Recovered, recast, reinvented: The Zero West H1 Hurricane encapsulates another moment in British aviation historyZach Blass
Racing, diving, and pilot’s watches are the three pillars of the sports watch category. There is a lot of demand for these kinds of watches, and as a result there is a saturation of novelties in a familiar format. Zero West, however, takes things to the next level. Their watches are living mementos of history, each design the true embodiment of aviation, marine, and automotive aesthetics. Zero West creations stand out with their distinct case profiles and incorporation of historically important salvaged materials that help create a rich backstory for each piece. This is where their motto “recovered, recast, reinvented” comes into play, and brand founders Andrew Brabyn and Graham Collins pride themselves on tying each collection into British heritage and history. Their latest creation, the Zero West H1 Hurricane, pays homage to the MKI Hawker Hurricane World War II plane, not only by building a watch around its aesthetic, but by incorporating an actual piece of one the battle-flown planes.
According to Zero West: “Despite it’s less than complimentary name, Foulness Island, precariously balanced along the Essex Coastline, is beautiful in a bleak, blasted kind of way. Due to that remoteness, however, it’s home to 212 people, many times that in birds – the original ‘Fowl’ in Foulness – and, until recently, H1-P3708.
“H1-P3708, for those without an encyclopaedic knowledge of aircraft serial numbers, is the designation of a MKI Hawker Hurricane, one of the most iconic World War 2 aircraft ever built, second only perhaps to the Spitfire. A close second, at that. Piloted by RAF Volunteer Reserve Sgt Alexander Girdwood, this particular Hurricane was involved in the ‘Hardest Day’ of the Battle of Britain, the day in which the Luftwaffe sent 750 sorties into UK airspace. During the fighting, according to Girdwood’s own accounts, he was downed after taking out a Heinkel 111, bailing as his plane crash-landed onto Foulness Island – right next to the enemy he had just shot down.”
Fifty years later, Girdwood’s plane was excavated by the Anglian Aircraft Research Group, and later exhibited at the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum. Today the Merlin Engine inside of the MKI Hawker Hurricane has been smelted down, following the footsteps of the now sold out Zero West S4 Spitifre, in order for a piece of British battle history to be incorporated into the Zero West H1 Hurricane – once again creating a museum experience for the wrist. This is where Zero West distinguishes themselves, not only capturing the spirit of history but creating a tangible homage to it as well.
There are two case variations to choose from: matte silver and black, with each colour manufactured in a limited run of 100 pieces. The 316L stainless-steel cases have the same dimensions, at 44mm diameter, 14.1mm, and a compact for its size 49.6mm lug to lug measurement across the wrist. While we have seen mixed finishing in previous Zero West aviation releases, the Zero West H1 Hurricane cases utilise a matte finish throughout – maintaining a more utility-driven look that evokes the battle-worn plane it was derived from. The crown, modelled after the cockpit joystick fire button of the MK1 Hawker Hurricane, adds a pop of colour to the 100 metre water-resistant case with its rose-gold tone. It is secured with triple seal technology to ensure moisture does not enter the case.
Another aspect where Zero West stands out, and goes above and beyond, is their incorporation of enamel dials in their sports watches. The Zero West H1 Hurricane dial is composed of black enamel over a brass substrate, and its layout is based on the slip turn indicator of the plane. Starting from the outboard of the dial, and making our way towards the centre, the stepped inner bezel scale is an aesthetic tribute to the side slip meter found on the Hurricane slip turn indicator. You’ll then notice a hashed outer minutes track split at 9′ and 3′ to allow real estate for the L and R turn indications reminiscent of the real slip turn indicator. Above the large central hours and minutes hands, as well as the thin red central seconds hand, you will find the Zero West brand and logo at 12′ and the actual latitude and longitude where the plane was recovered on Foulness Island at 6′ beneath the British flag.
In darker settings the ample SuperLuminova coatings reveal themselves, and thanks to the thick printing and large hands they are extremely legible to the eye.
Zero West pride themselves on producing as much of the watch as possible in the UK, and along with the case this new branded rubber strap is made in Britain. It is fabricated with military and aerospace grade rubber, which means the buckle and pin strap is the real deal. The channelled rubber strap is highly durable and comfortable on the wrist, and while I appreciated the handmade leather straps found on previous aviation releases, the new rubber strap is, in my opinion, better suited to the 100 metre water-resistant watch.
Inside the Zero West H1 Hurricane is the tried and true caliber ETA 2824 with 38 hours of power reserve. The automatic movement historically provides reliable and robust performance, fitting for a military-themed aviation timepiece. That being said, the ETA 2824 is not particularly known for its elaborate finishing, which makes it all the better that Zero West has utilised the caseback to display much more of a feast for the eyes. Beneath the sapphire caseback you will find a smelted disc forged from the Merlin engine casing found in the recovered MK1 Hawker Hurricane.
There’s much to admire in what Zero West are doing. The brand live up to their mission statement, recovering, recasting, and reinventing significant materials in British history to create watches with true heritage and emotional origin stories. This is not smoke and mirrors or sensational marketing, what we have with the Zero West H1 Hurricane is yet another example of a robust and attractive wristwatch artifact that, incredibly, is largely fabricated in the United Kingdom. If you are a true fan of aviation, or someone who likes to own something distinct and different, then the Zero West H1 Hurricane may just be the watch for you.
Zero West H1 Hurricane P3708 pricing and availability:
The Zero West H1 Hurricane is a limited edition of 200 pieces, 100 in matte silver and 100 in black, and is available now from Zero West to order. Price: £2,995
Made in partnership with Zero West. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.