Top British Watch Brands
The United Kingdom is a country with a truly unique and fascinating culture. One that has given the world everything from classical literature, to famous rock music, and even its very language. However, watch brands from Britannia have had difficulty in the past standing on their own two legs. A serial fabrication of pocket and wristwatches was never able really to come to fruition, even with this island nation’s role as a pioneer in the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. An odd outcome, especially considering watchmaking has a long standing connection to the United Kingdom. Historic legends such as John Arnold, Thomas Mudge, John Harrison, Thomas Tompion, and George Graham have all left their mark on the pages of watch history.
Keeping that in mind: here’s a shoutout to all the disheartened, Anglophile watchmaker enthusiasts. Horology in Great Britain is making a comeback. New brands are on the up and up and are building upon the foundation of this country’s watchmaking traditions with entirely new angles on designs and giving the industry a fresh pulse. To give you a better overview of the watch cartography in the United Kingdom, we’ve dug into the best this horological industry now has to offer, and we’re here to file our report on the top 10 British Watch Brands.
Bremont Watch Company
Founded originally by two brothers, Bremont is the largest watchmaker in the British Isles. The company’s mechanical know-how, dedication to aeronautics and construction, as well as a deep passion for watches has taken shape in its inventions. The UK watch brand’s portfolio consists of pilots’ or adventure theme based watches.
However, Nick and Giles English have also gone one step further and added several unique to Bremont, manufacturing twists e.g. the Trip Tick Case Design or the anti-magnetic Faraday cage. It has a substantial amount of classic aviation styled timepieces in its portfolio. For example the U-2: a watch tested and designed by the U2 Spy Plane Squadron in the United States.
Also among its number, the SOLO: a classic pilot's’ watch based on aviation timekeepers from the 1940s. However, Bremont also has in its repertoire a divers’ watch with a water resistance of a staggering 2,000 metres. The photo above is the Bremont ALT1-P-BK: a COSC, DLC coated, automatic chronometer
While the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea isn’t a part of Great Britain it’s still under British Crown dependency. Its founder Roger Smith is the protégé of George Daniels: widely regarded as the greatest watchmaker in the 20th century and also as the father of the co-axial escapement. Smith’s famous mentor bequeathed the entire workshop to him and it’s a studio geared towards constructing timepieces from start to finish. Smith is very outspoken about the current state of watchmaking within the United Kingdom and has launched a debate about the future of British watch brands amid the dominance of Swiss movements.
Among his most noteworthy creations is the Series 2: a very refined dress watch that has incorporated vintage craftsmanship and is designed with the modern professional in mind. It’s a very limited series, with only 10 pieces crafted per year. Adding to its premium allure is its Daniel’s co-axial escapement: a special modification of the lever escapement with attributes of the detent escapement and considered to be among the most important horological innovations altogether.
As an added measure of luxury, Smith has also created the Series 4 Triple Calendar Moonphase timepiece in 18k red gold, which retails for a premium price of 250,000.- GBP. Also, Smith is also an accessible watchmaker and can be commissioned to create a customised, individual timepiece from the ground up. However, be prepared to sign the waiting list for a unique UK watch from the forges of the brand, as the current time span before receiving a Smith timekeeper is upwards of two years.
Arnold & Son
Located in the horological hotbed of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Arnold & Son is a watchmaking company that unifies the bells and whistles of Swiss workmanship together with the British tradition of adventure and sea based exploration. In 1787, John Arnold founded the brand and specialised in the manufacturing of ship chronometers. These unique maritime devices saw action aboard the ships of the legendary, seafaring exploits of Captain Thomas Butler, Sir John Franklin, and even Captain James Cook.
While the brand is now Swiss, Arnold & Son still builds upon this British legacy by offering nautical inspired timepieces in two collections: the Royal and Instrument. In 2015, it celebrated its 250th year anniversary by launching five new in-house movements. The moon has long been used as a point of reference to guide ships at sea. In the spirit of the importance of this celestial body, the Arnold & Son Double Hemisphere Perpetual Moon with a very attractive moon phase complication is just one example of the excellence this British watch brand outputs.
This London based company is another English watch brand in our list that sets out to contribute to the revival of Britain’s watchmaking tradition. Garrick was created by the entrepreneur, full time watch collector, and horological enthusiast David Brailsford. With his profound interest in traditional High Horology, he even partnered up with one of the most gifted watchmakers out there, Andreas Strehler, to create an innovative hand wound movement.
Brailsford made it his mission to create the finest timepieces while upholding traditional British watchmaking values. By working together with Strehler and his company UhrTeil AG, Garrick was able to launch its own high-end UT-G01 movement, which is built and finished in the Garrick workshops in Norwich. This movement can be found exclusively in the Portsmouth and S1 timepiece and boats everything a truly great watch needs. Neither costs nor trouble have been spared to refine it to the maximum.
Four collections are in Garrick’s current line-up: the Norfolk, Regulator, Portsmouth and the S1. In addition to that, Garrick allows customers to create bespoke watches, showcasing that the customer is still king and that their watches are more of a horological gem than just a simple mass-produced timekeeper. As far as the refinements go, Garrick does not flinch away from going an extra mile. Whether it is heat blued hands and screws or their own free sprung in-house balance wheels, the brand is able to display their immense knowhow in a variety of ways.