The original batch of Pinion’s entry level watch should by now all be sold. For anyone that was not able to get hold of one all is not lost I recently received a newsletter announcing a release of a further 30 Atoms, These watches will differ slightly from the original principally by not having a date window. a feature that will not be missed by those of us who have difficulty in reading date windows on the vast majority of watches. As you will see the dial design will also be returning to the familiar Pinion use of only 12,3,6 and 9 numbers.
Whilst I am writing about this new watch I thought it might also be a great opportunity to reflect on my experiences with my original Atom.
This watch has now become my goto “doing things” watch. It enables me to wear a British watch in riskier situations than would feel comfortable with other watches. It has effectively taken the place of my Hamilton Khaki that previously filled that role. The Atom is suited to this use for several reasons. It has 10 ATM water resistance, the case is slim so less likely to be bashed and of course the bullet proof Miyota automatic movement. Japanese automatic movements have always given me the idea they can take more punishment than their European cousins.
For the summer and to increase the “doing things” suitability I have chosen to swap the really nice original strap with its great buckle with a variety of fabric straps. Although this strap is too nice not to return in the autumn.
Below is my current favorite, a green MN from Erika’s Originals, The elasticity and the absence of the need to “fold back” making these straps for me the “thinking man’s” nato.
With these comments I am maybe getting my blog entries in the wrong order, a proper review of the original Atom should have come first. Be sure I am onto it.
Just in case you cannot wait here are the essential details of the original Atom.
Automatic Japanese mechanical movement
Time in hours, minutes
Push in crown
Stainless steel case back, engraved
20mm Handmade leather strap ( in various options ).
Japanese Miyota 9015
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour
Power reserve: 42 hours
Winding: Automatic / self-winding
Case: 316L Stainless steel, matt bead-blasted finish
Glass: Sapphire, convex with anti-reflective coating on the inside
In my waiting for the next review I have posted very little recently. So just to keep things rolling along a little I thought I should give a quick update on the latest news I have picked up.
The biggest story as far as I am concerned is the announcement on Friday of a second watch from the revived Vertex brand, the M100B. I guess the “B” standing for black as this watch is essentially the same watch as the original M100 but with a black case and a rubber strap.
The only picture I could find at the moment is this “screen shot” from Instagram.
This watch will be limited to 150 pieces, as yet I am not sure of the requirements for getting hold of one. I hope to find out more once the official press release is published.
This launch co-incides with the first anniversary of the re-launched Vertex brand.
The other newsworthy event for me was the Pop- Up Fears Museum evening held at Picketts in Mayfair. This was a very enjoyable evening to which Nicholas Bowman-Scargill bought, as well his current range, also some examples of past Fears watches.
In the picture above you can see on the far right the watch that inspired the new Brunswick, which by all accounts is selling very well.
When I last met Nicholas he was very proud of the gold watch at the top of this collection – an inspiration for a future model ?
I have known Nicholas Bowman-Scargill the 4th Managing Director of Fears Watches since the summer of 2016, just before he re-launched the company at that years Salon QP.
Since that time he now has a range of three watches. The original Redcliff, the Redcliff Continental and the mechanical Brunswick. Despite being a a little skeptical about the space on the market for another quartz watch brand , however I like Nicholas and admire what he is doing. I want to help him along by maybe offering his watches the little extra visibility this blog can offer. To this end I have continued to drop hints about getting my hands on one of his watches to review. Then a couple of weeks ago he said he might be able to finally offer me the opportunity – a Redcliff Continental. Which colour combination would I prefer? The sensible person inside me said Blue Dial with Blue strap, a combination that suits the most occasions – although the Red/Red combination was tempting.
The feature that distinguishes the Continental from its regular Redcliff sibling is the addition of the extra time zone window. This feature enables the wearer to keep track on the hour in another part of the world. This is clearly a very useful additional feature for international travellers or for people like me, wondering when it is a good time to call a potential client in Korea.
Anyone that I have spoken to about Nicholas Bowman-Scargill will tell you he is a man with an eye for detail and this is immediately evident from the moment you have the Continental’s box in your hands, As well as the usual guarantee card, each watch comes with a service record book, much like that of a car, and really nice cleaning cloth featuring a map of the area of Bristol from where Fears originated. The service book does in someway help to solve the intrinsic impersonality of quartz movement, suggesting you do more than take the watch to the nearest corner shop when the battery needs changing. You and the watch will have a history to record.
Moving on to the watch itself. Like the original Redcliff the stainless steel case is a comfortable 38mm which looks like an inspired choice given this years trend away from huge men’s watches. This is a size that can work for both sexes and in both formal or informal occasions. The look of the watch falls very much into the “smart/casual” category. Which makes this an ideal watch for today’s office.
As I have already above the key to Fears is detail and this is what separates these watches from the “quartz competition”. The first feature you notice is the distinctive dial design featuring the BOAC globe invoking thoughts of the glamour of mid-twentieth century travel. This further reinforces the idea that this is a traveller’s watch. An important Fears design cue carried over from the original Redcliff is the the pipette shape used for hands and the indices. These details and the second time zone window just above the 6 position are all very clearly through the sapphire crystal glass, which whilst very clear is to my taste disappointingly flat.
The steel case is really well made and has very nice lines, one morning sitting at my desk I found myself just looking at how the light played across the different angles of the watch when viewed from the side. Another very nice feature of Fears watches is the quick change spring bars on the strap, as a habitual strap swapper this makes life considerably easier for that last minute morning change of plan. Fears straps are handmade from goat’s skin in Belgium by a family-run atelier, which has specialised exclusively in making watch straps for over 40 years. The leather being sourced from Madras in India, this type of leather is chosen for its soft, supple nature, and its strength means the strap can be made thinner than a calf leather strap.
As I mentioned the watch uses a quartz movement, For this Fears have chosen the Swiss made Ronda 515.24D movement. his rare quartz movement offers outstanding accuracy and reliability with its powerful stepping motor.
As well as Blue the Continental is available with a White or Red dial, all priced at £725 at the time of writing.
In conclusion, the Continental is a nice upgrade of the original Redcliff. It features a great deal of intesting detail and is really versatile. Fears is definitely a brand to watch, the first of the well received mechanical Brunswick model will delivered to their owners soon. What next ?
I have been waiting for what seems like for ever for the latest watch from Pinion, the entry level Atom, to become available.
You might remember I first saw this watch at the Watchmakers Club event before last year’s Salon QP. I was looking forward to getting my hands on one for a review.
Then last week an e-mail arrives from Pinion announcing there were only 20 watches left and once these were gone that was it, or at least until Piers Berry, the founder, changes his mind. So that was it, no watch for me to review.
Salon QP, a more significant watch magazine than my blog, did however manage to get hold of one for review. So I thought I would flag this up to any of you that might not have seen it.
I realise that for sometime I have had a fairly neutral attitude towards Christopher Ward as brand. This I realise is probably due to their positioning as “a good value online only brand”. This was is a positioning I did not really to buy into.
Then this week I saw a posting on social media for this watch, a bronze cased Trident diver. As you can see from the video below this is a great looking watch.
The specifications are :
Case weight: 107g
Calibre: Sellita SW200-1
Vibrations: 28,800 per hour (4Hz)
Timing tolerance: -20/+20 seconds per day
Case: Bronze C5191 (CuSn6)
Backplate: 316L Stainless steel
Water resistance: 60 ATM (600 metres)
Dial Colour: Deep Blue
Lume:Old Radium SuperLuminova®
Strap width: 22mm
Lug to Lug: 51.5mm
There is a choice of finish case finish, raw or patinated . You can also choose between, leather, rubber or canvas straps.
In summary a very handsome package for a reasonable sounding £795 – something for the summer.
I have been meaning to post this piece for sometime. This is a discovery I made thanks to the Instagram postings of “The Watchnerd” ( #watchnerd).
A company that amazingly, after reading around the British watch world, I have never come across before; and as you can see from the image above they produce stunning watches.
Charles Frodsham & Co. are the longest continuously trading firm of chronometer manufacturers in the world, and are synonymous with precision timekeeping instruments of the highest quality; watches, clocks, regulators and wristwatches.
Charles was born into a dynasty of clock, watch and chronometer makers on the 15 April 1810. His father William James Frodsham (1779-1850) and Hannah Lambert had ten children, five of whom were apprenticed to their father and later became horologists in their own right.
Charles was educated at Christ’s Hospital, the Bluecoat School in Newgate, London, and as a condition of the Foundation, was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to his father William. He showed early promise submitting two chronometers (numbers 1 & 2) to the 1830 Premium Trials at Greenwich, No.2 gaining the second Premium prize of £170. A further nine chronometers were then entered for trial in subsequent years, until the termination of the Premium Trials, in 1836.
As at the moment I have no other source of information other than the companies website I suggest you go directly there www.frodsham.com . I am now really curious to discover more about these watches which even seem to impress the famous Roger Smith.
My time with the new Vertex M100 prompted me to investigate the famous “Dirty Dozen” watches a little further. Fortunately, the information is really easy to find.
Despite none of these watches being from British brands and them being made in Switzerland I feel justified in writing about them on this blog as the watches were ordered and specified by the British government.
During the Second World War the British armed forces, like their equivalents in other nations, needed reliable watches for their service people. The British industry was converted to the production of war materials, so the War Department placed an order for custom-built wristwatches with twelve Swiss manufacturers, Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex. These needed to be accurate, reliable and durable, which meant they had to be regulated to chronometer standards, and also be waterproof and shockproof. More specifically the watches also had to have a black dial, arabic numerals, luminous hour and minute hands, luminous hour markers, a railroad minute track, a shatterproof crystal, and a stainless-steel case. Powered by a 15-jewel movements. This specification was known as WWW – watch, wrist, waterproof.
The different manufacturers delivered different quantities. The rarest being Grana with between 1,000 to 5,000 pieces whilst the numbers for Omega and Record reached 25,000 each.
Production numbers based on estimates published by Konrad Knirim’s in his book entitled “British Military Timepieces”
I will now be keeping my eyes open for a Grana or failing that a nice Vertex which would give me the opportunity to also buy one of the new M110s.
Vertex is not the only British brand to make their watches in Switzerland, but when I was thinking of a watch that would make the perfect companion on my family ski trip, it was the first watch that came to mind.
The first reason being the new M100 is clearly a watch made to wear when doing stuff , a robust military style tool watch. Secondly, I liked the idea of taking the watch back home. Fortunately, Don Cochrane, the founder of the brand, was happy to lend me one.
Founded over a century ago by Claude Lyons in London’s jewellery heartland, Hatton Garden, Vertex quickly grew to become one of the most successful watch companies in Great Britain.
During the Second World War the British Military selected Vertex, along with eleven other leading watchmakers, to supply the army with a new watch built to an exacting bespoke design. The specifications were precisely what you would expect of a military watch – waterproof, luminous, regulated to chronometer level and rugged. On top of that, the dial needed to be black with arabic numerals to maximise legibility. This select group have became known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and are highly collectable.
Don Cochrane is the great-grandson of Claude Lyons and proud owner of Vertex Watches. His passion is to continue his great-grandfather’s legacy and pay tribute to these watches through the new Vertex M100, produced in Switzerland with significantly more attention paid to their manufacture than their predecessors made for the Ministry of Defence.
The details of the new watch are:
Custom ETA 7001 mechanical movement with rhodium finish and Cotes de Geneve decoration.
Moulded Super-LumiNova ® dial
Brushed steel case, box crystal glass, waterproof to 100m.
Hand wound with 42 hour reserve.
Black dial with arabic numerals to maximise legibility, in homage to the Vertex W.W.W watch of 1944.
Packaged in a Peli case with two straps – a black leather two-piece strap, with contrasting red lining and a bespoke nylon NATO-style strap in Admiralty Grey.
An attractive package, but there is a catch, to be able to buy one of these watches you either have to be the owner of one of the original watches or be referred.
The first time I actually saw and touched one of these rare watches was at the pre-Salon QP Watchmakers Club evening. Once over the initial excitement of seeing and handling one, the next thing you cannot fail to notice is the amazing lume on the numerals on the face, it is really very thick.
The M100 comes in a distinctly non-retro box, a Peli case, which you could realistically use as a travel case.
The watch arrives with two straps, a grey Nato and a more conservative black leather.
When I first discussed the watch with Don the first point we discussed was the 40mm case size, would a smaller case not be a more faithful reproduction of the orginal watch ? Maybe, was Don’s reply. Though as you will see from the images above the the more “modern” size wears well even on my scrawny wrist.
For a bit of variety Don also gave me a choice of a couple of their accessory nato straps. I picked one green and one a steel grey. These straps are made of nice thick fabric with Vertex branding on the keepers.
Unfortunately, for me I found these really nice straps too long for me. Which left me using the standard issue nato strap.
Thanks to its manual movement the M100 rewards the wearer with the opportunity for a moments contemplation when you reach for it in the morning to wind the mechanism. One of the reasons many of us enjoy owning a mechanical watch. Before leaving for Switzerland I wore the watch every day on the nato strap and could easily imagine being my “one watch”.
Whilst packing my bags for the week I wondered how the watch would suit my MN strap, after all both the watch and the strap are “military” style.
I think it worked really well, so kept it like that for a week. This combination proved to be the perfect companion on the ski trails; this week I was trying Nordic skiing for the first time. The watch being being really legible in all conditions. The “not huge” case allowing the watch to slip easily inside the different layers of winter clothing and elastic of the strap meaning I never had the crown digging into my wrist.
The style of the watch does not give the wearer the opportunity to show the world how wealthy/macho they are like some more instantly recognisable brands. The wearer does though get the satisfaction of being “in the know” being part of the Vertex community.
This “community” is the clue to Vertex brand. When I returned the watch to Don he explained this was how he wanted people to experience the brand, he did not want people to buy into the brand just by writing a big cheque. He wants people to have to make an effort to get one of his watches. This brings me back to why I started writing my blog in the first place. Why do people buy one watch rather than an other? As I have commented previously there are companies like Bremont that are constructing heritage through their various special editions and military collaborations. The Vertex approach is a more subtle, slow burn strategy. It will take longer to see whether it is a successful strategy, but assuming the watches Don produces are well accepted by the watch buying public and people do actual bother to make the effort required to possess one he could up with a solid brand based entirely on its own products; with a strong community of fans. From a purely business/marketing point of view I wonder what the numbers might need to be to make this strategy sustainable . It is however a very interesting approach that you could easily applied to other product categories.
So it was with some regret I gave the watch back, I had already been doing the “man-maths” to work out how to pay for this addition to my collection.
The good news is that Vertex are working on some further launches, which will enable a few more people to join the community. Watch this space if you can excuse this pun.
To find out more you can visit the Vertex website.
Yesterday evening I was lucky enough to attend Bremont’s Townhouse event in London. This evening is the occasion during which Bremont present their new watches for 2018.
The evening kicked of with a presentation by the Arctic explorer and Bremont ambassador, Ben Saunders. As with other similar talks given by Bremont ambassadors, Ben gave a really interesting talk which make you feel like a super coach potato. Ben, with the help of Nick English, also managed to explain elegantly the justification for his relationship with Bremont. An explorer needs a reliable accurate watch to aid them with navigation which is especially important in the featureless terrain of the Arctic. The watch needs to be mechanical as quartz watches become less reliable in the extreme cold. An interesting fact I did not know.
The presentation of the watches was done with the usual Bremont style. I would only criticize the level of lighting, the low lights made it difficult to see the details of the watches well.
The star watch of the evening was the new Supermarine Endurance, the watch Ben used in the Arctic.
The second most eye catching new model for me was the U2/51-Jet.
This is an update of the existing popular U2 model with the addition of the vintage lume previously seen on the limited edition P-51 watch.
I then managed a quick try of the new S-501 divers watch which adds the more vintage styling of the S-300 series to the larger watch. This change works very well as you can see below.
I finished off my quick visit with a quick look at the understated Airco range, in particular the new white and blue dialled variants.
It blue the colour for this year ?
A big thank you to the Bremont for yet another well organised and enjoyable event. I hope to look at these and other new watches more in depth in future posts.
My posts have been a little infrequent of late. This is broadly as a consequence of real work, tax returns and another holiday. To try and put this right and buy myself a little time to write my next review I thought I would share my latest horological discovery – the “time4apint”podcast. Chris Mann produces these charming little chats on what seems like a monthly basis. They are an excellent way to pass a little dead time waiting for trains and other idle moments.
In particular and the most pertinent to the British theme of this blog was podcast 39 that was published last week, entitled “Jonathan’s Modern British watches” in which Chris discusses with collector Jonathan Hughes some of his watches. A Schofield, a Pinion, a CWC and a Bremont.
You can listen to it yourself following this link :