Tag Archives: Dirty Dozen

Military Rivals

First of all apologies for my “radio silence” over the summer. No excuse really other than the usual “non-watch” commitments in the real world.

Starting anything again after a little time can often be a little daunting, there are always reasons to put it off again. Well today I re-started two activities I have been putting off. Firstly,I have just returned from my first motorcycle ride for a couple of years, just a couple of miles around my area but satisfying feeling my intuitive operation of the controls returning.

So now here I am back at Grinidgetime, my return to the keyboard prompted by several announcements of new watches from the British value brand Christopher Ward. My particular attention was caught by three watches in particular, produced apparently with the approval of the UK Ministry of Defence. There is a watch for each of the three arms of the British military, Army, Navy and Air Force. A remarkably similar initiative to Bremont’s Armed Forces collection launched earlier this year.

Taking the watches one by one I will start with the Sandhurst, named after the Royal Military of the same name. The watch follows the now almost generic design of the Smiths W10. This modern re-interpretation comes in a 38mm brushed steel case with a rugged and precise Swiss-made automatic movement – a chronometer-certified version of the Sellita SW200-1. Usefully, this watch has a 150m depth rating.

It is very difficult not to compare this watch to the Bremont Broadsword. Both watches offer C.O.S.C certified movements. The Bremont is slightly larger at 40mm with a lower depth rating of 100m. The big difference being the price,The Sandhurst is offered at between £795 to £895 depending on which strap option you choose. The Bremont Broadsword £2595.

The next service to cover is the Royal Navy, here Christopher Ward offer the C65 Dartmouth, named after the famous naval officers training academy. The design is inspired by the Omega Seamaster 300 ‘Big Triangle’ – initially known as the Royal Navy 0552, a Ministry of Defence commissioned piece that saw the first appearance of the popular inverted triangle. The Dartmouth uses a 41mm brushed steel case and the same Sellita movement as the Sandhurst, the watch is also rated at 150m.

For people looking for a Royal Navy watch the Christopher Ward offer differs significantly from the equivalent Bremont Argonaut. The Bremont having a slightly larger case (42mm) and higher depth rating of 300m. Again though there is a significant price difference. The Dartmouth at £795/895 compared to the Argonaut at £2795.

Then we get to the youngest of the three services, the Royal Air Force. This watch is called the Cranwell, named after the famous training college, it finds inspiration in two of the most definitive pilot’s watches ever made: the ‘6B/346’ models produced by Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC. Again the movement is same Sellita as the other two housed in a 41mm steel “light-catcher case.

For Royal Air Force fans Bremont have their mono-pusher model, The Arrow; again at a significantly higher cost £3595 against £795/895.

This collection of military watches from Christopher Ward clearly offers an alternative to watch buyers wanting to show their support of one on Britain’s armed forces. The advantage being the cost and the use of the single arms insignia on th ecase back. The Bremont range with the Argonaut and Arrow do offer more features but at a price.

Timor – relaunch

Just recently news of another brand about relaunch cropped up on my instagram feed. This time it is the turn of the Swiss brand Timor. As a Swiss brand this news would not normally be of interest to this blog but I have again made an exception, for two reasons firstly because the watch they want to relaunch is the Timor WWW of “Dirty Dozen” fame and secondly because the team behind this project appear to be Brits.

This is an image of how the watch might look taken from a recent watch forum posting. Apparantly they are looking at movements that would place the subdial closer to its original position. They think the closest would be a Sellita SW216-1. It is a hand-wound movement with a seconds subdial With this movement, the case size could be 36.5mm.

I have been half looking for more news for the last week. So far nothing. I will keep you updated.

Bremont Townhouse

The “big” horological event in London last week was probably the Bremont Townhouse; during which Bremont present their range, especially the new models to the public. This event, their third I think, has taken the place of a very expensive presence at BaselWorld.

This years event took place in a lovely Georgian building in Clerkenwell. The watches central to this year’s event was the three new military models. Bremont has always made much of their military connections but the three new watches are particular as they are the first presented as a collaboration between Bremont and the three arms of the British Armed Forces.

The core of the collaboration between Bremont and the military was the signing of an Armed Forces Covenant. The signing took place at Bremont’s Headquarters in Henley-on-Thames and is the first time an Armed Forces Covenant has been signed by any watch brand. Air Commodore John Wariner, Air Officer A6/A6 Force Commander based at High Wycombe signed on behalf of Defence to signify the start of a mutual relationship in support of Defence which will be further developed over time.

The collection ids made up of three watches, one for each service. The obviously “military” being the Broadsword  (£2595) the “army” watch.

Bremont Broadsword

This watch is styled after the famous “Dirty Dozen” military watches of World War Two, which houses the chronometer rated BE-95-2AV automatic  movement inside its two-piece 40mm hardened steel case as well as a sub-seconds hand at 6 o’clock. Multiple layers of luminous paint on the hands and dial complete the original specification for the British Army.

The “air force” watch is the Arrow.

Bremont Arrow

The Bremont Arrow  ( £3595) is a 42mm cased mono-pusher chronograph. The pusher at 2 o’clock on the two-piece hardened steel case will start, stop and reset the stopwatch on the chronometer rated BE-51AE automatic movement. The Arrow  is aimed at the airman with its chronograph functionality, a necessity for any timed mission. The sub-dial at 9 o’clock is a running seconds, and the chronograph has elapsed minutes on the 3 o’clock counter.

Bremont Argonaut

Finally, the model for the navy is the  Argonaut (£ 2795 ), a name inspired by Greek mythology and synonymous with Navy history having appeared on Commissioned ships for nearly 250 years. This e 42mm hardened steel-cased military dive watch, houses a three-handed chronometer rated BE-92AV automatic movement. The internal rotating bezel is operated by a crown at 4 o’clock.

Each of these watches feature a solid caseback featuring Her Majesty’s Armed Forces Heraldic Badges.

Bremont HMAF Caseback
One design element strangely missing from these watches is the British MOD arrow sign, this being explained by the fact these watches are not issue watches but developed together with the armed forces. One other feature the watches in this collection miss, that has been integral to most Bremont until now, is the “Trip-Tik”; case construction, this was apparently to keep the cost reasonable.
Personally, I found these watches a little disappointing, especially that they have been produced to a price point. I would have liked something developed with the military to show a little of that over-engineering that military watches are known for. However, I applaud the English brothers for wanting to give something back to the world to which they owe much of their products marketing and design.

Elliot Brown – Military Watch

Many watch lover’s have a special attraction to military watches. I have posted recently about the “Dirty Dozen” and 6BB watches, both past and revived.

Holton – new military watch

Elliot Brown are now offering something slightly different a new watch designed together with the British military, not an old design refreshed or relaunched.

It’s the first military issued watch from a British company in over ten years and prior to being approved, was the subject of intense testing, surviving some of the most hostile conditions imaginable.

The Brief: capable of prolongued exposure to water and dust, durable, shock resistant, clear visibility day or night,  unidirectional timing bezel operable with a gloved hand, easy strap changes and comfortable strapping options that don’t break.

As a piece of equipment issued by the stores, the Holton has been assigned the NATO stock number 6645-99-303-0677: Time-measuring instruments; United Kingdom, and features the ‘Crow’s foot/Pusser’s Arrow/Broad Arrow‘ on the dial in subdued grey.

The watch will also be available for non-military wrists from £425. I have not seen a watch in the metal, but Elliot Brown do have a good reputation. I hope to get my hands on one soon. In the meantime you can get more detailed from the Elliot Brown website.

 

Vertex M100B – The Black One

After reviewing and enjoying the original Vertex M100 I was intrigued to experience the limited edition blacked out version.

M100B on rubber strap

I am sure I have read a comment from Don Cochrane of Vertex that this watch was how he imagined the dirty dozen watches might have evolved. The blacked out look making the watch even more appropriate for stealthy military operations. There is certainly no doubt that the black DLC coating does give a more modern look, especially on the superb, and subtly branded, rubber strap.

Aside from this particular watch I had been eyeing black cased watches for a time attracted by their purposeful modern. However whilst considering the merits of the M100B I realised that for me, black is not particularly new.

My previous black watches

So this brings me to my first observation, the DLC finish does actually look more stealthy. On the first morning of wearing the Vertex ,my usually attentive wife, did not notice the watch at all, when I bought it to her attention she said she had thought I was wearing the Swatch on the right in the picture above. Now for some of us that might like to keep our growing watch collections less evident, this could be a bonus feature.

Like the original watch this one comes packaged in a Peli case with three straps – however in place of the leather strap there is  a bespoke Vertex rubber two-piece strap. The two Vertex nylon NATO-straps this time are  in Red with black DLC metal parts and all Black.

M100B on red NATO

 

M100B on black NATO

The star strap has to be the new rubber one. It is super comfortable and very “elegant” exception to what I was used to expect from rubber straps. I especially like the very subtle branding. The Vertex arrow featuring on the top near to the lugs and as a grippy looking pattern on the underside.

Rubber strap detail
M100B rubber strap underside
Only 150 M100B timepieces will be produced and when I checked last week there are still some available at £2624.40. Unlike the M100 no referral is required.
The other specifications remain the same as the original. A 40mm case housing a ETA 7001 movement with a solid caseback.
 Then of course there is still the amazing lume….

 

That LUME

In conclusion this watch is a great compliment to the original with the advantage that you do not need a recommendation to buy one.

For more information and possibly to buy one visit the Vertex website.

Vertex M100B

Today I received more details of the second watch from the re-launched Vertex the all black M100B. I wrote briefly about this watch last week but lacked good quality images. Well here they are and looking pretty impressive.

M100B – photo Vertex

 

M100B + Red NATO photo Vertex

Blacked out watches are fashionable so one could be cynical and think Vertex are just following fashion but in their defence Don Cochrane has a credible explanation. The black case and rubber strap bring the M100B in line with the demands of a modern military
timepiece.
“I would like to think that, had the technology been available, the original W.W.W Cal59 made by Vertex
in WW2 would have been designed to be non-reflective. Creating the M100B has allowed us show just
how perfect that would have been and, we could not be more thrilled with the result “

As you might guess from the images above in addition to the rubber strap the watch comes with two NATO straps. The rubber strap lookes really nice in the photos, I am particularly happy to see the “easy-release” spring bars, making switching straps a breeze.

So most would agree the watch is cool, the good news is that it can be purchased , unlike the M100, without referral. The catch is there will only be 150 made, so hurry.

I am looking forward to getting to see one in the metal before they all go.

Vertex M100B specifications

• Custom ETA 7001 mechanical movement with rhodium finish and Cotes de Genève decoration
• In keeping with our previous Vertex movements, the ratchet wheel is engraved with Vertex
• Brushed steel DLC case, box crystal glass, waterproof to 100m
• Moulded Super-LumiNova™ dial
• 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 three straps – a black rubber two-piece strap and two bespoke nylon NATOstyle
straps in Black and Red, all with black DLC hardware
• Price: £2,625 available via www.vertexblack.com

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.

 

 

 

Vertex coming back ?

Today I found an interesting little article in the Financial Times. It appears the British watch brand Vertex is about to be re-launched.

Vintage Vertex
Vintage Vertex

According to the article Don Cochrane (of Netjets) is hoping to relaunch the brand established by his great-grandfather , Claude Lyons, in 1916. The company was one of the iconic “Dirty Dozen” supplying military watches.

The aim is to build 60 military styled watches based on wartime models. These will be initially offered to selected people at £2500.