Tag Archives: british luxury

Fears Brunswick

I have been following very closely the development of the Fears Watch Company since before the launch at the Salon QP two years ago.

The company launched with the very nicely built quartz powered Radcliffe range. This was an understandable first step for the relaunch of a company, self-funded by the young Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, but does limit the appeal of the watches to many watch lovers. During my various conversations with Nicholas I understood that he would at sometime in the future launch some more traditional mechanically powered watches. With this in mind I was excited when we arranged to meet to chat about the next Fears developments. Nicholas excitedly pulled out the Redcliffe Continental, still quartz powered.  We spent sometime discussing the obvious merits of this addition to the range. Then came the real surprise, these drawings below, for a hand wound mechanical watch.

Brunswick inspiration

The Brunswick, named after the location in Bristol of the old export department, was launched at last years Salon QP to considerable acclaim. The watch has been made in batches of fourteen, so there are not many available, so when Nicholas dropped me a note offering me the chance to review an example of the watch I jumped at it. The watch I have been wearing for the last week is the prototype, which Nicholas pointed out does not have the brass movement ring of the production watch and should not be considered waterproof.

You may have read that I am sceptical about the need for large luxurious boxes for watches mainly due to the storage limitations of many modern homes. This said the box from Fears is a work of art, so maybe I can reconsider. As you will see from the pictures the black ash box features an engraved map of Brunswick Square, which is just one of the amazing details.

The box

The watch arrived with a beautiful black leather strap, which  as an irregular suit wearer, I find a little too formal for everyday use. I therefore swapped it over a series of Perlon straps which add to the slightly retro feel the cushion case gives. For the summer I particularly like the light grey strap.

Brunswick on grey perlon

Having said that I was also quiet keen also on the versaltilty of the brown version as well.

Brunswick and brown perlon

Then if you want to feel even more summery, you could try a brighter perlon – green maybe.

Brunswick on green perlon

I also tried a blue Fears leather strip from my colleagues Redcliff Continental, which combined very well with the really nice blue skeleton hands which are such an important feature of this watch.

Brunswick on blue leather

I think I have demonstrated what a versatile watch the Brunswick is. It could really be all the watch you need that watch many enthusiasts are searching – the “one watch”.

It satisfies all my “one watch” criteria :

  • It has “classic” good looks
  • It has 100m water resistant
  • The straps are very easily changed
  • It has a proven reliable Swiss movement
  • It can do “smart” or “casual”

Apart from versatility what makes this watch “one watch” material is the detailing and quality. The more you look at it the more you notice, from the different finishes on the various surfaces of the case, to the beautifully traditional looking cold enameled face. If you listen to Chris Mann’s  excellent Time4apint podcast about the Brunswick , Nicholas explains in quiet some detail the extra ordinary amount of work that the British watchmakers, that he works with, put into making this beautiful cushion case watch. So thanks to Chris I am saved the time of going into a great deal of detail, which I would anyway do badly.

In conclusion this is a lovely watch that shows what this young brand is capable of – I for one am really looking forward to see what comes after this – watch this space.

 

Time4aPint – Fears

You might have noticed from my instagram feed that I am currently reviewing the Fears Brunswick.

Fears Brunswick

However before I get round to writing my full review I feel obliged to highlight this really nice interview with Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, the re-founder of Fears watches on the latest Time4aPint podcast.

I have had to listen to this episode twice and I still think I am missing a greta deal of the detail, a real treat for British watch fans

 

 

Charles Frodsham & Co

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).

Dial detail – Charles Frodsham wristwatch

 

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.

Back to Switzerland – Vertex M100

Vertex M100 in Switzerland

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.

“Dirty Dozen ” Vertex

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.
  • Price: £2,500

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.

Vertex M100 Pelicase

The watch arrives with two straps, a grey Nato and a more conservative black leather.

Vertex on leather strap

 

M100 on NATO

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.

Vertex Keeper

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.

M100 on MN strap

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.

 

 

 

Bremont Townhouse

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.

Supermarine Endurance
Supermarine Endurance

The second most eye catching new model for me was the U2/51-Jet.

Bremont 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.

S-501

I finished off my quick visit with a quick look at the understated Airco range, in particular the new white and blue dialled variants.

Blue Dial Airco

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.

Fears Brunswick

As a promised here is a more specific look at the newly announced Fears Brunswick.

After quietly getting on with launching his reborn company around the original three watch Redcliff range and the fourth “pebble grey” variant Nicholas Bowman-Scargill has been dropping hints of a new watch since early October. Despite my questions he would not admit they would be launching a mechanical watch.

I concluded therefore this years Salon QP would see the launch of a mechanical Redcliff, probably with a Swiss movement. I thought this would follow the original Fears philosophy of good quality watches at a reasonable price. It was with this in mind I met Nicholas in mid-October for a catch-up and hopefully news of the new watches.

Over couple of beers and a general catch-up Nicholas then introduced me to the new watches, A “passport red” Redcliff, quartz, the Redcliff Continental,  again quartz. After covering the merits of these watches as worthy additions to the Fears range came the news I had been waiting for – the mechanical watch, the Brunswick.

At this point the actual prototype was not ready, but is was able to see the design. Here it is with the vintage Fears that inspired the design.

The Brunswick design and inspiration

What  a surprise, a cushion cased, hand wound watch. But still difficult to appreciate from the drawings. I would have to wait until the “Night Before” of the Watchmakers Cub, by which time the prototype should be ready.

So here it is on my wrist.

Fears Brunswick Prototype

As you can see the drawings did not do the actual watch justice. This is a very handsome piece that rightly was attracting compliments from everyone that saw it at the Watchmakers evening. A difficult public to win over.

The top grade ETA 7001 manual wind movement is installed in a 38mm cushion case, made in the UK from 316L stainless steel. The dial is cold resin enamel, which together with the thermally blued skelton hands are also made in this country. The front glass and exhibition case back are sapphire crystal. Around the exhibition back there is enough space for engraving and buyers will also have the option to engrave the movement. The final touch of class is the strap made from calf skin tanned by Bristol company Thomas Ware & Sons.

The rather un-English sounding name “Brunswick” is a reference to the address of the Fears export warehouse in Brunswick Square, Bristol.

Nicholas planned an initial batch of 14 watches, this being the number of the building in Brunswick Square. However, the reception of the watch at the Salon QP has been so good this will be increased.

For the moment this lovely watch is available for £1750 (inc. VAT) directly from Fears.

Considering the quoted water resistance of 100m this could be the “one watch” so many people say they are looking for. Ideally for all occasions, even beach holidays if you put it on a waterproof strap, maybe a perlon.

Well done Fears

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bremont 1918 – another point of view

You might remember in the past I have commented on Bremont’s heritage building. This is clearly done to increase the perceived value of their watches once they come to market.

After writing my last update on the launch of the 1918 limited editions I came across this video on Youtube. This American gentleman seems to have missed the point somewhere. He goes on about how outrageously expensive these watches are. In a way that suggests Bremont might be stealing food from orphans. Surely a company has a right to offer for sale a product of this nature at whatever price the think appropriate. It is for the market to decide if they are right or not.

If we see lots of these watches discounted in  a year or so we will know he was right.