2015
MODEL REFERENCEBS8-1930-0
RETAIL PRICE£3,950 inc. VAT (£3,291.67 ex. VAT)

Britain’s Work Benches

If you have not signed up to Giles Ellis of Schofield Watches ‘ amusing weekly newsletter you would have missed this interesting insight to the lives of some of the people behind Britain’s exciting watch sector. Giles posted images of their desks. If you do not want to miss further insights into the world of Schofield you can sign up on the Scofield website.

Giles Ellis – Schofield
Nicholas Bowman-Scargill – Fears
Piers Berry – Pinion
Alex Brown – Elliot Brown

I hope this has not taken away any of the mystery

Fears Book

I started my journey into the world of British watch brands by asking myself questions about the importance of heritage. This question coming from the appearance of Bremont on the market. I think most watch enthusiasts would agree that alongside prestige, heritage or at least a story is an important element of consideration in the choice of a watch.

On person that has understood this very well is Nicholas Bowman-Scargill the (4th) Managing Director of Fears Watches. Until the companies re-launch at Salon QP in 2016, Fears was not a brand most enthusiasts would, as marketing people would say, name spontaneously. Within the space of very few years Nicholas has very skillfully has managed to remind the watch comunity of his brands heritage, which I have not heard anyone question. As well as making the most of this history Nicholas has very successfully and tastefully taken design elements from the company’s history.

Last week saw the announcement by Bristol Books publishes a 176-page book today about the 175-year history of the Fears Watch Company. Titled, “Elegantly Understated: 175 years of the Fears Watch Company” the book takes a detailed look at one of Britain’s oldest watch companies from its founding in 1846, through to its closure in the late 1970s and its re-birth in 2016. Researched and written by Bristol-based author Jane Duffus, the book traces Fears’ extensive history across four chapters, each covering the era of one of the Fear family’s managing directors. The book’s foreword has been written by Roger Smith OBE, renowned watchmaker and Chairman of the Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers.

Printed and hardback bound in the United Kingdom, “Elegantly Understated” includes numerous photographs and illustrations from the Fears archive. Both watches and artefacts are reproduced in full colour along with maps of the former locations and the logos used by the company in each era. “Elegantly Understated” has been published in the year in which Fears celebrates the 175th anniversary of Edwin Fear founding his workshop on Redcliff Street, Bristol in 1846.

The author’s research over two years unearthed many new facts about the company, which had been thought lost when it closed its doors in the late 1970s. Her numerous interviews included members of the Fear family as well as one of the final watchmakers to work for the company in its first incarnation. This research has resulted in a detailed history not only of one of the oldest watch companies in Britain, but also of a family business that persevered through numerous world catastrophes such as two world wars and the great depression.

Commenting on “Elegantly Understated” being published, Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, (4th) Managing Director of Fears Watch Company, says “I am delighted that the history of the company which I’m honoured to run today, has been published in time for such a significant milestone year in Fears’ history. Jane’s enthusiasm for creating this book meant her research left no stone unturned and resulted in her discovering new information that I’d previously not been aware of. To have this all in one place, in a beautifully bound book, filled with interesting anecdotes and numerous pictures is a huge joy for me. I hope that people enjoy reading and learning about Fears’ extensive history as much as I have.”

Commenting on writing “Elegantly Understated”, Jane Duffus, author, says “Tracing the Fear family’s history through time has been such a rewarding experience. This is a story that is about more than watches, because the Fears story also covers two world wars, a financial depression and even a global pandemic. This story about a heritage watch brand has also become a reflection of British society through the past 175 years, and I feel very proud to have been involved with this project. I hope others will enjoy the book just as much as I enjoyed working on it.”

In writing the foreword for “Elegantly Understated”, Roger Smith OBE commented “The 175th anniversary of Fears arrives at a pivotal time for British watchmaking. When we founded the Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers to guide the resurgence of our sector, we immediately recognised the importance of Fears as one of our true heritage makers with a fascinating and genuine continuation of one of Britain’s oldest watchmaking families. It was therefore a privilege to contribute a foreword for this important book and I wish Nicholas and the Fears family my very best for another 175 years – and volume 2!”

This initiative underlines to me what an excellent PR job Nicholas is doing for his re-born company. This following his very innovative offer of the loan of a Fears watch to those needing to make the right impression for a job interview. Should Nicholas ever decide watches are no longer for him he would have a great future in PR. We all hope he continue with his current calling – watches

Beautiful Schofield

I have not posted for some time, there are a couple of reasons for this but it mainly because the pleasure of meeting the watch community in person is severely restricted. An e-mail from Giles Ellis of Schofield has jolted me into action, thank you Giles. We have to pick ourselves up after this epidemic and make the best of it.

I have always had a soft spot for the Schofield Bronze Beater, it always reminds me of my early visits to Salon QP. These distinctive British watches offering something very different to the Swiss mainstream. Then made from bronze which do my mind is the horological equivalent of selvedge denim.

This the latest “Japanese” edition is limited to 29 pieces is built is inspired by Giles Ellis’ love of that country, its people and their traditions.

The dial is the colour of Indigo dyed Boro, a unique patched and repaired workwear cloth. The British made case is heavily patinated bronze.The case back depicts Daruma-San a traditional Japanese doll. The
character on his chest means good luck and these dolls are often given as gifts prior to a challenge or task. The case back engraving
also shows a Tokyo drain cover design of ginkgo and cherry blossom.

The watch strap is Mudcloth, a tough canvas fixed with plant seeds and mud for six months to achieve this rich colour.

You will notice from the techenical specification below this Beater features an STP movement. To be completely honest I only looked at the specifications to see if thi “Japanese” edition also used a Japanese movement. I questioned Giles about this choice and he told me that all the Schofield Beaters are now transitioning to STP 1-11 movements from the ETA 2724.

So as we have come to expect from Schofield a beautifully presented watch with loads details to talk about. I look forward to being able to do that in person, hopefully soon. Stay safe everyone.

Technical

Movement STP 1-11, self-winding mechanical. Hours, minutes and hacking sweep seconds
Power reserve 44 hours
Diameter 25.6mm
Height 4.6mm with rotor
Jewels 26
Power reserve 44 hours
Frequency 28,800 VPH 4Hz
Case Bronze Patinated
Diameter 44mm
Crystal diameter 35.5mm
Height not including lugs 14.8mm
Width between lugs 24mm
Weight with strap and buckle 128 grams
Crystal Sapphire, AR coating
Case Back Heavily engraved Japanese design
Crown Double o-ring push in type with gold nail groove
Dials Split-level, painted, lacquered
Date None
Luminescence Super-LumiNova C3 green emission
Hands Brushed gold, Super-LumiNova C3 blue emission
Strap 24mm tapering to 22mm – Japanese Mudcloth pale face
Buckle Brushed steel
Box Ash and cedar
Serial Limited to 29 watches worldwide
Water resistance 200m
Warranty 2 years


Price is £3280 including VAT (UK / free shipping) or £2733 excluding VAT (US, Canada, Europe ROW + shipping)


Fears – Bling

As my regular readers will know Fears is one of my favourite British watch brands, they have been an important part of my Grinidgetime journey. I have closely followed their progress starting from my first chat with Nicholas Bowman-Scargill over a couple of beers in 2016, when he proudly showed me the quartz powered Redcliff range. I could not imagine then that only five years later Fears would launch a hand made platinum watch ; a tremendous effort for a small self financing company.

Unfortunately, due to the current restrictions on our social and business lives I was not able to meet Nicholas for a secret preview so we organised a Zoom call. From Nicholas’s description this is a watch I really want to see in the metal and hold in my hands. This is the video he used to show me the watch.

We are now used to the Fears attention to detail, detail and more detail, watches all superbly finished. It looks as though this watch takes this obsession to another level. Each platinum case takes over one hundred hours to shape and polish by the goldsmith Justin Richardson in Canterbury . After the use of platimum there is more “bling” the use of diamonds on the dial and the crown. Personally, before seeing this watch I could not image even considering a watch with diamonds but I must admitt their use on this Brunswick is very indescrete and of course very elegantly done. As these watches are by no means mass produced, there maybe five a year, they can also be made without the diamonds.

The dial is Anthracite Grey, made using a coating of real Anthracite. Each dial is hand finished, involving over 58 processes, and features a contemporary layout with alternating platinum plated Arabic numerals and diamonds. The discreet diamond markers complement the D-colour, flawless diamond set into the Platinum winding crown.

Then the next surprise, the strap. We are by now used to Fears watches offering straps made from traditional materials, even if wool has not tradationally been used on straps. The Brunswick comes with a hand sewn strap, made using Kevlar with contrasting platinum coloured stitching and Fears Blue Alcantara lining. The strap is joined by a platinum pin buckle, whose shape mirrors the silhouette and cross section of the watch’s case.

Turning the watch over we discover the next surprise, a solid caseback in hallmarked platinum. True to form even the hallmark is special.

Continuing a Fears tradition since 1846, the company’s hallmark is the initials of the Managing Director at the time, and so the case and buckle have been marked by the London Assay Office with the initials of Fears’ current Managing Director: “NBS”.

Purely by coincidence whilst writing this post I came another episode of the Scottish Watches podcast in which Nicholas talks about this watch. Listen here http://www.scottishwatches.co.uk/2021/03/26/scottish-watches-podcast-242-chatting-with-nicholas-from-fears-about-the-new-brunswick-pt-platinum-watch/

At this point you need to find £28,200 and visit the Fears website : https://www.fearswatches.com/products/brunswick-pt

Another – “How I started a watch company”

Since I started writing this blog it seems to me that there are more and more watch companies starting up, and this trend isn’t limited to the UK.

Bearing this in mind I assume there are also people out there thinking “I’d like to start a watch company – how do you do it ? “. Well with this post I don’t aim to answer this question, just to point you in the direction of another great interview on the Scottish Watches podcast, this time with Paul Sweetenham of the British brand Farer Watches.

http://www.scottishwatches.co.uk/2021/03/22/scottish-watches-podcast-241-chatting-with-paul-from-farer-universal-about-everything-watches/