British Made Watches and Clocks and British Made Watch Straps

For watches, now that companies like Timex only manufacture abroad, you might try:  Bremont (assembled in the UK; packaging made in the UK; Swiss movements; around £3,000-£20,000; Bremont employs around 30 watchmakers at a workshop in the Oxfordshire town of Henley-on-Thames, and makes many of its own parts at a factory in Silverstone, Northamptonshire). Meridian (casing made in UK; then assembled in the UK; Swiss movements; around £5,000). Harold Pinchbeck (assembled in the UK; they say they try to use some British made components; Swiss movements; around £300 to £5,000+). More reasonably priced (from about £50-£300) are RLT Watches who buy, sell and repair all makes of vintage watches, but also assemble watches in the UK under their RLT Watches brand using Swiss or Japanese movements. IWI watches use Swiss movements, casing made in the UK and are assembled in the UK (around £1,000-£3,500). Peter Roberts Watches (Swiss movement; assembled in the UK; around £20,000). J & T Windmills (Swiss movement; assembled in the UK; around £1,000). Schofield watches (Swiss movements; case made in Germany; assembled in the UK; around £3,000+). Dent London (Swiss movement; assembled in the UK; around £25,000; E.Dent & Co Ltd, makers of Big Ben, ceased to trade in 1966; this company just appears to have appropriated their name). Pinion watches have Swiss movements and are foreign made, but assembled in England. Again more reasonably priced are Paulin Watches (quartz watches, foreign made, assembled in the UK and sent in UK made packaging). W. T. Author watches are assembled in UK with Swiss made movements and they sell leather watch straps (24mm lug width only) made in Britain using Argentinian-sourced buffallo hide. Mr Jones Watches finish and assemble their limited edition watches in London (and only their limited edition watches, the rest of their collection being entirely foreign made). Garrick, which opened in Norfolk in 2015, uses movements made in Switzerland and modified or assembled in house and they say “We do almost everything else ourselves, from making the plates and dials to the cases and crowns.” Garrick watches retail for between £2,500 and £50,000, and around 70 were sold last year.

RLT Watch Co. Quartz Military Style RLT6 watch. Assembled in the UK.

RLT Watch Co. Quartz Military Style RLT6 watch. Assembled in the UK.

Minster watches (aka Minster1949) carry the twitter tagline “British made watches since 1949” and have the words “British Made” on their watch faces. The watch mechanisms are almost certainly foreign made because as far as I know there are no watch mass produced watch mechanism manufacturers still going in the UK and these watches are assembled in Minster’s own workshops in Halifax. Available from the likes of Lifestyle Caddy, Beaverbrooks, and Cuffs and Co. Quartz watches. I came to know of this company through twitter because they are one of my twitter followers. They don’t provide a link to their website on twitter which seems rather short-sighted. According to their website “GB&RS’s Minster 1949 watches are fully assembled in the UK using internationally sourced components.” The brand was originally founded by jewellers H Samuel in 1949, where it was an in-house watch brand for a number of years, before the trademark lapsed allowing Minster’s parent company, GB&RS, to buy the name and re-start the brand in August 2015. I am assuming the name GB&RS comes from 2 company directors, Giles Bushby and Raj Sedha. GB&RS also own a brand called Swiss Emporio selling affordable Swiss made watches and also sell fully Chinese made watches. Their Swiss Emporia brand name sounds very similar to another H Samuel brand in the 60s and 70s, Swiss Emperor (both Swiss Emperor and Minster were made for H Samuel and they did not manufacture themselves) – http://www.minster1949.com

Should any of the above watches say “made in England” or “England” or “Great Britain” on them? Probably not as they are basically foreign made, but sadly some of them do.

Robert Loomes & Co watches made in the UK. They seem to use old Smiths movements as the basis for their watches, but I understand hope eventually to make their own movements. There are no prices on their website but I don’t think these watches come cheap. The watches are only available in their Stamford shop, but according to the internet range from £7,000 to £16,000 each.

R.W Smith (Roger W Smith) watches are made in the UK including, most importantly, the movements. Roger W Smith produces about 10 watches a year and cost around £100,000 each.

Regrettably there are few watches actually made in the UK any more. Gone are the days of mass produced British made watches. Frankly most of the watches listed above are ridiculously expensive!

Some people don’t even wear a watch and reply on looking at their mobile phone if they need to know the time. This is perhaps not as reliable as a decent modern watch and it’s hard to check the time on your phone discreetly, but it does perhaps make you less concerned about what time it is.  However, there is something rather vulgar about checking the time on one’s phone.

Watchmaking nowadays seems to be the preserve of Germany, Switzerland, Japan and China. Mass produced Japanese watches are amazingly reliable, but it seems a shame Britain no longer really makes watches given our long history of watchmaking.

Citizen Eco-Drive BV1060-07E watch. Made in China. Movement made in Japan.

Citizen Eco-Drive BV1060-07E watch. Made in China. Movement made in Japan. Light (natural or artificial) powered. When fully charged, it will apparently keep running – even in total darkness – for up to 6 months. Properly maintained, it will never need a new battery.

I wondered if Cabot Watch Company (CWC) watches were made in Britain, but CWC watches are not made in Britain. Their watches are Swiss made (military style; robust cases; easy to read dials; some quartz watches have a battery hatch; around £150-£1000). CWC do sell some NATO watch straps which are UK made.

I also wondered if Timefactors reproductions / homage watches were British made, but they are not. They have names like “Smiths” and the words “Great Britain” on the watch face and cost around £300. However, Timefactors watches are not made in Great Britain; they are made in Germany. These watches should not say “Great Britain” on them (as they are foreign made), but sadly some of them do. Possibly some Timefactors NATO straps are made in England (at one place on the site it uses the words “woven in England”) but I am not sure, so you should check.

Marlon hand-wound watches are made in China.

Seiko, Sekonda, Rotary, Rolex, Omega, Certina, Swatch, IWC, Casio, Citizen, Accurist, etc. are all foreign made.

Companies like Smiths, Ingersoll, Timex and others used to make watches in the UK but either no longer do so or have gone.

Smiths, who used to make watches, clocks and stopwatches in the UK, no longer make watches and clocks (the last one was made in around 1980). Smiths had a factory in Cheltenham (watches from here were marked “Made in England”) and (in a joint operation with Ingersoll) another a Wales (these watches were marked “Made in Britain” or “Great Britain”). They also appear to have manufactured in Scotland. Not all Smiths watches were made in the UK.  Neither were all Ingersoll watches all made in the UK. Smiths Industries also made many more things in their day, such as car instruments and the timer plug pictured below. The company still exists today albeit on a much smaller scale concentrating on technology and no longer making consumer goods – https://www.smiths.com

A vintage Smiths Indutries Timer Plug. Made in UK. Still working in 2017. Front view. Photograph by author.

A vintage Smiths Indutries Timer Plug. Made in UK. Still working in 2017. Rear view. Photograph by author.

Timex had a factory in Scotland and possibly elsewhere in the UK (Timex watches made in the UK were marked “Great Britain” or “Made in Great Britain” or “Made in Britain” or similar). The Timex Scotland factory closed in 1993.  Not all Timex products were made in the UK. Modern Timex products are all foreign made.

Metamec was a manufacturer of domestic clocks founded in 1941, and was based in Dereham, Norfolk, England. Mostly they made electric clocks. At one point Metamec was the largest clock manufacturer in the UK. Metamec went into receivership in December 1984 and was purchased in January 1985 by FKI (Fisher Karpark Industries Ltd), who continued to use the name until 1993. The Metamec site in East Dereham was run by Ross Consumer Electronics until its closure in 1994. Production may have stopped sometime in the 1980s. Some Metamec mechanisms had foreign movements.  A modern company in Derbyshire now uses the Metamec name, selling clocks made to order. They say on their website say that their products are assembled in their own factory, but it does not say that this factory is in the UK, so these clocks might be made and assembled abroad.

Mobius Clocks manufacture luxury clocks, made primarily from metal. There website certainly strongly implies British manufacture but lacks in detail. It’s worth asking this company where they manufacture but I suspect it is abroad. Possibly these clocks are assembled in the UK?

Westclox Scotland opened their factory in Scotland in 1948, producing clocks, watches and timing devices, and produced over 50 million clocks over the years until the bankruptcy of the American owners and closure of the factory in around 2001. Not all Westclox products were made in the UK.

Founded in 1872, Gents of Leicester was a well known manufacturer of electrical equipment, in particular its electric clocks, which were used in public buildings and railway stations all over the world. Now owned by Honeywell, they are still based in Leicester, but these days only make fire detection and alarm systems. The Kibworth factories have closed and according to Wikipedia only a few jobs remain in Leicester and I assume production of their alarms is now abroad as there is no mention of UK production on their website.

The Westclox Factory in Dumbarton, Scotland (undated).

The Westclox Factory in Dumbarton, Scotland (undated).

vintage Westclox Big Ben Repeater Alarm clock, Made in Scotland. Front view

Vintage Westclox Big Ben Repeater Alarm clock, Made in Scotland. Front view.

vintage Westclox Big Ben Repeater Alarm clock, Made in Scotland. Rear view

Vintage Westclox Big Ben Repeater Alarm clock, Made in Scotland. Rear view.

Vintage Westclox Battery 24 Hour Wall Clock. Made in Scotland

Vintage Westclox Battery 24 Hour Wall Clock. Made in Scotland.

VINTAGE UK MADE GENTS BAKELITE WHITE FACE ELECTRIC WALL CLOCK 11

VINTAGE UK MADE GENTS BAKELITE WHITE FACE ELECTRIC WALL CLOCK 11″ c1950s.

Typical Metamec clocks, dating from the 1960s to 1980s.

Typical Metamec clocks, dating from the 1960s to 1980s.

Vintage electric mantel clock by Metamec. Made in England

Vintage electric mantel clock by Metamec. Made in England.

Vintage electric mantel clock by Metamec. Made in England, Rear mechanism view.

Vintage electric mantel clock by Metamec. Made in England, Rear mechanism view.

A vintage made in Great Britain travel alarm clock by a company called Coral.

A vintage made in Great Britain travel alarm clock by a company called Coral. This brand, Coral, also manufactured abroad.

Vintage Westclox Made In Scotland Watch

Vintage Westclox Made In Scotland Watch

Vintage White

Vintage White “SMITHS” Made in Scotland Alarm Clock.

Vintage Prestige 1 Hour Timer (with Smiths Mechanism). Made in Britain. Front view

Vintage Prestige 1 Hour Timer (with Smiths Mechanism). Made in Britain. Front view

Vintage Prestige 1 Hour Timer (with Smiths Mechanism). Made in Britain. Rear view

Vintage Prestige 1 Hour Timer (with Smiths Mechanism). Made in Britain. Rear view

Vintage Smiths Sooty and Sweep Alarm Clock, 1960's. Made in Great Britain.

Vintage Smiths Sooty and Sweep Alarm Clock, 1960’s. Made in Great Britain.

A rather scruffy vintage traditional travel alarm clock. Made in Great Britain. Circa 1950s. Manufactuer unknown. Front view.

A rather scruffy vintage traditional travel alarm clock. Made in Great Britain. Circa 1950s. Manufactuer unknown. Front view.

A rather scruffy vintage traditional travel alarm clock. Made in Great Britain. Circa 1950s. Manufactuer unknown. Rear view made in Great Britain detail.

A rather scruffy vintage traditional travel alarm clock. Made in Great Britain. Circa 1950s. Manufactuer unknown. Rear view made in Great Britain detail.

A website called Great British Watch Company provides a succinct history of British watchmaking and information on current British watch companies.

The Grey Fox (in November 2014) writes an interesting article about his recently purchased vintage Smiths DeLuxe watch and the history of Smiths and the first ever Everest ascent.

There is lots of technical information in this guide to buying old Smiths watches on eBay.

Lascelles London (Roger Lascelles / Brookpace Lascelles Ltd), founded in 1986, is now the UK’s largest clock manufacturer and produce some 100,000 clocks each year. Over 70% of their collection is produced here in the UK in their London studios and for these they use brass hands which are made here in the UK too. The quartz mechanisms I presume are all foreign made. With the exception of their personalised clocks where the webpage for these says “UK manufactured” at the the top of the page, unfortunately no country of information is given against individual products. I imagine it is just their wall clocks that are UK made, looking at their video, but it will be a case of having to ask before buying. If you need a clock this company would be well worth a look and prices are reasonable too – http://www.rogerlascelles.com

In-House clocks, founded in 1985, say on their website “Our products are designed, hand-made and assembled in the U.K from our own studio / workshops”. The clock mechanisms will be foreign made (German made mostly it seems) and they do not generally say if the materials and packaging used are UK made. Wall clocks, mantel clocks and alarm clocks. They also sell a range of hand screen printed linen keepsakes, wall plaques, greetings cards and cushions designed and made in England by Jill Pargeter. RRP is given on their website but no information is given on where to buy, but you could ask or they sell to the trade – http://www.inhouseclocks.co.uk/#

It is still possible to find British made watch straps. Here are some I found:

  • Trestle Shop – A nice NATO watch strap in leather. Made in England using English leather. 18mm wide.
  • Tanner Bates – An expensive leather watch strap. I think these are made in England but please check before buying. 16, 18 and 20mm widths, various colours.
  • Black Horse Military – Camouflage fabric watch strap / watch cover. It says the strap is made in England on the Cadet Direct site, but the Black Horse website does not specify country of origin. One size.
  • Box Bag – A chunky made in England watch strap. No prices given. Various colours.
  • Yellow Dog watch straps – Nice NATO watch straps. Custom sized when you order. Leather from the USA or rubber. Made in the UK. Various colours and sizes.
  • There’s a review and fitting instructions for NATO straps here. RAF straps are single piece of fabric and that fact allows you to fasten the buckle on the underside of your wrist rather than on the side as with NATO straps if you wish. There is some confusion on the web about what constitutes an RAF strap and what constitutes a NATO strap. You can see the difference between the two types, the NATO with its extra keeper strap is shown first, in the pictures below. A NATO strap will stop the watch itself sliding down the band; it will not stop it falling off if the spring bar fails, but with the right sized RAF strap your watch will not slide in any case. Both NATO type straps and the older RAF type straps will be comfortable in hot weather, they don’t suffer abuse during active wear like a leather band and if they get dirty or damaged, they can easily be removed and cleaned, or even replaced. Either will fit comfortably under (or over if needed) clothes.
NATO type strap

NATO type strap

RAF type strap

RAF type strap

  • Mike Steward who runs Phoenix Straps Ltd, the MOD supplier of G10 (NATO) straps has a selection of colours/patterns and sizes of NATO style (3 loops) and RAF style (2 loops) watch straps in nylon webbing. He doesn’t (as far as I can tell) have a dedicated website, although a lot of other retailers sell his straps. He does however sell direct via eBay under the name ‘mickie500’ – http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/mickie500/. He has been making these straps to MOD specifications, in the UK, since 1978. I highly recommend them.
  • Ravensystem do a simple but effective leather watch protector strap that fits over an existing watch and strap. Ravensystem are a small military equipment manufacturer and supplier and they say on their website that that the majority of their products are made in their own UK factory. Plus at one point they seemed to be thinking about a kickstarter campaign for this strap and they have a page about that where it says they strap is made in the UK. You might want to check this is still the case – http://www.ravensystem.com
  • GasGasBones (GGB) nylon own brand velcro watch straps are all made in England. They also sell a some British made small leather goods, British made canvas watch strap storage rolls, and British made GGB leather watch straps (NATO and standard fit). They also sell Phoenix G10 NATO straps. Some items on the GGB site are foreign made, such as Halloween leather items and watch tools. I assume their watch is foreign made – http://www.gasgasbones.com
  • W. T. Author sell leather watch straps (24mm lug width only) made in Britain using Argentinian-sourced buffallo hide (W. T. Author watches are assembled in UK with Swiss made movements) – https://wtauthor.com
  • CWC Nato watch straps are made in the UK (CWC watches are Swiss made) – http://www.cwcwatch.com/collections/cwc-nato-watch-straps
  • Toshi Straps leather watch straps are “handmade in the South West of England”. Two part straps, various sizes. No indication on their website about where the leather and buckles used are sourced – https://toshi-straps.co.uk

To measure your watch strap size, measure the distance between the inside of the lugs on the watch head (typically 18, 20 or 22mm), as in the diagram below. Usually, the measurement will be an even number of millimetres, but occasionally watches have an odd measurement. You might also want to know the total length of your watch strap (typically 200mm or 20cm or 8″ for a 2 part strap; 29cm for a NATO strap; and 26cm for an RAF strap).

watchdim

Nato Watch Straps by PHOENIX. Made in Wales.

NATO Watch Straps by PHOENIX. Made in Wales.

As worn by Mr Bond in the movie Goldfinger. A NATO style strap (with a Swiss made watch).

As worn by Mr Bond (Sean Connery) in the 1964 movie Goldfinger (and in the 1966 film Thunderball). A NATO (or more accurately RAF) style type strap (with a Swiss made Rolex Submariner watch).

Production picture of Sir Sean Connery wearing the Rolex 6538(A) on nylon strap, Goldfinger, 1964

Production picture of Sir Sean Connery wearing the Rolex 6538(A) on nylon strap, Goldfinger, 1964

Production picture of Sir Sean Connery wearing the Rolex 6538(A) on nylon strap, Thunderball, 1966

Production picture of Sir Sean Connery wearing the Rolex 6538(A) on nylon strap, Thunderball, 1966

Phoenix Straps Bond Style Nylon Strap Black/olive/red stripe. Made in the UK.

Phoenix Straps Bond Style Nylon Strap Black/olive/red stripe. Made in the UK.

Vintage Smiths Everest Watch. Made in England.

Vintage Smiths Everest Watch. c.1960s. Made in England.

Vintage Timex manual wind watch. Made in Great Britain.

Vintage Timex manual wind watch. c.1970s. Made in Great Britain.

Vintage mens Ingersoll Hand Wound Watch. Made in Great Britain. Pre 1970?

Vintage mens Ingersoll Hand Wound Watch. Made in Great Britain. Pre 1970?

Smiths Imperial watch. c.1960.

Vintage Smiths Imperial watch. c.1960. Made in England.

Grey Fox's Smiths DeLuxe watch. Made in England.

Grey Fox’s Smiths DeLuxe watch. Made in England.

Smiths Everest 1953 advert

Smiths Everest 1953 advert. Sir Edmund Hillary led the first successful ascent of Everest using Smiths equipment and wearing a Smiths De Luxe watch. Shortly after Smiths launched the “Everest” watch range.

For watch cleaning cloths I suggest SELVYT cloths which are made in England or Town Talk (98% of their products are made in England).

SELVYT MICROFIBRE POLISHING CLOTH MADE IN ENGLAND.

SELVYT MICROFIBRE POLISHING CLOTH MADE IN ENGLAND.

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