Well this is one that slipped below my radar, it appeared on Pinions July newsletter, just as I had switched myself into holiday mode. This is a very handsome looking watch. I hope to get to see one at Salon QP.
Well why not, why should I concentrate my commentary on “British” watches to mechanical time keepers. Part of the quirky London brand Hoptroff’s range is this Mecca watch.
It offers not only time and seconds, but also the direction to Mecca and the times of Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha
Under the elegant exterior, a built-in magnetometer in the timepiece and a Bluetooth transceiver to access the GPS in your phone, are used to determine the direction to Mecca and the prayer times.
950 Platinum £9000 + sales tax
Britannia Silver £1650 + sales tax
Available November 2014
Pre-orders now being taken
Last month saw the announcement a further “British” watch company, Garrick, founded by David Brailsford and two friends. They aim to produce a watch brand of “a distinctly British character”.
The first Garrick London watch, the sm301, a stainless steel time only model will be based around a hand wound Swiss Unitas 6498.1 movement, modified and enhanced in Britain with hand-bevelled bridges and thermally blued screws, then housed in a 316L stainless steel case manufactured by an English company.
The 42mm Shaftesbury are going to include a machined brass enamelled dial, and raised steel chapter rings secured with blued screws, for the hours and minutes track and small-seconds dial. It claims a 42-hour power reserve and will initially be offered only on alligator or leather straps.
Pricing hasn’t been confirmed on the Shaftesbury yet, but is expected to be around £3,000.
Image to be updated
I found this explanation of when a watch can be described as “English”. I assume the rules also would count for the other British countries. This is therefore a is quiet an important question for the purposes of this blog.
This is clearly an important question for Schofield Watches who published this explanation on their website.
According to the law, if a watch company wants to have ‘Made in England’ written on the dial, then England must be the place where the watch ‘underwent its last substantial, economically justified processing or working’. More recently a draft EU proposal recommends that watches will only be able to say they are ‘Made in England’ if at least 45% of the ‘value content’ can be attributed to this country.
Though we acknowledge the current definition and the proposed new legislation, at Schofield we have always said that we need much more for one of our watches to carry the ‘England’ motif.Clarity of process is essential. ‘England’ on the dial is not a cheaply won marketing tool nor is it something to be manipulated, but rather an aspiration to achieve with ‘industrious effort’. Endeavour must also be encouraged and commended as we seek to re-build the watch industry in this country returning it to the forefront of the global stage.Until May 2013 all Schofield watches were designed in England and made in Germany, the dial therefore stated ‘Germany’. Since then our watches have been designed and assembled in England. According to the current law all of our watches could have England written on the dial. In spite of this the Signalman and the DLC still retain the Germany label as we feel this to be the most sincere and appropriate description. By contrast our newest models, the Blacklamp Carbon and Beater, will have England on the dial. It is almost entirely made in England and we believe the details of its design and manufacture, the effort made and the endeavour warrant the label.The Blacklamp Carbon – Made in England 100% – Watch assembly in England 85% – Value content of Blacklamp attributed to England 100% – Watch Design in England 98% – Value content of associated Blacklamp items attributed to England 100% – Assembly of associated Blacklamp items in England.
These numbers will I imagine surprise lots of watch enthusiasts who imagine that the movement is the key ( most expensive ?) part of a watch. Well apparantly it is not, I have seen the cost of the Unitas movement used by Schofield is only a couple of hundred dollars.
But surely the definition of orgin should take into account what makes rhe watch tick ?
I must admit to having a soft spot for Pinion watches especially after having a chat with founder Piers Berry at the QP show last year. The brand remaining at the forefront of my mind as I use their watch app on my iPhone.
I am now trying to catch up on the news during my period of “writers block”. I have just spotted a press release from a few days ago announcing the latest Pinion watch, the Revival 1969, which will be produced as a limited edition of 100 pieces. The key feature of this Pinion’s first chronograph being the use of NOS Valjoux 7734 hand-wound movements from 1969.
Here’s a link that gives more information – http://www.pinionwatches.com/revival-1969/
Bremont: a turbulent take-off for high flying design – FT.com
When he went looking for someone to make sapphire crystals and ruby jewels for his boutique brand, British watchmaker Robert Loomes discovered a company in north London that specialized in making unusual lenses for cameras. The machines they were using to polish those lenses, he realized, were originally designed and used for making watch crystals 70 years ago. Loome immediately contracted the company to make his parts, because he doesn’t miss an opportunity, especially when it has to do with unorthodox production.
Loomes’ company, Robert Loomes & Co., makes gorgeous watches in small, limited editions of 50 or 100 pieces. They contain new old stock Smiths movements, extensively reworked and signed, simply: “Robert Loomes, made in England.” The Loomes name is as good as a crest. Watchmaking is in Robert Loomes’ blood, and so is England: His father, Brian Loomes, wrote several definitive texts on the subject of antique clocks; but the family traces its watchmaking roots farther back, all the way to the 1600s, to one Thomas Loomes.
Thomas was a bit of a rogue as well as a member of the 17th century British watchmaking establishment. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London at one point for selling watchmaking secrets to the Dutch. Robert hasn’t been imprisoned; but he has joined the growing cadre of watchmakers who are pushing British manufacturing and horology as far as possible. Like Christopher Ward, Roger Smith, and the brothers English, Loomes is leading by example with ingeniously resourceful small-scale production techniques.
The first batch of 100 Loomes & Co watches sold out quickly; their current offerings include the 100 piece limited edition “White Robin,” with a 39 millimeter stainless steel case and enamel dial at £9,800. The “Red Robin” is another current limited edition. This one is 50 pieces in 18K rose gold, which sells for £17,800. Both watches are also available in a 30 millimeter ladies watch, limited editions in the same quantities as the men’s, for the same prices.
Loomes joined the family business in 1988, apprenticing with his father and David Swindells, FBHI (Fellow of the British Horological Institute), a man whom he “watched in awe as a teenager when he crafted a pallet fork with his bare hands.” That may not sound like much, but it’s the horological equivalent of a mountain man killing a grizzly with his bare hands. Loomes struck out on his own five years later, eventually founding Robert Loomes & Co. He leads and manages production; the rest is left to his wife and business partner, Robina.
When he started the company, Loomes ignored the conventions of German and Swiss watch manufacturing to build his own custom CNC machines. He intends to perfect them. In his own words, he “soldiers on obsessively designing components here and tweaking our capabilities and capacity with nary a glance at the Swiss.” His custom-built machines are tailored to the nature of Loomes & Co.’s work and to the volume of their production, saving him several hundred thousand dollars.
BY LOOMES’ ACCOUNT, “NOBODY IN THE WORLD DOES [THIS TECHNIQUE] AS WELL.”
While Loomes is still tapping his large reserve of new old stock Smiths movements, his current R&D efforts are aimed squarely at eventually producing his own in-house calibers. In fact, he now has the capability to do everything in house except for a couple of springs and some non-metal components. Manufacturing a watch movement isn’t the big challenge. That’s relatively simple. Scaling up manufacturing to make many movements with interchangeable parts? That’s hard.
Loomes likes the challenge, but remember, his is a small brand that sells fewer than 100 watches per year. That’s less (way less) than Christopher Ward makes, but more than, say, Roger Smith (about ten or twelve). And there’s the rub: at those volumes, Loomes’ R&D budget is tight.
Loomes has had to get creative. He has received funding from the European Union, which grants funds to companies that do groundbreaking work. Loomes & Co. had to submit parts to prove they are doing so, such as a balance carved from a single block of Invar. (Balances are normally made of three parts riveted together.) By demonstrating such capability, the company not only showed they were doing groundbreaking work, but that they were furthering the cause of British manufacturing in other industries too. And earning their R&D budget, to boot.
Besides increased CNC machining capabilities, the R&D has paid off in other ways. Loomes & Co. created a method of hand enameling their dials in white glass with colored glass inks. By Loomes’ account, “Nobody in the world does [this technique] as well.” Other innovations trickle out too; for example, their method of dial manufacture creates integral dial feet, rather than feet that are soldered on.
Despite Loomes’ disinterest in Swiss and German watchmaking traditions, he and other British watchmakers have their opinions. Loomes is a friend and admirer of Chris Ward andhis company; they share the belief that they offer customers a better value by selling directly rather than using conventional distribution channels. Loomes calls this “selling through the workshop door”.
These new approaches are what keep Loomes and his small company in competition with more mainstream firms. In his opinion, they “perfectly exemplify the kind of ingenious approach that newer British brands bring to the industry. It is about being clever and spotting opportunities.” This is where small-scale horological visionaries, like Loomes, pick their battles. And it’s where they win.
This website, the prodigal guide, has published photos of the new Hoptroff atomic watch before it’s launch at the Salon QP. I don’t know about you but to me it looks a bit big; will this start the return of the pocket watch?
This years exhibition looks to be a great one for those of us interested in the British watch industry. Things are really starting to get exciting with the the launch of new watches and new brands. The first new brand being Pinion, a newly established watch company based in South Oxfordshire, England who will release it’s first watch collection, called ‘Axis’. Everything about the watch is explained on their website.
There was also an interesting interview in the Daily Telegraph :
There will also be the launch of the Hoptroff range of atomic watches, which claim to be amazingly accurate. So despite them having batteries I am really curious to see them.
Then Schofield will be launching their Blacklamp Carbon, again the Telegraph has done a piece on this :
It looks like I am going to have to make a visit next month 🙂