Tag Archives: made in great Britain

Neither Schofield or Pinion will be attending Salon QP

The salon QP is where I first met with both Schofield and Pinion, so I am a little disappointed to discover that after the absence of Pinion last year, Schofield have decided not to attend either this year.

For the first year since Schofield launched its Signalman model watches they are not exhibiting .  The reasons are simple; wthey are very busy with a completely new watch called the Daymark and very busy with the production of the new bronze Beater B2. There is a risk that none of their new watches would be ready .

On the up side there will still be a significant presence from British watch brands such as Fears, who will be launching at the event, Dennison, Robert Loomes and Garrick. The last two with new movements.

W.T Author

W.T. Author arrived just after I started this blog and some how I managed to miss them, which is a shame. Yes, they are another British watch brand producing a range of watches with largely quartz movements the Swiss made Ronda 513S Quartz . One model , The Black cushion 1929 does have a Citizen 9015 Automatic movement. They do offer a distinctive design direction.

W.T.Author 1905
W.T.Author 1905
W.T. Author Classic 1914
W.T. Author Classic 1914
W.T. Author Classic 1929
W.T. Author Classic 1929

 

The brand is the idea of Sam Holland & Jonathan Shakespeare. According to their website it all started in 2013.

“At 13:00 Friday 13th September 2013 we launched an independent watch brand, the likes of which had never been seen before; the result of countless meetings at local coffee houses under Birmingham’s prestigious School of Horology. Discussing our love of fine watches, it soon dawned on us exactly how our friendship and passion for design could be directed into manufacturing a collection of our very own that charts the history of watches.”

Starting with the Classic 1905 they plan to produce a new model a year for thirteen years, each to mark a decade of watchmaking. Each watch to be produced in a series limited t 125 pieces, the latest, the 1929, being limited to 100 pieces.

Their workshop is based in the Shropshire countryside where they receive each tailor-made component from every corner of the globe (from USA to South America, Asia to Switzerland and of course, Great Britain). They assemble each product and fit precision movements, tested above and beyond the usual quality standards. They make and fit each strap from beautiful Buffalo hides onto the watch, where it will sit in the packaging with the signed book and limited edition screen print.

To read the considerably longer explanation of the two men’s philosophy and for more details of the watch specifications go to

https://wtauthor.com

 

Brent Adventurer’s Evening

As I enjoyed the last event so much I popped along for my second Bremont Adventurer’s evening. The adventurer for the evening was Alex Gregory the the Olympic rower.

Alex Gregory Olympic Rower
Alex Gregory Olympic Rower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cannot claim to have been a keen follower of rowing, so I came with no idea of what to expect. Alex gave a really inspiring talk, such that I found myself taking notes thinking there were many nuggets of wisdom to retell to my children. Then something guaranteed to make sports mad boys really jealous, I got to hold his 2012 Gold medal !

Alex Gregory's 2012 Olympic Gold medal
Alex Gregory’s 2012 Olympic Gold medal.

Having seen seen all the newly announced Bremont models on my previous visit there was less to look out for this time. I did however manage to get a couple of questions to the staff. The key one being, how many of the Bremont cases are actually made the Siverstone facility, well apparently it is 100%.

As before a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Thank you.

Pinion Axis II – range

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The latest newsletter from Pinion, that arrived this morning, announced that the Axis II range now consists of a choice of three cases, Steel, Bronze and Black DLC. Each being available either with a closed or exhibition back. One interesting “Pinion Fact”  is that emerged from reading about these watches was that the Bronze Axis was the first bronze watch from a modern British company.

For more news of the range follow this Axis link

I really looking forward to seeing this new range soon.

Offshore Professional

On one of my browsing sessions I came across another British “micro-brand” that has escaped my notice up until now. Offshore Professionalb from Classic Chronographs Ltd whose stated aim is to build unique chronographs under the OFFSHORE Professional model name.

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These are the broad specifications:
  • 44 mm diameter (47.5 mm incl crown), 14.5 mm thick
  • Custom made triple complication 25 jewel Swiss Valjoux automatic movement with anti-magnetic key components
  • Movement manufactured to a customised top echelon grade with decorated and rhodium plated mainplates 
  • Day and Date display 
  • Hour, minute and 1/8 second chronograph
  • Layered shock resistance
  • Pressure rated to 10 ATM (300 ft water depth)
  • Suitable for any climate (tested in the arctic, tropics & middle east) 
  • 4 layer dial designed for maximum low-light and harsh-light visibility
  • C1 Super Luminova solid wafers in hour and minute hand
  • C3 Super Luminova hour markers on dial
  • No luminous markings on subdial or second hands for clear night time legibility of hour and minute hands
  • Silicon impregnated leather strap with rubber core and neoprene anti-sweat lining
  • 316L stainless steel multi-hinge deployment clasp with engraved Trident logo
  • 316L stainless steel bracelet with Trident logo deep engraved into a butterfly clasp
  • Both the bracelet and strap are included with each watch
  • Leather travel case suitable for up to 2 watches
  • 2 year Warranty & a Lifetime Guarantee
 There is a great description of this limits of this guarantee :
There isn’t much in day-to-day life that will destroy one of these watches. If you break a crown, button, sapphire crystal, damage the movement or do anything else from any reasonable level of accident (dropping onto a tiled floor for instance) over the first 2 years of ownership then just send it back and it will be repaired or replaced. Same goes for any water ingress provided you promise you didn’t push the chronograph buttons when swimming.
The warranty extends to the strap, clasp and bracelet. You can swim or shower with the leather strap as it is silicon impregnated to be more waterproof than your skin, but please remember not to apply any mosquito repellents containing high levels of DEET as they will dissolve the neoprene lining and leave a black stain on your wrist.
If you manage to break an OFFSHORE Professional Field Engineer through something not covered by the Warranty, like running over it with a car, then I will replace it at half the price of a new one. This is a lifetime guarantee (my lifetime as I don’t want to pass any liabilities onto my children) regardless of abuse, lack of servicing or number of owners. Failure analysis is a important part of engineering and from a dent or damage size, I can back calculate the impact energy that caused it and the energy levels that were absorbed or transmitted through each of the shock absorbing layers.
More information can be found at the company’s website www.classicchronographs.co.uk

FT Article – Watch industry calls time on shortage of apprentices – Robin Swithinbank

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The FT article

The British watch industry’s chronic shortage of watchmakers has been described as one of the greatest threats to its long-term future. However, a programme being developed under the UK government’s Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme may provide a solution.
Announced in 2013, Trailblazer encourages employers to create apprenticeship standards that meet their needs. Previously, training providers had set the criteria. In response, leading figures from the British watch industry have joined forces to define a watchmaking apprenticeship standard and to try to stem the decline in the country’s number of watchmakers.

The group is being led by Matt Bowling, servicing director of pre-owned, premium watch retailer WatchFinder & Co, a business that relies heavily on watchmakers to sustain its £60m annual turnover.
“The shortage of watchmakers in the industry is glaring,” says Mr Bowling, who employs eight full-time watchmakers. “People who are serious about being in the watch industry over the next 20 years have no choice but to do something about it.”
In June, Mr Bowling chaired a meeting of 16 leading figures from the British watch industry and representatives from several brands, retailers and administrative bodies. The group is working on a watchmaking apprenticeship specification which it hopes will be included in the Trailblazer scheme’s “craftsperson” apprenticeship standard. Approval is expected before the end of the year.
According to GfK POS Tracking, UK sales of mechanical watches rose from 168,000 in 2010 to 235,000 in 2014, an increase of 40 per cent. In time, those watches will need servicing, placing a burden on the watchmaking industry it is not expected to be able to meet. There are no official figures for the number of UK watchmakers, but they are believed to be in the low to mid-hundreds.
Birmingham University offers 14 undergraduate places a year and the British School of Watchmaking (BSoW) in Manchester a further eight to trainee watchmakers. While a valuable contribution, it only scratches the surface of the problem.
The British Horological Institute had been trying unsuccessfully to generate support for a government-funded apprenticeship scheme for eight years before the Trailblazer plan was announced.
Dudley Giles, chief executive of the BHI, says: “Until the government turned the system on its head, it had been hard for the watch industry to get funding for a watchmaking apprenticeship scheme.”
Mr Giles, who will become a training provider when the apprenticeship standard is put in place, sees great potential in the government’s revised strategy. “The training providers will be the servants of the employers,” he says.
If the apprenticeship standard and assessment plan devised by Mr Bowling’s group are adopted and become part of the Trailblazer scheme, British watch companies could be taking on apprentices as early as next year.
Employers would receive funding from the government for each apprentice taken on. How much funding has yet to be determined, but the industry is pushing for the upper band, given the high costs involved in training a watchmaker.
However, Mr Bowling thinks more should be done. “I would like to think that people in the industry realise that to preserve British watchmaking they need to invest in it,” he says.
“I’ve never been able to reconcile that you have these enormous brands that have so much money, and yet it still costs £16,000 to do the course in Manchester. If you’re committed to getting people into watchmaking, then let’s see it,” he adds.
Mark Hearn, managing director of Patek Philippe in the UK and a former director of the BSoW, agrees. “Other organisations need to be encouraged and developed. There’s an increasing demand for young watchmakers.”
Historically, one of the stumbling-blocks has been the notorious inability of the various factions within the British watchmaking industry to collaborate.
“I’d like to see the British watchmaking industry work closer together,” says Nick English, founder of Bremont, a British watch brand represented at June’s meeting. “For this industry to grow, we need a proper apprenticeship scheme.”
Another hurdle is the reputation of watchmaking as a dusty and outmoded profession — aspiring technicians are more likely to enter IT or engineering. And, even if the watchmaking apprenticeship standard is adopted, there is no guarantee it will lead to successful recruitment. That will depend on the industry’s ability to advertise itself to potential watchmakers.
“I’d like to go into schools and sit one of our 25-year-old watchmakers earning £40,000 a year, in front of 16-year-old kids and tell them about being a watchmaker,” says Mr Bowling.
“I want them to consider watchmaking, because, if you can do the job, you’re going to be employed for ever.”

Roger Smith – BBC Interview – By Chris Baraniuk

For the full interview and all the great photos follow this link :

BBC Interview

Fetching hundreds of thousands of pounds, they’re the ultimate statement piece. Who are the people that make the world’s most intricately designed watches?

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Roger Smith’s heart was in his mouth. Across the table from him sat George Daniels, the best watchmaker in the world. Here they were in Daniels’ own workshop, on the Isle of Man. Smith was only 27. He’d flown over from his home in the north of England to show something to the great craftsman. Something he’d been working on for five and a half years. A handmade mechanical watch.
He waited anxiously as Daniels turned the device over gently in his hands, inspecting every surface and every detail with an authoritative eye. Daniels asked Smith to confirm who had made various bits of the watch. To every question, Smith’s reply came back, “I did.” There were only a few of these questions. And then, Daniels stood up. “Congratulations,” he said, with a smile, “you’re a watchmaker.”
That was how it all really began in earnest for Smith, who shortly afterwards became Daniels’ apprentice. Although Daniels passed away in 2011, Smith now produces his own line of luxury watches, still on the Isle of Man.

Despite the rise of electronic watches, demand for mechanical timepieces has remained among those who can afford them, with manufacturers ranging from Rolex to Patek Phillipe. What’s unusual about Smith and his small team is that they make just 10 watches a year. They’re very rare, very beautiful – and very expensive. What goes in to the making of intricate watches like these?

he RW Smith workshop, nestled in a hamlet on the Isle of Man, is actually a cottage – once Smith’s own house – converted into a kind of mini factory. The whole area is relaxed and rural. On one side of the building lies the Irish Sea, just visible across a field. To the other, Snaefell Mountain, gently reclining in the distance.

Quietly, in the midst of this idyllic landscape, the RW Smith watchmakers spend hours, days, weeks and months crafting the components for every watch. Cutting, drilling, weighing, polishing – all at a minuscule scale. Inside the workshop itself are just three rooms containing some vintage watchmaking machinery, a noisy milling device and a series of benches where the most delicate parts of the procedure can be painstakingly carried out under ample overhead light.
Smith has set everything up as precisely as one of his watches. He points to the milling machine. “It’s German,” he says, “It’s used extensively in Switzerland in the watch industry. And this gives us total independence from anyone. It enabled me to design a new British [watch] movement.”

A drawer in a large cabinet is pulled open. Tiny boxes labelled all the way up to 100 and beyond lie in neatly arranged rows – the individual components for one of Smith’s Series 2 watches. In another corner lies an older milling machine, originally bought by Daniels in the 1970s. It’s not needed anymore. But an even more ancient-looking device near it is. It’s used for engine-turning – a kind of geometric metallic patterning which is one of the signature features of an RW Smith watch design.
Smith points to one of his in-production dials to explain. “A dial like that will take about two to two-and-a-half weeks to make,” he says, commenting that it is designed to be serviceable or restorable in 100 or 200 years’ time – if not more. “The lettering and numerals are all hand cut and we fill those with ink so that they can all be refreshed when the time comes.”

There is a clean whiteness to the metal of the dial and Smith explains that this hue is achieved by heating the material, silver, under a flame to oxidise it gently. That’s the sort of detail few might realise goes into the production of a device like this.
“The finish has got to be completely flawless. There are no excuses, it’s either right or wrong, there’s no in-between,” he says.

The effort required to achieve this level of – to use Smith’s own word – perfection, is mind-boggling. One single watch, depending on its complexity, could take three years to make. And from start to finish Smith’s watchmakers are working to tolerances of within 3-4000th of a millimetre. Anything less could make the watch unreliable. And in the assembly of each one, it’s the final stages which are the most challenging. “It’s very, very demanding,” says Smith.

“Suddenly every single time you pick up the watch you’ve got to protect it with your fingers. You’ve got to think about picking up the screwdriver to un-do a screw, you don’t want to slip because if you slip you could spend a couple of days correcting the fault.”
During this process, the watchmaker can enter a near trance-like state, he admits. “You have to sharpen your wits. You have to just sit down and really concentrate,” says Smith.
As he explains, a watch is a relatively simple concept as a mechanical device. Energy stored in a coiled spring is gradually released by a mechanism called an “escapement”, essentially a series of gears. Ultimately these gears turn a final set of cogs which unwind and move the minute and hour hands. It’s a complicated business, though, because of the small size and the aforementioned tolerances involved. And also because of the longevity. Watch owners expect their watches to work flawlessly without servicing or interfering with them for many years. Imagine, says Smith, asking your car’s engine to be as reliable.

Smith’s low rate of production means there is currently a three year waiting list for one of his Series 2’s. If you are prepared to wait, an RW Smith watch currently starts at £100,000 though he is also making several other watches, using a movement designed by George Daniels himself, which cost £174,000. For some clients that’s a drop in the ocean, though. Smith’s latest bespoke project for one customer will sport a completely unique design. “That will be probably over a million by the time it’s finished,” he says nonchalantly.

Despite being so remote, Smith’s workshop does get visited by his wealthy clients. “They all come at some point,” he says. “I think it’s only really when they come and visit that they fully understand what we’re trying to do here. When they see the kind of working, the finishing of components that go into a watch.”

It hasn’t always been easy. Smith says that there were times in the early days of his business when he was “on the breadline”. At one point, things were so dire that he even had to sell the special watch he made all those years ago to impress George Daniels.
It’s clear Smith has an uncompromising view about quality, and the importance of his craft. “I make no apology for being a purist. Ours is the purest of mechanical arts,” he wrote last year in an open letter online criticising the shortcuts of other British watchmakers. He argued they were misleading customers as to the origins of their watches’ components. Some, it had transpired, were selling Swiss-made movements in their watches while claiming them as wholly British designs.
What does Smith think of the Apple Watch? “Not a great deal really,” he quips. For Smith, a watch is mechanical, it has a soul, he says, and can be seen as a friend or companion. “It might sound a bit nutty, but, you know, it’s something that you can understand and really look at and study,” he explains.

“I don’t know if you can ever have that connection with an electronic thing that you have to keep charging every day and that only has a tiny amount of information in it.”