Tag Archives: HAND WOUND

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.

 

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

Christopher Ward – gosh

I thought Christopher Ward merit an honorable mention this week, they have recently announced some really nice looking watches which move them significantly away from the generic styles. The latest one to really catch my eye is this the C65 Trident Diver.

C65 Trident Diver – photo Chr. Ward

As you can see the look is vintage but I am not able to identify any particular watch as the inspiration, though I am sure there is someone out there that can.

This watch has  a useful casual but smart look, a diver that is not so “in your face” as the usual desk divers whilst retaining all the practicality. A cool trick.

The specifications are:

  • Diameter: 41mm
  • Height: 11.55mm
  • Weight: 65g
  • Calibre: Sellita SW210 (hand wound)
  • Case: 316L Stainless Steel
  • Water resistance: 15 ATM (150 metres)
  • Vibrations: 28,800 per hour (4 Hz)
  • Timing tolerance: +15/-15 seconds per day
  • Dial colour: Blue or Black
  • Lug to lug: 47.1mm
  • Strap width: 22mm
  • Leather or Rubber strap
  • Price €870

I would really like to see one for real. The only potential negative for me might be the 41mm case size, I am curious to see how it wears.

Here is the usual nice video from Christopher Ward

 

 

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.