In 1912, inventor Claude Octavius Lyons set up a watch company under the brilliantly commanding name Dreadnought Watches, with a £1,000 loan from his father-in-law. Dreadnought specialised in timepieces powered by high-quality Swiss movements which were hand finished in Britain.
Four years later, the company changed its name to Vertex and soon became one of the primary suppliers for the British military, adorning the wrists of UK soldiers for decades. By 1972, though, faced with pressure from the emergence of cheap quartz watches, the company shut up shop, apparently forever.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
That all changed in 2016, however, when Don Cochrane, the great-grandson of Claude Lyons revived the company with a spectacular new watch: the M100. The revival offered an intriguing take on Vertex’s most famous product: the Calibre 59. Devised in 1944, the Calibre 59 was a member of the so-called Dirty Dozen – the twelve companies chosen by the British government to deliver exceptionally crafted military-specific timepieces.
The most striking difference between the M100 and its spiritual predecessor is the handsome three-dimensional moulded numerals that adorn the dial. Made out of a solid luminant, the numbers ensure the watch is legible in the dark and also bring a magnificant depth to the dial. Numerals aside, the similarities to the vintage classic are obvious: the famous “broad arrow” symbol just beneath the logo, the 100 metres of water resistance, and the black leather strap the watch comes on – one of two that are included in the box.
Despite its comparatively modest price tag of £2,500, the M100 is an incredibly exclusive watch. In fact, it is available to purchase by invitation only. Cochrane offered the first 60 M100s to a hand-selected group of individuals, each of whom has then been allowed to refer five more customers. At launch, this invitation-only scheme garnered significant attention – not all of it positive. After all, many more than just a handful of people were interested in getting their hands on this revival of a vintage classic – this reviewer included! £2,500.
It may look like a simple dress watch, but there’s a special trick to this ‘tribute’ 1815. It has a central seconds hand that can be stopped and started at will, thanks to a discreet pusher at 2 o’clock. The complication, which effectively serves as a chronograph function should you want it to, was pioneered by Ferdinand Adolph Lang, founder of A. Lange & Söhne, 150 years ago.
His great-grandson, Walter Lange – who, famous for resurrecting the brand in the 1980s, died this January – was a big fan of this mechanism, hence the release of this limited edition. The watch is available in white-, pink- and yellow-gold variants. £40,400.
The Arceau collection, designed in 1978 by Henri d’Origny, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year Hermès started life as a saddle maker in 1837 and like most things made by the French house, the timepiece has an equestrian twist: the lugs that support the watch strap were inspired by riding stirrups.
This sporting heritage has been fully embraced with four new colourful women’s editions - in primary green, yellow, red and blue – each with an abstract horse motif on the dial, which has been hand engraved using a technique called champlevé, whereby the base is hollowed out and carefully filled with enamel. The French term casaque refers to the silk jerseys worn by jockeys and the name is reinforced by the textured effect of the tone-on-tone chevron pattern of the dial, which catches the light just like luxury fabric. £2,725.
For those who want an elegant watch that is multifunctional without being overtly technical, this watch, a complete calendar with GMT function, moon phase and date window, is the ideal buy. The serpentine-shaped hand points to the day of the month and home time is shown with a red tipped hand.
The in-house movement features a silicon balance spring, which hikes up the watch’s precision, but the most significant change is the addition of under-lug correctors. These tiny levers allow you to adjust the indications with a fingertip instead of the usual tool, which can be extremely finicky. A subtle but ingenious inclusion that makes this piece all the more pragmatic. £11,640.
The Golden Ellipse is a thing of divine beauty: its proportions adhere to the ‘Golden Ratio’, an equation discovered by ancient Greek mathematicians and applied to aesthetic wonders such as the Parthenon and Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’.
Whether or not you believe in the power of perfect fractions, Patek’s design, with a case half between a rectangle and a circle, is today considered as iconic as the marque’s classic Calatrava. For its 40th birthday, the Ellipse was given a platinum makeover and ‘Jumbo’ face, still a neat 34.5 by 39.5mm. For 2018, we see this larger size dressed in rose-gold with a stunning ebony sunburst dial. £23,620.
IWC’s modernist-looking Pallweber edition, released to mark the 150th anniversary of the brand, is in fact a direct decedent of an avant-garde pocket watch designed by Austrian horologist Josef Pallweber in the late 19th century. The dial design mirrors that of the original. It has the same jumping minutes and hours display, as well as similar arching typography around each window.
A robust in-house movement (calibre 94200) was especially created for this timepiece and boasts a separate wheel train for the minutes disk, which propels the hours forward. Effectively, this means that energy isn’t depleted by the flicker of the disks on the dial and hence the watch can promise an impressive 60-hour power reserve. £20,500.
Vacheron’s 56 collection, an entirely new venture for the Swiss watchmaker, strikes a clever balance between vintage and contemporary design. Its case, with elegant faceted lugs, takes its cue from an experimental 1950s model that was considered futuristic at the time of its release.
This debut range of dress watches includes a Complete Calendar and Day-Date in steel or pink-gold, but it is the simplest and most affordable member of the clan, the FiftySix Self Winding Steel, that has so far gained the most attention since its release this February. With a polished grey dial, deployant buckle on an alligator strap and exhibition caseback, its smart, streamlined design is a classic in the making. POA.
Hamilton's new military-inspired watch is literally battle-hardened, having originally been designed to meet the needs of soldiers in the 1940s. In the decades since its initial introduction, its rugged design, excellent build quality and low price have made it a firm favourite among Hamilton fans and collectors.
The new Khaki Field Mechanical is a faithful recreation of its 1940s forebear oozing in military heritage. The latest update features a 38mm matt stainless steel case, three-hand display, and dark dial with light, luminescent numerals for maximum visibility at night.
The original watch on which this update is based was known colloquially as the “hack” watch due to an innovation where its seconds function stopped when the crown was released. Now a standard feature on all mechanical watches, it was a perfect way for soldiers to synchronise their watches before going into combat.
The Khaki Field may have originally been a soldier's watch, but is now worn by adventurers everywhere and comes in two versions: a matt black dial with white luminescent numerals and indexes in a matt steel sandblasted case and a khaki-coloured Nato strap, or a brown matt dial with sand-coloured Super-LumiNova hands, numerals and indexes with a sand-coloured Nato strap. At £375 it is an ideal entry point for anyone who wants a Swiss-made luxury watch with a very reasonable price tag.
The Kalpa, first introduced in 2001, has been given a significant update this year with three new iterations each fitted with in-house movements shaped to match the tonneau shape of the case, marking an end to the model’s round calibers.
The watchmaker has gone a step further with the all-black 18k rose-gold Kalpa Chronor, fitted with the world’s first solid gold, self-winding, integrated chronograph movement, a true mark of the manufacture’s technical prowess. The Chronor, limited to just 50 pieces, is admittedly a type of luxury unto itself.
As an alternative, there is the unlimited Kalpagraphe Chronomètre, also a chronograph and essentially a less ornate version of its cousin. Instead of a black dial it wears azure-blue and boasts a similarly powerful high frequency movement that oscillates at a high frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour (5hz). Kalpa Chronor, £72,500. Kalpagraphe Chronomètre, £29,900.
The all new 1926 range sits in a realm of its own. Halfway between a modern dress watch and a vintage tool watch, the design is unisex. It’s a smart move which reflects today’s fashion world as luxury brands embrace co-ed shows and continue to challenge gender codes.
The 1926 is therefore pitched to millennials: elegant and modern, but also robust. All models are waterproof to 100m with stylish Jubilee-style bracelets and shock-resistant/high precision calibers. They are hugely diverse too and available in four sizes (28, 36, 39 and 41 mm) with a wide choice of dials. No doubt there’ll be many more flavours to come given their affordability. From £1,290.
This is a remake of a remarkable watch: only 1714 examples of Jaeger-LeCoultre 1968 Polaris Memovox were ever made and this number includes early prototypes. The Memovox gets its name from the Latin words memoro for memory and vox for voice – it is one of the most coveted early alarm watches used by professional divers. Noted for its classic black dial, the watch’s alarm is set by pulling the crown at 2 o’clock and adjusting the arrow on the inner disk to sit under the desired time.
You may wonder how divers could hear such a delicate looking tool watch – the original threefold caseback was perforated with numerous holes which helped to accentuate the pitch of the alarm. Today’s 50th anniversary version has a closed back to provide support for the hammer of the alarm mechanism, but otherwise the design of this model is a beautiful rendition of the original complete with three oversize crowns and faux-patina SuperLumiNova markers on a black sunrayed dial.
Furthermore, the in-house movement (caliber 956) is a direct descendant of the first automatic alarm watch movement created by Jaeger-LeCoultre in the 1950s. The timepiece has been modernised with a rubber strap and bears an engraving of a diving helmet along with a 50th anniversary logo on its caseback. Like the original, it’s a rare breed and limited to just 1,000 pieces. £10,800.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.