In the beginning - The history of British watch making
Coming from a family of jewellery and watch professionals with five generations of family experience in the trade meant that from a young age, watches and jewellery have always played a big part in my life. My first ever high value purchase was a watch. And even when I was a student, buying a watch and adding to my small but growing collection of reasonably priced watches was my only real guilty pleasure.
After my father passed away suddenly, watches started to occupy an even larger place in my life. He was a celebrated jeweller and a specialist in blue sapphires having supplied the cornflower Sri Lankan blue sapphire that formed the centrepiece of Princess Diana’s engagement ring (now worn by Kate Middleton). Following my bereavement, I felt the need to preserve this extraordinary family heritage but didn’t really know how I would achieve it, or even where I would start.
Coincidentally around this time in order to deal with work pressures and my personal loss I started to learn to sketch and ended up drawing designs of watches. I increasingly found myself in a state of flow weekend after weekend in coffee (and chai!) shops totally absorbed in either drawing a sketch or continually working on adobe illustrator developing my watch designs. I shared these designs with friends and family and although none of them said I should try to produce any of my designs (who would be crazy enough to suggest that to someone who they viewed as already having a great career!?!), however the feedback I got encouraged me to look into this more deeply.
At the same time as I was learning to design watches, I was also reading about the history of watchmaking, particularly the British history of watch making. As a two-time history prize winner at school and a lover of the subject, the history of timekeeping had always held a fascination for me. Studying in depth the beginnings of the watch making industry within England in the 1500s, to its golden age in the 1800s and the ultimate demise of the British watch industry in the 1900s was a rollercoaster ride. The fact that several of the major advancements in mechanical watch and clock making were pioneered by just a handful of British masters of horology both inspired and filled me with pride.
This ultimately provided me with the inspiration for creating Hawchester London whose roots would be inspired by the history of British Watch making and would be my way of paying tribute to it.
I had finally stumbled across how I would keep my family legacy alive; it was by designing and producing my own timepieces!
The design inspiration - British automobiles
My initial foray into the world of watch design started by replicating designs already in existence. This was a way to develop my eye and steady my hand in the processes of design and learn its initial steps. On reflection, everything we learn to do in life, every craft, whether it be watch design or surgery, is learnt by emulation. Once I developed my basic motor skills and eye in this regard (together with learning to use most of the tools in adobe illustrator!), I started to experiment by making my own designs. However, design with no inspiration behind it or source material per se resulted in what I felt were sketches with no real “soul”.
This is when I started looking for a design inspiration that I could draw on to give my work some form, some underlying context. And since I was on a journey now to pay homage to the British history of horology, I started to think of what was quintessentially British that could form the basis of this inspiration. And then one day on a visit to Clerkenwell, in the heart of London and the historical centre of the British watch trade, a conversation about British watches and cars culminated in what I would use as my inspiration. It would be British automobiles.
The vision began to merge these two concepts into one iconic timepiece. This is where the design inspiration for the watch case grew from. The oversized 45 mm case design aims to replicate the muscular body of luxury British automobiles. The rest of the detailing and fine touches on the case are all derived from the grandeur of and attention to detail of British super luxury automobiles. However, there was one other touch I made to the case which diverges from this concept and that is the incorporation of 4 components onto each corner at the front of the case.
These are components of a mechanical watch and pay homage to British inventions in mechanical watch making. I’ve purposely left naming these components out of this article in order that you may attempt to identify them yourself!
Following on from the case design, a dial pattern referred to as tapisserie was chosen for its intricate design detail and luxury appeal. The hands of the watch were also designed with a red second hand to highlight the importance of each second in our lives and emulate the rev counter as found in the high-performance versions of British luxury automobiles. Unlike the standard convention where watch hands are normally chosen from a trade brochure of pre-assembled options, the hands for the Clerkenwell collection like every other component were devised from scratch in order to create a truly original timepiece.
The choice of colours for the Clerkenwell collection were inspired by a combination of British geographic locations including one colour that was attributed to the historical Tudor period. The colours were chosen by myself after a painstaking process of reviewing many colour guides until my exacting standards were met.
Producing a unique packaging solution and adding value
Following on from the watch design, I wanted to devise a unique packaging solution. Several of the watches I purchased, in fact every single one of them came in a box which was discarded once the watch was received. I wanted to devise a solution that did away with a box and provided value to our customer’s purchase.
Hence, I came up with the idea to design a wallet that would act as a vessel for delivery of the watch but would also double up as a continental wallet. Not only would the wallet protect the watch during delivery but would add value afterwards by providing space for cash, cards, coins and even your passports.
I wanted it to be well designed, high quality and last a lifetime like the timepieces I’ve produced, so went ahead and created it with genuine crazy horse leather. This is one of the most durable forms of genuine leather and is generally used to make equestrian saddles due to its quality and durability.
In this way I believe Hawchester’s’ foresight and purposeful packaging differentiates it from other bigger named watch brands who have yet to execute anything similarly innovative.
In addition, I decided to provide a high-quality spring bar tool so that the watch owner could feel more a part of his or her watch experience by enabling them to undertake a strap change themselves. This is a relatively simple process that could be performed by anyone following the detailed notes provided within the Hawchester London user manuals. It’s my view that this leads to creation of a stronger bond between the man/woman and his/her watch. Adding another exciting layer to the Hawchester London overall offer.
Going inside the watch, past present, future and our mission
I travelled far and wide to discover a manufacturer who could bring my designs to life. Learning quite early on that there was no watch manufacturing capability within the United Kingdom, I set my sights on Switzerland and the Far East.
The idea of sitting behind a computer and finding a manufacturer online was something I did in the early part of the process, however, I felt uneasy about this so I decided to embark on a journey to these watch making centres of the world.
I visited several watch factories in Switzerland, Hong Kong and China and assessed aspects of manufacture from quality control to water resistance testing and labour standards.
After much deliberation I went with a manufacturer in Hong Kong who I felt produced watches of exceptional quality for the price point I was trying to achieve. In addition, the method of short circuiting the “Swiss Made” certification which several Swiss Made brands use today by getting most of their components made in the Far East and then performing some aspects of assembly within Switzerland did not appeal to me.
My travels revealed to me that the assembly techniques of the manufacturers in Hong Kong versus those of Switzerland for the given price point were really no different. In fact, the manufactures in the Far East had a slightly more refined quality control system as they were dealing with much bigger numbers of manufactured watches with a smaller margin for error.
Once this aspect was sorted, it was time to make a decision about movements. I originally opted to go for a Sellita Swiss Made automatic movement and a Rhonda Quartz movement for the Clerkenwell Automatic and Clerkenwell Quartz respectively.
However, here again some research revealed that in fact the Japanese miyota automatic was similar in quality to the Sellita movement and in fact their quartz movements were much better in quality than Swiss Quartz movements (the Japanese did invent the Quartz watch after all!). Price between movements in fact was not a factor in my decision as they were broadly similar. Eventually after much deliberation and due to a more reliable supply chain high quality Miyota movements were chosen for Hawchester London.
The eventual aim of Hawchester is to manufacture and assemble as much of the watch within the UK as is feasible whilst not altering our affordability.
It may still be some time before a wholly British movement that is reasonably priced is manufactured, however since I’ve started on this journey Hawchester has established links with dial, case and strap makers who are based within the UK. Our aim is to utilise these resources in our future collections. Our journey has just begun!
Our Motto, Non Ducor, Duco (I am not led, I lead)
Our motto was inspired by our genuine desire to lead and not be lead. Our vision is simple- to give anyone pursuing their ambitions every day, the opportunity to own a watch that is more than just an accessory.
A watch that identifies with each individual’s unique journey and chimes in sync with their own unique pursuit of perfection. Our Hawchester London timepiece will stand with them in silent precision and an authentic identity as they navigate through life and pursue everyday perfection. It is our privilege to be with them on their individual journey to lead and not be led.
The Dux (leader) magazine was created to further the “Non Ducor, Duco” (I am not led, I lead) motto of Hawchester London. The magazine was created with the intention of featuring everyday leaders and unpacking the story behind their success in order to create a community of like-minded individuals that provide inspiration and guidance for current and future generations.
People like myself and our customers who are on a journey of personal achievement in whatever field are aware of the importance and preciousness of time, and as such we feel it’s way too important not to have a quality timepiece as a companion on that journey.
Partnering with the UK registered charity BFIRST (British Foundation for International Reconstructive Surgery and Training) was a natural choice for Hawchester London given my background as a reconstructive and hand surgeon and my desire to give back. Hawchester London aims to support the work of BFIRST by enabling our patrons to make a contribution to the work of BFIRST on checkout.
BFIRST has a proven track record of fantastic reconstructive work in developing nations and has made significant contributions so far to so many surgeons and patients in this part of the world. We aim to continue to support and collaborate with BFIRST in new and innovative ways in the future. To learn more about BFIRST and their work please click on the following link: http://www.bfirst.org.uk/