British watchmaking is back British watchmaking is back

British watchmaking is back

Russell Sheldrake

British Watchmakers’ Day has just passed with a resounding success. From the brands who exhibited, the fans who attended and everyone else involved, the day appeared to go off without a hitch. There were over 1,300 people through the doors of the Royal Horticultural Halls, with queues around the block before it opened, and crowds seven deep at some of the stalls throughout the day. The energy and buzz generated in and around this event seemed to inject a lightning bolt of energy into the British watch industry, proving that this market is still full of passionate people from wide and varied demographics.

British Watch and Clock Makers Show held Lindley Hall, London 9th March 2024
Image by Stephen Daniels

Organised by the trade body, the British Watch and Clock Makers’ Alliance, this trade show/public exhibition not only showed that British watchmaking is alive and well, but the community is hungry for events just like this. There was real enthusiasm in the room as people clamoured to get a look at, and speak to, their favourite brands, and discover new ones at the same time. This was epitomised by the resounding round of applause that sprung up at the end of the show from visitors and vendors alike.


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But it wasn’t just about the people at this event, it was also about the watches. And there were plenty on show. With 44 brands on display ranging from the refined Roger W. Smith, all the way to fun-filled brands like Mr. Jones Watches, there was literally something for everyone there.

Many of the brands that presented also released and sold limited editions created especially for the show. Leading the way was a unique Roger Smith Series 1 that the watchmaker created to be auctioned off during the event. While its reserve was set at £297,000, it ended up selling for well over double that amount, according to the watchmaker himself. This is an exceptional result, although not terribly surprising when you consider the desirability of Smith’s work is so great that his waitlists have been closed since 2021. So this might be the only opportunity to lay your hands on one of his watches, direct from the watchmaker, for years to come.

Roger Smith Series 1 BWD

A portion of the final sale is set to be donated to the British Watch and Clock Makers’ Alliance, of which Smith is the Chairman and a founding member, to help push the trade body’s works in representing its members on a global scale and drive education here in the UK. So not only has the new owner of this watch managed to claim a brand new R. W. Smith, but in doing so is helping fund the growth of British watchmaking for years to come.

Of course, Smith was not the only one to create a piece for the occasion, as another founding member of the British Watch and Clock Makers’ Alliance, Christopher Ward, produced 10 special editions of its massively talked about Bel Canto chiming watch. This piece had a Union Jack laser-etched onto the deep blue platine that lies beneath the charming chiming components. In order to ensure no one left too disappointed, the lucky purchasers were picked through a raffle that was held on the day.

Christopher Ward BWD Oracle Time

That wasn’t the only Christopher Ward on offer on the day. Our friends at Oracle Time have collaborated with the British watch brand on a limited edition C65 Dune Shoreline. A cool grey alternative to the brand’s dive watch, it features Christopher Ward’s first ever hydraulic pressed dial, and is the first collaboration Oracle Time has produced. The bright blue lume gives off Dune 2 vibes, but the dial is very much connected to the beach. It is initially being offered to members of Oracle Time’s new club with only 100 pieces being made.

Fears Brunswick 38 SilverNoir white dial

A seriously limited limited edition that was released at the fair came from Bristol-based Fears. A third precious metal iteration of the brand’s Brunswick 38, this time in sterling silver, the 1924 Edition draws heavy inspiration from the company archives as it celebrates 100 years of Fears making watches in its distinctive cushion cases. It has a white lacquer dial with black printed numerals and blue “Fears Pipette” hands. Only 10 of these pieces are being made, sold on a first come, first served basis, with five available in the morning, and five in the afternoon. The early allotment sold out in just 20 minutes with the later batch in just two. Due to this high demand, Fears has decided to create a black-dialled version, with an order window having only just closed.

It’s about time we talk about Studio Underd0g. While we were on hand hand deliver our pizza watches to over 100 of you at the fair, Studio Underd0g had also created a special version of the Series 02 Field watch with a fully lumed dial: imagining what they would do if they were tasked to create a watch by the Ministry of Defence, and so deciding to lean into the visibility element by coating the entire underdial in Super-LumiNova, while the numerals float above. While it is extremely similar to the Full Mo0n version that was previously released, this limited run of 25 pieces uses a bright orange lume on the hands, giving a stark contrast to the dial underneath.


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There was a bit of a buzz around the massive reaction Studio Underd0g received at the fair, with WatchPro reporting that it led to more sales than Rolex UK made that day. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true, but I’ll let Andrew tell you the full story above.

Mr Jones Sphinx British Watchmakers Day

Perhaps the most creative brand to display at this year’s fair, Mr Jones Watches did not disappoint with its offering proving to be just as colourful and whimsical as its previous creations. The Indefatigable Sphinx has two apertures on the dial and two hands mounted centrally. The hands read the minutes and seconds, while the apertures both change on the hour, one reading the hour and the other changing the head of the sphinx in the busy dial design. While some may find the dial rather difficult to read, and this is by design according to founder Crispin Jones, what is not hard to understand is the sense of community and collaboration this watch has nurtured in British watchmaking with the jump hour module being produced by Christopher Ward.

William Wood Fire Exit Watch Wristshot

Finally, I want to draw attention to the William Wood Fire Escape. This British brand is known for its work with the fire service, as it donates hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Fire Fighters Charity, which helps support those who have served as firefighters and the difficulties that come with such a challenging career. The brand also makes all of its straps from disused fire hoses, giving them a rather distinct look. For British Watchmakers’ Day, they took inspiration from the extremely recognisable fire exit signs you see all around the world. Designed by Max Resnick, it features a day window where the stick figure seen on fire exits is doing a different task depending on the day of the week. And on the reverse, he can be seen running away from the fire as the rotor spins. While not a limited edition, it was first made available to those who attended the fair.

Overall, the fair was, by all accounts, a massive success. Not only bringing energy to the British industry but highlighting the enthusiasm that has been here all along. While many of us gather in these virtual, online spaces to share in this passion, we need these moments of real-life contact to remind us of the scale of the space in which we operate, and the very human element behind every username. We can’t wait to see what the British Watch and Clock Makers’ Alliance does in the coming year, and we eagerly anticipate next year’s bigger and better fair.