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.
I had been meaning to watch this film every since it came out. Finally, prompted my a fellow watch lover I got round to watching it last night.
What you get from it are several things one a fascinating insight into the work of a watchmaker, which looks a lot tougher than you might romantically imagine. Then you get a clear idea of the personalities of the two men George Daniels and Roger Smith. I have never met George Daniels and the film confirmed the opinion I had always held that George Daniels is one of the most important figures in the history of horology. We also get to discover some of the other facets of the man’s personalty such as his passion for vintage cars and perfectionism.
On the other hand I have briefly met Roger Smith who has always struck me as being a very pleasant and patient man. What the film showed very well also was his dedication and perfectionism. How many people would work on a project to help obtain an apprenticeship for seven years?
So as well as being of horological interest this film is very motivational, showing that to achieve greta things you need dedication, dedication and more dedication.
This event has now the highlight of my Grinidgetime calendar. It is an opportunity for me to meet in person many of the people I have been writing about over the year. Given the number of people that also want to meet these people I limit these meetings to a quick hello, just to put a face to Grinidgetime. Last year I managed to shake the hand of the great Roger Smith. This year there was at least his “Great Britain” watch.
Again, I have to mention I was disappointed that neither Meerson, Pinion or Schofield were exhibiting this year. I was also disappointed that Farer did not have a stand, the brand caught me a little by surprise and I really like their new range of automatics.
Our first port of call was The Deep Time diver’s watch exhibition where I really enjoyed seeing an early Panerai, a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and an Eterna Kontiki helps which remind us there are alternatives to Rolex Submariners. The first British stop was the Bremont stand, which disappointingly look identical to last year’s. So I moved swiftly onto the first floor where to see the Christopher Ward stand, this year featuring Morgan three wheeler to highlight the relationship between the two companies. There was also their star watchmaker Johannes Jahnke working away at a bench.
Then up to the second floor where I almost literally bumped into Nicholas B-W of Fears Watches looking very pleased with himself. The show was going very well. Chatting with Nicholas he explained a little more to me about the philosophy of the brand. Apparently, he had been advised that the brands history would permit them to be much more upmarket. Nicholas explained that he thought this would be a betrayal of what the brand had been, good value watches with Swiss movements. He went on to explain that one key design feature of the Radcliff watch was legibility in the dark, interestingly having the date window is key in being able to orientate the watch.
My editorial assistant ( my just teenage son) was very impressed, He was even more impressed when Nicholas let him try on “watch No. 1”
The next stop was to say hello Toby Sutton to see how Dennison was going a year from their launch at last year’s Salon. He was wearing the material Denco53 with the French paratrooper strap which is a really great combination. This is the only picture I have managed to find, you must admit this strap looks made for this watch.
A photo posted by DENNISON (@dennisonwatchcaseco) on
Next was Robert Loomes; I wanted to congratulate him on his talk the day before and of course to have a closer look at the new Stamford. I also had the pleasure of meeting his wife Robina, apparently the strategic mind of the couple. Robert was his usual enthusiastic self and was very pleased with the reception the watch had received at the show. It looks like he will be busy for sometime to come.
Our last “British” stop was to see the new “Portsmouth” at the Garrick stand. Here I had hoped to get some pictures of the watch, unfortunately exhibition cases and and an iPhone prevented this. So here is a picture from the Garrick website.
David Brailsford of Garrick was a another happy man. He told me sales at the show were going very well. They had sold out of there Regulator model and the Portsmouth was generating a great deal of interest despite the £17,995 price. So the Norfolk watchmaker is going to busy for sometime as well. Finally, I managed to resolve a doubt I had been harboring for a while, David confirmed to me that the watch was originally going to be called the Plymouth. Being Hampshire born I am much happier with this name.
So to sum up, another very enjoyable show this year. The best news being the great the great reception that the British brands exhibiting are receiving from everyone. Well done.
This has been a momentous period in the life of Grinidgetime; my first watch to review that is not mine, all thanks to Matthew Fletcher of Meerson Watches who organised a lone of an Altitude Officier in Black.
My first concern was to make sure should anything untoward happen my insurance would cover me, £9800 would make a substantial whole in my current finances – All OK.
Trying to put this value at the back of my mind I now had to try to think objectively about this watch. The first impression is “black” I realise that despite telling Matthew that this is my favourite of the Meerson range, I am currently not a great fan of black straps. My only explanation for this I can think of is that I am not wearing such formal clothing these days. If this was my watch, I would specify a brown strap, which I think would also be more in line with the idea of a field watch. On “field watches” I am also a big fan of “nato-style” straps, thanks to the option to rinse the strap once they get a bit sweaty, this is not an option with the the unusual lugs on the Altitude Officier. Having said all this the black case looks really great, this is an ADLC finish on titanium so super resistant.
Titanium explains the second sensation – lightness. On the wrist the sensation is almost like that of a Swatch, you just do not notice it at all. This is probably helped by the way the watch sit on the wrist.
After these initial thoughts I then started to look more closely at the detail of this watches build and it is here the quality and attention to detail shows. If you look closely at the AM-4808-A movement you notice how careful the finish is when you compare it to more mass-market movements. The titanium case is lovely and smooth to touch. The raised “Breguet-style” numbers, each an individual work of art.
Then on this particular watch the really cool touch…
Yes, this watch is a prototype. I had one very impressed teenage son.
I wore the watch most of the time for almost two weeks, I only left it off in occasions in which I thought I might expose it to undue risk such as decorating at home or riding bicycle quickly over south London’s “pave” the later having proved pretty negative for several of my friends watches.
The impact of this watch on my office colleagues – zero. No comment at all, but not many watches do provoke much comment. This does suggest this is a great “sleeper watch” passing unobserved by the general public, which for many of us is a very positive attribute, leaving its many particular features to be explained to any passing aficionados.
So accepting the premise that I would prefer a brown strap my overall conclusions about this watch is very positive. It is subtly great looking. It is really well made. It is exclusive and, probably what is the most important element for me, is I have met its creator, Alexandre Meerson, on a couple of occasions and I enjoy the way he thinks. This gives the watch meaning for me.
I have left out a lengthy technical explanations in this review. This is because Alexandre has gone to great lengths to ensure the specification is top notch, and I am confident that a Meerson buyer takes this for granted and buys into the authentic and Alexandre’s story.
However for those of you that are curious you can find a full technical description here : http://www.meerson.com/watches/altitude-officier-smallseconds-titanium-whitesilvered-101-oejw-101-OEJW.html
My blogger life is a little different this week. firstly because given the arrival of the Salon QP “news” is a little thin on the ground. Secondly because I am wearing a watch that until now I have only been able to make occasional comments about – A Meerson Altitude Officier in black. Please do not be too jealous this is a temporary arrangement.
My first reaction on putting the watch on was to be careful, however the lovely Laura that brought me the watch assured me it was tough, all the same I won’t be using it on my cycle commute for fear of falling off.
Once over this initial trepidation the experience of wearing this very unusual timepiece is interesting. The 42mm case sits very nicely on my wrist and being made of titanium is very light. So far so good.
Clearly the build quality is impressive, especially compared to the Smiths Deluxe I had on my wrist earlier. I am also a little surprised at the lack of any particular comment from my colleagues, who being largely Italian have a keen I for detail. In the past my Tudor Submariner on a leather strap and my 1970’s Seiko 5 have both provoked comments. The reason might be that as Alexandre Meerson himself says this is a re-invention of the “round watch”. Without close examination this watch can pass under the radar very easily. For many people this could be a attractive attribute.
At this point the only detail I would change is the strap colour, I think the watch would look more “me” with a brown strap but this may be down to my minority skin colouring.
I will now start to compose a fuller assessment of my time with the watch.
When I met David Brailsford a couple of months ago he told me about the new movement they were working on to put in a new watch to be launched at this year’s Salon QP. At the time the name was Plymouth and he told be it would be significantly more expensive than Garrick’s current range.
More details are now available. Here is what it looks like.
He was not joking about the price, this new watch will be on sale for £17,995.
At the heart of the new Portsmouth is a new hand-wound, exclusive Garrick movement, designed by British watchmaker Simon Michlmayr and the legendary movement specialist, Andreas Strehler. The movement parts are manufactured both in the UK and Switzerland. Thereafter, movement finishing, assembly and regulation takes place within Garrick’s own Norfolk workshop.
Garrick has been for some time making its own- free-sprung balance, delivering a daily variation of just +3 seconds per day. Now, with the advent of the Portsmouth, Garrick has signalled its progression to a higher level, offering an exclusive movement par excellence.
As with all Garrick timepieces, most of the parts including the case, hands and dials are engineered in-house or sourced locally.
If you cannot wait until the opening of the Salon QP. You can always sign -up for the special collector’s event “the night before” on November 2nd.
This year’s Salon QP looks like it should be a great event for British watch brands.
This week I was very flattered to receive an invitation from Alexandre Meerson to one of his “Un-Scripted” events. This was a lunch event Alexandre hosts himself for, in our case, about 10 people that have been in contact with the brand. During the event Alexandre explains how the brand came about and what it he wants to do with it. From his part he is looking for feedback.
I have covered the back story to Meerson in a previous post so here I would like to describe how my impressions have changed or not.
Alexandre first explained that he describes himself as a “watchmaker” but he has no formal training as such his mentors were his family. His ambition is to build a luxury “maison” based on excellence (not on perfection).
He went on to tell us that in his search for excellence it took him 4 1/2 years to build the supply chain and 2 1/2 years to persuade Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier to supply his movements. As a further indication of the quality of Meerson watches the cases are made by the same company as Patek Philippe.
We then got to see and try some of the variants of Meerson’s range.
Currently the Altitude Officier in black, above, is my favourite of the range. Alexandre describes this as an “everyday” watch., tough enough to take knocks. I would be a little concerned about the water resistance at 30m but Alexandre is sure this is enough for everyday use.
The other range in the Meerson are the D-15 the “high-luxe field watch”, a sport-inspired traveller’s watch. The name of the watch comes from Alexandre’s son’s rugby position.
In the “flesh” this is a very nice watch, its curved case sitting snugly on the wrist. I am sure also the GMT function is very useful for anyone who regularly travels across time-zones. This is ,in many ways, the perfect watch for someone that travels , wants a luxury timepiece that is off most peoples radar which also offers the opportunity to personalise. One guest had a small diamond on the face of his watch in celebration of a wedding anniversary.
The last “tip” from Alexandre was a hint of what his “Maison” is looking at for the future – a women’s range. “Women’s watches should not just be men’s watches with diamonds on”
Thank you Alexandre and his time for a great session.