There’s a great line attributed to the fictional character Gregory House from the popular show House that seems very applicable in our social media driven world of instant feedback; “if nobody hates you, you’re doing something wrong.” It seems appropriate now more than ever as we see an increasing number of independent watchmaking brands emerge from relative obscurity to take center stage in what can only be described as ‘interesting’ times for the luxury watch industry as a whole. One such notable player is a small, British-based watch-maker by the name of Garrick Watch Co.
Back in November last year – if you can cast your mind back that far – English brand Garrick Watch Co. debuted it’s latest timepiece at London’s famed SalonQP. Simply called the Portsmouth, this marine-inspired watch featured the company’s first ever proprietary movement, designed in conjunction with highly-respected Swiss watchmaker Andreas Strehler and his company UhrTeil AG.
We wrote a short piece on the Portsmouth at the time – which you can read here – but then we had to wait patiently for a few months before it was our turn to actually go hands on with a prototype for a few days as opposed to a few minutes at a busy exhibition. Such are the challenges of a running a small watch company, especially when the costs of creating just one prototype are quite astronomical.
Now, if you’ve read anything about the Portsmouth before, particularly at the time of its unveiling you’ll likely know already that the reactions were mixed. From what I can surmise it seems people loved the concept, while others took issue with specific aesthetic details and generally thought the price was simply too high for a time-only, British-made watch. I can’t comment on any of that as everyone is entitled to their own opinions. What I can tell you is my thoughts after spending a week with the Portsmouth on my wrist.
Before I go any further though, I should probably clarify something. Whilst it’s true I am Monochrome’s UK Editor and I do currently reside in London, many of you will know already that I am actually Australian. So you don’t have to worry about British patriotic pride impeding my judgement when I wrote this review. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that another British brand is doing its bit to help bring back the lost art of mechanical watchmaking to English shores, but it doesn’t make my heart swell with pride. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the actual review of the watch shall we.
The Garrick Portsmouth – Pride of England
The first thing you notice about the Portsmouth prototype – for better or worse – is the dial. It’s kind of hard to miss, given that it has the word ‘England’ engraved all over it. It’s a bold choice and one that was made deliberately to drive home the point that the proprietary movement inside was hand-finished, assembled and cased up in the UK by English watchmaker Craig Baird (who also built the Garrick Regulator).
Regardless of the point being made the dial seemed to cause a lot of consternation in the comment sections of IG feeds and watch blogs everywhere. Ironically though, this dial was just a one-off. As with all Garrick’s watches, the company offers a bespoke service to all their clients or they can choose from a range of engine turned designs. So, just to avoid any further confusion; you can definitely buy a Garrick Portsmouth without the word ‘England’ engraved all over the dial.
Look past the engraving for the time being though and what you will discover is a truly gorgeous silver dial, which has been lacquered to within an inch of its life to achieve a stunning finish. The maritime-inspired hands are made entirely in-house by hand and are heat blued on a bed of copper filings and contrast nicely against the silvery white background. A large nameplate runs between 1 and 3 o’clock – a somewhat contentious feature with some suggesting it’s too large – which according to Garrick is in-keeping with the maritime theme, as many of the instruments that inspired the design of the Portsmouth often featured a large maker’s nameplate on the dial. At 6 o’clock a mirror polished, hand-chamfered balance bridge spans the width of a cut-out in the dial, beautifully catching the light as you move your wrist about.
Just underneath is Garrick’s new Trinity free-sprung balance, the rim of which is made from a special, patented alloy called Sircumet. This alloy is licensed to Andreas Strehlers UhrTeil AG which is the first and only company to use it in the watch industry and offers a number of benefits;
- it’s antimagnetic;
- it’s free of toxic materials;
- it offers great hardness without the need for heat treatment, which importantly means no distortion;
- it stays bright without the need for treatment; and
- it’s resistant to salts
Turn the Portsmouth over and a sapphire case back reveals the much-talked about hand-wound movement, which has been designed to look stereotypically British. Its components are made both in Switzerland and the Garrick workshops in the UK, however all parts are hand finished and plated in the Garrick workshops before being assembled, finished and regulated. At first glance it looks remarkably simple and on the face of things it is. This is a time-only movement after all.
Still, it is a proprietary movement designed and built from scratch, which in and of itself is quite a feat. Plus it paves the way for future developments. The model we had in for review had a lovely frosted finish however Garrick offers a choice of finishes such as Cotes de Geneve, either in gold or rhodium plate.
Housed in a newly re-designed steel case measuring 42mm, the Portsmouth is very comfortable on the wrist and actually wears a bit smaller than its advertised size (more like 40mm.) The case is polished and finished in-house and you can really feel the quality when you hold it in your hands and put it on. A supple leather strap completes the look, making the Portsmouth a surprisingly good all-rounder.
Overall I quite enjoyed my time with the Garrick Portsmouth although I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (but what watch is?) Sure it’s not super complicated but it is hand-made and comes with a 5-year warranty and looks really quite nice on the wrist, especially paired with a shirt and sports coat. As for the price, value is in the eye of the beholder. Some will appreciate the proprietary movement and the incredible amount of work that goes into making each watch, others will just see that it’s a time-only piece and should therefore cost a third of what it does. Each to their own. Hate it or love it, the important thing for British watchmaking is that Garrick Watch Co. is very much part of the conversation.
Price: £14,995 ex vat (outside the EU) and £17,995 inc vat (inside the EU). For more information please visit www.garrick.co.uk