Tag Archives: HAND WOUND

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.




Marloe Haskell

I received an e-mail that I thought letting you all know about. Marloe will announce their fourth watch this Thursday (October 26th) at 3pm (BST).

The Haskell – teaser

This watch will be limited to 500 pieces. For the first time from  Marloe the watch will use a Swiss movement. The brand from Oxfordshire has used Chinese movements in their first two watches, the Cherwell and Lomond. They followed these using a Japanese Miyota movement in the Derwent.

This is all the news at the moment.

J.W. Benson

Having the watch bug, like many similar diseases, can be expensive. The solution is more often than not is to resort to elaborate man maths justifying the most recent acquisition. There is however an alternative; buy a used watch. This solution can offer some considerable savings especially if you broaden your search away from more recent watches and especially from the obvious brands.

Luckily for Grinidgetime, British brands offer considerable opportunities as many have dropped by the wayside with the passing of time. One such brand is J.W, Benson of Regents Street, London. I first really noticed these watches whilst searching for Smiths on e-Bay. One particular model caught my eye. The Tropical with a Smiths movement and a Dennison case. The historical British watchmaking brands in one watch – bingo. Unfortunately the prices being asked are starting to look expensive.

J.W. Benson “Tropical”

J W Benson originated in 1847, founded by James William Benson and Samuel Suckley Benson. They were regarded as one of Victorian London’s most prestigious retail jewellers and they also manufactured their own watch movements. Benson had prestigious premises at 43 Cornhill and, when the original partnership was dissolved and James William Benson took over the running of the business, they also opened a branch at 33 Ludgate Hill.

J.W. Benson – Ludgate Hill

A further branch was added at glamorous 25 Old Bond Street and JW Benson proudly boasted an elite client base made up of both British and European royalty and a selection of well heeled industrialists and business figures including the King of Siam, the King of Portugal, the King of Denmark, the Emperor of Japan, the Tsar of Russia and the King of Greece. JW Benson also supplied watches to Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. Throughout its history, J.W. Benson Ltd was also official watchmaker to the Admiralty & the War Department.

During W.W.I. the factory was bombed, destroying thousands of timepieces and from this point on the company no longer manufactured its own watches, but still continued as a retailer. The timepieces bearing the company name used high quality Swiss movements supplied by manufacturers such as, Vertex (Revue), Cyma/Tavannes, Longines and by the English maker, S. Smith & Sons.

J. W. Benson Ltd continued until 1973 at which time the name was sold to the Royal jewellers, Garrards.


Now back to my recent e-Bay find a 1960’s J.W Benson with a 17 manual wind Swiss movement.

My Benson


When the watch arrived in the post I was very pleasantly surprised. The condition was in much better condition than I expected. The 34mm case, in what I assume is gold plate is in great condition apart from a few scratches.

The movement

The movement looks in great condition, though I suspect is in need of a clean as it is running slow at the moment.

JW Benson is an interesting brand with some really nice watches in the back catalogue. Definitely worth hunting out – happy hunting

Pinion Pure Bronze

I have had my Bronze Pinion Axis Pure for just over two months now so I thought it was about time I publish my initial impressions.

On the first day - shiny
On the first day – shiny

This watch, more than any other I have had, offers a very involving experience. This involvement starts every day with the morning ritual of winding the manual Unitas 6498 movement, which has a very satisfying dependable feel. I then usually put the watch to my ear just to hear the slow tock……tock. The day can now commence.

On a Green Nato
On a Green Nato

Every since my first meeting with Piers Berry, the founder of Pinion Watches, I have been fascinated by the idea of bronze cased watches. Piers was an early advocate of the material and would mention how if you google “bronze watch” Pinion came out top of the list. Piers has now decided the material has become a bit mainstream and is concentrating more on other materials and finishes. This may be, as he has told me,  that customers attracted to the brand by the bronze models more often than not ended up buying steel watches. I am sure this is because when you way up the pros and cons of each material steel possibly results more versatile and less of a risk.

By not taking the “risk” however I think you miss the opportunity to experience the changes, the development of patina. Each watch becomes more individual, more personal over time in the same way that selvedge denim does. As well as the case “maturing” then there is the lovely English leather strap which is slowly becoming creased and more flexible adding its character to the mix.

Leaving aside this development of character, the watch it self is very satisfying. I have been championing smaller, 38/40mm, case sizes so I was initially concerned that at 42mm I might find the Pure too big. But then I reasoned my Speedmaster is the same size and that sometimes even looks small. The Pure is not a “dress” watch but it does wear very easily. I have now got used to the size, and as it gets darker it is less “in your face”.

One design element of Pinion bronze watches that I initially questioned was the steel crown. I thought a bronze crown would have been more appropriate. Piers has obviously been questioned on this point several times so just had a slightly cross look when I mentioned it. Now I must agree with the choice of material as it broadens the choice of straps you can choose from, there are not many many available with bronze fittings, especially good quality Nato’s.

As my watch is one of the last of the bronze Pures, Piers had it made with the green dial which previously had featured only the the more recent gun metal cased watches. This adds further to its distinctiveness.

Another feature I really like is the case back. I have never been a fan of display backs, they always have seemed out of place on the more robust style of watch I prefer.

The caseback
The caseback

So, my conclusion for now is I am very happy with the watch. It has a distinctive non-generic look that however is not weird and has a character that is developing much in them same way as a pair of leather boots or raw denim jeans.

Pinion Pure Bronze & Selvedge
Pinion Pure Bronze & Selvedge

I will give a further update in a couple of months.

More Marloe news

As you might remember the next watch we were expecting from British watch brand Marloe was the Lomond Chronograph. Therefore I was surprised to news of a further model the hand wound Derwent.

The new Derwent
The new Derwent

The Marloe website tells us this is born out of their love for traditional British watches of the 50’s and 60’s, with hi-dome acrylic crystals and small cases. They have added a few contemporary touches like a subtle domed dial leading outwards to an angled chapter ring and simple pitched profile hands for maximum readability, but the classic aesthetic remains. Most watches of this era had solid case-backs, but the Derwent Classic offers a small porthole displaying the balance wheel.

From the images I have seen they have produced a much nicer looking watch than the Cherwell with a pleasant non-generic design.

Interestingly, as you will see from the specifications below, they have also switched from the Chinese Sea-Gull to a Japanese Miyota

  • 38mm diameter, 9mm depth
  • Japanese Miyota 6T33 manual mechanical movement
  • Power reserve of 40+ hours
  • Hi-dome custom acrylic crystal
  • Solid engraved case-back with port-hole crystal
  • Unique domed dial profile with chapter ring
  • Black leather strap with stainless steel buckle
  • Bespoke 316L stainless steel case
  • 20mm Lug width
  • 3ATM

Watch out now for news about the chronograph.


Bronze Patina

More Bronze watches are now available and one of the first questions you might ask before committing to buying one is “how does the famous bronze patina develop” ?

As I took procession of my Pinion Pure Bronze the week before Christmas I thought it might be useful to post weekly updates.

New Bronze
New Bronze

Despite wearing the watch every day the colour change is very gradual.

After one week
After one week

I will try to make some better close-ups for next week.


My (o)Pinion

You might have noticed on instagram that I now have my own Pinion, An Axis Pure with a dark green dial, The green dial previously on the Gunmetal Green version of this watch.

My Pinion
My Pinion

My first impression when compared to my previous English watch, the Smiths Deluxe, was big and heavy. But clearly that is compared to a 1950’s 35mm steel watch. You might remember that I have been suggesting for some time that cases over 40mm were getting a little large for my taste.  Maybe I should re-consider this as my other regular wear is a Speedmaster Pro which is also 42mm.

With it’s 42mm case and wide (22 mm) strap the Pure is actually re-assuringly solid. The manual wound Unitas movement reinforces that sense of dependability.  The last feature making this the perfect weekend/holiday (and maybe Friday) watch for me is the 100m water resistance rating.

Finally, there is the bronze case. Pinion now feel this material is becoming too mainstream. Coming from the generation that appreciated how materials such as denim and leather become more personal with age I am very happy to have a watch that will do the same.

I will keep you updated on how the patina develops.

Garrick Portsmouth

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.

The Garrick Portsmouth
The Garrick Portsmouth

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.