Fears brings back the best of British, with the Brunswick 38 Fears brings back the best of British, with the Brunswick 38

Fears brings back the best of British, with the Brunswick 38

Tom Austin

You think of fine watchmaking, and you instantly think of the Swiss, however, back at the dawn of the industrial revolution, there was another plucky upstart in the world of watchmaking. Unbelievably, in the 1800s, Britain produced more than half of the world’s watches. Several horological inventions relating to accuracy and timekeeping were attributed to the likes of George Graham and Thomas Mudge, and a number of famous brands began to materialise from the tiny island we now call the United Kingdom. One such brand is still alive and well today (albeit after a 40-year hiatus), and that’s the Fears Watch Company, re-launched by Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, the great-great-great-grandson of the original founder, Edwin Fear.

Fears Brunswick 38 Champagne leather strap

As part of the brands’ resurrection, Fears delved into the archives and relaunched one of their most recognisable 1920s designs, the Brunswick. A watch with all the classic lines and touches that reflect its Art Deco origins, with a hint of modernity to bring it bang up to date. The cushion-shaped Brunswick is now synonymous with the brand, and as a simple time-only watch, is great as an everyday tool or for more dressy occasions.

Versatile and modern

Fears Brunswick 38 Champagne close up

Firstly, there are two sizes in the Brunswick range, 40mm and 38mm, the former being a sportier take on the model. For this review, we went with the 38mm, simply because the almost-square design lends the 40mm to being rather on the large side, and the 38mm is a little more versatile. The stainless steel cushion case has no straight edges or surfaces, making it pleasant to hold and touch. The top sides are treated to a fine brushing, while the case sides are highly polished.

The lugs are short, with a nice standard width of 20mm, making strap choices endless. Finishing is well-executed, with all surface touches uniform and edges nicely rounded. Up top is a slightly domed sapphire crystal framed by a highly polished, domed bezel, bringing the thickness to a respectable 11.8mm. Finishing the case is an onion-shaped crown, sealing the watch to a water resistance of 100 meters. The 38mm case at first seems a little on the small side. However, its 42mm corner-to-corner square proportions and large dial aperture means it, in fact, wears a fair bit bigger than you may initially think.

Fears Brunswick 38 Champagne side

Thankfully, the Brunswick is offered with a choice of either a black barenia leather strap or a five-link stainless steel bracelet. I would recommend spending that little bit extra and picking up the bracelet version, affording you the flexibility of fitting alternative straps at your leisure. Primarily because the watch is completely transformed on a bracelet. On a strap, it is reminiscent of that Roaring Twenties classic, something which would be at home with a three-piece suit, bow tie, and skimmer hat.

However, after fitting the quick-release steel bracelet, it takes on a completely different character, becoming something more tool-like and comfortable for everyday wear. Inside the folding clasp sits a really nice touch – an enamel-painted Bristol rose, symbolic of the city where Fears was founded. It’s a small detail in an area that often gets overlooked by watch brands.

Popping champagne

Fears Brunswick 38 Champagne wrist shot

Across the Brunswick range, there are a number of pretty attractive dials, from mother-of-pearl to sunburst blues and greens, and even a candy pink. One of the most eye-catching has to be the champagne we have picked here. Made to look like actual fizzy champagne, it’s made by layering 18k yellow gold and applying a glass bead-blasted finish. This process frosts the dial and introduces a blanket of tiny surfaces which reflect the light at different angles, sparkling in the sunlight. It’s a unique finish which, in the metal, is much less ostentatious than you may think.

Applied Arabic numerals are coated in black gold and then finished to a high polish. These numerals really offer a lot of depth, being so tall they cast large shadows.. Finally, the skeletonised hands are blued using vapour deposition rather than heat-bluing,  helping their legibility against the light-coloured backdrop. The dial is really the most special part of the Brunswick. It’s simple, yet the finishing is captivating, with the watch taking on a different personality in different conditions.

British heritage, Swiss power

Fears Brunswick 38 Champagne

The watch is driven by a time-only, manually wound 7001 movement from ETA. It’s found in many watches of a similar price range, including serving as the calibre Nomos built its Alpha off of, and with good reason. There are 17 jewels, and it beats at 3Hz, along with a perfectly adequate 40-hour power reserve, though perhaps a little frustratingly, the watch lacks hacking seconds. Then again, maybe that adds to the 1920s appeal.

Should you specify it from Fears, you can view it through a sapphire exhibition caseback, and it’s been nicely finished with blued screws and côtes de Genève. One thing to note is while the watch is 11.8mm thick, the movement itself is only a mere 2.5mm thick, so it does make me wonder if there was a little more room to make the watch a touch thinner overall.

Closing thoughts

Fears Brunswick 38 Champagne hand shot

The Brunswick 38 is a fine wristwatch doused in a rich history which stretches way back to the dawn of British watchmaking. It’s fantastic to see a brand with such heritage be revived and for them not to lean too far away from their archives. All too often, old watch brands tend to follow trends too much and lose their identity in the process, so it’s humbling to see Fears be proud of its history and use it to inspire the current generation of watches. The Brunswick captures everything about the historical brand, without going too far and remaining modern enough to keep the attention of modern audiences. Details such as the dial are simply striking and truly make you want to stop for a moment and just stare at it.

Overall, the finishing is well-executed, and it has everything you would expect from a high-quality luxury wristwatch in this category. One thing I would like to see in the future is for Fears to begin to stretch their legs and to utilise more bespoke movement technology. I think this would help to elevate the brand even more, perhaps with the introduction of more complications. We know they’re collaborating with British watchmaker Garrick, so perhaps we will see some more of this in the future. Then again, the brand has been around since 1846, so I suppose we have plenty of time for that to develop.

Fears Brunswick 38 pricing & availability

The Fears Brunswick 38, and the entire Fears collection, is available from the Time+Tide Shop and Melbourne Discovery Studio. Price: A$5,900 (leather strap)

Brand Fears
Model Brunswick 38
Case Dimensions 38mm (D) x 11.8mm (T) x 20mm (LW)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 100 metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire crystal front, optional caseback
Dial Champagne
Strap Black leather, steel pin buckle
Five-link stainless steel bracelet, folding clasp
Movement ETA 7001, manual-winding
Power Reserve 40 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, small seconds
Availability Now, from the Time+Tide Shop and Melbourne Discovery Studio
Price A$5,900 (leather strap)