Category Archives: British watch

Hampshire Watches

As someone born and brought up in Hampshire this is a phase I could not have ever imagined writing, but there are now at least two Hampshire based watch companies, Hamtun, from Southampton and Zero West actually from my birthplace, Emsworth.

The first of theses two companies to come to my notice was Hamtun a brand that started as a kickstarter project in 2015. I was honestly curious about the brand name which immediatly made me suspect a connection to the city of Southampton, 20 miles from the village I grew up in. For us Southampton was always the other city in Hampshire, but I still felt a connection. On investigating the brand I went on to discover that Hamtun was the name of the original settlement that grew into Southampton.

Hamtun was founded by two friends lead by co-founder and designer Ross Davis, the aim was to create the watches that they wanted to own but, as family men with normal jobs, could not afford. By cutting out all of the extra layers of bureaucracy and by working to sensible margins, they set out to make high quality watches.

Their first watch was the H1, a fairly classic looking dive watch in titanium. The 41 mm case houses the tried and trusted Seiko NH35a automatic movement.The H1 sold out very quickly. I still have not managed to get hold of one to review despite several attempts at trying to meet Ross at Waterloo station.

The H1 is no longer available, it has evolved into the Kraken H2. It has been joined by the Nanok which is Hamtun’s answer to a famous Swiss brand’s Day-Date at a significantly lower price point.

Then having established themselves Hamtun have recently launched a “value” brand Phantom, offering a regular diver style watch with a Seiko NH35a movement for a remarkable £262.80. ( an amusingly precise price point). For more news I recommend visiting the Hamtun website.

This brings me on to the revelation that after finding a watch company from my birth county one turns up in the town of my birth, the small coastal town of Emsworth founded by two friends in 2016.

Zero West work out of their converted boathouse, over looking the mill pond.The site itself providing inspiration for their watches. The boathouse was formerly owned by George Gray, a panelling expert from London who worked on Malcolm Campbell legendary Bluebird land-speed vehicles and the record breaking Railton Mobil Special, as well as creating the bodywork for the first Vanwall racing cars back in the 1950s. George’s talents also won him a contract to build Spitfire fuselages after the bombing of the factory in Southampton during World War Two, which he did at one of the many shadow factories set up along the south coast.

As well as the Longtitude model I reviewed (4/11/2018) The company currently offers a range of what can only be described as “Boy’s Own” watches principly drawing inspiration from 20th century British automotive and aviation history.

The majority of the watches are based on the unique Zero West 44mm case design housing either an ETA 2824 or Valjoux 7750 automatic movement.

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S2 Spitfire

Above is an example of the aircraft themed watches the Spitfire S2. This watch uses metal recovered from an actual Spitfire pulled out of Poole Harbour.

CR-1 Cafe Racer

The automotive styled models include two chronographs, the more traditionally styled CR-1 above and the “bulls head” style Landspeed, below. Both watches using Valjoux 7750 automatic movements.

Land Speed

Zero West’s watches range from £2200 to £3300 for the chronographs. Details of all the watches can be found at the Zerowest website.

These are the only two current Hampshire watch brands I have come across, I would love to discover more. In the meantime, despite being at different price points, as well as being from the same county these two companies are run by incredibly enthusiastic owners. Best of luck to both.

I am now starting to think of other British counties that are home to multiple watch brands. The first that springs to mind is Oxfordshire with Bremont and Pinion. I will get digging.

Pinion Elapse – Chronograph

It has been a little will since I have been able to feature news from the brand that really introduced me to the enthusiasm of British watchmaking, Pinion.

The latest chronograph, the Elapse, cleary draws on Pinion DNA; when I examined the images I find many familiar design elements that feature on my two Pinions. Most obviously, the 42mm steel case looks identical to my bronze Axis Pure, I must get around to comparing the dimensions. Then despite not being a chronograph the dial, with its sloping inner bezel, if that is the correct description, strongly resemble the Atom.

Although when you look more closely, you will see many of the details are not the same. The font used for the numbers whilst superficially similar has become squarer and the sword shapped hands appear slightly thicker than those of the Atom.

As you can see from the photo above the watch is available with one of three eletroplated dials in white, black or salmon all with a subtle brushed finish. Piers Berry the founder of Pinion has stated that he has tried to give the often cluttered chronograph dial clarity by simplifying the design.

I do not have any photos of the caseback but from the website you will see it is a glass exhibition back diplaying the anthracite Pinion decorated rotor of the automatic Valjoux 7750 movement.

These watches are currently availble from the Pinion website ( https://www.pinionwatches.com/collection/elapse/ ) for £2050, which looks pretty good value for a distinctive chronograph with a useful 100 metre water resistance rating. I am looking forward to seeing an example in the metal once all the current restriction are reduced.

Royal Marines Watches

I have always had a respect for the Royal Marines, principally due to my youthful failure to pass the selection test to become an officer. It would appear that respect for this elite corps is widely held and so is incredibly marketable if a brand/product has an association. Given this affection I tend to notice when a Marine related watch pops up. Recently I have realised this is not a rare event. The Royal Marines would appear to have sanctioned more watches than any other arm of the military, certainly from the UK.

So, I thought it might be interesting to see how many I could find, this is the result of my “research”.

Christoper Ward C60 Lympstone

The most recent offering is the Christopher Ward Lympstone, named after the location of the Commando Training Centre in Dorset, and site of my personal lack of metal. This watch features a  42mm brushed steel case coated in suitably military gun metal PVD. Power is provided by a Sellita SW200 COSC movement and is usefully water resistant to 600m. The RM connection demonstrated subtly with the corps crest laser-engraved on the screw down caseback. The price online is currently £875 before any of the Christopher Ward seasonal offers, which already looks very good value for the specification.

As you would expect Bremont have not missed the opportunity to associate themselves with the corps, they have to date produce two watches for serving or ex-Marines. The first being the limited edition, 350 pieces,  S500/RMC based on the standard customer S500 with corps colours an the dial and a case back engraved with the corps crest.

Bremont S500 Royal Marines

The more recent second series of watches, based on the new HMAF line and feature the Royal Marine colours at 6 o’clock, a subdued “ROYAL MARINES” at 12 o’clock and the corps’ crest engraved on a closed caseback. This watch is available to be bought by past and presently serving Royal Marines who may select from the Argonaut, Arrow or Broadsword models. Only 150 of each version will be produced.

Breitling have produced special limited edition for various military organisations over the years so naturally they also produced a couple of specials for the RM/SBS  (the special forces element of the Marines) and  in 2015 a limited edition Avenger Seawolf model to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the corps.

Breitling Royal Marines 350 years
Breitling SBS Frogman
Breitling SBS

At this point we have covered the offer of mechanical watches from the luxury sector. However, collectors who prefer quartz movements or prefer to invest less need not despair, there are some potentially more economical battery powered options available.

The best place to start is the CWC SBS diver’s which is actually issued to members of the SBS. Capable of submersing to 300 metres / 1000ft and made for the toughest conditions. This watch which has been issued now for 30 years. The original MOD specification dates back to 1987 signed by the Officer Commanding Royal Marines for CWC.

CWC SBS Diver (photo ; Pinterest)

Then also from CWC there is the G10 which was issued with the 0555 ( Royal Marine stock number) for one year only in 1995. So you can look for actual issued watches on the second hand market or buy an identical ( minus the stock number) G10 new from CWC for £219.

We then move on to the Royal Marines recent collaboration with Citizen, which has given two watches, firstly the  Citizen Royal Marines Commando Super Tough GMT watch is made from ion plated titanium and is fitted with a Citizen Eco-Drive movement. The watch features ultra thick Sapphire glass 2.5mm and it is fitted with a Kevlar strap. The case back is engraved with Royal Navy Ensign and comes with a special presentation box in the Regiment colours.

Then the watch I think is actually the more “military watch” the  Royal Marines Commando Super Tough three hander.

Both of these Citizen models use the Eco-Drive movement so will not ever require a battery, which would seem perfect for military personnel who might often find themselves a long way from any shops. The watches though do not seem to offer anything more than their non-Royal Marine equivalents other than “Royal Marine Commando” on the dial and the Royal Naval ensign engraved on the caseback.

This really concludes the selection of serious collaborations. You can find pocket watches on e-bay with Royal Marine crest applied to the case for very little money though I doubt these are “official”.

It would now be very interesting to understand if my original idea is correct. Is there a military unit that has had more “official” watches? I can only imagine maybe the USAF, but then only if you put all different squadrons and aircraft types together. I am clearly ready to be corrected.

Alliance of British Watch & Clock Makers

Recently British watchmaking has for sometime been regarded something of a cottage industry, like other similar industries there is an element of chummy collaboration. Often representatives of the various brands will mention other brands in interviews. They have realised that there is enough space for them all to thrive so why not co-operate. Up until now that co-operation has been informal.

During the last ever Salon QP a conversation between Mike France of Christopher Ward and Roger Smith led to the idea of taking this co-operation to another level. I understand all my favourites such as Fears, Pinion and Vertex are getting involved. The video below gives you all the background.

There was also a really nice chat with Mike France and Roger Smith on the Scottish Watches podcast

To support this initative you do not have to be a watch manufacturer. Anyone with an interest in British watchmaking can join up. I for one have put membership on my Christmas list. For more information:

https://britishwatchmakers.com/join-us

Christopher Ward GMT Worldtimer

As I have mentioned in an earlier post Christopher Ward was a company offering excellent value worthy watches. This watches often in the sort of styles that I like. i.e sporty rather than dressy and over complicated. Despite this they lacked that little “something”. To mind this is probably because they lacked a little originality and that indefinable feeling that possibly comes from heritage/history. This brings me back to my reasons for starting this blog, the “heritage creation” of the Bremont, another British watch brand. I thought Christopher Ward (CW) were starting to follow this idea  with some odd collaborations like that with Morgan.

Over the last year my perception of the brand is changing, and this is probably due to three factors, firstly hearing Mike French, one of the owners of the company, explain the company’s philosophy. Secondly, I read Roger Smith has a CW Trident. Then a series of very individual watches they are now offering.

One of these watches that has caught my eye over the last couple of months is the subject of this review, the C65 Worldtimer GMT. Given the limited opportunities for travel this is not really the ideal moment to discover the benefits of a GMT or Worldtimer, I do not even have any far flung relatives I want to keep track off. I must admit the feature that caught my eye was the yellow detailing, colours offering opportunities to play with interesting strap combinations.

This watch is a variant of the C65 range offering, as the name suggests, GMT and worldtimer functions to the standard C65 “retro diver”. As such it shares the same 41mm steel ” light catcher” case as the rest of the range. In place of the Sellita SW220 in the rest of the range this watch uses the SW330 which offers  GMT functionality.

As with all watches the first part of the ownership experience entails removing the watch from its packaging. I have often commented on the size of watch packaging, you can understand brands wanting to offer the full luxury experience, but they do present a storage issue and you can understand many less fanatical buyers put theirs in the bin. This might be more the case at the value end of the market. CW have come up with an innovative solution to satisfy both needs. The nicely solid box is made of 95% biodegradable eco MDF, bamboo and cotton, it is probably the most eco-friendly watch box on the market. So, it is robust and presentable enough to keep or degradable if you want dispose of it and not worry about landfill.

Once you have the watch in your hand the first impression is wow, this is a solid piece of kit. The major contributor to this sensation is the impressive steel bracelet, which once sized is super comfortable, an important contribution to this feeling being made by the micro adjustable clasp. I have found myself varying the size almost daily depending on how close I want the fit that day, which would clearly be less convenient without this clasp, The strap also features easy to use spring bars with little tabs which makes changing straps significantly easier, minimising also the risk of scratching the case. This is the first time I have used a clasp like this and they are a real boon for a serial strap changer like me and for which this watch lends itself so well. My favourite match being the green MN strap with a yellow stripe from Erika’s originals, or all black for a more serious look.

As a GMT worldtimer the dial and timezone bezel there are predictably full of details, which though offering a very cool look, I found a little small to read easily. This might say more about my eyesight than the clarity of design. The additional GMT hand is well designed, being yellow and arrow shaped it did not ever .make reading the local time confusing, which has always been a worry of mine when considering watches with four hands. The other details of the dial such as the applied indices and the date window in the usual three o’clock position all work very well. The only question mark being the positioning of the Christopher Ward logo at nine o’clock, I must admit to getting used to seeing it in this position.

Less immediately obvious is how impressive is the optical illusion offered by the 41mm steel “light-catcher” case, on the wrist it has an almost vintage appearance, hiding very well the modern case height. The screw down crown is easy to grip and operate, I have a slight doubt about how well it sits with the bezel and the case, but not really a deal breaker.

Turning the watch over you find a solid caseback which I generally prefer, unusually this one with a black DLC covering. I can only assume this was done to match the black on the bezel.

So to sum up. This is a really well made practical watch with a reassuring 150m water resistance. The perfect “one watch” for a non brand conscious traveller. With all the impressive new launches it will be interesting to see how the brand recognition and perception develops.

The fullprice is £1100 which represents remarkable value andCW are adverse to fairly frequent price promotions. On CW website.

New Fears Elegance

Like many of you, one of the things I am missing during these current social restrictions is a catch-up chat over a couple of watches.  One person I have particularly missed is Nicholas Bowman- Scargill of Fears Watches. Nicholas was one of one of my first meeting with any brand and we have kept in touch ever since.

You can imagine therefore how pleased I was to get a message from Nicholas asking if I would like to see some new watches. Of course, I would, is this a sign life might eventually return to something resembling that we had enjoyed only a few months before?

Before meeting I tried to think what the Nicholas might have up his sleeves this time. He has always excluded a diver. He has stopped offering the quartz Redcliff range. So, it had to be a development of the Brunswick. Maybe a chronograph… a different case material.

I clearly, I do not think in the same way as Nicholas. After keeping me in suspense for a good ten minutes he finally revealed these two new variants of the much-appreciated Brunswick. One steel cased with a Salmon dial and a second version of last year’s gold plated Midas with a silver dial. As well as offering more choice to Brunswick clients these watches represent an evolution of the design details of the range.

Both variants feature the new ‘Edwin’ numerals—specially designed for Fears by a horological typographer, Lee Yuen-Rapati. Named after the founder of the company. Lee spent time in the Fears archive, studying all the different typefaces that Fears has used throughout its history, he created a new typeface that is modern, yet influenced by them. The result is a very elegant, classic set of numerals, with some vintage flourishes. Each applied numeral has been treated like a jewel: after being cut out with a CNC machine, to a height of 0.5 mm, they are diamond polished and sand-blasted to create a perfectly smooth and matte finish. Each numeral has then been coated in anthracite, lending a subtle, warm and grey finish, which complements the coppery, pink tones of the dial surface. Finally, each one is applied by hand to the dial, affixed by tiny rivets. The Fears branding is slightly smaller and the model name Brunswick has disappeared, finally the word “England” appears for the first time below the sub-dial acknowledging not only the parts of the watch which are made in the country, but also the fact that every watch is hand built in England.

The new Midas also offers a solid case back. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of display backs and I love the opportunity that a solid case back offers for personalisation or for a simple dedication in the style of retirement watches. The Midas also comes fitted with a new lovely dark brown alcantara lined leather strap, the colour I am hoping Nicholas will continue to call “Otto”.

Both these watches both manage to offer even more elegance to the already elegant Brunswick range. Maybe next time Nicholas will surprise me with an elegant  diver’s chronograph.

The Fears Brunswick Salmon retails for £3,150 inc. VAT and is available from 25th of September. More information can be found at www.fearswatches.com/brunswicksalmon. The new Brunswick Midas retails for £4,250 inc. VAT and is available to purchase today with delivery commencing 30th October. More information can be found online at www.fearswatches.com/brunswickmidas.

Then if you would like to hear more from Nicholas about these watches why not have a listen to this recent Scottish Watches podcast

http://www.scottishwatches.co.uk/2020/09/28/scottish-watches-podcast-183-catching-up-with-nick-from-fears-watches/

Christopher Ward – again

Is it me or are the watches getting more impressive? A few years ago I had he company in the category of “worthy” offering good value, but fairly anonymous watches online.

Well the last couple of releases have really made me start to think again. The latest to be released is this C65 Super Compressor.

The twin crown style might remind you of the Longines Legend Diver or indeed the Farer Aqua Compressor but they are very distinctive.

Christopher Ward claim this watch is the first genuine super compressor diving watch in 50 years. With every metre you descend, its ingenious mechanism increases water-resistance.

There are other compressor watches available, I suspect the difference here must be the word “super”. Reverse-engineered by the team in Switzerland, this is a fully functioning super compressor with the ’60s looks to match. Thanks to improvements in watch construction, it is the first one with an ‘exhibition’ caseback, through which you can see the ultra-thin compression spring. At 300 microns thick, the spring, which enables the compressor to work, is just four times the width of a human hair. Look again, and you will also spot the ‘diving-bell’ mark, the logo Ervin Piquerez used to signify authenticity..

Other than being a “Super Compressor” the details of the watch are:

  • 41mm
  • Case MaterialStainless steel
  • Case ColourSteel
  • Height13.05mm
  • Lug-to-Lug47.12mm
  • Case Weight72g
  • Weight inc. Bracelet166g
  • Water Resistance15 ATM (150m)
  • MovementSellita SW200-1
  • Power Reserve38 hours
  • No of Jewels26
  • Complication Type3 hands
  • Vibrations28,800 p/hr (4Hz)

Overall an impressive looking watch available with a blue or black dial and a choice of four straps, steel, tropical or one of two leather for a reasonable price,£1000. I am pleased the logo has moved to the more conventional position just below the 12 indices.

I hope the opportunity come along to see one of these watches in the metal. In the meantime if I have wetted you appetite you can find out more at

https://www.christopherward.com/retro-dive/c65-super-compressor/C65-41ASC1-S0WB0-B0.html

Bronze Vertex!!

You will be aware that I am a fan of Vertex watches you will have also probably understood that I am also a fan of bronze watches….. and then this shows up !!!

The new watch is a limited edition of 150 pieces to mark the 75th anniversary of the final end of the Second World War with the surrender of Japan.

This edition follows the familiar design we have seen previously first with the M100 and then the M100B that being:

  • an 11mm high 40mm case
  • ETA 7001 manual wind movement
  • 100m water resistance
  • Black matt dial with SLN 7501C arabic numbers.
  • £2700

The difference being the case made from CuSn8 bronze. You will discover should you listen to the excellent interview with Vertex’s Don Cochrane o the Scottish Watches podcast that this is the same grade of bronze as used on for the bronze Tudor Black Bay. Below is a link to the podcast.

http://www.scottishwatches.co.uk/2020/08/17/scottish-watches-podcast-171-how-to-start-a-watch-company-plus-a-new-release-with-don-from-vertex-watches/

If you would like to buy one of these special watches visit :

https://vertex-watches.com/

Are Pocket Watches Practical ?

I had disappeared down one of those internet rabbit holes when I came across an article on an american website entitled “Here’s why your pants have a teeny tiny pocket that’s too small to use”. As a regular wearer of jeans, I had often pondered the answer to this question. I had in the past seen this pocket being referred to a the “fob pocket” but not thought any more about it.

The article explains that the little pocket was originally intended as somewhere to keep your pocket or “fob” watch. They originally appeared on Levis working overalls in the 1890’s when of course pocket watches were common.

During the current health crisis, I am like many of you working from home. I use a pocket watch as desk clock on my limited workspace. So, I thought why not use the watch as it was intended, in a pocket, maybe then I could get to use my wife’s grandfather’s gold Patek. Now before reading the article I had considered pocket watches required the wearing of a waistcoat, a fashion I am still not following despite the attempts of Gareth Southgate. I am however a regular wearer of “five pocket jeans”.  Bingo, I am almost ready to experiment.

My pocket watch is one of the “found in a draw” objects from my Mother’s home. It is a Leonidas GSTP with a government arrow on the back. As with most families we had many family members who did some form of military service in the twentieth century so I am not sure of the origins of this particular piece; I like to think of it as having been my paternal grandfather’s,  he spent the Second World War in the Royal Naval dockyard at Portsmouth, but I not completely convinced,

The watch has passed several decades unused in it’s draw. I took it home and wound it up, as I have come to expect from these less sophisticated vintage items – it ran. Not only does it run, it actually keeps pretty good time. It did rattle a little but all I had to do was prise off the back of the case and tighten up two little screws. Almost set for the experiment but no pocket watch is really practical without a watch chain. Without the chain it difficult to get the watch out of the “teeny tiny” pocket. In two days the famous purveyors of horological goodies, Amazon, supplied me with something appropriate.

So, is a pocket watch viable daily beater after all many millennials use rely on the modern-day equivalent – their mobile phone. An alternative title for this article might therefore be “Can I use a pocket watch instead of my phone?”.

After my couple of days trial, I have reached an interim conclusion that I your daily routine consists of sitting at a desk, a pocket watch does work pretty well as a desk clock. But once you move away, for whatever reason, you do need to remember to take the watch with you. If you try the other option of keeping the watch in the “teeny tiny pocket” it is not super easy to pull out ever time you need to see the time. If, however, you are on your feet most of the time consulting the watch in the little pocket represents less of a challenge.

After posting some images of the watch on Instagram on possible block to regular use of this pocket watch was pointed out by Alexandre Meerson, possible radioactivity of the hands. Making keeping the watch in the little pocket very close to your groin feel less inviting…. Oh well when I get used to using pocket watches I will just have to use the Patek 😊

The Greenwich Time Lady

A couple of weeks ago a thoughful family member passed onto me one of those glossy watch supplements that many magazines publish. As I thumbed through it I did not expect to find anything particularily interesting. To my surprise I came across a review of a book titled ” Ruth Belville – the Greenwich Time Lady” by David Rooney.

Already I was intrigued by the title, as it is very similar to Grinidgetime. Apart from this it promised to add a little more local knowledge to me as a Greenwich resident interested in time. As the title suggestes the book tells the story of Ruth Belville and her family and how they brought the correct time to businesses in London for over over three generations.

For anyone with similar interests it is a fascinating read. On my travels around the town I have found myself looking at places where the family had lived. Even without the local interest the book gives a fascinating insight into the importance of time in the 19th and early 20th centuries and key role of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

The book is also a veritable goldmine of interesting horological companies, great inspiration for anyone wondering what to call the latest kickstarter brand.

One slight disappointment for me was that the maps used on the inside and back covers do not actually cover Greenwich Park and as a consequence the Royal Observatory.