Farer: the British-designed, Swiss-made watch brand

Talking adventure with Paul Sweetenham


Aside from the occasional power cut or commemorative event – such as Winston Churchill's state funeral in 1965 – the famous Piccadilly Lights have very rarely been switched o since their installation in 1908. Earlier this year, though, the original six screens were taken down to make way for a larger one, which will be revealed this autumn. Unbeknownst to the 100 million visitors who pass this illuminated landmark each year, the buildings flanking the screens house several floors of offices. It was in this eyrie in one of London’s busiest areas that Paul Sweetenham, together with business partners Jono Holt, Stuart Finlayson and Ben Lewin, founded watch brand Farer in November 2015.

Farer, as in 'seafarer' or 'wayfarer', suggests a call to adventure, and the brand launched with a small range of affordable yet detail-oriented quartz timepieces named after history's great explorers. The Mallory – named after English mountaineer George Mallory, who climbed Mount Everest in the 1920s – features a matte black PVD-coated stainless steel case; domed, sapphire- coated glass; electric-blue second hand and bronze crown, with a price tag starting at under £300.

Farer’s aim is twofold: to produce high-quality products within an affordable bracket, and to inject a sense of daring into its designs. "When I was 28 and I went to buy my first decent watch, there was a good range for me," Sweetenham remembers. " I really don’t think that market exists today." Sweetenham, who first worked with timepieces as a buyer for a duty-free company, is an expert on the history of watch design: "I could do a degree," he says. For inspiration, Farer looks to the 1950s and ’60s, when creativity and a sense of experimentation fuelled a quickly evolving industry.

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Farer timepieces are designed in London, before being produced in Bienne, Switzerland by specialist manufacturer Roventa-Henex. All models, including the best-selling Carter, are available with a choice of straps made from supple Barenia bridle leather. Focus is also paid to the design of the dial – something of a Farer speciality. "I'll give you an analogy," says Sweetenham. "Imagine going to an art gallery where the building is beautiful and the frames are amazing, but there are no pictures inside the frames – that's what it would be like if you didn’t focus on the dial."

Last September, Farer extended its range with a trio of competitively priced automatic watches. The Beagle, Endurance and Hopewell, named after the ships boarded by famous explorers, are prime examples of Farer’s original use of colour on its dials. Each watch face takes approximately six months to complete, and much of this is spent finding the right colour combinations of the accents, numerals and Farer’s trademark syringe-shaped hands. Priced under £1,000, the brand’s automatic innovations have been lauded by watchmaking aficionados and specialist magazines alike.

After the runaway success of Farer's quartz watches, Sweetenham compares launching the automatics to a musical endeavour. "It’s exactly the same as making an album," he opines. "You can make an album in a short time, but will it be any good?"

The Beagle, Endurance and Hopewell having proved to be smash hits – they all sold out – Sweetenham is about to launch a second collection of automatics, with cushion cases. As with the first range, attention to detail is paramount: "Every watch that goes out has a handwritten
card from me in a specific colour green Mont Blanc ink."

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