All posts in “watch-desk”

Why Did This Understated Omega Watch from 1947 Sell for Almost $1.5 Million?

Welcome to “Watches You Should Know,” a bi-weekly (the once-every-two-weeks kind) column highlighting little-known or notable watches new and old that have interesting stories or have had a surprising impact on the industry.

This is the story of a curious feature of mechanical watchmaking called the tourbillon, and it’s a tale that’s ironic on many levels. The tourbillon’s purpose today is primarily “for show,” but its symbolism is powerful, representing wealth, prestige, and one of the most challenging feats of micro-mechanical craftsmanship. Originally intended to improve accuracy in pocket watches, it’s visually captivating and became so popular with high-end wristwatch brands that others have gone on to build more cost-effective versions. So what makes people so crazy about the tourbillon, and how did it become the emblem of high-end watchmaking that it is today?

The tourbillon could be considered a kind of watch escapement. (Please bear with a little technical talk.) The escapement regulates timekeeping in a watch (which provides the familiar ticking sound), and is the most visually animated part of the movement, as among its primary parts are the balance wheel, which swings back and forth multiple times per second. (This system is easy to spot even in the most common, inexpensive movements.) A tourbillon takes this entire structure and puts it in a frame that revolves a full 360 degrees. So it’s ticking and twitching and turning all at once. Tourbillons are extremely complicated to produce, with a lot of tiny, precise components — and they’re dazzling to observe.

The tourbillon was invented by none other than the seminal 18th-century watchmaker Mr. Abraham Louis Breguet, and the idea was to counter the effects of gravity on the escapement of a pocket watch. Pocket watches were largely worn vertically in waistcoat pockets, but even this orientation could change by up to 45 degrees, and gravity’s effects on the escapement would cause a deviation in timekeeping accuracy. (If the watch was then stored horizontally on a table at night, the effects could be even more pronounced.) By rotating the escapement, however, deviations would be “evened out,” as the escapement was constantly changing its orientation.

The simple fact that a wrist-born timepiece is constantly changing the orientation of the escapement has meant that the tourbillon is largely superfluous in modern watchmaking. Complicated and delicate, they’re generally found in very high-end luxury pieces which sticker prices starting in the mid to high five-figure range, and going way up from there.

In the 1940s, however, the tourbillon was a rare and largely forgotten curiosity of horological history, mostly found only in the occasional pocket watch. The Swiss were worried about the strong American and British watch industry (the Japanese threat was not yet apparent), and constantly improving accuracy was one way to stay relevant and competitive. Omega experimented with a wristwatch-sized tourbillon escapement meant to compete in third-party trials for “observatory chronometers” — watches that passed these tests and were given this designation would give Omega a legitimate claim to high accuracy and marketing clout.

Omega’s tourbillon movements were built to high standards and did well in the trials, but such competitions were essentially meant for R&D purposes as well as overall brand prestige — they were mostly never even put in watch cases. There were a total of 12 of these tourbillon movements made, and they took part in the observatory trials between 1947 and 1952. In 1987, seven of the tourbillon movements were rediscovered by Omega, rebuilt, cased, and sold to collectors. There was one more, however, that was originally cased in 1947 as a prototype with the apparent intent to eventually put it into production.

In 2017, this very watch was auctioned for almost $1.5 million. In retrospect, it represented the beginning of the modern tourbillon craze (though the craze is now abating compared to where it was several years ago). When Omega’s engineers produced a prototype tourbillon intended for a wristwatch in 1947, however, their goals were purely practical and chronometric. That’s very different from the contemporary “expensive novelty” status of tourbillons.

The Omega Calibre 30 I is notable even if it can’t claim to be the “first” tourbillon-equipped wristwatch — French brand Lip had one in the 1930s and other brands produced wristwatch-sized movements that never actually found their way into wristwatch cases. Too difficult and expensive to produce, the tourbillon was far from an efficient or effective way to improve accuracy.

At some point, however, people noticed that they look incredible

Today, the watch and tourbillon scene is very different than it was when Omega’s 1947 prototype hid its tourbillon behind a solid case back as part of a largely undecorated movement. It’s now the symbol of haute horlogerie, often in watches costing as much as a house, and almost every high-end brand has made it a major part of their halo-product offerings. Even more notable is that brands are now trying to make “affordable tourbillons”: Stroll through the halls of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock fair, and scores of Chinese brands are offering tourbillons for far less. Even brands like TAG Heuer and Frederique Constant have made headlines with Swiss Made tourbillon watches costing under $20,000.

The brilliant idea of displaying the highly animated tourbillon on the front of a watch is claimed by Franck Muller in a piece from 1984 (before his eponymous brand was even established). Now it’s the norm, and tourbillon-equipped watches are often accompanied by a high level of finishing, as well as avant-garde designs meant to dazzle as they show off the delicate mechanics.

While still a relatively rare feature, tourbillons are today included among so many high-end watches that their novelty and exotic appeal is diminished. Unnecessary, overly complicated, inefficient, expensive, and technically anachronistic? Yes, but they are also nothing short of eye candy, as well as technically fascinating representations of history and craftsmanship. Mechanical watches themselves could be described in the same way.

Why Did This Understated Omega Watch from 1947 Sell for Over $1.5 Million?

Welcome to “Watches You Should Know,” a bi-weekly (the once-every-two-weeks kind) column highlighting little-known or notable watches new and old that have interesting stories or have had a surprising impact on the industry.

This is the story of a curious feature of mechanical watchmaking called the tourbillon, and it’s a tale that’s ironic on many levels. The tourbillon’s purpose today is primarily “for show,” but its symbolism is powerful, representing wealth, prestige, and one of the most challenging feats of micro-mechanical craftsmanship. Originally intended to improve accuracy in pocket watches, it’s visually captivating and became so popular with high-end wristwatch brands that others have gone to build more cost-effective versions. So what makes people so crazy about the tourbillon, and how did it become the emblem of high-end watchmaking that it is today?

The tourbillon could be considered a kind of watch escapement. (Please bear with a little technical talk.) The escapement regulates timekeeping in a watch (which provides the familiar ticking sound), and is the most visually animated part of the movement, as among its primary parts are the balance wheel, which swings back and forth multiple times per second. (This system is easy to spot even in the most common, inexpensive movements.) A tourbillon takes this entire structure and puts it in a frame that revolves a full 360 degrees. So it’s ticking and twitching and turning all at once. Tourbillons are extremely complicated to produce, with a lot of tiny, precise components — and they’re dazzling to observe.

The tourbillon was invented by none other than the seminal 18th-century watchmaker Mr. Abraham Louis Breguet, and that the idea was to counter the effects of gravity on the escapement of a pocket watch. Pocket watches were largely worn vertically in waistcoat pockets, but even this orientation could change by up to 45 degrees, and gravity’s effects on the escapement would cause a deviation in timekeeping accuracy. (If the watch was then stored horizontally on a table at night, the effects could be even more pronounced.) By rotating the escapement, however, deviations would be “evened out,” as the escapement was constantly changing its orientation.

The simple fact that a wrist-born timepiece is constantly changing the orientation of the escapement has meant that the tourbillon is largely superfluous in modern watchmaking. Complicated and delicate, they’re generally only included in super high-end luxury pieces which sticker prices in the tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars.

In the 1940s, however, the tourbillon was a rare and largely forgotten curiosity of horological history, mostly found only in the occasional pocket watch. The Swiss were worried about the strong American and British watch industry (the Japanese threat was not yet made manifest), and constantly improving accuracy was one way to stay relevant and competitive. Omega experimented with a wristwatch-born tourbillon escapement meant to compete in third-party trials for “observatory chronometers” — watches that passed these tests and were given this designation would give Omega a legitimate claim to high accuracy and marketing clout.

Omega’s tourbillon movements were built to high standards and did well in the trials, but such competitions were essentially meant for R&D purposes as well as overall brand prestige — they were mostly never even put in watch cases. There were a total of 12 of these tourbillon movements made, and they took part in the observatory trials between 1947 and 1952. In 1987, seven of the tourbillon movements were rediscovered by Omega, rebuilt, cased, and sold to collectors. There was one more, however, that was originally cased in 1947 as a prototype with the apparent intent to eventually put it into production.

In 2017, this very watch was auctioned for almost $1.5 million. In retrospect, it represented the beginning of the modern tourbillon craze (though the craze is now abating compared to where it was several years ago). When Omega’s engineers produced a prototype tourbillon intended for a wristwatch in 1947, however, their goals were purely practical and chronometric. While most tourbillons today are made to be displayed on the dial side of the watch, Omega’s 30 I was not even visible unless you removed the watch’s solid case back to look at the movement.

The Omega Calibre 30 I is notable even if it can’t claim to be the “first” tourbillon-equipped wristwatch — French brand Lip had one in the 1930s and other brands produced wristwatch-sized movements that never actually found their way into wristwatch cases. Too difficult and expensive to produce, the tourbillon was far from an efficient or effective way to improve accuracy.

At some point, however, people noticed that they look incredible

Today, the watch and tourbillon scene is very different than it was when Omega’s 1947 prototype hid its tourbillon behind a solid case back as part of a largely undecorated movement. It’s now the symbol of haute horlogerie, often in watches costing as much as a house, and almost every high-end brand has made it a major part of their halo-product offerings. Even more notable is that brands are now trying to make “affordable tourbillons”: Stroll through the halls of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock fair, and scores of Chinese brands are offering tourbillons for far less. Even brands like TAG Heuer and Frederique Constant have made headlines with Swiss Made tourbillon watches costing under $20,000.

The brilliant idea of displaying the highly animated tourbillon on the front of a watch is claimed by Franck Muller in a piece from 1984 (before his eponymous brand was even established). Now it’s the norm, and tourbillon-equipped watches are often accompanied by a high level of finishing, as well as avant-garde designs meant to dazzle as they show off the delicate mechanics.

While still a relatively rare feature, tourbillons are today included among high-end watches, diminishing their novel and exotic appeal. Unnecessary, overly complicated, inefficient, expensive, and technically anachronistic? Yes, but they are also nothing short of eye candy, as well as technically fascinating representations of history and craftsmanship. Mechanical watches themselves could be described in the same way.

These Are the 6 Watches We’re Obsessing Over in September 2019

As watch lovers, we spend our afternoons pitching, researching and writing stories, poring over the new timepieces coming in and out of our office, and hunting for deals on used and vintage pieces online. When a new watch comes across our radar, one that particularly resonates with our tastes, we can’t help but obsess over it. We talk about them, debate their relevance, orate on their greatness and rail against their faults. So, here’s a taste of that process — seven timepieces our watch-loving staff are obsessing over right at this very moment:

Bulgari Octo Finissimo

I have a Bulgari Octo in steel. It’s a great timepiece. Gerald Genta design cred with a touch of Italian flair and masculinity that only Bulgari can seem to pull off. It’s a sleeper steel watch. But damn if the Finissimo isn’t a watch I’ve become smitten with ever since it was released in 2017. Lately, I find myself falling in love with it again.

Our watch editor Oren and I have spiritedly debated the merits of this watch for some time now and I think I may have finally convinced him that the thinness and engineering merit respect, but here I am again gushing and he may edit this out, but I’m saying it anyway. The finissimo is titanium, svelte as an Italian Stiletto, and the triple-gray look just completely devastating. It may be the coolest titanium watch out there. Sure, I prefer my watches steel and on rubber or webbing, but the Finissimo makes me want to put on the black suit I own but rarely ever wear and whisk my wife away to a gala I rarely attend. –Eric Yang, Founder

Marathon General Purpose Mechanical

My interest has always been on the iconic pieces that have a story, particularly dress watches lately. But I was digging through some samples of Marathon watches and I’m certainly enjoying the General Purpose in Stainless Steel. Built to government specs for military issue, it’s got an ETA 2801 movement, tritium illumination, a sapphire crystal and a beautifully curved 315L stainless steel case. I’ve never been into military watches, but this one definitely has me thinking about them more than ever. –Brian Louie, Head of Commerce

Monta Atlas GMT

The Atlas is a perfect representative of what Monta does well and what has helped achieve its impressive rise. Namely: conservative, pragmatic tool watch design with a high level of finishing and refinement that is reminiscent of Rolex’s approach — though much more affordable and not mimicking its look. Getting to wear one recently, but only briefly, left me even more wowed by the value being offered and a lingering impression that won’t go away soon. –Zen Love, Associate Staff Writer

Patek Philippe Cataltrava ref. 2545

Though I’ve never been terribly attracted to yellow gold watches in general, I do own a few of them (two of which were my grandfather’s), as there’s really nothing that captures the platonic ideal of the dress watch, to my mind, more than a thin, yellow gold, handwound timepiece. This Calatrava from the mid-1950s is exactly that — a reference 2545 (cousin to the legendary ref. 96) with just enough patina to look make it looks properly worn, but not beat to shit. –Oren Hartov, Associate Editor

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono

The sleek black watch face paired with a silver bezel looks excellent on an all-black band or brown leather band meaning it’s basically like two watches in one. Initially, the X-Wind Auto Chrono was intended for pilots to calculate crosswinds (hence the name) along their journey, but it works just as well on land as it does in the air. And while this watch would likely dwarf my wrist, it’s still lovely to look at. –Meg Lappe, Editorial Coordinator

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Regulator 5235G-001

I don’t think there is anything more elegant than a regulator — typically marked by subdials for hours and running seconds with a centrally-anchored minute hand. While I am not typically drawn to Pateks, and certainly don’t need an annual calendar, there’s something about this 5235G that I find incredibly attractive; the blued steel hands, the simple, well-proportioned, two-tone dial marry with the 40.5mm case extremely well. Now, to find that $40K I left laying around… –Jacob Sotak, Content Director, Gear Patrol Store

How the ‘Freak’ Introduced Silicon to Mechanical Watchmaking

Welcome to “Watches You Should Know,” a bi-weekly (the once-every-two-weeks kind) column highlighting little-known or notable watches new and old that have interesting stories or have had a surprising impact on the industry.

Who says the mechanical watch industry is stuck in the past? The same incredible material that has made the computing revolution possible is also impacting the world of the tiny spring-powered machines that inefficiently and expensively display the time on our wrists — but which are somehow enchanting. That material is silicon; and when the historic Swiss watch brand Ulysse Nardin introduced the first watch to incorporate it in 2001, called the Freak, it was met with skepticism and controversy.

Less than two decades later its use is widespread, and it promises to be the watchmaking material of the future. Why is silicon such a good material for watchmaking? To begin with, it’s for some of the same reasons that it’s useful in microchips and solar cells, but silicon is beneficial for other reasons that are pretty specific to watchmaking.

Terms to Know: When people in some parts of the world say “silicium” they mean the same thing as silicon, but “silicone” (with an -e) is something totally different.

Traditional watchmaking materials like steel have inherent properties that have provided watchmakers challenges for centuries. Temperature and magnetism can affect a movement’s timekeeping performance, and friction from interaction between parts eventually causes significant wear. Silicon is unaffected by any of these problems. Since silicon is so hard, it obviates the need for the lubrication traditional watch movements require — and that alone makes a huge impact on movement health and longevity, in part because oil ages as well.

For those reasons, as well as its extreme light weight, silicon is ideal for watch movement components like those involved in the escapement, the part of the watch that regulates timekeeping. In addition to these qualities, critically, silicon is also a material that’s inexpensive and widely available. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s making mechanical watches less expensive, at least for the time being: Working with silicon requires expertise and equipment outside watchmaking’s traditional wheelhouse. Unlike metal, silicon (a metalloid) is also brittle. Needless to say, incorporating silicon into mechanical watch movements also required significant research and development.

2001 Ulysse Nardin Freak

In 2001, Ulysse Nardin caused a stir when they released the Freak using silicon in its escapement, but also with a totally avant-garde concept. The use of silicon didn’t necessitate the Freak’s audacious design, but it was an appropriately outlandish way to introduce the controversial material. What makes the Freak so freakish? Most of the watch’s movement itself forms the minute hand, and the mainplate (with an arrow on it) rotates and forms the hour hand. The time is set by turning the bezel, and the movement is wound by turning a case back bezel. In other words, it aimed to rethink a number of fundamental watch features.

Since the introduction of the first Ulysse Nardin Freak, the brand has continued to build upon the concept with an entire line of fascinating and increasingly out-there Freak watches. However, silicon is no longer controversial and has been enthusiastically adopted across the watch industry. Particularly used for its antimagnetic properties in balance springs, it’s now a premium material that prestigious brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe and Omega proudly emphasize. The Swatch Group has even begun equipping some of its inexpensive 80-hour-power-reserve movements with silicon hairsprings.

Ulysse Nardin “Flying Anchor Escapement”

Silicon is even providing watchmakers with new, cutting edge solutions that transcend the traditional escapement as in Zenith’s Defy Lab watch, which beats at 15Hz and is able to achieve unprecedented accuracy for a mechanical watch. Research and development of silicon in watchmaking continues, and promises benefits for accuracy, stability, durability, and even affordability in the future. It’s an exciting material for a wide range of reasons, not least for giving traditional watches room to grow into the century ahead.

This Company’s Pilots and Dive Watches Are Made for Professionals

“We haven’t tried to appeal to everyone — we’ve said this is who we are, and we’re going to keep that style. And we’re not designing by committee. It’s about a classic-style aviation watch.”

Sounds like a pretty straightforward sentiment and mission statement, if you ask us. Giles English, who along with his brother Nick founded Bremont in 2002, is under no illusions as to what his company is and is not. When the two brothers decided to establish their watch brand following the death of their father in an aviation accident, they had a very particular goal in mind: namely, to bring watchmaking back to the UK. And they decided that if they were going to embark on that mission, that they were going to do it correctly, and without cutting any corners.

It took a full five years until the first Bremont watches were ready for delivery, in 2007. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind adventure making watches for various militaries; for the civilian market; and in collaboration with some of the most iconic British brands, personalities and products of all time, including Jaguar, Martin Baker, the Concorde, and more. If you’re a real-life adventurer, soldier, racer or sailor (and especially if you happen to be English), there’s a very good chance that you rock a Bremont watch as your daily wearer.

17 years after Bremont was established, the company employs roughly 30 watchmakers and about 160 total employees, and turns out roughly 10,000 watches per year. But the challenge is hardly over, though the initial growing pains may be behind them: “Everyone said we were mad, and we knew we were a bit mad,” says Giles. “And it’s been very hard — there isn’t a single day when it’s been easy. But it’s been very exciting and we’ve done something not a lot of people have been able to do.”

Amen to that.

We visited Bremont’s facilities in Henley-on-Thames, about an hour outside London, to get a better sense of what their operations are like, and how they design and manufacture their watches. Though the company is currently building a brand new, state-of-the-art facility from the ground-up, Bremont currently relies on several smaller facilities, which it’s quickly outgrowing. Stay tuned for more coverage next year when their new manufacture finally opens, but more now, scroll down for a view into how Bremont’s bringing watchmaking back to England.

Photo Tour


A vertical mill is used to manufacture flat movement components, such as baseplates. While these machines are sufficient for small numbers of components, Giles explains the need for more advanced machines with higher spindle speeds that can churn out, say, a baseplate, in less than an hour (it currently takes about five hours to machine a single one now, given the surface’s complex geometry).

Special plates are used that are perfectly flat, which are then machined, deburred, put through a polisher, and have perlage (decoration) added to them, after which they’re sent to be plated. Bremont, like many other manufacturers, doesn’t do plating itself, which is a skill best entrusted to someone who a shop that specializes in it. Bremont does, however, manufacture all its own jigs itself.


Finding competent watch assemblers in the UK is no easy task — you can’t simply go out and recruit dedicated, established workers with a long history in the industry. Giles English explains: “If we want a watch assembler, we have to go out and get 50 people for bench tests — do they have dexterity? These guys have never dealt with watches before, they’ve come from all different backgrounds. There’s no watch industry (here in the UK) to choose from, so we have to take people from different industries.”

“They may have never seen a watch before, but do they have the dexterity to start off with, and do they have the mental mindset to do this for hours and hours — you whittle those down pretty quickly, and then it’s a long time training process to be able to do it. If you went into any other large Swiss workshop of ours size, it would all be assembly line production — for example, one guy just puts the crowns on. We do a tiny bit of that, but not really so much, and the reason why is we’re training future watchmakers who can then go onto different parts of the business. So we’re trying to build as much of that skillset as possible.”

“We haven’t tried to appeal to everyone — we’ve said this is who we are, and we’re going to keep that style. And we’re not designing by committee. It’s about a classic-style aviation watch.”


Stu, Bremont’s first watchmaker, works on a Codebreaker, a special edition watch from 2013 that utilized wood from Bletchley Park floor boards and metal from an original Enigma machine, the famed Allied codebreaking machine from Work War II (Bletchley Park housed the famed codebreaking facilities). The Codebreaker is a complicated watch, featuring a flyback chronograph as well as a GMT complication.

Standard screws used to affix rotors to automatic movements are normally blued and utilize a normal screw head, but the weight of a rotor spinning puts a large stress on them, so Bremont designed their own screws. The Bremont screw head has two small holes in it and utilizes a screwdriver tip with two small “dots” that grip the head. This system increases the tensile strength of the screw considerably, and the screws don’t need to be blued, which weakens them. The new screw design solves the problem of the screws shearing in half because of the stress of the rotor spinning.

Of course manufacturing ones own tools is costly — the screwdriver grip that Bremont’s watchmakers use is standard, but the bits are custom-made to the tune of 600GBP per unit. “Every seal, every screw is all bespoke to us,” says Giles. “So a lot of brands will buy generic components off the shelf. We do it all ourselves, which means we have control over what is being made.”

“We don’t want the watchmaker to be filing parts to get the case together. If we were building 100 watches a year, we could do that — you can have slightly substandard stuff. But our stuff has to be perfect.”


Nick and Giles do all the design work themselves, mostly by mining the troves of aeronautical instruments that have come before: “We haven’t tried to appeal to everyone — we’ve said this is who we are, and we’re going to keep that style. And we’re not designing by committee. It’s about a classic-style aviation watch. An aviation watch is not a dive watch and not a dress watch — it’s that middle ground and category.

Before we came along most of the aviation watches were so delicate that you couldn’t wear them while flying — they were becoming dress watches. Whereas we wanted something that was tough, easy to read and that you’re able to wear in the boardroom or up Mt. Everest. That was our whole remit, which is why we started getting adventurers and explorers and those guys to start wearing our watches.”


Bremont builds most of its watches using their proprietary Trip-Tick three-piece case (the Her Majesty’s Armed Forces collection being a notable example). Because the company’s cases are specially hardened, they can’t be polished during service, but rather replaced entirely. However, because the cases are built in three pieces, they can simply replace, for example, the bezel component without having to chuck the entire case. (This was part of the original thought process when developing the three-piece case). The steel used by Bremont is 7-8x harder than that used in the average watch case.

A five-stage process is used for case manufacturing, and between each stage, the case must be polished and satined (after the final plating stage, which is done by a specialist company, the cases can no longer be polished). The final polishing stage is done by hand by a skilled employee, and between each of these stages, the cases must be cleaned and kept in small silk bags for protection. Over-polishing can ruin tolerances and prevent parts from fitting together, such as a crystal onto a case.

“If a watch gets tested for three weeks and comes back and there’s even a speck of dust, the entire watch needs to be rebuilt. So it’s all about quality control.”


A laser is used to engrave the sequential numbering that appears on case backs, as well as lettering, such as the company wordmark (the lasers used by Bremont are powerful enough to cut straight through steel) — etching, however, is outsourced. Bremont has become so adept at using their laser engraving machines that the manufacturer even contacted them, asking how they achieve certain techniques.
Once Bremont receives a COSC-certified movement from Switzerland, it’s already been tested to rigorous standards — but tests are conducted on the movement only, not on a watch containing it. “So what we’re doing is regularly testing them the whole time,” explains Giles. “We have systems for batch-testing in five different angles — our watches should be +/- 3 seconds per day. When the watchmaker then does his own individual QC and feels that it’s perfect, then the watch will go upstairs to be individually QC’d.

With watchmaking, it’s all about first-time pass rate, meaning, can I work quickly enough so that I can build my quota without making any mistakes. Because if that watch gets tested for 3 weeks and comes back and there’s even a speck of dust, the entire watch needs to be rebuilt. Our machines will batch-test and keep digital records for us, so we can track when it was tested, what tests were run, sort of like block-chain.”


Kits of watch components are put together on the upper floors of Bremont’s Henley facility, after which they make their way downstairs for assembly. These components have been thoroughly QC’d and may have been sitting for some time in stock. “The idea is to deliver a perfect set of components devoid of scratches, defects, etc. to the watchmaker,” explains Giles. “When it comes to the watchmaker, they want the watch to ‘slide together.’ We don’t want the watchmaker to be filing parts to get the case together.

If we were building 100 watches a year, we could do that. You can have slightly substandard stuff. But this stuff has to be perfect. We want them to be pure assemblers. And that’s the hardest bit and has taken years, to get good-quality components throughout the business. If a component is off by even a few microns, it can throw off the entire process.”


Each watchmaker at Bremont has his or her own custom-built desk, assembled to that watchmaker’s height. Each watch is largely assembled by one watchmaker, who will be given kits of components from the upper floors at Henley. Rather than work on one watch a a time, this person will line up several watches, affix their dials, hands and crowns, and build them. This way, as Giles notes, there is some efficiency to the process. Each watch is numbered and has an individual movement and case number. Each watchmaker has their own tools and when they leave, they leave their desk clean. They also learn how to sharpen their own tools and look after them.

“When you first learn you work on standard 3-hander watches,” says Giles. “When you’re working with chronographs and GMTs you have all different hand heights and if you put these on incorrectly, they can rub against the crystal, cause problems, etc. You train to get to complicated watches.”


Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one. This machine is filled with ceramic beads that vibrates subtly and remove burrs from case components after roughly ten minutes. But the machine has to be watched very carefully — too much time will ruin the components, and not enough time will have a negligible effect.
While all watches go through highly rigorous testing at Bremont, it’s perhaps the military watch projects that mean most to the English brothers. “What we love, the most satisfying part of the business is making for the military all around the world, for lots of different nations, begins Giles. “And a big part of it is that if they’re buying en-masse, they’re getting a deal, they’re effectively subsidizing it. There was a guy, an F-18 pilot who said to me look, I’m flying an F-18 for seven years of my life, but I’ll spend the rest of my life talking about it, and the watch is proof that I did it. I’ll give it to my son, and he’ll tell his son that his grandfather was an F-18 pilot. It becomes a complete badge of honor for these guys. And there’s not much you can buy that does last forever.”

This Company’s Pilots and Divers Watches Are Made for Professionals

“W“e haven’t tried to appeal to everyone — we’ve said this is who we are, and we’re going to keep that style. And we’re not designing by committee. It’s about a classic-style aviation watch.”

Sounds like a pretty straightforward sentiment and mission statement, if you ask us. Giles English, who along with his brother Nick founded Bremont in 2002, is under no illusions as to what his company is and is not. When the two brothers decided to establish their watch brand following the death of their father in an aviation accident, they had a very particular goal in mind: namely, to bring watchmaking back to the UK. And they decided that if they were going to embark on that mission, that they were going to do it correctly, and without cutting any corners.

It took a full five years until the first Bremont watches were ready for delivery, in 2007. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind adventure making watches for various militaries; for the civilian market; and in collaboration with some of the most iconic British brands, personalities and products of all time, including Jaguar, Martin Baker, the Concorde, and more. If you’re a real-life adventurer, soldier, racer or sailor (and especially if you happen to be English), there’s a very good chance that you rock a Bremont watch as your daily wearer.

17 years after Bremont was established, the company employs roughly 30 watchmakers and about 160 total employees, and turns out roughly 10,000 watches per year. But the challenge is hardly over, though the initial growing pains may be behind them: “Everyone said we were mad, and we knew we were a bit mad,” says Giles. “And it’s been very hard — there isn’t a single day when it’s been easy. But it’s been very exciting and we’ve done something not a lot of people have been able to do.”

Amen to that.

We visited Bremont’s facilities in Henley-on-Thames, about an hour outside London, to get a better sense of what their operations are like, and how they design and manufacture their watches. Though the company is currently building a brand new, state-of-the-art facility from the ground-up, Bremont currently relies on several smaller facilities, which it’s quickly outgrowing. Stay tuned for more coverage next year when their new manufacture finally opens, but more now, scroll down for a view into how Bremont’s bringing watchmaking back to England.

Photo Tour


A vertical mill is used to manufacture flat movement components, such as baseplates. While these machines are sufficient for small numbers of components, Giles explains the need for more advanced machines with higher spindle speeds that can churn out, say, a baseplate, in less than an hour (it currently takes about five hours to machine a single one now, given the surface’s complex geometry).

Special plates are used that are perfectly flat, which are then machined, deburred, put through a polisher, and have perlage (decoration) added to them, after which they’re sent to be plated. Bremont, like many other manufacturers, doesn’t do plating itself, which is a skill best entrusted to someone who a shop that specializes in it. Bremont does, however, manufacture all its own jigs itself.


Finding competent watch assemblers in the UK is no easy task — you can’t simply go out and recruit dedicated, established workers with a long history in the industry. Giles English explains: “If we want a watch assembler, we have to go out and get 50 people for bench tests — do they have dexterity? These guys have never dealt with watches before, they’ve come from all different backgrounds. There’s no watch industry (here in the UK) to choose from, so we have to take people from different industries.”

“They may have never seen a watch before, but do they have the dexterity to start off with, and do they have the mental mindset to do this for hours and hours — you whittle those down pretty quickly, and then it’s a long time training process to be able to do it. If you went into any other large Swiss workshop of ours size, it would all be assembly line production — for example, one guy just puts the crowns on. We do a tiny bit of that, but not really so much, and the reason why is we’re training future watchmakers who can then go onto different parts of the business. So we’re trying to build as much of that skillset as possible.”

“We haven’t tried to appeal to everyone — we’ve said this is who we are, and we’re going to keep that style. And we’re not designing by committee. It’s about a classic-style aviation watch.”


Stu, Bremont’s first watchmaker, works on a Codebreaker, a special edition watch from 2013 that utilized wood from Bletchley Park floor boards and metal from an original Enigma machine, the famed Allied codebreaking machine from Work War II (Bletchley Park housed the famed codebreaking facilities). The Codebreaker is a complicated watch, featuring a flyback chronograph as well as a GMT complication.

Standard screws used to affix rotors to automatic movements are normally blued and utilize a normal screw head, but the weight of a rotor spinning puts a large stress on them, so Bremont designed their own screws. The Bremont screw head has two small holes in it and utilizes a screwdriver tip with two small “dots” that grip the head. This system increases the tensile strength of the screw considerably, and the screws don’t need to be blued, which weakens them. The new screw design solves the problem of the screws shearing in half because of the stress of the rotor spinning.

Of course manufacturing ones own tools is costly — the screwdriver grip that Bremont’s watchmakers use is standard, but the bits are custom-made to the tune of 600GBP per unit. “Every seal, every screw is all bespoke to us,” says Giles. “So a lot of brands will buy generic components off the shelf. We do it all ourselves, which means we have control over what is being made.”

“We don’t want the watchmaker to be filing parts to get the case together. If we were building 100 watches a year, we could do that — you can have slightly substandard stuff. But our stuff has to be perfect.”


Nick and Giles do all the design work themselves, mostly by mining the troves of aeronautical instruments that have come before: “We haven’t tried to appeal to everyone — we’ve said this is who we are, and we’re going to keep that style. And we’re not designing by committee. It’s about a classic-style aviation watch. An aviation watch is not a dive watch and not a dress watch — it’s that middle ground and category.

Before we came along most of the aviation watches were so delicate that you couldn’t wear them while flying — they were becoming dress watches. Whereas we wanted something that was tough, easy to read and that you’re able to wear in the boardroom or up Mt. Everest. That was our whole remit, which is why we started getting adventurers and explorers and those guys to start wearing our watches.”


Bremont builds most of its watches using their proprietary Trip-Tick three-piece case (the Her Majesty’s Armed Forces collection being a notable example). Because the company’s cases are specially hardened, they can’t be polished during service, but rather replaced entirely. However, because the cases are built in three pieces, they can simply replace, for example, the bezel component without having to chuck the entire case. (This was part of the original thought process when developing the three-piece case). The steel used by Bremont is 7-8x harder than that used in the average watch case.

A five-stage process is used for case manufacturing, and between each stage, the case must be polished and satined (after the final plating stage, which is done by a specialist company, the cases can no longer be polished). The final polishing stage is done by hand by a skilled employee, and between each of these stages, the cases must be cleaned and kept in small silk bags for protection. Over-polishing can ruin tolerances and prevent parts from fitting together, such as a crystal onto a case.

“If a watch gets tested for three weeks and comes back and there’s even a speck of dust, the entire watch needs to be rebuilt. So it’s all about quality control.”


A laser is used to engrave the sequential numbering that appears on case backs, as well as lettering, such as the company wordmark (the lasers used by Bremont are powerful enough to cut straight through steel) — etching, however, is outsourced. Bremont has become so adept at using their laser engraving machines that the manufacturer even contacted them, asking how they achieve certain techniques.
Once Bremont receives a COSC-certified movement from Switzerland, it’s already been tested to rigorous standards — but tests are conducted on the movement only, not on a watch containing it. “So what we’re doing is regularly testing them the whole time,” explains Giles. “We have systems for batch-testing in five different angles — our watches should be +/- 3 seconds per day. When the watchmaker then does his own individual QC and feels that it’s perfect, then the watch will go upstairs to be individually QC’d.

With watchmaking, it’s all about first-time pass rate, meaning, can I work quickly enough so that I can build my quota without making any mistakes. Because if that watch gets tested for 3 weeks and comes back and there’s even a speck of dust, the entire watch needs to be rebuilt. Our machines will batch-test and keep digital records for us, so we can track when it was tested, what tests were run, sort of like block-chain.”


Kits of watch components are put together on the upper floors of Bremont’s Henley facility, after which they make their way downstairs for assembly. These components have been thoroughly QC’d and may have been sitting for some time in stock. “The idea is to deliver a perfect set of components devoid of scratches, defects, etc. to the watchmaker,” explains Giles. “When it comes to the watchmaker, they want the watch to ‘slide together.’ We don’t want the watchmaker to be filing parts to get the case together.

If we were building 100 watches a year, we could do that. You can have slightly substandard stuff. But this stuff has to be perfect. We want them to be pure assemblers. And that’s the hardest bit and has taken years, to get good-quality components throughout the business. If a component is off by even a few microns, it can throw off the entire process.”


Each watchmaker at Bremont has his or her own custom-built desk, assembled to that watchmaker’s height. Each watch is largely assembled by one watchmaker, who will be given kits of components from the upper floors at Henley. Rather than work on one watch a a time, this person will line up several watches, affix their dials, hands and crowns, and build them. This way, as Giles notes, there is some efficiency to the process. Each watch is numbered and has an individual movement and case number. Each watchmaker has their own tools and when they leave, they leave their desk clean. They also learn how to sharpen their own tools and look after them.

“When you first learn you work on standard 3-hander watches,” says Giles. “When you’re working with chronographs and GMTs you have all different hand heights and if you put these on incorrectly, they can rub against the crystal, cause problems, etc. You train to get to complicated watches.”


Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one. This machine is filled with ceramic beads that vibrates subtly and remove burrs from case components after roughly ten minutes. But the machine has to be watched very carefully — too much time will ruin the components, and not enough time will have a negligible effect.
While all watches go through highly rigorous testing at Bremont, it’s perhaps the military watch projects that mean most to the English brothers. “What we love, the most satisfying part of the business is making for the military all around the world, for lots of different nations, begins Giles. “And a big part of it is that if they’re buying en-masse, they’re getting a deal, they’re effectively subsidizing it. There was a guy, an F-18 pilot who said to me look, I’m flying an F-18 for seven years of my life, but I’ll spend the rest of my life talking about it, and the watch is proof that I did it. I’ll give it to my son, and he’ll tell his son that his grandfather was an F-18 pilot. It becomes a complete badge of honor for these guys. And there’s not much you can buy that does last forever.”

These Professional Dive Watches Are Completely Underrated

Back in the 1960s, Aquadive built dive watches, and only dive watches. These purpose-driven timepieces were standard fare among SCUBA divers who would see them in magazine ads, in local dive shops, or on the wrists of their fellow divers. Aquadive made a wide assortment of models, from snorkeling watches to enormous electronic models with oil-filled depth gauges for professional divers. But Aquadive, like so many other watch brands, didn’t survive the ascendency of electronic quartz watches. They went kaput in the 1980s.

In 2011, avid dive watch collector Rick Marei brought Aquadive back to life, first with watches built into new-old-stock cases he acquired along with the company. Those are all gone now, so today Aquadive produces its cases in Germany, and it sources its movements and performs assembly in Switzerland. The newly designed Aquadive Bathyscaphe is the brand’s current flagship model, and this new watch is loosely based on that large watch with the depth gauge, the legendary Aquadive Model 50.

The Aquadive Bathyscaphe measures 43mm across, but for fit you’ll want to know that it’s only 49mm from lug to lug, making this seemingly large watch wear quite comfortably even on small wrists. It’s 15mm tall, which is not small, but the height is mostly due to the tall bezel — which turns out to be an important feature. Expect a large and heavy diver, but one that will fit lots of folks comfortably.

With 1,000 meters of water resistance (3,330’), the Bathyscaphe is not fooling around. Sure, you don’t need all that capability as a casual SCUBA diver, but remember that extreme depths will test the seals of any watch. This one is going to hold steady.

Today’s dive watches are so often marketed as fashion statements that it’s become relatively rare for a company to design one as a straight-up, thoroughbred diving tool. The Aquadive Bathyscaphe is just such a rarity. It doesn’t look entirely out of place with a casual, rugged outfit (let’s say a work shirt, jeans, and boots), but the Bathyscaphe really begs to be worn in and around the water. Better yet, it loves to go deep, and it looks entirely at home snaking around the jagged edges of a sunken freighter, tunneling through a coral cave, or coming face-to-face with a shark.

Diving off the Dutch island Bonaire for a week, and again off of Grand Cayman for a few days (both in the Western Caribbean), the Bathyscaphe proved to be a most trusty companion underwater and above. I’ve scratched a couple sapphire watch crystals and banged up my share of bezels, and I’ve only done that while SCUBA diving. The abuse arises when hoisting heavy aluminum tanks into the back of pickup trucks, reaching an arm through a buoyancy compensation device (BCD) and straight into some hard bit of boat rigging, or lifting myself onto a concrete slab with 16 lbs. of lead weights around my waist as ocean waves blithely toss me to and fro. Some watches might look like badass divers, but they ultimately succumb to damage in real diving conditions. Meanwhile the Aquadive Bathyscaphe takes a serious beating unscathed.

The reason the Bathyscaphe is so rugged goes back to Aquadive’s history of designing exclusively purpose-built dive watches. Consider whether you’d prefer a Cadillac SUV or a Land Rover Defender for actual off-road driving. Right — you chose the Rover because that company had been perfecting tough, capable off-road vehicles when Cadillac was still building land yachts. You can’t fast-forward that evolution; it’s just too much hard-earned RnD -— year in, year out — for anyone to imitate.

And that’s exactly why you’d choose an Aquadive for diving. Its design is an accumulation of small improvements that add up to a seriously capable dive watch, and not some fashion statement. Though, ironically, the Aquadive’s bonafides as a tool make it an even cooler fashion statement for some of us. When you get bored with bitching and moaning about date window placement or an extra millimeter here and there, it’s refreshing to find a dive watch that reminds us that these are tools, not toys. Strap it on, stop fussing, and go do stuff.

What specifically makes the Aquadive Bathyscaphe so capable? First of all, it’s the case and bezel. The wide-flanged cushion case (not entirely unlike a Doxa SUB) creates a protective wall around the watch. Similarly, the tall beefy bezel and it’s ultra-hard ceramic insert protect the flat sapphire crystal. The mounting holes for the spring bars are deeply inset into the stout lugs, and the spring bars themselves are fat and inspire confidence. The provided Isofrane strap is a rubber affair that’s become an industry standard for reliability and comfort, either on your skin or over a wetsuit. Add in the 1,000 meters of water resistance, the unrivaled Super-LumiNova lume, and the proven ETA 2836-2 automatic movement, and we’re talking about a watch that’ll just waltz through daily abuses.

Underwater, the legibility of the Aquadive Bathyscaphe is unparalleled. Super-LumiNova is standard stuff, but I wonder if there’s a secret sauce here? It’s really, really bright. Swimming under the shadow of a wreck at 95 feet, the dial lit up like Times Square. And the amount of lume on the bezel makes it really easy to read exact timings at depth. Again, it’s all about performance.

Another important feature for diving performance is bezel action. When your hands are numb with cold, or bound up in neoprene, you’re going to want a bezel that’s easy to grip and turn, but not so easy that it’ll get moved around without your consent. I was suspicious of this one because the bezel slopes up toward the crystal, which has proven a slippery proposition on other watches. But the bezel on the Aquadive Bathyscaphe is tall, and the coin edge is super sharp, so it proves to be easy to grip and turn. Further, that sloping bezel is a safety measure of sorts, because a bezel that overhangs the case can latch onto rocks, or coral, or any of the countless obstacles we encounter when diving.

There’s no need to overthink the Aquadive Bathyscaphe. It’s a dedicated thoroughbred dive tool with a professional lineage that assures its legacy as such. For those who have come to love tool watches as tools, the Bathyscaphe will scratch that itch. For desk divers who just want a cool fashion accessory, perhaps the Bathyscaphe will have you reconsider fussy fashion concerns in favor of a serious tool with serious cred.

Numerous versions of the Aquadive are available beginning at $1,990 direct.

This Affordable, Field-Inspired Watch Celebrates Fossil Watches of the 1990s

Fossil’s Archival Series features limited-edition sets that recall early Fossil watches, the newest of which is the Defender. Featuring a 42mm brushed stainless steel case with 22mm lugs, the Defender is a throwback to a watch first introduced in the 1990s that featured both field and dive-inspired influences.

The new Defender ships in a handsome leather box with two straps — one a brown leather type with rubberized backing, and the second a green NATO strap — and, interestingly, three interchangeable “top rings.” These can’t be called “bezels” in the classic sense, as they don’t turn, but they provide the wearer with an opportunity to easily swap them out for a fun look. Two are diver-style count-up bezels (one in brushed steel and one in aluminum), and the third is a black steel compass bezel. The crown is a push-down type and is located at 4 o’clock, giving the watch a water-resistance of 100m.

If you’re on the lookout for an affordable field/diver-style watch or happen to have grown up in the 80s or 90s and have fond memories of Fossil, the quartz-powered Defender, which is available for $255 in select Fossil stores, could be the watch for you.

The Best Affordable Watches for Every Kind of Dad

No one knows your dad like you do, or can guess what kind of watch is right for him. Buying watches as gifts for others is hard, even when that person is close to you — maybe especially if he’s close. The good news is that, even if you totally misjudge Dad’s taste, the most important thing is that the gift is from you. Probably not every Father’s Day is going to be one where you give him a watch, but if it’s one of those years, these sub-$1,000 watches are a good place to start.

Geeky Dad: Casio World Time Digital Watch

This is a great option that just about anyone can afford. It’s got a nostalgic, retro-futuristic appeal, a lot of functionality, and is incredibly robust especially considering its price. All of this makes it a completely worry-free watch for almost any occasion.

Sporty Dad: Citizen Promaster Professional Diver

For the active dads out there, a sporty, rugged Citizen Promaster is a practical and satisfying choice. Citizen’s Eco Drive technology means the battery is charged by any light source, so it’ll never need to be changed. This will require some heftier wrists to be worn comfortably and regularly, with a diameter of 44mm wide — but if it fits the bill, it will serve Dad well for a long time.

Outdoorsy Dad: G-Shock Master of G Mudmaster

There’s a certain satisfaction to something that seems almost more like a piece of military equipment than a watch. If that’s something the dad in your life can appreciate, a number of G-Shocks probably match the description. The Mudman, however, just has that rough-and-tumble feel that seems like it would only get better by banging it up. It’s got all the specs to handle some abuse, like 200m of water resistance, and a lot of useful Casio tech as well.

Tool Watch Dad: Obris Morgan Nautilus

With a unique but pragmatic design, Obris Morgan introduces mechanical movements to this list. This is a tool watch with some character and a great Japanese automatic movement with the Miyota 9015. The Obris Morgan Nautilus offers 200m of water-resistance and strong value. At 41mm, it’s the kind of dive watch Dad can wear every day, whether to the office, swimming, or casually.

Retro Dad: Yema Superman Heritage

The Yema Superman offers a vintage dive watch aesthetic, modern dive watch specs with 300m water-resistance and sapphire crystal, and a solid ETA 2824-2 automatic Swiss movement. The suave dad that knows how to dress will appreciate the style Yema is offering backed up by thoughtful details and evident quality. The retro sizing of 39mm makes this versatile for a range of wrists, and more understated than the many bold-wearing dive watches on the market.

Analog Dad: Tissot Vissodate Automatic

What if your dad’s more of an analog guy with a nostalgic streak? The Tissot Vissodate is one of the best values out there with all the specs you’d want from a Swiss-made mechanical watch, like a sapphire crystal and automatic winding. At 40mm wide with a stout profile, this will wear modestly and handsomely, and is perfect for everyday duty with an understated retro flare.

Aviator Dad: Stowa Flieger Verus 40

Does your dad wear a leather bomber jacket and/or aviator sunglasses? That might be a good indicator of a candidate for a vintage-styled pilot watch like the Stowa Flieger Verus 40. Stowa is a German brand with legitimate history making pilot watches, and the Flieger Verus looks the part, is available in date and no-date as well as different movement versions, and remains very wearable at 40mm.

Weekend Warrior Dad: Victorinox I.N.O.X. Mechanical

This is a tough tool watch perfect for the dad who likes the outdoors and is rough on his wristwear. When first released in its quartz-powered version, Victorinox even put this watch through 130 tests more trying than normal wear would ever be — so you know it can handle anything. There are various colors, as well as diver models and more affordable quartz watches to choose from. This mechanical version offers a Swiss automatic movement for a pretty reasonable price.

Diver Dad: Seiko SPB053J1

This handsome and capable dive watch is one of the more premium among Seiko’s sub-$1,000 Prospex watches but, as always for the brand, it punches above its weight. Based on one of the brand’s most popular vintage dive watch models, the SPB053J1 is versatile and can easily do the job for a dad who just wants one tough, reliable watch to last for many years.

Motorhead Dad: Autodromo Group B

There’s a good chance that any dad out there who’s into cars in some form or another will also be able to appreciate a good watch. For those who are serious motorheads, the Autodromo Group B celebrates motorsport in a unique and fun way with some vintage cues and colorful dial options.

Citizen Has Made the World’s Most Accurate Light-Powered Watch, Though It Doesn’t Come Cheap

Like most world records, “the world’s most accurate watch” is a moving target and almost always requires some qualification. The technology was announced in 2018, but the wristwatch to contain the super-accurate Citizen Caliber 0100 quartz movement debuted at Baselworld 2019. It’s accurate to within one second per year, powered by light with Citizen’s Eco Drive technology, and prices start at over $7,000.

To put this in perspective, most quartz watches measure their accuracy per month, and even the most accurate traditional mechanical watches measure per day. Citizen beats high-end quartz watches like those from Grand Seiko with estimates of +/- five seconds per year. The difference between five seconds and one second per year might sound insignificant, but consider it five times more precise, and refinements at this level get exponentially more complicated. While some watches use various external sources via the likes of radio signals or internet to regularly synchronize with atomic clocks (and some have even managed to make an atomic clock semi-wearable on the wrist), Citizen can claim to have the most accurate, light-powered, autonomous movement.

The brand explains that one thing they did differently for the Caliber 0100 was to replace the quartz crystal’s typical tuning-fork shape with something called an “AT cut” (previously used in watches only very rarely). This has a number of benefits for stability and resistance to temperature and position changes, but it also oscillates at 8 megahertz rather than the 32 kilohertz of the traditional shape (256 times faster). Citizen goes into the technical details of how it all works in this video, and there’s a lot more cool stuff going on with this watch if you care to put on your nerd glasses.

Citizen combined other technologies such as an integrated circuit designed to correct minor temperature-caused deviations. One cool feature of the new watches is that the brand displays the movement through a case back window, which is very uncommon for quartz watches. The wristwatches containing this remarkable movement measure 37.5mm wide and a thin 9.1mm with 50m of water-resistance. Versions in hardened titanium cases will be priced $7,400 and limited to 200 pieces for a mother of pearl dial and 500 pieces for the black dial model. A white gold case version will cost $16,800, and all will be available in Fall 2019.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Longines Conquest V.H.P. Watch ($1,300)
Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE227 Watch ($5,600)
Breitling Professional Chronospace Military Watch ($6,110)

5 Brutal Torture Tests Brands Use to Vet Their Watches

WARNING: Watch lovers may find the following content distressing.

Many watches claim extreme durability standards far beyond what any human wearing them could be expected to endure themselves. The point is to show that they can take even more than you can possibly throw at them, but some watch brands have gone to creative lengths to demonstrate ruggedness. It is somehow fascinating to watch these small and often intricate machines survive the stunts conceived to test their limits.

Factories commonly perform durability tests in controlled environments, such as dropping a watch from a specific height; smacking it with a hammer swung from a large pendulum; or placing a watch in a chamber that simulates water pressure in order to test water-resistance. Watch factories are also full of interesting and weird-looking machines meant to replicate real-life wear over an extended period.

Protecting watches and their intricate movements from things like shocks and moisture has led to immense investments from watch companies in testing and some notable developments in watchmaking technology. More extreme stress tests such as strapping a watch to a crash test dummy or running one over with a truck probably have some merit even if they’re less empirically quantifiable than those performed in a sterile lab — aside from marketing value, they’re also extremely entertaining, so please enjoy the following five examples of super tough watches and crazy watch durability stunts.

Casio G-Shock

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Conceived with the modest idea of making “a watch so durable it wouldn’t break even when dropped,” according to its creator Kikuo Ibe, Casio G-Shock might be the first thing to come to mind as the “indestructible watch.” The plastic wonder timepiece is tough, inexpensive, and reliable, which is why it is probably the watch that sees the most actual military duty today. This fun video from Japanese TV features Casio factory tests including the drop and the hammer-smack, but goes on to torture a poor G-Shock G5600 in increasingly unspeakable ways. After being frozen, this G-Shock is strapped to a BMX bike and bunny-hopped upon (3:50). Finally, it is shown working normally after being run over by a steamroller (4:40).

BONUS: Here is another cool video in which a $70,000 18ct-gold Casio G-Shock G-D5000-9JR undergoes the drop and hammer tests.

Victorinox INOX

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The INOX was launched with a event touting no fewer than 130 durability tests to highlight the brand’s 130th anniversary — obviously, this was more for marketing purposes than pure scientific pursuit, but it’s still immensely fun to watch, and truly speaks to the durability of Victorinox’s offerings. These trials included being strapped to a bobsled (apparently to test vibration resistance); frozen in a block of ice; boiled in a coffee pot; run over by a 64-ton fire truck; and 126 more tests of varying degrees of silliness and impressiveness.

Bremont Martin Baker

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While partnering with a company that makes ejection seats like Martin Baker might sound pretty niche, it affords some opportunities for crazy wristwatch tests. Yes, British watch brand Bremont straps its watches to crash test dummies, blasts them out of airplane cockpits, and then checks to see that the watches are alright. Even just watching the video is a little jarring. While some of these watches can only be purchased by people who have actually ejected in a Martin Barker ejection seat, other models are commercially available.

Seiko Marinemaster Professional 1000m

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Finally, in the same vein as Rolex’s Deepsea test (see below), Seiko similarly tested a couple of their Marinemaster Professional watches by sending them deep into the ocean with an unmanned submersible device. This time, however, there’s a twist. First, Seiko actually tests the watches to failure (which occurs around 2:05 in the video). Also, it keeps a camera trained on them so you can see the instant and exact depth at which they are overcome by the water pressure. The watch’s seconds hands simply stop. It might not be a dramatic moment or captivatingly violent like Bremont’s exploding cockpits, but it’s genuine and cool to witness.

Spoiler alert: while not going as deep as the Rolex in the Mariana Trench, the watches function normally well beyond their claimed depth rating of 1,000m.

Rolex Deepsea

In normal wear, or even actual diving, most dive watches won’t get anywhere near the depth they are pressure-tested to. A case in point is when watch companies strap a watch to some submersible device and send it under the water to a depth that would easily crush a human body. Rolex tests its watches extensively in-house, but it also sent a special version of its Deepsea watch with James Cameron more than 10,000 meters into the Mariana Trench, the deepest natural trench in the world, strapped to the outside of his submersible vessel. Cameron also wore a regular Rolex on his wrist inside the vessel where it would be of more use to him.

Seven French Watch Brands That Should Be on Your Radar

Watch enthusiasts are generally aware of but a handful of countries other than Switzerland that have prominently asserted their national pride in the modern watchmaking landscape. German and Japanese watches are important and well-established, for example, and although British and American watches get some press, most remain small-scale operations.

If you stop to think about it, however, France seems well-positioned to have an impact on the world of modern watchmaking for a number of reasons. The country is a significant luxury watch market and has the economic and creative resources, background, and passion to contribute meaningfully to the industry. French watches, after all, were once a significant part of the pre-Quartz-Crisis watch industry.

While many boutique French watch companies remain relatively obscure outside of France, there are actually a number of them doing interesting things. Of course, some very significant watch brands are based in France, including Breguet, Cartier, and Bell & Ross. Further, famed fashion houses such as Hermès and Chanel also have one foot firmly in the world of legitimate, high-end watchmaking. (Van Cleef & Arpels also fits somewhere in the mix.) French watches are able to harness the country’s respected fashion and design strengths, but the country also has horological history to draw upon.

The area of Besançon borders the Swiss watchmaking region of La Chaux-de-Fonds and was once an important center of French watchmaking. It is unsurprisingly where a number of today’s modern French brands are based, many of which claim regional heritage but also benefit from the proximity to Switzerland’s resources — the very reason the government deliberately created the French watch industry there in the late 18th century.

The majority of just about all watches made today use parts from multiple countries, and the origin or nationality of any watch is in fact far from clear-cut. The brands on this list identify themselves as French and represent everything from companies with proudly in-house movements to those sourcing parts from Switzerland and East Asia, and various approaches in between. French watches don’t necessarily exhibit a certain set of national traits (like, say, many German watches often do), but range from rugged military watches to those with more of an artistic focus — and in that way, they represent the modern, diverse country exceedingly well.

Pequignet

Pequignet is notable for offering a pretty good value considering their in-house movements, multiple complications, and a unique design sense. Based just across the border from the epicenter of Swiss watchmaking in the French town of Morteau (in the Besançon region), the brand has been producing its own in-house movements since 2011, called the Calibre Royale. The movements boast a host of features but are designed to be thin by incorporating various complications into the mainplate. When you dig a little deeper, the movements have a lot of very thoughtful engineering details that watch lovers should appreciate. This is a serious brand worth checking out whether or not you are specifically interested in their French origin.

Dodane

Dodane is a brand with some history, particularly known for its pilot watch, the Type 21 flyback chronograph developed for the French Ministry of Defense in the 1950s. Based in Besançon, the brand today makes the Type 21 as a re-issue/homage, a newer Type 23 designed for the French Air Force, as well as actual on-board chronograph instruments to be mounted in aircraft. Their chronograph watches are generally fitted with Swiss Dubois Depraz automatic movements. This is a French brand quietly specializing more or less in one kind of military-focused watch, and that gives Dodane a certain legitimacy that’s hard to beat. Did we mention that the watches are quite attractive and available to civilians as well?

ZRC

ZRC is another French company with a long history of collaboration with the French military that essentially makes one kind of timepiece, which in this case is a dive watch. Based on a piece made for the French navy in the 1960s, the unique design features a 6 o’clock crown (to avoid damage and snagging during underwater operations) and an angular case shape along with other design features that make it stand out in the wider world of dive watches.

Fugue

Fugue is a young and forward-thinking French watch company — there are no heritage stories or vintage styles here. Launched in 2017, the brand boasts a “modular” concept whereby the cases, dials, and straps can be easily swapped by users themselves. Fortunately, this mix-and-match concept is backed up by a solid and attractive design and well-executed details. While the company and founders are French, the movements, components, and assembly are Swiss.

Yema

Based in Morteau, Yema also has a rich history, which it has leveraged by introducing heritage models like the Yachtingraf and the affordable Superman dive watch. Yema was once a significant producer of French watches, and many of their modern watches offer strong value. Yema’s lineup includes a broad range of watches, movements, and price points.

Baltic

Baltic’s production is based in Besançon, and it specializes in simple but satisfying modern watches done in vintage styles. We are on record at Gear Patrol as being highly enthusiastic about what the brand is doing. Baltic watches are equipped with Chinese and Japanese movements and assembled in France. This is a brand that offers solid values and unbeatable vintage styles.

Merci

This is probably the watch you should buy as a souvenir on your next trip to Paris. The brand makes clothing, accessories, and home goods, but also simple, attractive watches with a field/military look and a few minor stylistic variations for choice. The Merci watches are available with quartz or manually-wound Swiss mechanical movements and are made with high-quality materials. Best of all, they’re quite reasonably priced and have that certain design elegance that the French tend to do so well.

The 12 Best Watches of Baselworld 2019

This guide covers the best watches released at Baselworld 2019. You can read our other Baselworld 2019 coverage here, or skip right to the best watches below.


There were a couple of surprises at Baselworld 2019, but the show also saw some anticipated iterations, updates and a lot of vintage re-releases. With the Swatch Group’s many prominent brands absent from the show this year for the first time as well as more brands participating in SIHH earlier in the year, Baselworld felt smaller and more focused than in the past. Brands continued to draw on their heritage with many new releases celebrating notable anniversaries of some kind or another — among them, the 50th birthdays of major watchmaking innovations in 1969.

Even if technical or design innovation wasn’t the show’s central theme, there were a lot of satisfying new watches to enjoy. Reproducing “heritage” watches or new watches based on them has often allowed brands to focus on simple models with mass appeal and proven design longevity. This intersects well with trends toward smaller, more wearable sizes and entry-level pieces. While industry insiders may see creative stagnation, many consumers will welcome retro styles with modern specs.

Tudor Black Bay P01


Why It Matters: Given the teaser photos on Instagram, the watch community at large may have been expecting a new Submariner, but what it got was something decidedly different. The Black Bay P01 is based on a model Tudor designed for the U.S. Navy and patented in the 1960s — but the government never purchased it, and Tudor never put it into production. With a unique bezel-locking mechanism and bracelet, 12-hour bezel and automatic Tudor calibre MT5612 powering the time-and-date dial, the P01 is most definitely a departure for the brand, and a welcome one at that. Even if you’re not keen on the aesthetics, it’s hard to argue that this watch doesn’t follow the brand’s “Born To Dare” ethos, a sentiment that’s sometimes lacking in the watch industry.

Price: $3,950
Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 200m / 660 ft.

Itay Noy Reorder


Why It Matters: While Itay Noy may not be a household name, the Israeli watchmaker has been making unique timepieces in Tel Aviv for nearly two decades. The Reorder is Noy’s newest attempt to rethink the watch dial, and splits it into analog and “digital” sections — a conventional set of hands in the center of the dial indicates the time, while a series of numeric windows cut into the watch face seem to fill as if by magic, indicating the hour. Though the design is eccentric and not for everyone, Noy’s timepieces never disappoint those who are searching for something just a little bit different — and willing to embrace the inclinations of a designer who’s following his instincts.

Price: $6,800
Diameter: 44mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Monta Atlas GMT


Why It Matters: Monta has been batting 1,000 lately with its no-nonsense tool watches — the Ocean King was one of our favorite divers under $2,000, and the Skyquest, one of our favorite GMTs at any price point. The Atlas GMT happily takes the best design cues of both and integrates them into one kickass GMT that features a thin 38.5mm case. While the Skyquest is a tank and gives you three time zones in a dive-ready body, the Atlas flies completely under the radar while still giving you that tough Monta quality. Available in three dial colors, this is a watch that’s hard to argue with for the price, and another sure-fire hit.

Price: $1,410 – $1,615
Diameter: 38.5mm
Water Resistance: 150m

Patek Philippe Weekly Calendar Ref. 5212A


Why It Matters: The Calatrava family in many instances has represented the platonic ideal of a simple, time-only dress watch. But the truth is that this iconic line has taken many forms over the years, occasionally operating as a design platform for complicated watchmaking. The new reference 5212A includes a weekly calendar with time, date, day of the week and a pointer hand that indicates the week number between 1 and 53. While this last bit of information may not be strictly useful for all, the design is beautifully executed and exudes a sense of whimsy and classic Patek elegance. What’s more, the watch is non-limited and available in steel. Considering how rarely Patek uses non-precious metals, that’s enough to turn heads by itself.

Price: $29,500
Diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Rolex Datejust 36


Why It Matters: Sporting the newest Rolex 3285 movement, the new Datejust 36 features a steel and white gold case, black sunburst dial and the iconic Jubilee bracelet. In production since 1945, the Datejust is by no means a new model, however this particular iteration is a timeless execution of one of the most recognizable watches in the world. Comfortable and classy on-wrist, the combination of white gold and steel flies under the radar, but gives the watch some heft that lets you know that you’ve made it. This is a forever watch, and one that’s meant to be passed down.

Price: $8,200
Diameter: 36mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Doxa SUB 200 LE


Why It Matters: When one thinks of modern Doxa, oversized, cushion cases, incredible water resistance ratings and the liberal use of the color orange all probably come to mind. But in celebration of its 130th anniversary, the brand went back to the archives and released the Sub 200 130th Anniversary Edition, a steel diver limited to 130 pieces with vintage design cues galore. Though you could easily confuse this with a vintage model, it features all the tech requisite of a modern Doxa (albeit with a water-resistance rating that has been pared down to 200m). Best of all, the price is right at $1,190.

Price: $1,190
Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 200m

Porsche Design Globetimer UTC


Why It Matters: Porsche Design had been developing innovative watches in conjunction with companies like Orfina and IWC for years, but it’s been exciting to watch the company grow into its own watch fully fledged brand. The new Globetimer UTC is built with the traveler in mind — the pushers on the side of the case allow the user to advance the hour hand in hour increments in order to quickly jump time zones, and a handy pointer date function displays the date. Available in three dial colors in titanium or with a black dial in solid yellow gold, this is a luxury tool watch in a funky, futuristic package.

Price: $6,350+
Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Bell & Ross Bi-Compass


Why It Matters: We’re sorta cheating here, as the Bi-Compass came out shortly before Baselworld, but we included it for the following reason: though we love the flight jacket-inspired B&R MA-1, the Bi-Compass simply takes the badass factor to a whole new level. With a design taken from another cockpit instrument, the Bi-Compass is the wristwatch embodiment of functional, cool instrument making. There’s a reason Bell & Ross stands out from the crowd, and this 42mm watch, with its striking dial colors against a matte black background, perfectly embodies the brand’s ethos.

Price: $3,900
Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Zodiac Aerospace GMT


Why It Matters: A modern update of a classic from the 1960s, the new Aerospace GMT is a welcome addition to the current Zodiac lineup, which until now featured buckets of affordable dive watches but no GMT. Though the modern version is a tad chunkier than the incredibly svelte original (40mm instead of 36mm wide), all of the classic design cues remain, including the two dual-color bezel options, Oyster-like bracelet and simple, legible dial. The use of an ETA movement means ease of service, and, as usual, Zodiac is delivering a ton of watch for not a ton of cash.

Price: $1,695
Diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 200m

Breitling Navigator 806 1959 Re-Issue


Why It Matters: Under Georges Kern’s direction, Breitling has been pumping out attractive reissues lately, not the least of which is one of the brand’s latest, the Navigator 806 1959 Re-Issue. Fans of vintage Breitling will undoubtedly be familiar with this reference, an iconic watch with a distinctive beaded bezel. In re-creating the original, the company consulted with one of the top Breitling collectors in the world, and the result is something that wears and looks very much like the original, down to the exact number of beads used on the bezel.

Price: $8,600
Diameter: 40.9mm
Water Resistance: 30m

Zenith Defy Inventor


Why It Matters: In 2017, Zenith introduced a fascinating technology that reinvents the traditional watch escapement using the naturally springy properties of silicon, and it represents one area of real innovation in the current watch world. The Defy Inventor felt notable at this year’s Baselworld because it took the next step toward industrializing this fascinating technology, with production volume now in the hundreds. Some elements have been updated from the 2017 Defy Lab for the 2019 Defy Inventor, but the new model’s aesthetics — with the strange texture of its Aeronith bezel and a skeletonized dial that displays the large silicon oscillator twitching madly away beneath at 18Hz — are somewhat avant-garde. It’s exciting to imagine where this and similar technologies will lead for the future of mechanical watches.

Price: $17,800
Diameter: 44mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Seiko Prospex LX Spring Drive Collection


Why It Matters: Seiko continues to redefine itself and push upmarket. The new heavy-hitting LX series introduces a tier within Seiko’s Prospex family of tough sport watches in each the Land, Sea and Air categories. These include GMT as well as time-only functionality, but also the brand’s extremely cool Spring Drive movements which are not often found outside of Grand Seiko watches. They also approach Grand Seiko in terms of price points, but they raise the profile of the Prospex name and amount to some seriously cool sport watches for those with the wrists, wallets and appreciation of Seiko’s impressive watchmaking to take them on.

Price: $5,000 (Land); $5,500 (Air); $6,000 (Sea)
Diameter: 44.8mm
Water Resistance: 200m (Land & Air); 300m (Sea)

More from Baselworld 2019

See more of our favorite new releases from Geneva. Read the Story

5 Questions with Vintage Watch Retailer “Those Watch Guys”

Those Watch Guys met when Craig, the older of the two founders by four years, started dating Samuel’s sister in high school. The romance didn’t endure, but Craig and Samuel had bonded over watches, so much so that they now run a thriving vintage watch dealership together. The watch fascination began when Craig chose what he remembers with a dose of insider shame as, “a Victorinox quartz chronograph thing,” for his high school graduation present. That quartz thing inspired Craig to learn more about watches, and Samuel followed him deep into the rabbit hole of horological discovery where they found a mutual love for vintage mechanical watches.

Their fascination with vintage watches led to the inevitable flip-and-fund cycle, which led to the Instagram account @thosewatchguys as a flipping platform, which led to HODINKEE featuring that account, which blew them up. In response, these young men built a proper dealership website, an impressive service network, and a stellar reputation. They now offer a steady stream of exceptional vintage watches in top running condition with six-month guarantees. In a sea of vintage watch dealers, Those Watch Guys stand out for all the right reasons.

Q: What are the requirements for a watch to make it into your inventory?
A: Craig: It has to be a watch that we like, for starters, and that’s usually going to be something a little different. We are into these older sport chronographs, for example. We see the value of a Datejust, for sure [Craig is wearing one, in fact], and we sell those because they’re so versatile—dress it up or down—but we get excited by some funky alarm watch, or a watch with an interesting colorway that we’ve not seen much of. The other thing we need to do is make sure the condition is solid. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be good enough that we can feel confident selling it with our guarantees. But mostly it’s about finding watches that we feel excited about, and that we think our customers will be excited about.

Q: Who repairs and services the watches you sell?
A: Craig: I’ve got a guy down here (in Baltimore) who does some of the work. If it’s a time-only watch, I’ll send it to him. If it’s a chronograph, I’ve got a guy in Texas who works on those. And Samuel has some watchmakers up in Boston who we also work with. It’s really a case-by-case thing, so we send the watch to the person who is best qualified to fix that specific watch. But we also try our best to buy from people we know and trust, people who can help us understand the service record on a watch. That helps in terms of making sure we’re starting in a good place with any given piece.

“Mostly it’s about finding watches that we feel excited about, and that we think our customers will be excited about.”

Q: Prices for vintage watches have been rising steadily for a number of years. How has that changed your business?
A: Samuel: Well, it hasn’t all that much, really, though the prices have gone up on some watches, so that does change things. We tend to sell in the $500 to $4,000 range, and some watches have moved beyond that price range lately. Heuer as a brand just keeps going up, for example. Rolex hasn’t gone up all that much in comparison, so we can still get and offer vintage Rolex pieces pretty reasonably. Certain Omega’s aren’t increasing as much as others, like Seamasters, so we sell quite a few of them still, often just around $1,000.

Craig: One thing that’s changed is that there are a more people out there who aren’t dealers asking for dealer prices through their Instagram accounts. These folks aren’t necessarily unreliable, but they’re pricing like a dealer without providing the service and guarantees that dealers provide. In some instances, those people don’t really know much about the watch they’re selling, and that’s a problem when it comes to service records.

Samuel: eBay has changed a lot, too. It used to be possible for us to get decent watches there at reasonable prices. We could go on and get a Gallet for around $400, and now they’re through the roof. It’s not that we don’t still sift through that website — trust me, we do — it’s just that every year it gets more difficult to find quality pieces there.

Craig: We do a lot with Gallet right now, because we really like them and they’re pretty hot. It’s amazing to watch these specific brands from the past take off like that. But generally we pay a bit more now, and we sell for a bit more now, so it’s not all that different from our perspective as a dealer.

Q: Do you see this business becoming a full time job?
A: Samuel: I would like to see that happen, but I think it’s good to keep it part time for now, maybe for a couple more years, as I’m still in the early years of college. That way we don’t put too much stress on ourselves or the business, and we can let it grow more organically. I work as a photographer at European Watch Co. in Boston part time, and so I’m pretty happy with my current situation.

Craig: I’m about to finish up college (at Loyola in Baltimore), and I think I’ll keep the watch business part-time for now. I aim to get a job in marketing once I graduate, and I can still keep the watch business going alongside that. The good thing is that we do it because we love it, and we don’t want that to change.

“First of all, figure out what you like. That’s not as simple as you might think.”

Q: What advice do you have for someone buying their first vintage watch?
A: Craig: First of all, figure out what you like. That’s not as simple as you might think. I’ve met people our age, guys under 30, who have built up this cool collection with a very specific vintage aesthetic, and then I see them a year later and they’ve sold it all and are wearing a Royal Oak. That happens way more than you might realize. People’s tastes can swing. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it can be expensive.

Samuel: Yeah, I think that’s a good reason to not spend your whole budget on your first vintage piece, and instead try to get as many as you can in order to learn what you’re into. For example, if you go spend $7,500 on a Heuer Camaro, there are many watches you aren’t getting to know. Buying many lower priced watches quickly and learning what we liked was a big benefit for the both of us.

Craig: Another reason to start on the lower end price wise is that if you’re new to vintage watches then you’re still learning, so the risk of getting burned is a little higher. Everyone gets burned once in a while, even dealers, but if you do your research and don’t spend too much, you can minimize your risk.

Samuel: Another thing to keep in mind is that vintage watches are pretty different from today’s watches. You might buy a vintage Datejust, for example, and find that it feels really light. If you go drop $6,000 on a new Rolex, that watch will feel like a tank compared to a vintage one, so people kind of have to learn about vintage, how it feels, and figure out what they’re into by getting their hands on more vintage pieces.

Meet the Man Behind Some of the Best Modern Military-Inspired Watches

Bill Yao sits at his watchmaking bench, nudging a bezel insert into place on one of his watches, trying to get it exactly right. He’s listing things that can go wrong.

If the machining isn’t right, or the bezel construction is wrong, or the dial placement is wrong, the bezel and the dial won’t line up, he says. And there’s worse. An expensive vendor might deliver a box of bad parts. A global recession might happen smack dab in the middle of a nightmare production run.

He gets the bezel just so, and moves on to a water resistance test on a $20,000 machine that, technically, is not necessary. It’s already been checked by the manufacturer.

Yao checks it again.

There are loads of microbrand watchmakers in America nowadays, but few are like MKII. The brand’s watches are strictly tool watches, often military-inspired, all designed and quality-control tested by Yao. MKII watches rank among the highest build quality and cleanest finishing of those of any American maker, and Yao’s design choices have proven absolutely exquisite again and again. The brand has gained a cult-like following among American watch fans. This is particularly impressive given that Yao works solely in the world of homage watches — two words watch nerds tend to view with suspicion, disgust, or both. MKII is the exception.

The Kingston, the watch that put MKII on the map, is a microcosm of the brand, Yao, and his following. “That watch almost destroyed us even as it saved us,” he says. The Kingston was a re-creation of the Rolex Submariner 6538 that Sean Connery wore in Dr. No as James Bond, and it was an ambitious watch: Yao was determined to build a watch with a gilt dial and gold hands, and do it affordably, for $1,095. Pre-orders for other MKII watches had taken a few months to take off, but Yao filled 100 orders for the Kingston in a week.

Then things went awry. It was 2009, and the world had plunged into a financial crises. Yao had trouble finding the right vendor to make his gilt dials and gold hands; once he did, production and assembly ran into major delays and quality control issues. “I had to rework every watch that they sent back,” he says. Yao made his first delivery in 2010, but many of the orders remained delayed. Two years turned into four. Yao was still determined to make the watch, and make it right, to his standards. Most customers were understanding; some weren’t. “People were saying this was a pyramid scheme. People were writing they were going to come over and punch me in the face,” he says.

He delivered the last Kingston five years after it was announced. Then something incredible happened: even after the absurd wait, people were blown away by the watch. Kingstons started showing up on the secondhand market for 2 to 3 times the retail price. Tudor, Rolex’s affordable sibling, announced a new watch, the Black Bay, that looked suspiciously like an homage of Yao’s homage. On the forums, watch nerds berated anyone who deemed to compare the two. Many thought that the Kingston was the better watch — it was just a matter of if you could get it. Yao’s watches since have carried the same stigma: well, if you can stand the wait, you’ll get something special, at a great price.

Yao’s watchmaking legend was born. Nobody beats Rolex when it comes to prestige and brand power — nobody. But Yao, the one-man watchmaker working out of a little shop in Wayne, Pennsylvania, gave them a run for their money.

Yao hasn’t slowed down since. Today, he has two branches of watchmaking: “Benchcrafted,” or special editions in small batches that still take a long damn time to get, and “Ready to Wear” watches made in Japan, and which you can actually get your hands on in a week’s time or so. He’s continued to pump out excellent homage watches, lately with an intensified aim of capturing the distilled design language and human experience of historic American military timepieces. He continues to focus in inordinate amount of time on QC. He says he might just be able to stop working weekends soon, to stop having to check and double-check quality control, to iterate and reiterate on design language until his production folks get things right. Well, maybe not this year — but there’s always next year.

Q&A

Q: What was the last watch you bought?
A: I stopped paying attention as much to the new releases. I’m more selective. I bought a Glycine Airman because they were going under and they were selling them for some stupid price. That was like two years ago. But actually, that’s not the last watch I bought. The last watch I bought was the Brew Chronograph. I really like that. That kind of watch actually really excites me.

Q: Did you keep up with any of the latest SIHH news? Anything there excite you?
A: To speak candidly, and to put it politely, I know the manufactures that I know and respect, and everything else is just white noise. I tend to tune it out. I’m not really interested in the newest tourbillon. These things are all great, but they’re just not interesting to me anymore. When I first started collecting, I was like, “Oh, Chronoswiss and skeletonized movements, column wheel chronos vs. clutch chronos.” Now I’m just like, eh – if it doesn’t look good and perform well, I kinda don’t care. I’ve heard too many stories after the fact — well, the watches don’t really work. Well, they have to go back to get fixed after a week on the wrist, but don’t worry, they’re at least expensive.

Q: Even though your first job was on Wall Street, it seems like you must have always been a design-minded person. Have you naturally focused on design since you were a kid?
A: No. The funny thing about this whole thing is, my wife is a graphic designer. A lot of my methodology is informed by her. I always had an interest in it, but I wouldn’t say I’m very design-minded. You should see the way I dressed back in 1998. It was embarrassing.

The first watches I designed — fortunately it doesn’t appear that I’m alone, because after everyone does their first watch, you can usually go back and say, “Oh, that was your first watch, wasn’t it?” Yeah, I know you can tell. The only brand that I’ve seen that’s avoided that so far is probably Baltic. They did a chronograph that looks like it’s really tight the first time around. But most of the companies i’ve seen, their first watch was just like mine: “Oh, so you’ve never designed a watch either?”

A lot of it just developed over time. When I started doing [watchmaking] in grad school, I thought, this is going to be a really easy way to make a living. This is not so bad! But as I got into more of the details — holy shit, there’s a lot of stuff to learn and to know. I got into the design part because it was clear that no matter how hard I tried I would never be a watchmaker in that sense. I would not be one of those people cutting gears. I have terrible hand-eye coordination.

It’s a weird mix. You see watchmakers coming out and doing their own thing, but very seldomly do they do everything right. Because there are usually really good watchmakers or really good designers, but almost never are they good at both. Even the ones who are doing good design are almost always getting some kind of outside help.

“There are usually really good watchmakers or really good designers, but almost never are they good at both. Even the ones who are doing good design are almost always getting some kind of outside help.” -Bill Yao, Founder, Mk II Watches

Q: So where would you say you fall, between good watchmaker and good designer?
A: As a watchmaker, I’m a passable — what we’d call a “technician. People don’t like it when I say that, but that’s really what I am. I’ve done all the assembly, and fortunately I’ve had watchmaker friends who show me what I’m doing wrong. So now I can assemble a watch well. But if you ask me to repair it, I’ll say, that’s why I have a guy in Missouri doing the repair work. I probably could figure it out, but what would the point be? It would take forever. And it’s just another skill set I have to have.

I’m more of a designer. When I go to Basel or these watch fairs, I’m actually only really looking at the watches. I’m not really interested in the mechanics of it. To me it’s just kinda like a V8 engine or a V12 engine. OK, well, now we’re going to slot that into a really nice car and design a car around it.

Q: So how did you learn about watch design?
A: I only really got into the design primarily because I always had a nascent interest in it. I’ve gradually learned about it, and only because I’m looking at these watches I’m trying to re-create, and realizing wow, this is really hard. Why does it look so good? What makes it so attractive? What makes it so evocative, that design work? And by that process of wanting to do better each time I’ve gradually developed a capability in design work.

A lot of it’s just experience-based. You can see all the books I’ve collected. [Yao has a bookshelf full of books about design, watches, and history in his office.] I’ve just studied a lot of watch design in the past, and because I’m so passionate about wanting the watch to turn out well.

Q: Tell me about that first watch you designed, the one that didn’t go so well.
A: When I first got into this, there was a really cool Blancpain-style watch. But all the details were wrong. The brand name was kind of eh…It looked like a watch made for CES made to just give away. The bezel insert looked nice but there was no luminous marker on it and it was supposed to be a dive watch. It only had 50 meters of water resistance, it didn’t have a screw-down crown, but it looked like a Fifty Fathoms. So I’m just asking myself, like, why did you make this thing in the first place? In principle it’s a good idea, but everything is wrong with it — literally every little thing.

But that’s how I got into it. And I’d show it to my wife and ask, how does this look? She’d say, this is off and I would adjust it, and I gradually learned through that. Mostly because I just wanted a really cool thing to come out of the product. And then gradually I came to appreciate the design, branding more. All of these things are not what I learned in school.

Q: Tell me more about learning design from studying the great examples that came before you.
A: I’ve never seen a lot of these watches in person, because they’re too rare. A lot of it is just photographs that I’m seeing. I think lots of collectors form an opinion of what the watch should look like, based on those photographs. To a certain extent now you’re just trying to capture a feeling from the photograph, not actually what the watch is exactly like.

You’ll see it in wrist shots and things like that. I try to take wrist shots for Instagram. Even if the photograph is not exactly what the watch looks like, it informs you as to what you think it looks like. I’ve bought vintage watches before and gotten them in person before and been like, huh…this looked good in the photographs.

I lusted over a Tudor 7920. It had the Fleurier Cal. 390. It was back when Rolex made all the cases for Tudor, so at the time, a big difference between a Rolex and a Tudor was that one said Rolex and One said Tudor.

In the photos, the watch was amazing, it had great patina. I had it serviced. Everything was right about it. And then I got it, and I was like, hmm, that’s odd. I would see myself in the mirror in the morning, and realize the watch looked really good from four feet away. But why does it look so terrible from 15 inches away? Why is the magic gone when you do that? And for whatever reason, it wasn’t just with that Rolex, it was with every Rolex I’d ever owned. So my in-laws, one year they decided that all their sons-in-law had to have the same watch. So they bought five Rolexes and just stuck them in a safety deposit box. I was really excited to get at that. Then I got it, and the same thing happened again. It looked really good in the pictures, but now I’m wearing it, I’m like “eh.” It’s very well-executed and very well made, but there’s some magical piece of it is missing.

And then I started realizing that a lot of the stuff I was making, it didn’t matter what the original looked like, it mattered more about if you were able to capture that kind of intangible quality that made it special to people in the photographs in a sense. That’s who you’re marketing to.

Take the Project 300 (Omega Seamaster 300 homage) for example. If you go through all the different years of different Omega cases, maybe a lot of it was done by hand, and the cases vary widely in small details — the thicknesses and polishes and even the rough shape of it is different across different periods of time they manufactured it. But only certain ones will capture that kind of feel of, “Oh that’s a really cool-looking watch.” And other ones just won’t. So what I did for the Project 300 was say, I really like the way this lug looks in this picture, how do I translate that so it looks like that in real life?

Q: Was there an “Aha!” moment when you realized evolutionary design was your specialty?
A: I think most of it was just that I really liked vintage watches. They’re really, really cool, but the reality is they’re an enormous pain in the ass. There’s stuff I want to do, and I don’t want to have to worry about my watch. If I was one of those people that enjoyed sitting around making phone calls all the time, then that’s great and I’d have time to fuss with my watch, and I’d be able to tell funny stories about it — and if that’s the way you wanna live, that’s great. But that’s not me.

Then I just got into the design aspect because I was so interested in doing it right that I just kept asking why. That’s an innate part of my personality. I’m philosophically minded, but in an almost…pointless way. If I were to pinpoint something that gives me a reason for doing something better, it’s just that there’s something about my brain that just won’t let that go.

“And then I started realizing that a lot of the stuff I was making, it didn’t matter what the original looked like, it mattered more about if you were able to capture that kind of intangible quality that made it special to people in the photographs in a sense. That’s who you’re marketing to.”

Q: It’s clear to me that you’re understanding design language at a different level than most of us are. It’s almost like you’re seeing with X-ray vision.
A: Someone asked me at Windup Watch Fair, what would an original MKII look like? To be honest, I’m not sure. I might only be good at what I’m doing now. Just to go through the exercise of creating a completely original design — maybe it looks like shit. Maybe I’m only a good evolutionary designer, and maybe that’s where my special skill set is. I want to do one, but it’s one of those things where, if you’re in a situation where, if you were at Rolex in 1953, Pan Am’s here and they need a watch that can tell time in a second time zone, what can you do? If I were handed a task like that, then I’d go through all the design elements people had done in the past, and see what would work and what needed to be done that was new. And then come up with something. But the idea of coming up something just for the sake of coming up with something, I don’t think is really me.

I think a lot of people in the microbrand world, if they wanna be artists, that’s fine. They wanna work in metal and make a moving sculpture. That’s great. But that’s not what I wanna do. I’m not trying to produce something new for the sake of producing something new. I want it to have a purpose, and to have a reason for existing as opposed to just the sheer ego of it all. And I’m not saying people that do that are egotistical, I’m just saying that that’s not me.

These are Some of the Innovative Materials We Saw at SIHH 2019

There is an enormous amount of attention paid every year at watch events like SIHH and Baselworld to movements and their tiny, fantastically geared complications. The fact is, of course, that movements matter. But lost in the sea of calibre numbers is another essential piece of watch technology and engineering: material design. This year’s SIHH was full of it.

Yes, the difference between an ETA 2824-2 and an in-house Rolex caliber makes a difference in value and performance. But have you tried holding a stainless steel watch and then a different version whose case is made entirely out of carbon fiber? How about an enamel dial and a meteorite one? Those things, my friends, differentiate.

Interesting material design has been happening more and more in high watchmaking in recent years, too, because watchmaking continues to be pushed toward innovation and halo products. That means more carbon fiber, more ceramic, more titanium, and more metals and composites you’ve never heard of before — the vibraniu and adamantium of horology. Here are watches that stand out first and foremost for their unique materials from SIHH 2019 so far.

Carbotech: Panerai Submersible

The Submersible is Panerai’s most sporty, tough watch, which makes it the perfect proving ground for the brand’s tough material, Carbotech. Panerai first introduced the stuff in 2015; it’s a reinforced carbon fiber material that’s extremely tough and run through with a very sexy looking grain. Add a titanium case back and it should be pretty unbeatable.

Ceratanium: IWC Double Chronograph Top Gun

Titanium meets ceramic in IWC’s new material with a cool name. The titanium alloy combines the lightness and strength of titanium with the scratch-resistance of ceramic; it’s not just a coating, like DLC, but an actual bonding between the two materials. IWC first made Ceratanium in 2017, and released it in a 50th anniversary Aquatimer. Its blacked-out look is just as good on IWC’s new Double Chronograph Top Gun pilot’s watch — and builds the brand’s tool watch cred, to boot.

Enamel: JLC Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel Series

The new Ultra-Thin models have drawn some heat from certain sectors who wonder whether the Perpetual Enamel, for exmaple, is truly “ultra thin” at nearly 10.55mm. But open your eyes! Nobody cares about thickness when they’re mesmerized by absolutely pristine hand-engraved guilloché, especially when it’s made using a special enamel that scintillates in the light. JLC has had in-house master artisans doing hand-guilloche enamel work since 1996, and it shows.

Carbon Glass: Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Carbon Glass

Carbon glass: You haven’t heard of it before because it’s never really been a thing in watches. Now it is, thanks to GP’s Laureato Absolute Chronograph, which looks like it was mined from a deep space asteroid. Girard-Perregaux stresses its extreme stiffness — apparently it’s stiffer than steel by a factor of 100 — impermeability, and a very low density that the brand says allows it to nearly float in water. (We need to test that one out.) Its crazy looks come from blue glass fibers incorporated during its high-temperature injection.

The Future of Watchmaking Is Here: Ressence to Produce the Revolutionary Type 2

There’s plenty of chaff in the watch-news space (“Brand X Releases Same Old Watch, Now With a Blue Dial!” — sound familiar?) but far less wheat. Truly exciting horological developments, the kind that get everyone in the office furiously pinging one another from across the room with a frenzied “Have you seen this???” are rare. But with the news that Ressence’s Type 2 will go into production, we’re dealing with just that type of Really Big News announcement.

Ressence, perhaps the most futuristic of independent watchmakers, is finally bringing its e-Crown concept into the world by putting the Type 2, which incorporates the e-Crown tech, into development. We were so excited by the e-Crown concept at SIHH 2018 that we included the timepiece in our GP 100 roundup, our list of the 100 Best Products of the Year. Now that the Type 2 is going to be, you know, an actual thing, we can only think of one question: When do we get to play with it?

In case you missed the news cycle last year, here’s what’s so special about the Type 2, from our previous coverage:

“Like those GPS and radio-controlled quartz pieces, the new Type-2 e-Crown Concept can automatically set itself to the correct time, but it’s important to note that unlike those watches, the e-Crown doesn’t rely on outside signals. Instead, you set the time as you normally would, then the electro-mechanical system will use that time as a reference, then self-regulate. So when the watch stops running and you pick it up again, it will know what the correct time is, then automatically adjust when you tap the watch crystal. The watch can also connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth, meaning users can adjust time zones via an app when traveling. While the electric components in the watch rely on a battery, they’re able to be juiced up via solar charging, so there’s no need for battery changes or a charging cable.”

Ressence is the brainchild of founder Benoît Mintiens, and the company employs the seemingly endless intellectual power of Tody Fadell, the brain behind both the iPod and Nest. Only Ressence, with its incredible level of engineering and technical talent, could turn technology as radical as the e-Crown concept—possibly the most significant change in timekeeping technology in the past century—into an actual, wearable watch. Of course, whether this particular marriage of mechanical watch movement and smart technology actually signals the broader future of watchmaking remains to be seen (as with all bleeding-edge tech, it remains incredibly expensive to produce in these early days), but the more important takeaway is that steps in a truly new direction are finally being taken. This is real innovation and bold risk-taking, and it’s exciting to see.

To wit: when a prototype version of the e-Crown Concept hit the office last year, it drew no shortage of gawkers staring, prodding, and examining it like the watch was some alien technology sent back from the future. No one could quite believe that it was real, that it worked, but there it was, right in front of us. Now, having worked out some of the last design quirks, the Ressence Type 2 with e-Crown technology will finally be available for purchase to the general public (read: the general public with $48,800 to spare), proving that Ressence wasn’t just talking a big game, but is ready to stand behind its designs and bring the future into the present, for everyone to marvel at and enjoy.

Key Specs

Availability: April, 2019
Pricing: $48,800
Dial Colors: Grey (Type 2G) or anthracite (Type 2A)
Lume: Super-LumiNova on indices, markings and hands
Case Diameter: 45mm
Case Depth: 12mm
Water Resistance: 1 ATM
Movement: Customized ETA 2892/A with ROCS 2 system and e-Crown

Time & Type: How Font Choice Can Shape a Watch Dial

From Issue Seven of Gear Patrol Magazine.

Many aspects of watch design are fascinating to analyze, and a true connoisseur can wax poetic about them all. Watchmakers, especially, will scrutinize every possible detail, but far too often, they fall short when it comes to one in particular: dial font.

Be it a generic typeface, one that doesn’t properly fill out dial space or simply a font that feels misplaced, there are a great many missteps that can kill an otherwise beautiful design. There are a few manufacturers, however, that know how important it is to develop a typeface that does a watch justice — here are three doing just that.

A few years ago, Hermès approached the French graphic designer Philippe Apeloig to create an all-new typeface for its upcoming Slim d’Hermès. The French fashion house, in the midst of adding more in-house movements to its collection, only stipulated that the font do justice to the light, sharp architecture of the minimalist timepiece. Apeloig — whose work with typography was well-known in France — delivered one of the most distinct typefaces the watch industry has ever seen.

“The challenge was to make the watch light visually speaking, pure and perfectly in harmony with a sense of minimalism,” Apeloig says with the kind of poeticism you’d expect from a Parisian designer. “Sobriety and minimalism were the qualities I was reaching for, so I built in constraints, limiting the number of shapes — circles, triangles, curves, dashes — that I could use to create the numbers.”

The typeface on the Slim d’Hermès is sleek and minimalist, but its most striking aspect is the presence of several “imperfections,” as Apeloig calls them, that bisect each character and were vital in helping Apeloig achieve his vision of visual lightness and balance. “They reduce each number to its elemental parts… when the numbers were assembled in a grid, a rhythm arose between the blackness of the line and the whiteness of the voids,” he says.

Interestingly, these imperfections have another, more functional effect: they’re naturally eye-catching, drawing the eye in and aiding in the kind of clear, at-a-glance legibility that so many watch critics laud in a timepiece. Here, Aeperloig created a font in which the concepts of function and form are not mutually exclusive, a fact he is fully cognizant of. As he puts it, “the functionality of an object should not be an obstacle to creating typography that is aesthetically beautiful.”


Since it launched in the early ’90s, Nomos has become one of the leading forces in modern watch design, thanks to its relentless adherence to the principles laid out both by the Bauhaus school of design and its predecessor, the Deutscher Werkbund movement of the early 20th century. According to Nomos designer Thomas Höhnel, “These principles include precise proportions, refined aesthetics, clear legibility, and a strong emphasis on functionality. The combination of these features inevitably leads to a certain look.”

Naturally, these principles extend to the typefaces used on Nomos timepieces. Perhaps most iconic to the brand is the Tangente, a watch inspired by a rare German timepiece from the 1930s. “The typography was completely redeveloped and features very straight linear Arabic numerals,” says Höhnel. “What makes the typography so unique, and therefore so striking, is its linearity and length.”

It’s this linearity that helps Nomos and its designers achieve its minimalist aesthetic. Too much negative space and the dial could look dull, but the length of the Tangente’s numeral breaks up that space by clearly and evenly segmenting it. “Space is extremely important for the segmentation of the dial, and to help find the right proportions. The logo and typography have to be placed on the dial in a way that creates a harmonious impression overall,” Höhnel says.

The Tangente is iconic to the brand, but as their lineup grows, Nomos designers need to find ways to stay true to both Bauhaus principles and its core aesthetic. In Höhlnel’s Red Dot Award-winning Ahoi diver, for example, they modified the Tangente’s numerals to be thinner and shorter, lending themselves to a sportier look.

For other models that further deviate from that formula — like the Nomos Club — the designers rethink the watch from the ground up, beginning with the case and finding a suitable font that satisfies both the brand’s identity and the purpose of the watch. “The Club, for example, is an entry-level, everyday watch for younger wearers, which is why it also has a more youthful typography, yet even here it is archetypal and modern,” Höhnel says. “Ultimately, all the design elements of a watch have to work together.”


Though the A. Lange & Söhne as we know it was born in the 1990s, it has roots in Glashütte that stretch back to the mid-19th century when Ferdinand Adolph Lange (great-grandfather to founder Walter Lange) brought watchmaking to the sleepy German village. Thus, Lange’s approach to watchmaking is both simultaneously classic and modern, paying homage to its history while always looking forward and reinventing its high-end complications.

Naturally, Lange’s approach to typography is emblematic of that dichotomy. The font used by the manufacturer is, according to Director Product Development Anthony de Haas, “bespoke, inspired by Engravers, an all-caps font designed around 1900 by Robert Wiebking who at the beginning of his career worked as an engraver himself.” There are, of course, some major deviations from Engravers; notably, the letters are stretched wider and cut leaner. The result, Haas says, is clearer, finer and “a touch more modern.”

In placing typeface throughout the dial, A. Lange & Söhne has the challenge of its complex mechanics to contend with. The brand is known for its high-complication watches, things like chronographs and perpetual calendars that require sub-dials to convey more information. “At the beginning of the development process, calibre and product designers consider jointly how the indications should be arranged on the dial and which consequences this will have on the construction of the movement,” Haas says. “The aim is always to avoid intersections and give each indication space to breathe.

“Typography plays an important role in the design process,” Hass continues. “Sometimes, the first draft is already close to the final dial configuration. But very often, hardly perceptible details have to be modified many times before the designers are satisfied. This process can be summed up as follows: Letting ideas compete with each other filters the better from the good.”

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Get This Handsome Minimalist Dive Watch While You Still Can

Italian watch brand Unimatic has quickly become a darling in the watch space thanks to its handsomely modern aesthetic, accessible prices and, of course, limited releases, often done in collaboration with other brands. That’s made them somewhat hard to get a hold of, which is why you’re getting some advanced notice on their latest model: the U1-EG, done in collaboration with online retailer GOODS, one of the first retailers to carry Unimatic’s watches.

The U1-EG has many of the features and facets we’ve come to associate Unimatic with. It’s a dive-style watch, water-resistant to 300 meters, that features a minimalist bezel (in this case one devoid of markings save for a lume dot at 12 o’clock) and a chic-looking dial — the light-gray-over-navy colorway is especially appealing. Like other Unimatics, this is reasonably priced for what you get, coming in at $772, and with just 30 examples being made it’s sure to go fast. The watch goes on sale October 15th on GOOD’s website, so you have plenty of time to prepare.

Christopher Ward Malvern 595 Review: An Ultra-Thin Watch at an Ultra-Low Price

Christopher Ward is a name that, amongst watch enthusiasts, might garner either disregarding sneers by those apprehensive to boutique brands or respectful nods of approval from those who perceive it as an exceptionally good value. Taste in watches is, ultimately, a very subjective thing, but it’s hard to argue that the brand doesn’t offer a lot of watch for not a ton of money. In fact, the brand was something of a pioneer of the value-driven online watch movement back in 2004 when it became one of the first brands to sell its timepieces directly to consumers on an online platform.

In recent years, the brand’s prices have crept up, but the products have become more ambitious. For example, in 2014, Christopher Ward debuted an in-house developed movement with a five-day power reserve and chronometer certification, which you can pick up for under $2,000. The brand’s latest timepiece — the C5 Malvern 595 — is not as mechanically ambitious, but in many ways, it still is an impressive feat of watchmaking. Coming in at just 5.95mm (hence the name) and rocking a hand-winding movement, it is one of the thinnest (if not the thinnest) mechanical watches you can buy under $1,000. Given that watchmakers have something of a fixation on making super-thin watches at the moment, it makes it certainly worthy of consideration, no matter how you feel about the brand.

The Good: If you have been bitten by the ultra-thin bug but can’t swing the expense that usually comes with one, the Malvern 595 is a sound compromise. The case feels impossibly sleek and sits so flat it might as well disappear into your wrist. The watch also has a minimal and vaguely industrial design that works with the sleek case design; it feels crafted in the same vein as neo-Bauhaus watches from other microbrands like Union Wares which makes the ultra-thin appeal feel a lot less fuddy-duddy than the old-guard Swiss watchmakers make it seem.

Who It’s For: Anyone looking at accessibly-priced mechanical dress watches should consider looking in the 595’s direction, especially if thinness is a prioritized attribute. It’s an astoundingly sleek timepiece with proportions that are only matched by far more expensive watches.

Watch Out For: It can feel trite to complain about modern watches being too large, but this is really the Malvern 595’s biggest issue. At 39mm in diameter it doesn’t sound like it’s particularly big, but this is a dress watch with a very narrow bezel we’re talking about; this makes the dial feel gigantic. Which would be less of a problem if the dial weren’t so austere. Minimalist dials can be deceptively tricky to master, but by keeping them physically small, you avoid leaving in too much negative space. A drop in diameter would certainly make it feel less sterile.

Alternatives: You’d be hard-pressed to find a watch as thin as the Malvern 595 in its price range, but a couple watches come close. The Junghans Meister Handaufzug — which uses the same ETA 7001 base movement — is 7.3mm thick, but at $1,290 it costs nearly twice as much as the Christopher Ward. If you favor an automatic, Hamilton’s newly revised Jazzmaster Thinline comes in at 8.45mm thick, fairly scant for an auto using a stock ETA movement, and at $995 is closer to the Malvern in price.

Review: If you’ve been paying attention to what brands have been releasing at Baselworld and SIHH, you’d know that for the past couple years many high-end brands have been fixated on slinming watches, trying to one-up their competitors by fractions of a millimeter. Look at Bulgari’s Octo Finnisimo Tourbillon Automatic, a 3.95mm automatic tourbillon, or Piaget’s 2mm-thick watch concept. But these are far out of the grasp of the everyday watch buyer.

But Christopher Ward’s Malvern 595 exists well outside this mainstream realm of high-end one-upmanship, quietly debuting online in February of this year. Even casting the matter of price aside, its 5.95mm profile is still astoundingly thin, but significantly more wearable than Piaget’s razor-thin concept or Bulgari’s six-figure tourbillon. Its more straightforward design also has more mass appeal and wearability than a super-thin watch showcasing a dial crammed with gears.

The 595’s modern, minimalist aesthetic suits the svelte case incredibly well. The bezel is slim and simple, with a small bevel on the outer-edge the only flourish. The dial is also free of any unnecessary complications
— there’s no date, no minute markers, no lume. The dial finish itself is interesting: it’s sandblasted, and its look varies depending on the light. Indoors, in low light situations it has a matte, almost paper-like look; in direct sunlight, it shimmers in a way that almost looks like television static. The thin, long hour markers and needle-like hands further fit with the slim motif and minimalist look, and while the dial is just a bit too expansive, the overall design of the Christopher Ward is both handsome and original.

Powering the watch is an ETA/Peseux 7001, a hand-winding movement just over 2mm thick that’s popped up in a number of dress watches (in various guises) since it debuted in the early 1970s. Its an incredibly simple movement, which you can clearly see through the Malvern’s case back, making it a reliable watch and an easy one to service, given its ubiquity, making it a relatively easy watch to own and service in the long-term.

Verdict: Like many of Christopher Ward’s other watches, the Malvern 595 feels like an incredible value for money, especially when you look towards similar watches that run the same movement but can’t match them it regarding price or thickness. But there’s a lot more than its scant proportions to make it stand out; those who’ve grown tired of the vintage-inspired movement in watches will probably appreciate the watch’s modern aesthetic. And while the 39mm diameter might be a sticking point for some, there will be plenty of buyers out there who will appreciate the larger size.

Key Specs

Movement: ETA/Peseux 7001
Winding: Manual
Case diameter: 39mm
Case height: 5.95mm
Water resistance: 30m

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