Made in England

On the subject of unusual and different watches, this week I’ve been searching around for a stylish but different dress watch.
I wanted something not big – and slim & elegant and this one impressed me so much it’s now my very latest aquisition.

The Windmills "Threadneedle"

The Windmills "Threadneedle"

And this really is something different – a  “Made in England”  watch – surely something special?

Certainly the J&T Windmills Threadneedle model 10004/01 mechanical hand wound 17 jewel adjusted movement watch looks terrific.  In fact I have to say it looks nothing short of stunning with that special subtle gleam of a Sterling Silver case and those singular articulated lugs and offset onion crown @ 2.

17 jewels adjusted, hand wound.

17 jewels adjusted, hand wound.

The shape of the case itself is both sophisticated and elegantly slim (7mm) with beautifully rounded and polished sides. The description “sophisticated”  suits this timepiece perfectly when one turns it over to see a rather stylish fully decorated back which although quite striking, also has that superb British subtlety – in that it is totally hidden from sight to all but the wearer and owner of this fine piece.

Decorated back with individual watch number

Decorated back with individual watch number

The original WI "Windmills" Sterling silver hallmark.

The original WI "Windmills" Sterling silver hallmark.

The dial is classic pocketwatch or even clock in style, so reflecting the origins of the Company it is honouring.

I particularly like the fact that it is a “wide” face and uses the whole case width with long and dark fine shaped hour and minute hands and a fine overhung centre sweep seconds hand.  Both the minute and second hands align and meet the first inner curve of the numeral markers perfectly. The hour hand just meets perfectly the iner edge of the roman numerals, thus making a precise reading of the time assured.  A simple function that many manufacturers could and should take the trouble to emulate.
Slightly elongated Roman numerals in black and a neat date aperture @6, which is large enough to give clarity without compromising the elegance of the whole, complete the frontage of this very stylish watch.
Note the “Made in England” on the bottom edge – something you don’t see too often these days and which I have to say, it’s rather nice to see it.

So is this Made in England indication justified?

A question which could be asked of many a Swiss Made watch and I fancy the answer to both questions would be much the same if truth be known.
To have the numenclature “made in” or “X made” is basically a matter of where, what and how. And importantly how much of the where, what and how is in the Country so defined.
Here in the UK the Trades Description Act requires certain parameters to have been met – namely “… goods shall be deemed to have been manufactured or produced in the country in which they last underwent a treatment or process resulting in a substantial change”.
Indeed a judication was actually made a year or so ago and these are some of the facts disclosed.

The J&T here is designed in the United Kingdom – in London. Prototypes are developed in China and subsequent samples are refined in their Essex, England facility.
The movement is sourced from Switzerland as a pure “Chablon” movement – this is a “raw” movement set where a complete set of the components of a watch of which all or part of the components are not assembled or partly assembled (marketed in this form). In the case of this particular mechanical display movement the dial and hands are not included.
The chablon is subsequently engraved, tested, and the watches assembled and quality controlled by specialist watchmakers at the Essex assembly facility.  J&T watchmakers decorate the movement with bespoke Windmills “plates”, which is a manually intensive task, seat the dial on the movement and fix and set the watch hands in a careful and time consuming proces.

Deployment engraved "Windmills"

Deployment engraved "Windmills"

After testing the full “casing up” (assembly) process is undertaken where watchmakers insert the movement into the case, fit the crown to the stem and wind the watch fully, and after a further 48-hour testing process they approve the watch for packaging and despatch.
Also the value of components sourced abroad is only 34% of the ex-works price, so value-wise the watch can easily be described as “Made in England” and as I say, there are many, many so called Swiss Mades, that would struggle to prove their heritage if challenged. So well done J&T.
Indeed the British Horological Federation (BHF) confirmed that the use of foreign movements was common practice in the watch and clock trade, and that labour and parts would provide substantial added value to the final product.

So a British watch promoting British heritage, re-launched if you will and named in honour of the revered watch and Clock making family J&T Windmills of the 19th century.  A great idea and from what I’ve seen so far – a very, very well finished and presented watch.

Perfect addition to my collection.

Perfect addition to my collection.

I purchased this watch from the very patriotic sounding  http://www.BritishWatchCompany.com and very efficient they were too.  Placed the order and received follow up emails with order acknowledged, payment confirmed, order process stage 1, then stage 2 confirmed – posted. All within the space of minutes.  Nice web site with a good range of watches at pretty decent prices too.

Couldn’t wait to get it “on the wrist” and pleasantly surprised to find that the strap and deployment buckle were of a sensible length and not overlong as so many are today and with watch dimensions of 38mm diameter and an approximately 7.5mm depth (the sapphire crystal is slightly domed, so 7mm more like).  It is therefore very slim to wear and will easily slide under any sleeve.

On the wrist - perfect!

On the wrist - perfect!

Accuracy –

Had the watch for a little while now and on checking accuracy I measured a gain of just 3.75 seconds per day, which is pretty darned good.  And this was not winding it as you should at the same time each day, so I’m expecting a slight increase in the overall accuracy as time goes on.  I’m used to quartz accuracy but this seems to me to be pretty impressive for a mechanical.

Downsides –

None is the short answer.  My only slight issue is with the deployment buckle which I find a little fiddly.  But I’m pretty certain this is more me than the buckle as I’m just not used to them.  I can however see the clear justification for this option as they without doubt save wear and tear on the strap and having this supplied as standard has to be another plus.  And it is very comfortable.  So more a personal preference – not a downside at all. 😉

I forgot to mention that the watch also comes supplied with a very nice presentation box around 12″ long in a burr walnut style with a green baize padded interior.  Large enough and with interior compartments which can easily be used as storage of cuff links and so on.
In fact I’ve gone and got myself a pair of black onyx and MOP sterling silver mounted cuff links, just to celebrate and compliment my new Joseph & Thomas.
Finally – a 2 year Guarantee, instruction booklet plus a potted history of Windmills – makes this watch complete.

So it’s been a  “best of british day” all round….. and as for the J&T ? ….. I’m very pleased and dare I say “proud”.

Affordable Royals – update (1st published 01/04/09)

As you may or may not be aware, I’ve been trawling around looking for “new” watches – or models and brands that are new to me.  And specifically in what I call the affordable sector – that is up to £150.  For let’s face most folks buy a watch basically to tell the time and sometimes have something that bit different from everybody else.

Now I’m not really particular where the watch comes from but what I don’t need are watches that pretend to be something they’re not.  Like those annoying brands that are “Geneve” or “Swiss Made” when they are patently not – you know the ones with an answerphone in Switzerland or Germany and blatantly pretending to be a long established maker of quality. In other words – scam watches.

You think you’re buying a watch of some quality, when in reality  you’ve ended up with a cheaply made Chinese watch that you could pick up for a couple of Pounds in a bargain basement.

So it’s refreshing to come across a brand that have a pretty large range of quite stylish watches, at quite reasonable prices in some cases and to suit just about all tastes.  They also don’t print patently misleading and often fraudulent information regarding their products.

This is a neat quartz date model I recently spotted, quite liked the look of it, certainly the finish seemed OK – so I took a chance and got it –

Royal London RL-4272-D51C

Royal London RL-4272-D51C

It’s actually not a bad looking  Cartier Tank  styled watch which looks reasonably good on the wrist.

I say “Cartier” as it has the extended side bars, the engine-turned dial decoration, similar numerals and inner chapter ring etc. so it looks the business.  Clearly marked Royal London it says what it is.

It’s a slim watch at 7mm and the dimensions are just about perfect for my smallish 6.7″ wrist – 39mm x 28mm.

The case is a PVD gold plate finish it is well polished and has a nice wrist curve to it.  The face is a white/silver background and the roman numerals and black hands contrast nicely. The date window is @6 and is quite big enough to clearly read.

I understand all the Quartz powered models feature Japanese Miyota movements and this is no exception being a Miyota 1N12 non jeweled little workhorse.

Miyota non-jewel quartz 1N12 movement

These are pretty much staple diet and I’ve always found them to be quite accurate enough and are reliable.

The standard fitted 20mm strap I admit whilst a reasonable quality croc style leather was a little stiff for my taste, so I swapped it for a nice soft leather German made one I had spare.

So where does this nice dress watch hail from?

Well the brand is Royal London marketed by Condor Group Ltd and in the UK are based in Enfield in a 20,00o sq ft premises.  They have partner sites both in Hong Kong and the Czech Republic.  Condor are more known as a leading watchstrap supplier to the trade in the UK and pretty much everywhere else since 1938.
They now market the Royal London range of affordable watches – and quite a wide range it is too.
I understand the watch bodies are Asian in origin which accounts for the low end pricing and it appears they have good control over the quality.  An issue that all too often associated with the Chinese watch Industry in general.
However it should be noted that China is one of the major producer of parts and finished models to even some of the better named watch brands in almost every country.

Where Condor is refreshing is that they don’t try and fool anyone and have made obvious efforts to bring a level of sustained quality of product to the marketplace and without silly hype or preposterous claims.
They are exactly what they say on the tin – pretty fair quality watches, lots of styles (and some little gems in there too) and some OK designs.

This is another model from their range –

Date Chrono 4798C1A

Date Chrono 4798C1A

Maybe a little expensive in my opinion at £129.99 this is a stylish watch with a touch of the pocket watch tradition.  Once again this one is a quartz movement with chronograph funtions and a date window.  I particularly like the neat parallel skeleton hands in blue which contrast nicely with the white face.  The overall watch style and dial are well suited.

Another model but entirely different in design is this one –

Royal London Auto Day Date

Royal London Auto Day Date

Not quartz this time but an Automatic mechanical model and featuring day and date sub-dials with the date displayed via a double date window @12 so is tad larger than the usual and consequently much easier to read.
Complimented by a large onion crown and two tone case sets this model off nicely.
Just under £150 this maybe represents better value than the quartz model, but I have no data on the movement used here so it will have serious competition out there – but if the style attracts you – maybe not a bad buy.

It also should be noted that all Royal London watches come with a 2 year International Guarantee and the company has both a UK address and contact telephone numbers in case of difficulty and not just a rather vague web site and lack of detail like so many others.

So a very wide range of affordable and pretty reasonable quality watches which are too many to list here – though the little montage image here  gives a taste of what’s on offer –

A selection of Royals

A selection of Royals

You might just spot a digital watch in there and there are also titanium cased models too.

Nice to come across a range of watches at such sensible prices.  As with anything of course check them out carefully and assess whether they offer value for money – sometimes it’s just how they look that may or may do it for you.

I think that Condors philosophy is just about spot on and I’m certainly quite impressed by the watches I’ve seen to date.

So what of this “Cartier” reminiscent dress watch?

Well as an evening watch I’ve worn it on the odd occasion – it’s comfortable, and stylish – it keeps good time – it looks pretty neat and cost me a very reasonable and non Cartier price!

Now that can’t be bad!  Who on earth said that Royalty doesn’t give value for money!

Note – I purchased my model RL-4272-D51C from www.Tiktox.com a small company based here in the UK at Stevenage who were prompt, courteous and provided quick and efficient service.

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