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Homegrown wristwear: The watches made in England...

The British watch brands offering mechanical timepieces at a snip of their Swiss-based counterparts

SPOILER ALERT: Your Swiss-made timepiece wasn’t assembled in a snow-strewn shed by a watchmaker armed with only a loupe and a lathe. As romantic as that notion remains, your wristwatch was assembled by robots on a production line. It may have been engraved and polished by hand, but your watch is the work of machines. Machines that cost millions of pounds.  

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

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

Christopher Ward, 2004, Maidenhead

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

Schofield, 2011, East Sussex 

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

Marloe Watch Company, 2017, Oxfordshire

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

Pinion, 2013, Reading

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

Farer, 2015, Berkshire  

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

Elliot Brown, 2013, Poole 

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

Mr Jones Watches, 2008, London 

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

Bremont, 2007, Henley-on Thames 

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

Henry London, 2015, London 

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

Meridian, 2012, Norwich 

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

Harold Pinchbeck, 2014, Lincoln 

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