Tag Archives: pinion

Pinion Atom

I have been waiting for what seems like for ever for the latest watch from Pinion, the entry level Atom, to become available.

Pinion Atom

You might remember I first saw this watch at the Watchmakers Club event before last year’s Salon QP.  I was looking forward to getting my hands on one for a review.

Then  last week an e-mail arrives from Pinion announcing there were only 20 watches left and once these were gone that was it, or at least until Piers  Berry, the founder, changes his mind. So that was it, no watch for me to review.

Salon QP, a more significant watch magazine than my blog, did however manage to get hold of one for review. So I thought I would flag this up to any of you that might not have seen it.

So here is a link to  to their review.

Hopefully, I will get a chance at the future new watches Mr Berry is hinting at.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

Pinion – Yamaha motorcycle

This is a rare opportunity to post about two things that occupy the most of my online attention. Watches and motorbikes, I am also quiet interested in Japanese denim but that’s for another time.

During the last Apex evening Piers Berry did mention there was a “Pinion Motorcycle ” in arrival. In collaboration with Yamaha Europe, they are working on a customised XSR700.

Shun Miyazawa - Yamaha
Shun Miyazawa – Yamaha

Shun Miyazawa is the Product Manager at Yamaha Europe and the man behind ‘Yamaha Yard Built’ motorcycles. Shun wears the Pinion X Iron Heart Watch 01 – And last year we were delighted to produce a very limited run of these watches with a special ‘Yard Built’ engraved case back.

I am really looking forward to see what the result looks like.

CAPX – British Watch article

This article was highlighted by Piers Berry of Pinion watches on Instagram yesterday. I have not come across the CAPX website before; they say they bring the best writing on politics, economics, markets and ideas, underpinned by a commitment to make the case for popular capitalism.Furthermore  they are bringing the world of British watch brands to a wider audience I am all in favour.

A link to the article and website

If you just want to read the article here it is.

When we think of the things Britain is famous for making and selling to the world what springs to mind?

Back in the day we might have thought of the might of British industry; ships, aircraft, railways and giant feats of engineering.  In more recent times high end cars and fashionable clothes. Music and literature too, I suppose.

What most people don’t think of when this conversation comes around is watches and clocks and that’s a pity because in historical terms Britain, especially England, can claim to have been at the forefront of the development and commercialisation of both. It’s one of the areas we could be proudest of, were we more aware of it.

To give you an idea of the extent of English horological history, London’s Worshipful Company of Clockmakers was founded in 1631. It’s heading for its 500th anniversary. I’m afraid you IT consultants and call centre managers have a way to go.

In fact some of the great names in the history of using mechanical instruments to accurately measure time are British: Graham, Dent, Arnold, Tompion, Harrison and Mudge, for example.

It would also be a mistake to think that British makers produced only high-end pieces in small numbers. According to expert Laura McCreddie, writing in Retail Jeweller magazine, a House of Commons report from 1796 gives the number of watches being stamped that year in London’s Goldsmith’s Hall alone as 191,678.

Sadly, as in so much else where we led the way in innovating and manufacturing, watch and clockmaking became things other countries did best and turned in to major export industries of their own in latter years.

In fact by the time all things British were at their most desirable, in the 1960s, the British watch industry had withered to almost nothing. By then if a watch didn’t say “Swiss made” nobody was much interested, and so it has remained.

Until now. British watchmaking, or perhaps we should say British watches, are back; and back with a mighty boom. There are real British alternatives to Switzerland out there now in almost every price range and for the buyer looking for something a little different from the crowd they offer a host of refreshing options.

They’re also selling in greater and greater numbers as the British alternative becomes a normal area to explore, just as the German one has always been for those in the know.

Let’s also get something out of the way early here. As British watch brands have risen in recent years there has been much discussion, and heated argument, about what constitutes a “British watch”.

Purists say the tag should start and stop at master craftsman like Roger Smith, hand-making watches from the ground up in their own workshops.

Others insist this is economically silly, given that masterpieces like Smith’s cost upwards of £200,000. If you set the bar there, they say, there wouldn’t be a British watch industry, just two or three bespoke British watchmakers.

This more relaxed group insists that so long as a watch is conceived, designed and assembled/finished in the UK it’s British, even if some of its parts are assuredly foreign.

I agree, not least because I believe that allowing British brands to grow organically by initially finishing their pieces in the UK will ultimately facilitate domestic manufacture  of more and more of the watch here, and that’s already happening as we’ll explore in a moment. Let’s celebrate it, not grumble about it.

Today we’re going to take a look at three very different British brands, none of them the preserve of Oligarchs, all real options across price brackets in the mid and luxury sectors. We’ll then look more closely at one example, as usual with these articles.

They’re all watches I like, which is why I’ve chosen them (there are a number of British watches I don’t, but that makes for miserable reading the week before Christmas – ‘tis the season not to be a Grinch, I say).

There’s an argument that Sussex-based Schofield, our first brand, is spiritually closest to the world-view of the watchmakers of England’s late 18th and early 19thCenturies given the little company founded by Giles Ellis seems determined to innovate endlessly and has little regard for the rules.

The inspiration for Schofield’s pieces is positively traditional – lighthouses, the sea, the English landscape. Yet the watches themselves look and, perhaps more importantly, feel like nothing else. The ethos may be as old as the hills but the delivery is wholly contemporary. I’m a huge fan of the way both of these sides of a Schofield watch’s soul are obvious as you turn one over in your hands, from beautifully enamelled dials to the sweep of the case and the waxed cotton strap options.

They’re about style and concept first and foremost. No Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres’ certifications or 500m+ water resistance here. But they’re not cheap, and this combination means you have to love them to have one.

Entry today is the “Beater” – watchie slang for a trustworthy everyday workhorse you don’t mind dinging, although at around £2,800 their definition of “everyday” may not be quite everyone’s. The Beaters will be replaced with a new entry watch in 2016. At the top end sits the limited edition £10,000 Blacklamp Carbon and the Signalman and Silvertop sit between the two.

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The “Beater”, in bronze, from Schofield

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Schofield’s innovative Blacklamp Carbon

Whichever Schofield you look at though, there’s little room for the middle ground. They’re Marmite watches, unashamedly and deliberately unlike much else. If you get them, you tend to fall for them deeply. If not you’re left scratching your head.

Coming from a completely different angle is Oxfordshire’s Pinion, founded by former digital designer Piers Berry, who decided life was better analogue in 2013 and formed a mechanical watch company which has taken the core aesthetic of classical gents’ watches and chronographs and added some subtle contemporary fizz at its Henley workshops.

They are “safer” in design terms than Schofields and aimed at a slightly more traditional watch buyer.

What emerges is a collection of striking pieces which appeal to those with classic tastes but who want to buy a watch designed and assembled in Britain, and which has its own subtle differentiators.

From the original Axis to the Pure and on to the piece which has really caught attention in recent times, the Revival 1969 Chronograph (limited to 100 pieces using previously unassembled hand-winding Valjoux 7734 movements, altered and upgraded in Henley) Pinion have chosen well-executed contemporary classic over radical.

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The Axis Automatic, from Pinion

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Pinion’s Revival 1969

But classic British things are very much in vogue too, which is why Pinion has marketing hook ups with some very hip companies indeed, such as Japan’s Iron Heart selvage denim company.

The Pinion range is due a major refresh in 2016, to include evolutions of the Revival (to be called the R-1945, running a version of the rare 1940s Valjoux 22 movement) and the Pure, as well as a second generation Axis. The existing range starts at £1,995 for the Axis Automatic in steel and tops out at £4,950 for the Revival 1969.

Our final British firm, and our focus today, is really the daddy of them all (although they’d hate to be described as such).

Bremont Chronometers, whose watches you’ll find in good jewellers everywhere amid the Rolex and Omega display cases. More than any other modern British brand Bremont has crossed the Rubicon from the slippery banks of niche production to the sunlit uplands of mass market recognition in the luxury sector. Their own boutique outlets in London, Hong Kong and New York (the “right” bits of them too) attest to this.

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The British are coming… Bremont founders Giles and Nick English

The reason why Bremont has managed to make this leap are twofold. One is certainly the watches, of which more in a moment. The second though is what they represent or, if you are more cynical, how they are marketed. Founders Nick and Giles English share passions for motor racing, classic cars, aeroplanes, motorcycles and a dollop of military history as well. As anyone who enjoys any of these things knows, where you find them you also tend to find a love for watches.

Bremont’s offerings have been closely associated with all these pastimes. Sometimes through clever brand link-ups with the likes of Norton or Jaguar, or by using materials taken from WWII fighters or Enigma code machines in manufacture, through to Bremont’s Military division which sells personalised versions of its watches to regiments or squadrons. In all this the company has created a large pool of well-connected, influential brand advocates who spread the word.

None of that would have worked, though, without the watches themselves being very good; and they are. The entire core collection is C.O.S.C certified and all its pieces carry a three year warranty. It’s serious performance wrapped in sharp design with its roots in history – a combination which has been commercial dynamite.

Moreover, as an example of my belief that British watch companies become more British as they becomes more successful, Bremont is something of a standard bearer. Its watches are assembled in Oxfordshire but it recently opened a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Silverstone, home of F1 and British motor racing. That is already allowing it to produce many of its own case and movement components as it moves towards full in-house movement status.

This is a major investment and, I suppose, a risk by the English brothers, but it represents a big step towards what has always been the end game for them – a watch designed and built entirely in the UK. There are some very good people working on how that will eventually look and, when it happens, it will be a watershed for the industry in Britain.

Bremont’s range is growing but at its core sit numerous variations of two absolute cornerstones of gents’ watches – the pilot watch and the dive watch.

Today we’re going to take a close look at a Bremont which really captures how far the firm has come, and what I think is one of the best pound for pound watches you can buy.

The £4,395 Oracle II, limited to 535 pieces, is significant for a number of reasons but chiefly because it is one of the watches which marks Bremont becoming the official timekeeper of the America’s Cup yacht race, something previously the preserve of far bigger names in watchmaking. It is also a key sponsor of one of the boats, Team Oracle USA, the crew of which have all been given Oracle IIs. For a relatively small British watch maker this is huge international exposure.

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Oracle II, by Bremont

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Form and function – the Oracle II doesn’t cut corners

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The least British part of Bremont’s Oracle II

Like the Oracle I the second watch in the line is based in part on Bremont’s successful Supermarine dive watch, with 500m water resistance and automatic helium escape valve. The Oracle II, though, uses titanium and sculptured DLC in parts of the case build which, like so many Bremonts, reveals more complexity and features the closer you get to it.

The most obvious change is of course the addition of a second time zone, enabling a GMT function. The combination of the four hands, both colour and design, is what really makes the thing work for me. It could have been terrible but it’s like Goldilocks’ porridge, just right.

That balance continues wherever you look, from the powerful but unobtrusive crown guard to the bezel. Turn it over and over in your hands and the proportions of the design never fail.

It’s also changed colour from the Oracle I’s white to more traditional (and, let’s be honest, saleable) black but still bears the “America’s Cup” name on the varnished matt dial above 6 o’clock.

Both Oracles use Bremont’s anti-shock movement mount and anti-magnetic Faraday cage which encases a modified caliber 13 ¼” BE-92-2AE movement, a decorated and upgraded ETA unit.

Looks and performance are the key to selling a watch, but as a punter that nebulous phrase “how it wears” is key to whether you come to love it. The 43mm Oracle somehow shrinks on the wrist, feeling snug and slipping under shirt cuffs rather than trying to escape as so many taller watches do. The kevlar strap, which is available across the Bremont range, is also something of a revelation. It’s not a material one thinks of as comfortable but it is that and then some.

I’ve also not worn anything in a long time which has gleaned such universally positive reactions from people. They are initially struck by how handsome it is, then by the detailing on closer inspection and finally, if they don’t know Bremont, they’re delighted to learn it’s British… rather like drivers who’ll let a E-Type out of a side road but not a Ferrari.

One tries not to be too much of a cheerleader about these things, which is tough with a watch I like as much as this one. However, after hunting for something less than glowing to say about it I’ve come up with the fact it says “Team Oracle USA” on the caseback.

Sorry chaps, but I’ll be supporting the Brits.

It only remains for me to wish all of you a very merry Christmas, and a prosperous and peaceful 2016, and I hope very much that Santa is kind to those of you hoping for a Patek Philippe under the tree.

PINION FORMING: how designer Piers Berry created a suave young watch brand – Salon QP

ISince launching in 2013, British watch company Pinion has blossomed as a street-smart modern brand that wears its traditional influences lightly. Founder Piers Berry tells QP how he’s built a brand from nothing.
By Chris Hall.

It is a cold fact that only a minority of new watch brands succeed. And much as it’s satisfying to have witnessed several making their world debut SalonQP over the years, it’s even better to see them return stronger subsequently. Oxfordshire-based Pinion has done just that. Having launched at 2013’s Salon with the warmly-received Axis Automatic – a watch whose sleek, military-tinged looks reflected the design pedigree of its creator, Piers Berry – Pinion was back last November with a new chronograph, the Revival 1969 (below).

Revival-1969-02

Pinion has also recently been taken on by San Diego specialist in independent watches, Passion Fine Jewelry, where it will sit alongside the likes of Habring, Speake-Marin and Lang & Heyne. According to Berry, further retail developments are in the offing. It’s not bad for a company whose founder, prior to launching, had no experience of the watch industry.

Connoisseur to entrepreneur
On paper at least, it would look like Pinion was born in a storm. Three years ago, with Britain still mired in recession, who would have put money on a digital designer of 20 years’ standing leaving the world of pixels, apps and wireframes – just as the first generation of smart watches emerged, no less – to found a watch brand rooted steadfastly in past traditions?

piers-photo

That, however, is exactly what Piers Berry did. A digital designer who had been running his own creative agency for a decade before he launched Pinion, Berry was bitten by the watch bug in 2004 when he came across a friend’s Panerai. “I had had an interest in watches from the point of view of product design since the ’90s,” Berry says, “but it was mostly Casio G-Shocks, that sort of thing. It didn’t really take off until about ten years ago when I discovered Panerai. I was absolutely bowled over by their watches from a design perspective.”

After a few years, he had bought his own Panerais, and started to make contacts in the industry which would later prove valuable. Nevertheless, he was finding himself increasingly dissatisfied with the watches he encountered, and gradually started forming a plan to do something about it.

“As a designer, I always felt that there was something missing. Maybe I was being hypercritical but I’d see a watch and think, ‘If only they’d done this, or that’,” he says. “I had a vision of owning my own watch company, but from my initial enquiries it seemed too difficult.”




Pinion forming
Nevertheless, Berry started sketching out his own designs, toying with the idea in his free time, working to a few basic criteria. “I had no experience in watch design whatsoever but I had an idea of what I wanted,” he explains. The designs were rooted in the tool watch tradition, with functionality trumping embellishments.”

“I wanted a watch which was no-nonsense that I could produce in a few flavours,” he says. “I was interested in a raw bronze case, because you could only get a bronze watch for £15,000 – like a Panerai – or £500, which was something less satisfying. There was nothing in between.”

After making contact with potential Swiss movement suppliers, dial specialists and case makers, Berry began to see that his dream could become a reality after all. In 2013 Pinion watches was born, launching its debut collection, the Axis, at SalonQP – with, as Berry had hoped, a bronze-cased watch at its core. This model, notable particularly for its green dial iteration, became the lynchpin of Pinion’s fledgling collection.

Axis-Bronze-Pinion

For Berry, however, getting even this far had been a rollercoaster ride in itself. “When the brand launched at SalonQP, I didn’t actually have any watches until two days before the event. Six weeks before, we didn’t think there were going to be any watches at all. I had to start again from scratch quite late on,” he says. A lack of physical product in fact resulted in an extra watch being added to the collection at the last minute. “The only reason I launched a DLC version is that it was the only watch I could mimic accurately enough in Photoshop to show online how it was going to look,” Berry admits. Inevitably the watch, the Axis Black (below), sold out.

The Axis Black


Next steps
Immediate interest in the Axis suggested Pinion was clearing one of the toughest hurdles facing any new brand, which is to prove it has a viable idea in the first place.

Next Berry needed to show he could keep developing the idea. First came a limited-edition collaboration, the Axis Iron Heart, produced with a high-end Japanese denim manufacturer. Next was the Axis Pure, also limited in number, which played to retro tastes by replacing the ETA 2824-2 movement of the Axis Automatic with a hand-wound Unitas 6498, and adding a small seconds subdial and applied markers. This is available in both steel and bronze iterations.

Axis-Pure


 

 


 

Having produced variants of a time-only watch, with nods to classic British military stylings, it might have seemed logical that Pinion’s next move would be a chronograph. But Berry was not, initially, too keen. “I’m not a massive chronograph fan”, he declares. “They don’t come naturally to me; I don’t like busy dials with tachymetre, telemeter scales. Doing the Revival 1969 was a challenge for me to do one that I liked.”

Going manual
Key to that was finding the right movement, and top of Berry’s wish list was a manual caliber that would increase the sense of functional, tactile engagement with the watch. Manual chronograph calibers, however, are not produced for supply these days, and Berry had resigned himself to designing the R1969 to suit the tri-compax layout of the perennial Valjoux 7750 movement.

However, Berry has been able to source a batch of unopened ebauches – unassembled blank movement kits – for another historic Valjoux movement, the 7734. The ebauches were made in 1969 but never assembled, and had remained packaged up in their boxes, as new, for 45 years.

valjoux-7734-movement


The 7734 was used by a number of brands in the 1960s and ‘70s, including Breitling, Heuer and Tudor, and was seen as a rugged and reliable workhorse. Today, with handwound chronographs (aside from Omega’s Moonwatch) pretty much the preserve of the haute horlogerie sector, the open case-back affords a pleasing look back into history; while one of the movement’s most recognizable features, the v-shaped chronograph bridge, has been customized with an engraving of the Pinion logo.

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The dial is, as promised, free of calculating scales, but on close inspection is full of finely-nuanced details. The subdials, the hour markers, the outer minute track and the raised centre section are all cut to different heights and given different finishes.

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The Revival 1969 is being created in a limited run of 100 pieces (there being 100 movements), priced at £4,950. A heady price, perhaps, but then it’s an unusual watch created with a deeply independent spirit, as Berry points out.

“Part of the ethos of Pinion is that it’s totally self-funded, self-financed. We own all the stock, with no debt, no overdraft, and full control over our destiny. It’s nice knowing that it’s all yours,” he says. “There are a lot of people who think they could make their own watches, and think theirs would only cost £400, and they could do it all just from sitting at a desk. They don’t do any of it. It’s not as easy as it sounds – it’s more than just the sum of its parts.”

Revival-1969-01

The “British” question
One thing about which Berry is more circumspect is the notion of Britishness within what he does. It’s a fact that while movements are assembled on these shores and Berry uses British-made straps, the rest comes from Switzerland, and that’s unlikely to change in the near future. While he proudly inscribes “England” on the dial of his watches, the much-vaunted “revival” in British watchmaking – overhyped, undercooked – is something from which he distances himself.

“We’re a British brand but we don’t try to shove Britishness down people’s throats. I think the product and the design should do the talking,” he says. “People often say to me ‘oh it’s not a very British design.’ You wouldn’t say that if it was an Australian watch company. I think people pick up on things too much. Why can’t we be British and look Swiss, or Japanese? I want Pinion to be able to go anywhere in the world and for people to not know where it comes from.”

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Now that the Revival 1969 is out, Berry’s aim is to keep building the collection, with GMT and titanium models both in his sights, and both vintage and modern movements on the cards for future watches. That’s all down the line though. “This year I want to focus on widening awareness of the brand, and with that in mind we’re hosting a series of evenings with Pinion for customers and anyone interested, to acquaint themselves with us on a more intimate scale.”

For more information on Pinion’s gatherings, which take place at Century Private Members Club on Shaftesbury Avenue, have a look here