The recent appearance of a handful of British brands has provoked a nostalgic idea that we are witnessing a revival of British watchmaking. After all, between the 17th and 19th centuries, Great Britain was the undisputed superpower of watchmaking. A hotbed of formidable horological minds was behind the major technological breakthroughs that helped Britannia ply her maritime trade routes and rule the waves. Empires rise and fall and the flame of Britain’s watchmaking supremacy was snuffed in the early 20th century after Britain failed to adopt the mass production techniques introduced by Swiss and American watchmakers.
Is it misleading to talk about a revival of watchmaking in the UK if the watches are equipped with foreign movements and production is – in most cases – extremely limited? What percentage of British blood does a watch have to have to obtain the coveted Made in Britain pedigree? Are we witnessing a revival of the industry or is it more a case of watch brands based in Britain coming to the fore?
To find out what’s ticking in the business, we go behind the scenes and chat to the heads of several British watch brands. This week we talk to Piers Berry, founder of Pinion watches, an Oxfordshire-based brand with prices ranging from £2,000 – £5,000 and an annual production of roughly 500 watches. A professional designer with a background in digital design, Berry wanted to create a watch “he could call his own”, launching Pinion in 2013, a brand that relies entirely on contemporary and vintage Swiss movements and is upfront about the provenance of every last component. With three lines to date – Axis, below, Pure and Revival – the watches exude a handsome yet rugged appeal, a bit like actor Clive Standen, who wears an Axis Black watch in the new NBC TV series Taken.
TJE: There is a lot of talk about the revival of British watchmaking. Would you agree that there is a revival underway?
Berry: No, I don’t believe there is a specific ‘revival’ in British watchmaking, just that over the past few years there has been an increase in the amount of watch companies coming into the marketplace globally.