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British Watchmakers’ Day

The start of a revolution

When Roger Smith, Mike France and Alistair Audsley founded the Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers in October 2020, their intention was to champion and represent the interests of British watch and clock makers, nurture the talent and promote the sector around the world.

Less than four years later, the association has 93 trade members, 44 of which took part in the very first British Watchmakers’ Day on 9th March 2024. Sponsored by Perpétuel Gallery, the Dubai dealer specialised in artisan watches and rare, vintage Patek Philippe, the show attracted a truly unexpected number of enthusiasts and collectors.

Master of masters, Roger Smith, told me, “At some point on our stand, visitors were four-rows deep.” As Chairman of the association, Roger set the ball rolling by designing a one-off piece which was sold by closed bid auction and attracted an incredible amount of attention. The unique Series 1 in rose gold gave bidders the chance to acquire a Roger W Smith timepiece, avoiding the six to eight years current wait list. It went for more than double its reserve price of £297,500.

As we had hoped for such a unique watch, there was considerable interest in the auction for the Series 1 Special Edition, with bids coming in from all over the world. 

                   –  Roger Smith


From companies steeped in history like Harold Pinchbeck, Fears Bristol, or Vertex, to relatively newcomers such us Farer, Brooklands, and the new kid on the block, Studio Underd0g – which launched just three years ago – the fair clearly showed the breadth of watchmaking ingenuity in the UK and the appetite of the public for what Britain has to offer to the horological world.

Assessing the event, Roger commented, “When we decided to host the initial event dedicated to British brands, we knew it was also the first real test of our confidence in domestic brands offering sufficient interest to collectors to carry their own watch show. The resounding success and the huge amount of trading that happened on the day for all the brands was a profound endorsement of that confidence. One exhibitor described it as ‘Day One for British watchmaking’ and I think that describes it perfectly.”

Don Cochrane, of Vertex watches, shared, “It is wonderful to see so many British brands in one room and a great privilege for Vertex to be among them. The crowds have been fantastic, and we’ve made many new friends along with catching up with old ones. It gives you a real insight into the multi-faceted nature of the British watch industry; there is absolutely something there for everyone.”

Left: Vertex M60 Aqualion Covert. Right: Fears Redcliff 39.5mm Date.

Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, Managing Directors of Fears Watch Company, was as surprised and delighted as his fellow watchmakers. “The success of the British watchmaking industry cannot be solely determined by one event, yet the remarkable turnout at the British Watchmakers’ Day on Saturday, 9th March, was an encouraging milestone for attending brands. It signifies that the decades of hard work, energy, and resources invested are beginning to bear fruit. I believe many brands will have left feeling inspired to push even harder, recognising the validity of their efforts and affirming the strong position of British watchmaking in the global industry.”

There was definitely a lot of good work at the fair, so it is very difficult to pick just a few highlights. Underd0g is a case that deserves particular attention. Founder Richard Benc fell into this business by pure chance. After finishing his university studies in Product Design Engineering, he landed a job in London designing character watches (Mickey Mouse, Star Wars… that kind of thing) but soon he learnt about the microbrands community and felt encouraged to develop his own ideas, which became a drafted design during Covid and led to the launch of Studio Underd0g in March 2021.

Studio Underd0g outperformed any other brand at the show in terms of sales with their limited edition 02Series developed for the event and their Pizza watches, which captured everybody’s imagination.

When asked to develop something special for British Watchmakers’ Day, he turned to his recently introduced 02Series, which has clear British design roots. “I wanted the watch to look like a vintage reissue with a modern twist. The orange hands are undeniably modern yet are inspired by the lume patina often seen on 1940s field watches. It’s a subtle divergence from our core offering, but to quote Dieter Rams; Less is More!” The watch was limited to just 25pcs and sold out very quickly during the event.

But it wasn’t just the watch created for the occasion that made the crowd flock to the Studio Underd0g stand. Most visitors seemed to be interested in their recently launched Pizza watches (that explains why Richard was dressed like a chef, hat and all). These two fine examples of Richard’s creativity are what he calls “hand-delivered” only, meaning they are exclusively available during shows such as the British Watchmakers’ Day. Despite being inspired by pizza, they sold like hot cakes, and my understanding is that many were left disappointed and not being able to take a slice of Underd0g with them.

Bob Bray, Managing Director of Sinclair Harding Clocks, reflected on the success of the young watchmaker. “I just wish we were as good at the new ways of promoting our work on social media as the younger generation seem to be,” he commented candidly. “The queue for Underd0g was an eyeopener and their reported sales and orders, staggering.”

Sinclair Harding clocks. Left to right: Sinclair Great Wheel Skeleton Clock finished in gold with mother of pearl dial; Sinclair Three Train Skeleton Clock finished in rose gold on a walnut base; and Sinclair La Colonne du Temps finished in platinum on a granite base.

Family owned and run, Sinclair Harding, have been making exquisite clocks since 1967. Bob took over in 1995 and has been exhibiting around the world over the last 25 years, often being the only Brits. He was thrilled to see so many national brands at the show, “I can’t remember the last exhibition where another British brand was there, but at long last it looks as if we might have some company in the future.”

Brooklands Watch Company also released a special edition for the event, the “Watchmakers’ Day Triple-Four Chronograph”. Collectors and visitors to the Brooklands stand at the event provided a sealed bid with a reserve of £5,754 (the price of the original limited-edition Triple-Four Racing Chronograph). All proceeds from the sale of these three Racing Chronographs have gone to the Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers.

The three Watchmakers’ Day Triple-Four Racing Chronographs have been restyled with a quintessential Royal Blue dial and unique case-back ring markings. 

After a couple of centuries away from the spotlight, British watchmaking is growing again, and if the numbers at the inaugural British Watchmakers’ Day are anything to go by, there is an obvious desire to see more from these talented independent artists. The Brits are back.

Hamdan Al Hudaidi, owner of Perpétuel Gallery, concluded, “Lately, I have seen many British microbrands being in great demand in our region [GCC countries], which proves how good they are. At Perpétuel, we are proud to have played a role in reflecting what they do.”

Learn more about what happened at British Watchmakers’ Day HERE.

Words: Julia Pasarón.

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