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British watchmakers

The British watchmakers taking on the Swiss giants

A fresh crop of British brands are trying to break into the notoriously old-fashioned world of watchmaking. How will they tackle criticisms of heritage mining and new protectionist measures from the Swiss watch industry – not to mention the impact of an updated offering from Apple?

What does the future hold for Bremont?

Giles: We are very ambitious. We want investment and to grow the business. And we don’t see why we can’t get to be on a similar scale to some of the big Swiss watch brands. These things don’t happen quickly. Our core market is the UK and the US and about of our business is making watches for the military.

That gives us a huge ability to grow into lots of other markets, so it’s a very fun time for us. And Brexit, in a way, helps what we are trying to do, because it has lowered our prices around the world.

Dutch fakes and Dutch forgeries

Arcaded minute track: click to enlarge
Geneva bridge: click to enlarge
London hallmarks 1768/69: click to enlarge The watch in the images here is of a class commonly known as Dutch fakes or Dutch forgeries. The dial has an arcaded minute track that was popular in Holland and hence such watches were once thought to have been made there. Typically they have a continental movement engraved with an English sounding name and London, and a sterling silver case with English hallmarks.

The History of British Watches

The history of British watches is intertwined with the history of watchmaking worldwide. Early watchmaking took place in Germany in the 16th century and the practise quickly spread around Europe. These watches were designed to be worn as a pedant or attached to a chain which was worn around the neck. The early watches were, unfortunately, pretty useless for actually telling the time – so no-one actually wore them for their accuracy.

As they were likely to be wrong by around several hours per day, it was usually only seen as jewellery worn by the nobility.

Made in Britain: The Legacy of British Watchmakers

Swiss-made watches are still enjoying a prestigious run, but a number of British brands and watchmakers are looking to bring back glory to the UK’s horological heyday. Karishma Tulsidas speaks to the key players.