Tag Archives: handmade watch

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.

 

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.

Daniels’ Space Travellers

Just in case you missed this news, which I guess is unlikely, I wanted to mark this important landmark in history of British watchmaking.

George Daniels’ Space Travellers was recently sold at auction for £3.2m. a new record for a British watch.

Space Travellers – photo Sothebys

The BBC reported  Sotheby’s Head of  International Watch Division, Daryn Schnipper said: “The Space Travellers’ watch is no doubt one of Daniels’ finest timepieces and one can only be mesmerised by the beauty of its dial and the complexity and wonder of its movement.”

 

George Daniels Watches for auction

Over the next couple of months not one but two George Daniels watches are being auctioned at Sothebys.

The first being a Millenium Watch that will be auctioned on April 25th.

Millenium 01c (photo Sothebys)

The second watch will be on sale on July 6th it is a gold tourbillon chronometer.

Daniels Tourbillion Chronometer (Image New York Times

George Daniels have consistently achieved amazingly high prices. Given the state of the watch market recently it will be interesting to see if this continues.

My Salon QP – Friday Robert Loomes

Salon QP is now over for another year. This year, as I have already written, I was a little disappointed that neither Pinion or Schofield were exhibiting. However, now on my fourth year I am getting used to the format of the show and so I am starting to feeling comfortable in the Saatchi Gallery.

QP logoOne learning from last year was that around the show there are also some great presentations from interesting people in the industry. This year the talk that caught my eye was Robert Loomes discussing about how he got to be building his movements in Britain; held on Friday lunchtime. Robert is a super enthusiast who apparently would happily tell everyone about is journey for as long as they are prepared to listen. Salon QP disappointingly limited his time.

Robert’s talk was not limited to his new movement, but his watchmaking history that lead up to this  point. The key to his story would appear to be Roberts, “well, that should be possible” attitude mixed with a healthy dose of patriotism. To cut a long story short the whole enterprise started with a bet. Now this all seems like a recipe for the usual heroic  “could have been, if only ” situation.

The heroine in this story, as in so many, would appear to be Robert’s wife Robina, who in 2011 bought the business and left Robert to get on and do the technical stuff. Robina recognised one of the most important current marketing trends “localisation”, customers, a much better description than consumers, are paying more attention to the origin of the products they buy. This has become very evident in the world of food and drink but is now moving into more durable items such as clothing and of more interest to us, watches. Watches that are now, from a practical point of view redundant, have become more  personal statements leading more people wanting to know more about the story and origins of the product the are buying to make that statement. For many people that includes wanting to support their national industry or even to go as far as wanting to know the people responsible for making their watch. These are the people Robert and Robina sell there watches to.

The "Stamford"
The “Stamford”

In making their new “Stamford” watch Robert and his team have built on they experience of making the Robin watch using modified NOS Smiths movements. The Stamford being a development of that  movement in a case and dial similar to to the Robin. Initially only 24 examples will be made 12 in gold and 12 white gold and maybe one for Robert himself in “stainless gold”. Unfortunately, for those of us with other demands on our salary, the price will be £28,500. I did enquire if there was a chance these prices might drop if production increases and bring economies of scale. The message from was fairly unambiguous from Robert, unlikely. Given the small number of all the components they are are ordering from small local engineering companies it is difficult to lower cost significantly.

Having said all of this I am confident that Robert and Robina will find  24 buyers that believe in their idea of localisation. Congratulations.

Two Roger Smith’s for sale!

Those clever people at Hodinkee tweeted a few days ago that they have discovered not one but two early example of British watchmaker Roger Smith’s work for sale.

Series 2 & Daniels Anniversary
Series 2 & Daniels Anniversary

Clearly these are not cheap. The gold Series 2 is up for £150,000 , the Daniel’s Anniversary for £235,000 .

For the complete story  https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/two-early-roger-w-smith-watches-watch-xchange

 

George Daniels – Space Traveller

Roger Smith tweeted this short video clip of his mentor George Daniels’ Space Traveller watch displayed in the Manx Museum.

I thought I would find out some more about this impressive pocket watch and this is it’s story.

Dr. Daniels was on a trip to Zurich where he met an important collector for dinner. The collector nudged him and said ‘what do you have in your pocket’, so he took out his watch, a gold Daniels pocket watch with independent double-wheel escapement. The collector said he had to have the watch and asked him to sell it to him. Dr. Daniels said it was not for sale but the collector persisted. Dr. Daniels thought this was an enormous compliment as he did not even ask the price, and so sold him the watch. Dr. Daniels immediately regretted selling this watch and therefore decided to make another which would be an improvement on the first both in terms of complication and accuracy. Having not fully exploited the first watch, the second watch would have separate calculations for each train, it was therefore possible to indicate both mean-solar and sidereal time.In the 18th century to check the accuracy of your watch you had to have a precision clock which was set by a star. This watch by means of having solar and sidereal time could make the calculation for you, the difference being 3.555 minutes per day.

To try and improve the calculation of the train which allowed for an error of 0.8 seconds per year Dr. Daniels contacted a friend at Cambridge University to ask if they knew of a mathematician interested in watches. He got a response almost immediately and extraordinarily enough the mathematicians name was Professor Daniels. The professor was able to calculate a better ratio of 0.28 seconds per day, which Dr. Daniels was very happy with.

Dr. Daniels used to say to people, ‘when you are on your package tour to Mars you need a watch like this, and when using the telephone for long distance calls you could switch the chronograph into sidereal time to cut your bills by 3.555 minutes per day’.Originally the watch had been referred to as the Daniels squared (2) because of the assistance he received from Professor Henry Daniels but Dr. Daniels did not think this was good enough so named it the ‘Space Travellers’ watch in honour of the American landing on the moon which was the greatest space exploratory journey of the century.

Roger Smith attends New York City premiere of The Watchmaker’s Apprentice

Roger Smith and David Armstrong

How was the trip?

New York is always very exciting. It’s a great city with a deep interest in horology. In fact the horological community there is growing and very knowledgeable, while the people I meet always seem to enthusiastic and very pleasant company!

The event was hosted by the New York Horological Society…

Yes it was – and they are doing important work, which is continually increasing the awareness and knowledge of watchmaking.

You also have collectors in the USA?

We do. Both the East and West coasts are important for us and overall the USA probably accounts for a third of our business. I think that was partly why there was a great deal of interest in the Watchmaker’s Apprentice.

The event was sold out…

It was! The cinema is actually quite iconic, being the home of the Tribeca Film Festival and the house was packed! It’s marvelous to see so much interest for a film about watchmaking. It is particularly gratifying to see this for DAM Productions who made the film.

It has been nearly four years since they filmed the interviews with George and myself here in the Isle of Man. So to see them gain support from The Watch Club in London, to ensure the film was finished and to now see that faith fulfilled with sold-out screenings and international distribution is marvelous.

How does it feel to be the subject of a film?!

Well, I think this comes back to the question of the faith of filmmakers. Tucked away in our studio in the Isle of Man, it is easy to forget that there is so much interest in watchmaking, and what we do, all over the world. As such, I was amazed that anyone would want to make a film about it!

However, I think, clearly the fascination is with George Daniels and his story. George gave so few interviews and was a very private person (except when he was racing his Bentleys!) that for the production team to get his last words also gave them the chance to create a completely rounded narrative on his life and work, which in many respects makes it very complementary to Michael Clerizo’s excellent biography. I may be ‘The Watchmaker’s Apprentice’, but my story in the context of the film is only really the last chapter of George’s.

You also gave a question and answer session?

Along with David Armstrong, the director, yes. Being a horological audience, many of the questions picked up on various aspects of the story and there were also a number of anecdotes shared from the audience about George Daniels, which are always entertaining!

It was also touching to hear how the film affected people and it was also very gratifying to meet so many young people with a passion for watchmaking!

..and there was a lot of interest in your now famous ‘Open Letter’…

That too! I must say it was quite overwhelming the support I received and to hear about the similar issues faced by the watchmaking fraternity in the USA. Since the letter was published by Hodinkee it has received huge support around the world and in particular the UK of course. It has also subsequently been quoted by others, and in forums, somewhat out of context. My issue is not and never has been a judgment on how people make watches, but purely about the honesty of their claims. The audience shared their own big concern about provenance in New York right now. They were telling me that some watch companies claim to make pieces locally, but in actual fact these might be dissembled foreign watches, which are reassembled on site and then passed off as having been ‘Made in New York’. This is the sort of thing I am talking about.

What is next for the film?

I gather that the film is being represented for international sales by Amadeus Entertainment at the Cannes Film Festival right now and is being released in the UK on the 20th July by the distributor, Bulldog Film.

It’s next stop on ‘tour’ is going to be at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham on the 26th May, where the film will be screened and there will be another Q&A session, with David Armstrong on which I will be a guest.