By: DANIEL NOVELA
With bold ideas and creativity in spades, the next hub of innovation in watchmaking may be in the United Kingdom.
“The British are coming!” is a cry we seldom hear in the business of watchmaking, but upstart independent British brands aim to change all of that. The United Kingdom, after all, has a long and illustrious history in time-telling. The GMT, an acronym we take for granted as the symbol of a second-time zone, actually stands for Greenwich Mean Time, the time zone in Greenwich, England. It’s the official time at the Royal Observatory in London and remains the baseline for every other time zone today. The British also figured out how to put an accurate chronometer on a ship, a necessary component for longitude navigation. And in the 1800s, British watchmakers produced half of the world’s watches. But that was long ago; sadly, English watchmaking has declined for many years. Until recently, that is.
Today, the country is swept in a movement highlighting originality, leading to a renaissance of independent British watchmaking. During the gatherings of NovelaWatch Collectors Club in Miami, we often point out how the most creative watchmaking can be found in the “under $10,000” category. Recently, I had the pleasure of discussing this matter with Dave Brailsford, the founder of Garrick Watchmakers in Norwich, England. Located just an hour outside London, Garrick launched in 2013, intending to make as much of the watch’s components in-house as possible. This upends the Swiss model of compartmentalized watchmaking. Garrick does it all. Cases, hands, engraving, and decorative work, are all done in-house. Garrick’s new S-6 watch takes refinement
to a higher level. Time is indicated via a narrow chapter ring at the edge of the dial, and the dial sports many available, hand-applied finishes, including hammered, textured, and engine-turned. The watch is available for under $10,000, making the new S-6 a stunning achievement. If you are patient, that is. There is a one-year-plus waitlist, and all watches are made to order.
Another British watchmaker making a name for its distinct, in-house dials is AnOrdain, created in the decidedly atypical watch country of Glasgow, Scotland. It’s a fascinating company that’s thriving, in part, thanks to its creative team of designers, silversmiths, and jewelers. AnOrdain’s piece de resistance may well be its fumé enamel watch dial. Its pioneering process, which results in a lighter, textured surface at its center and darker at the edges, is unique because it raises the dial in the center. It’s a delicate process that often yields defective dials, but those approved for production are a masterpiece. How can this brand retail its watches for under $5,000 is a pleasant mystery to me. With an annual production of only 600 pieces, the company has a five-year waitlist, and the prices on the secondary market are up to three times retail.
AnOrdanin and Garrick merely scratch the surface of what is happing in British watchmaking. The world is waking up to it, and it rightly should.