British watch brands have historically lacked the prestige associated with Swiss watch brands. It’s fair to say that you could travel the world today and many people would be able to list Swiss watchmakers such as Omega, TAG Heur, Vacheron Constantin and more.
But what about the British watchmakers, who were influential in horology in the 18th century? Without the British advances in mechanical movements many of these fabulous Swiss creations would not have their seamless inner workings and would remain a mere pipe dream.
British watchmaker,Thomas Tompion, often forgotten in history, was referred to as the Father of British clock making. He was responsible for educating students in the art of horology and his students would go onto create enduring masterpieces. One of these students was Thomas Mudge, who engineered the lever escapement: an all-important part of the watch and still used widely today.
With such a rich and impressive British horological heritage, why is there relatively little mention of British watch brands? Well things are about to change – British horology is starting to shine and no longer be dwarfed by the Swiss giants. British watchmakers have grasped innovation with both hands and are creating exquisite masterpieces to rival Swiss watchmakers.
Here are some of the newer advances in British watch brands which are certainly Swiss standard.
On a day in May 2004, 3 friends took a boat trip on the Thames and decided to set up a watch company. They came to the conclusion that all watchmakers were using the same components and charging a huge price. They created a British watch making business based on selling “the cheapest most expensive watches in the world”. These timeless timepieces are exactly the same as a Swiss watch at a fraction of the price, and they create sports watches, dress watches and watches inspired by aviation themes.
Bremont specialises in pilots’ watches which ooze features to reflect its creators’ love of flying historical aircraft. Durable, reliable and of exceptional quality, these chronometers are not just about timekeeping, they are an appreciation for all things mechanical. Nick and Giles (founders) are genuinely passionate about what they create, and this time-keeper is loyal to its British heritage.
Based in Oxfordshire, the Marloe Watch Company was formed in 2015 by Gordon and Oliver. In just under 4 years, Marloe watches have reinvigorated the world of British watch brands by focusing on the traditional means of creating watches. Powered by manual, mechanical movements, these creations embrace the idea of going back to the ‘simple’ life. The creations are named after locations in the UK: Cherwell, Derwent, Coniston and Heskell.
Set your pulse racing with the Schofield Watch Company collection. Created by Giles Ellis, originally for himself, these visionary mechanical wonders are manufactured in the quaint countryside of Sussex. The Beater watch is completely unique in its hand-crafted case, and is made to be worn every day. This durable timepiece ages gracefully with time – in fact some might say that the more it’s worn the better it looks!
Using the traditional ‘hand-wound’ method, the Pinion collection of watches is, like the Marloe Watch Company, also from the Oxfordshire area. With an array of collections to consider including the Axis II, Pure and TT, you’ll be spoilt for choice with this assortment. Pinion use the Swiss high-quality movement system to operate their watches and focus on the essence of the watch rather than technical complications.
Give the Swiss a run for their money by looking into these ‘distinctly British characters’. Set up by the horological enthusiast David Brailsford, Garrick is a London based British watch brand, designed to fit the needs of the cognoscenti. Using the traditional mechanisms of historical horological figures as their base, specialised craftsmen create all the components that go into the watches to provide as much Britishness as possible. It is possible to follow the bespoke route and have watches created for your exact specification.
As a young adult, vintage watches were a joy for Andrew Jennings, but it wasn’t until adulthood that his enthusiasm became a real life-changer. Having seen a gap in the market for modern/classic dress watches, the company was set up. Focusing on design and putting the customer first is the differentiating factor for Larsson and Jennings. Keeping hold of the traditional reins of horology, but paring them with the finest British tanneries means that these products are an affordable luxury.
Named after the many famous British explorers, like Diana Walker, the creations of Farer are inspired by the halcyon era of watchmakers. Crafted first on paper, these watches are put under rigorous tests to ensure their benefits last a lifetime. To create the exquisite dials, colours and materials are mixed together to give the innovative finish.
So in conclusion, British watch brands can compete with the Swiss. Over the years the Swiss have dominated the horological market, but a new age is upon us: British watchmaking is in its prime. Before you buy your Swiss watch, which is almost guaranteed to be based on British technology in some way, ask yourself why you don’t just buy an actual British watch that oozes class and quality and is a true British classic.