MICRO MONDAYS: Introducing a new weekly series starring the world’s best microbrands, kicking off with William Wood Watches!Andrew McUtchen
I don’t know how many times I’ve introduced a new segment, column or series on Time+Tide over the last six years. But I’d be prepared to bet that at least half the time, I’ve opened the post about it with these words: “Sorry, this took a long while to get to you. Good things take time.”
Good things take time, and also the time for that thing has to be right. Time+Tide has primarily dealt with well-established brands as our daily remit. But little by little — and with two editions of NOW Magazine under our belt, with both bursting at the seams with smaller brands — our eyes have been opened to the creativity, the ingenuity and the excitement building in the independent and microbrand space.
If there’s such a thing as a punk rock attitude in watchmaking, it lives here.
And, it turns out, punk music is pretty damned popular. This was proved beyond any doubt with our recent ‘Watch & Act!’ World Watch Auction in aid of the Australian bushfire crisis. We had microbrands like Baltic, Farer, Bausele, Lebois & Co and our very own Nicholas Hacko pulling winning bids that were two, three, six-and-a-half times their RRP. It was extraordinary.
So, we started our engines, worked on a concept, designed a logo and now bring you a weekly segment on Time+Tide called ‘MICRO MONDAYS’. In it, we will bring to you, in one form or another, a brand you may not be as aware of as our well-decorated, long-since-graduated alumni. This might be an interview, a model review, or a shop listing, introducing you to not just the story, but the key models by the world’s very best microbrands. Because, while there’s general vibes on microbrands, they certainly ain’t all created equal — we’ll be curating our recommendations, and making sure we’ve done our due diligence in separating out the best from the rest.
So, where should we begin? Well, we thought there could be no better transition from the auction, where microbrands threw down such a boss effort, to a regular place on the site than one of the good guys who jumped on it, Jonny from William Wood. We asked Jonny all the important questions: Where did his brand come from? What’s with the firefighting connection? Is it true he melts firefighter helmets from the 1920s? If you’re interested in picking up a William Wood, we are stocking our favourite model, ‘The Red Watch’, at our marketplace, which is $995 AUD (circa $610 USD) with a Seiko NH35 movement, or $1400 AUD (circa $860 USD) with an ETA 2824, with free shipping on both models. Unusually, this watch is MORE expensive on rubber, due to the provenance and nature of that rubber; see the listing for more details.
What is the story behind William Wood Watches?
We make watches dedicated to and inspired by firefighters and rescue service workers internationally. The true hero in all of this was my grandfather. He served in the British Fire Service for 25 years. He was what inspired me to be able to get in and start building watches. What makes us unique is the fact that we actually make watches made from upcycled rescue service materials, specifically firefighting.
The Valiant model was part of the auction. What can you tell me about it?
The ‘Red Watch’ from the Valiant Collection actually has straps made from upcycled British fire hose. They are gifted to us from the UK Fire and Rescue services after they have been used for a minimum of 10 years. The cool thing about that is it actually has that rich smokiness in the rubber, you can clearly smell it. The other interesting thing is that when you chop up a piece of fire hose, it’s like chopping up a piece of wood. Every single piece of hose is completely unique and it has a very different patina and even sometimes authenticity stamp on the rubber as well.
What other parts of the watch are upcycled?
We also take a 1920s London fire brigade helmet into the iconic jewellery district in London of Hatton Garden and we melt it down, and we essentially make it into our watch crown. That in itself took about four months of sampling, just to be able to get a real piece of London fire brigade heritage into the crown on the watch head itself. My apartment is full of helmets. It’s crazy.
Are you connected to any charities through your work?
A big part of what we do — and the reason why we got into it actually — was to be able to give back as well as sell watches. So, in the UK, we donate a percentage of our sales to The Fire Fighters Charity. They are literally a charity dedicated to firefighters and they provide social and psychological support, not just the firefighters but the firefighters’ families as well. We do lots of fundraisers in the UK. We’re actually advertised on The Fire Fighters Charity online shop.
Are many of your customers firefighters?
We’re at the stage now where we have 600 customers across 30 countries. Our customers are either serving or retired firefighters, and we have figured out 80 to 90 per cent of those are actually firefighters who are in Australia. We have found out that firefighting is an absolute brotherhood. What we certainly find is when people get into the Fire Service, they’re joining it as a career for 25, 30, 40 years and when they leave they have such a strong affiliation. This comes after really putting your life on the line, year after year. You are selflessly doing that and you are a hero every day. I think they’re constantly trying to find some kind of memento to the fantastic career that they had.
About the William Wood Red Watch:
The sandwiched luminous layer beneath the matte black dial shines through in low light, adding even more depth to what is truly a cavernous distance between the crystal and the hands. The William Wood script isn’t too distracting, while the applied helmet logo adds a touch of class to the otherwise tool-orientated design.
With a choice between four different straps, from a steel bracelet to a NATO, it’s hard to go past the recycled rubber fire hose. It’s no lie when they claim you can still smell the smoke when it’s held up to the nose, but thankfully being encased in supple, red and (importantly) clean rubber means regular wear won’t leave your wrist smelling like a house fire. A word of warning to the smaller wrists is that my 17cm circumference found the strap to be quite loose at its tightest point, so some drilling at your nearest experienced watchmaker may be necessary for a comfortable fit.
At 41mm in diameter and approaching 50mm lug-to-lug, The Red Watch’s all-brushed case does tend to take up a bit more real estate than you would expect. The sandwich dial, in conjunction with a double-domed sapphire crystal and screwed display caseback, brings the total thickness to 16mm. To combat this, however, the slope of the retro aluminium bezel insert and crystal improves the cuff-friendliness to an acceptable level.
Even though The Red Watch is a limited edition run of only 250 pieces, you do get a choice between a Swiss-made ETA 2824 or a Japanese-made Seiko NH35 movement. Both are automatics with hacking seconds, manual winding, and quick-set date features and, quite honestly, both are capable of keeping great daily time and being serviced affordably. I had no problems with the NH35 model, however the ETA may add some peace of mind to long-term accuracy, reliability and, of course, attractiveness in that display caseback.