Farer GMT Lander watch
Farer GMT Lander watch

Homegrown wristwear: the watches made in England

07 Sep 2017 | By Richard Brown

SPOILER ALERT: Your Swiss-made timepiece wasn’t assembled in a snow-strewn shed by a watchmaker armed with only a loupe and a lathe. As romantic as that notion remains, your wristwatch was assembled by robots on a

The investment required to launch a new movement is estimated to cost a company around £13.5 million. Hence the reason only the largest brands can lay claim to producing calibres ‘in-house’, and only then with varying degrees of credibility. It is far more efficient to outsource these mechanisms to third-party suppliers. Swiss watchmakers have been doing so for decades. It’s now a business model that’s taken root in Britain.

Still reliant on Switzerland, China and Japan for their internal components, a raft of independent watch companies are choosing to sell straight to consumers. Without the enormous marketing overheads of Switzerland’s watch giants, these companies are able to offer well-made mechanical timepieces at affordable prices. Welcome to the Brit Pack…

Christopher Ward, 2004, Maidenhead

Story: Launched as ‘the most affordable luxury watches in the world’, Christopher Ward was the forerunner in importing Swiss-made movements and housing them behind British-designed dials. Where Christopher Ward led, the rest of the UK mechanical watch industry followed. Standout timepiece: C60 Trident Titanium Pro 600 #2 (43mm)Movement: automatic Sellita SW200-1 (Swiss)Power reserve: 38 hours Price: £850www.christopherward.co.uk

Schofield, 2011, East Sussex

Story: Operating out of a bucolic village in West Sussex, Schofield is the brainchild of dynamic product designer Giles Ellis, whose watches take their name from UK lighthouses. Giving meaning to the phrase the devil is in the detail, Schofield timepieces are feats of engineering, with every design element meticulously considered before going into production – either in England or Germany. Standout timepiece: The Daymark (44mm)Movement: automatic ETA 2824 (Swiss)Power reserve: 38 hoursPrice: £3,600www.schofieldwatchcompany.com

Marloe Watch Company, 2017, Oxfordshire

Story: While an increasing number of Swiss watchmakers are grappling with their answer to the smartwatch question, Marloe Watch Company is focused on re-popularising the most traditional of timepieces – the manually wound wristwatch. Standout timepiece: Derwent, Nautical (38mm)Movement: hand-wound Miyota 6T33 (Japanese)Power reserve: 40 hoursPrice: £329www.marloewatchcompany.com

Pinion, 2013, Reading

Story: Founded by Piers Berry, a designer more used to pixels and coding, Pinion’s automatic watches reference instruments from World War II. The company’s debut DLC-coated Axis Black sold out almost immediately. The new entry-level Atom is a solid, stainless steel piece that’s available from September 2017.Standout timepiece: Atom (42mm)Movement: automatic Miyota 9015 (Japanese)Power reserve: 42 hoursPrice: £790www.pinionwatches.com

Farer, 2015, Berkshire

Story: Previously a purveyor of battery-powered fashion watches, last year Farer announced its first collection of automatics. This year, the company launches a range of GMT watches, with an additional hand independently adjustable to any 24-hour time zone. Standout timepiece: Lander GMT Automatic (39.5mm )Movement: automatic ETA 2893-2 (Swiss)Power reserve: 42 hours Price: £1,175www.farer.com

Elliot Brown, 2013, Poole

Story: Ian Elliot co-founded Animal back in 1988, while Alex Brown turned down a job at Cartier to establish Animal’s watch department. The duo lent their names to their own watch brand 17 years later, and are now dedicated to producing robust and affordable dive watches. All Elliot Brown timepieces are water resistant to a minimum of 200 metres. Standout timepiece: Tyneham 305-001-R06 (41mm)Movement: automatic Miyota 9130 (Japanese)Power reserve: 40 hours Price: £795www.elliotbrownwatches.com

Mr Jones Watches, 2008, London

Story: Working with artists, Mr Jones Watches makes timepieces that are both visually arresting and technically playful. The Last Laugh Tattoo watch, for instance, displays time on the teeth of a skull. Standout timepiece: Last Laugh Tattoo (37mm)Movement: automatic Sea Gull ST1721 (Chinese) Power reserve: 42 hoursPrice: £195www.mrjoneswatches.com

Bremont, 2007, Henley-on Thames

Story: With a Silverstone-based facility dedicated to the production of calibre components, Bremont, Britain’s most visible watch brand, is the closest to beating Switzerland at its own game by manufacturing its own movement. It’s also the first to establish standalone stores, in Britain, New York and Hong Kong. Standout timepiece: Supermarine S300 (40mm) Movement: automatic BE-92AE (modified from the ETA 2892 – Swiss) Power reserve: 38 hours Price: £2,995www.bremont.com

Henry London, 2015, London

Story: Henry London is the brainchild of two British designers who discovered a vintage wristwatch engraved ‘Henry, August 1965’ in Portobello Market. Following a series of semi-precious stone watches, this autumn will see the launch of the brand’s first, extraordinarily affordable automatics. Standout timepiece: Automatic 42mm ClassicMovement: automatic Miyota 82S0 (Japanese)Power reserve: 42 hours Price: £210www.henry-london.com

Meridian, 2012, Norwich

Story: In just five years, Meridian has already created five of its own calibres by modifying a base movement from Switzerland. Each Meridian watch is made to order, allowing you to pick from a range of dials, cases, case-backs and straps.Standout timepiece: MP-01 (45mm)Movement: automatic Meridian Prime – ETA 6497 base (Swiss)Power reserve: 40 hours Price: from £4,600 www.meridianwatches.com

Harold Pinchbeck, 2014, Lincoln

Story: Not only are Harold Pinchbeck’s wristwatches assembled by hand in England, but the further up the brand’s price range you go, the more you’ll find watch parts made by British engineering firms and individual craftsmen. Choose ‘off the peg’ from the Premier Range, or something tailored from HP’s Bespoke & Limited collection.Standout timepiece: The George (36mm)Movement: automatic ETA 2824-2 (Swiss)Power reserve: 36 hoursPrice: £1,399www.haroldpinchbeck.co.uk