Throwback Sundays: British Watches and Watchmakers, from Our Archives

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This week, as many of you might be aware, has been mainly focused on the UK Referendum. This is one of the biggest events in 2016, considering the repercussions that it will have on both the financial market and the livelihood of European and British citizens. The main global stock indices, for instance, had seen a drop in value for around 3% on Friday. Forex, naturally those with GBP or EUR currencies, had seen vast depreciation as well. 

For those who had bet against the “Brexit”, Friday was definitely a day to forget. But let us go on a lighter note, and focus on something else that is not normally associated with Britain in recent years – watchmaking. In the past, British had been one of the forerunners in this industry. Thomas Mudge, for instance, was the inventor of the lever escapement while Robert Hooke was the brainchild behind the balance wheel. Other sophisticated complications, such as the repeater, was invented by Englishmen such as Daniel Quare (or arguably, Reverend Edward Barlow) as well.

In recent years, however, Britain is not one of the first countries that come to mind when one thinks of timepieces. This is because over the years, countries such as Switzerland, Japan, and even Germany have overtaken the British in the field of watchmaking. Having said that, we think that the British has still got a lot to offer when it comes to the horological world. So here are our selection of pieces either made by British companies, or by watchmakers who hail from there.

Well, without any further ado, let us begin!


Bremont Regatta OTUSA


The Bremont Regatta OTUSA in black dial. This is one of the latest creations from the British-based watchmaker.

The Bremont Regatta OTUSA in black dial. This is one of the latest creations from the watchmaker.


Bremont is a watch brand that is founded in 2002, by Englishmen (and brothers) Giles and Nick English. The company was founded after a tragic incident which resulted in the death of their father. Read the story in our interview with Giles last year.

Fast forward, we must say that Bremont had impressed us with some of their collection. The latest one, from the recently concluded Baselworld, was created in honor of being the Official Timing Partner for both the 35th America’s Cup and to the defender, Oracle Team USA. The watch features, naturally, a chronograph with the regatta function, as well as a date indicator. Another highlight, for us personally, is the case – this is a three-piece construction that was derived from the brand’s Boeing collection, and the different textures/design is pretty interesting and executed rather nicely.

The Bremont Regatta OTUSA is priced competitively at S$9,900, and it is fitted with a modified Valjoux 7750 movement to include the regatta function that is placed at the 12 o’clock position. It is a piece that we will recommend for fans of the sport.


Speake-Marin Blue & White Spirit Seafire


The Speake-Marin Blue Spirit Seafire.

The Speake-Marin Blue Spirit Seafire.


When it comes to independent watchmaking, Speake-Marin is one of the brands that would come to mind. Though essentially a Swiss manufacture, the company was founded in 2002 by Englishman Peter Speake-Marin. And is known for its signature Piccadilly case and reasonably-priced timepieces (for an independent watchmaker).

The Blue & White Spirit Seafire, launched this year, is one of the latest additions to the Spirit Seafire collection. This particular collection was intended to fill the gaps in the brand’s offering, as chronographs are one of the complications that Speake-Marin’s watches didn’t have in the past. The movement is a Valjoux 7750, which is decent, robust and well tested movement which will win no beauty contests. However, in terms of design, we think it offers an interesting option.

Priced at CHF 8,500, we think that it is rather reasonable for a limited edition timepiece from an independent watchmaker.


McGonigle Tuscar Bánú


The McGonigle Tuscar Bánú, worn on the owner's wrist.

The McGonigle Tuscar Bánú, sitting nicely on the owner’s wrist.


McGonigle Watches is the brainchild of the McGonigle brothers, John and Stephen. This one is a little tricky, as they are domiciled in both Ireland and Switzerland, but we decided to include them as they have spent a huge chunk of their watchmaking career in London during their earlier days.

Their watches, such as the Tuscar Bánú, are produced in traditional Celtic aesthetic, but in typical Swiss manufacture. This can be seen from the design of the watch. For instance, the mainplate is engraved with an ancient traditional Celtic that depicts sea birds and waves, instead of the usual Côtes de Genève motif. The fonts and case design carry on the same theme. The finishing, as mentioned in our review of teh McGonigle Tuscar Bánú, is impeccable too.

The recommended retail price of the McGonigle Tuscar Bánú is CHF 52,800. This is highly recommended for collectors who are looking for something unique and conversational.


Greubel Forsey Signature 1


The Greubel Forsey Signature 1.

The Greubel Forsey Signature 1.


We then move on to Greubel Forsey, with the Signature 1. Greubel Forsey is a Swiss manufacture. But we argue to include it in this survey as one of the founders, Stephen Forsey, grew up in England.

The Signature 1 is one of the novelties from this high-end independent watchmaker, and it is said to be the most affordable Greubel Forsey yet. Besides that, this is also the first watch in the series which will see talented watchmakers collaborating with Greubel Forsey to produce timepieces for the collection. As mentioned in our article here, the watchmaker will be able to exercise discretion in terms of the technical and decorative bits of the timepiece, while adhering and maintaining the standards of the brand. The Signature 1, notably, is produced in collaboration with Didier J.G. Cretin – a long-time watchmaker with Greubel Forsey. The watch is stunning, and the quality is definitely top-notch.

Even though this the the least expensive Greubel Forsey, it is still CHF 150,000 in the entry level steel cased version. Not really inexpensive.


Roger Smith Series 2


The Roger Smith Series 2.

The Roger Smith Series 2.


Finally, last but certainly not least, we have the legendary Roger Smith. A true blue Englishman, who set up his atelier in the Isle of Man, following the footsteps of his master, the legendary figure in the industry – George Daniels.

The Roger Smith Series 2 (full review here) is only one of the two collections that he has to offer. Other than its impeccable finishing and impressive attention to detail, what makes the watch really special would be the fact that almost all of the components on the watch are made or finished by in his workshops. This is almost unheard of in the industry, especially for independent watchmakers. In addition, the watch is also constructed using Daniels’ Method. This includes the three-part case, as well as the movement which features the famous co-axial escapement system (which Roger Smith continued to work on and improved on it).

Priced at £100,890, this is yet another timepiece that many will struggle to afford despite the drastic plunge in the value of the Stirling on Friday. However, putting the monetary issue aside, this is certainly one of the most amazing timepiece that we have seen. And it definitely shows the big boys out there that United Kingdom is not a mere small player in this multi-billion dollar industry.


Concluding Thoughts


Well, we have seen some of the best horological offerings derived from British ingenuity. We think the watches provide an interesting alternative to the traditional Swiss, German or Japanese watches. What do you think?

Do you share the same sentiments as us? Have we missed some which you think deserves a spot in this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

We hope the you have enjoyed this week’s installment of Throwback Sundays, and till the next article, cheers!


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