All posts by Alastair

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

Roger Smith Lecture

Last November I was fortunate enugh to attend the 2019 George Daniels lecture, given by Roger Smith at London’s City University. A lecture featuring these two names is clearly a must for anyone with an interest in British watchmaking.

You might think I have been a little slow in posting this entry, which I probably am. The reason was I was looking for suitable material to post. I did not think anyone would be intested in reading my memories of what Roger presented. After intermittent searches I have come across this video, of the whole lecture. All you miss was the glass of wine afterwards.

The key point coming out of this lecture is that in Roger’s opinion reliability and hence longer term accuracy is better acheived using lower frequency movements as this minimises wear. His presentation makes this conclusion seem very logical, but does seem to be at odds with the companies marketing high frequency movements as being the way forward.

From my position of minimal technical knowledge Roger’s position does appear to to make sense. My only real doubt about what he had to say was about his apparant dis-interest in using modern materials to reduce friction and hence wear in watch movements. I am sure he has good reasons for his views which are beyond me.

Having attended one of these lectures I really hope there are more in the future I can get to. They do really help casual enthusiast like myself understand what is going on “under the hood”.

Fears partners with Great Britain campaign

Fears Watches are to partner with the UK Government’s GREAT Britain campaign, which highlights the best the country has to offer the world. It’s an honour for Fears to have its 174-year heritage and British credentials recognised during the company’s fourth year of trading since its re-launch in 2016.

The announcement comes as Fears concludes production of its final Quartz powered watch at the end of February 2020. Since the launch of the mechanical Brunswick in 2017, Fears has been slowly moving towards an all mechanical watch line up. Once the remaining stock of quartz watches are sold all Fears watches will be powered by mechanical movements and, like the Brunswick, will be hand built in the UK. Fears builds its watches in the East Anglian city of Norwich using bespoke components made in Germany (cases & dials), Switzerland (movements & winding crowns), UK (hands and strap leather), Hong Kong (sapphire crystals) and Belgium (strap

Commenting on the announcement of Fears partnering with the GREAT Britain campaign and concluding Quartz production, Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, (4th) Managing Director of the Fears Watch Company says, “It’s an honour to have Fears’ extensive heritage recognised by the UK Government’s GREAT Britain campaign. The GREAT Britain campaign does outstanding work in highlighting and promoting British manufacturing and highlighting the many things that make Britain great today. Fears has a unique history in the British watch industry. Having traded for over 130 years from the middle of the 19th Century until 1976, Fears used to export to 95 countries around the world, something I hope we will achieve again. This recognition comes at a time when we’ve ended production of the Quartz watches that re-launched Fears in 2016 and now focus solely on hand building mechanical watches here the UK. The first three years of trading since the relaunch have been beyond all expectations with a lot planned for the coming year.”

Commenting on Fears becoming a partner of GREAT, Jack Karet, Chief Partnerships Officer of the GREAT Britain campaign says, “The GREAT Britain campaign shines a light on the very best of what our whole nation has to offer to inspire the world to visit, do business, invest and study in the UK. Partnership is at the heart of this, and we are proud to celebrate our iconic heritage brands, such a Fears, across the globe.”

Isotope Goutte d’Eau – Review

I cannot remember when I first started seeing images for the Isotope Goutte d’Eau on Instagram; I do remember despite the great design and superb images dismissing them as being a French kickstarter brand therefore not on my radar.

My impressiion dd turn out to be slightly correct the brand was originally on Kickstarter, however the only link to France was the name of this particular model.The brand is actually the creation of Jose Miranda a Portuguese based in the UK. Having established the brand should definately be on my radar I arranged to meet Jose for a couple of beers. As with so many people in the British watch industry Jose is a super enthusiast, one of those people you can chat to really easily about watches and in particular his watches, they are after all his labour of love.

During our chat Jose let me handle some early examples of the Guotte d’Eau and I was impressed straight away, especially with the remarkably confortable metal bracelet. I left the evening with a promise of the opportunity to review the watches when more example became avalable.

With the New Year a package arrives, not one watch to review but two, both versions of the Goutte d’Eau,the Orange and the Nordblad. The Nordblad with the Sellita movement and solid caseback, the Orange with the Seiko movement and display back. Both watches were on steel bracelets but with them came an alternative rubber strap. The first impression when picking up the watches on their bracelets is weight, these would be useful to divers joked my colleague in the office. I put the watches away until I had a moment to to fit the straps properly. As the cases of both watches are identical I decided to mount the Orange on the rubber strap to enable a comparison.

Once I had managed to size the steel bracelet on the Nordblad and mount the rubber on the Orange I decided the Nordblad should be my “workday” wear leaving the rubber dive strap for the weekends.

As the Nordblad got the most wrist time I will cover this version first. This ia a special edition designed to endure the hardest Finnish winter and to dive under the ice with the Ice Freediving World Champion, Johanna Nordblad. I have put the video of her exploits above.

Technical Specifications

  • Brushed case, 316L stainless steel
  • Case diameter 40mm X 44mm (with lugs)
  • Height 13.3mm
  • Stainless steel screw-down case back (Nordblad)
  • Security inner bezel
  • Anti-reflective crystal sapphire
  • One crown with 4 gaskets at 2 o’clock for the inner bezel and one screw-down crown at 4 o’clock to adjust the time
  • Date window at 4 o’clock
  • Hands, bezel and sandwich dial with Super-LumiNova® BGW9
  • 22 mm brushed Isotope Tread Bracelet and extension clasp in 316L stainless steel
  • Water-resistance 200m / 20 atm / 656 ft
  • Automatic, self-winding Swiss caliber Sellita SW200-1
  • Power reserve 38 hours
  • Accuracy -12/+12 s/day

So, as I mentioned earlier the first impression of this watch is weight. This weight disappears when the watch is on the wrist the sensation for my fairly normal 7 1/2 inch wrist was one of comfort. Not only is the bracelet very comfortable the case design allows the watch to sit very well. This is probably due to the short lugs. For their part the short lugs do result in a snug fit should you want to change straps. Another contributing factor is the twin crown case design, with the upper crown operating the inner rotating bezel, there is no central crown that can dig into your wrist. This bezel is a neat design feature seen on several iconic watches such as the Longines Legend Diver, I personally find the traditional rotating bezel more convenient for timing baked potatoes, but this design does look really nice.

It is dfficult to decide which is the feature that makes these watches so interesting. The watch head it self has its distinctive shape then there is the sandwich dial and the subtle cut out tear drop.Then finally in the case of the Nordblad the blue details, the second hand and countdown indices 0 to 15. Lots going on but in no way overdone.

Then you turn the watch over to find the engraved solid caseback, with the tribute to Johanna Nordblad . Which is as you can see I had a little difficulty photographing.

The Nordblad I had on review was the Sellita powered date edition. It is also available as a “no date” or with the Seiko movement, both date and none. The “Swiss” version on the website for £469, the “Japanese” for an even more reasonable £349.

Now I would like to turn to the”Orange”which as I have already mentoned I straight away on the extra rubber strap. On this strap you instantly notice a difference in weight, which intrigued me so much I had to compare both watches on over kitchen scales. The result of this “scientific” check was 90 grammes on the rubber strap and with the steel almost double that at 175 grammes. Clearly the steel bracelet makes a significant contribution..

The key difference between these two watches is the movement. Both using relaible “work horses”, in the case of this example of the “Orange” it was fitted with the Seiko NH-35A. I expected the automatic rotor in this movement to be noisier than the Sellita but on the wrist you hardly hear it. This then brings me to the display back, Personally I prefer solid case backs especially when the movement being showcased is,sticking to equine terms, a “work horse” rather than a “show pony”.

Then finally there is the most obvious difference, the colour used on the dial and second hand. In this case orange.

Seiko Movement

Automatic, self-winding Japanese caliber Seiko NH35a

Power reserve 41 hours

Accuracy -20/+40 s/day

Of course I need to make a special mention of the distinctive steel bracelet. When I first tried the watch over a beer i was immediately strick by how comfortable it was. As you would expect on a diver’s watch this bracelet is fitted with a useful extension clasp. A non-extending clasp might make the bracelet a little less hefty and let the clasp lie a little flusher.

So conclusions- very impressive.Distinctive and well made, at a very reasonable price. My personal choice of varient would be no date, solid caseback with Sellita movement. Maybe on the NATO strap which unfortunately only tried in the pub.

Watch It Show – A Scottish View

I saw the “Watch It” show announced on Instagram, but due to me being based in London and the show falling at a particularily busy time for me family wise I was unable to attend.

So the first “Watch It” show, a spin off of the Watchitallabout watch blog, was held on November 9th in Rugby. The idea to being to offer an event for watch enthusiasts in the Midlands. And by all accounts was a great success. I am therefore pleased to have found a report of the event by the very amusing gentlemen from the Scottish Watch blog.

During this edition of the podcast there are some interesting short interviews/chats with a few of our favourite British brands (Pinion and Zero West) as well as several more I was less familiar with. Definitely worth a listen.

Ronnie Wood

Photo : Henley Times

You might have noticed I am often a little sceptical about the various Bremont limited/special editions, they do get released pretty frequently. Considering this I am quiet taken by this limited series of 47 watches with dials hand painted by the legendary Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood.

Obviously these watches are not very cheap, they are priced at £38,950 each. But to justify the effort of the afore mentioned rock god Bremont have also created watches with suitably high end components and materials.

The 42mm three piece Trip-Tik cases are made of 18 carat white gold.These house a special Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier movement is a modified calibre 11 1⁄2’’’ based on the DTE3022-31 with moon phase and fitted with a decorated rotor featuring Ronnie Wood’s signature. Each has 28 jewels, Glucydur balance and Anachron balance spring, with Nivaflex 1 mainspring and a rated frequency of 28,800 A/h with 46-hour minimum power reserve.

So ,if you are a Stones fan with a £38k burning a hole in your pocket take a look at the Bremont website. My personal favourite is the “Rock On Time” in the picture above.

Woollen Straps

For sometime Schofield watches have offered a variety of custom straps to make their watches even more individual. As well as the more conventional leather straps they offer several woollen straps.

Some Woollen options from Schofield

When these first appeared I mentally put them in the “Schofield eccentricity” box, that charactises the brand. I could not image anyone else following their lead.

Then last month, low and behold the slightly less eccentric more classic British brand Fears announce a range of their own woollen straps in collaboration with Romney Marsh Wools. As you can see from the opening picture of this post they look very distinctive rather than eccentric.

More information is available at the Fears website.

These straps fit the 20mm lugs of Fears watches but there is nothing to stop you fitting to other watches, will this be the trend of the winter ?

Marloe Dive Watch

I am strangely fascinated by the young British watch brand Marloe. When they launched their first watch, the Cherwell, on Kickstarter in January 2016, I was a little sceptical. The Cherwell was another Kickstarter project with a Chinese movement. There was something in the design that did not win me over completely, so I did not expect the brand to have come on as much as they have.

The new watch, the Morar joins the range of four other watches with a variety of case designs and movements.

The watch has a 316L steel case, a unidirectional 120 click bezel and a 310m deep rating. There are three case finishes to choose from, plain steel, bronze or titanium plated. Each version is driven by a reliable Miyota 9039 automatic movement.

As you can see the refreshing aspect of these dive watches is the do not follow the generic “desk diver” aesthetic. Which will please some and dissuade other.

The watches are on sale for £449 and more information can be found at the Marloe website .I have not bought one of their watches, but I must declare a financial interest. I am now a very minor shareholder of the Marloe Watch Company so I wish them every success with this latest addition to the range.

Surprise – Bremont Special Edition

The British watch world’s big event this week was the announcement of the latest Bremont limited edition the H-4 Hercules. Limited to just 300 stainless steel, 75 rose gold and 75 platinum pieces. Unfortunately my invitation to the launch event didn’t get to me, however Bremont’s excellent video below tells the story.

The Story

All the watches use the 25 jewel Bremont BWC/02 movement based on the original proprietary automatic BWC/01 calibre built in partnership with movement house, La Joux Perret, and is housed in a 43mm case. Prices range from £9495 for the steel version to £24995 for platinum.

Bamford Popeye

The Mayfair watch customisers Bamford of have just announced an interesting addition to their range, this limited edition Popeye version of their GMT watch.

This watch has all the features of the original Bamford London GMT with an automatic Sellita SW330-1 movement and 24-hour GMT hand function. The design provides a splash of cartoon colour on the dial, contrasted against a 316L grade 40mm stainless steel case. The asking price £1500.

I would be interested to have a chat with Bamford, I assumed that their watches were just an amusing sideline to the main business. They now offer a range of watches based on their quartz Mayfair and mechanical GMT. Are they building a watch brand ?