James Lamb was so impressed by the famous British watchmakers of the past that he decided to change his life dramatically and join the ranks of Earnshaw, Mudge and Harrison. Specifically, he was amazed at how they could achieve unprecedented precision and beauty while creating mechanical timepieces in an era when nobody dreamed of CNC machines. Self-educated, Lamb was accredited by the British Horological Institute and started an eponymous brand with the idea of making watches by hand, using simple tools. A year later, in 2021, James Lamb revealed four Origin Series watches, and the world welcomed one more independent watchmaker.
The Origin Series was inspired by nature’s elements – fire, water, air and earth – and used champlevé vitreous enamel colours and decoration. At the same time, respect for traditional watchmaking was the driving force for the artisanal presentation. James Lamb chose to make the cases by hand himself, a rare endeavour among the independent masters, as most prefer to order them elsewhere. And he chose Argentum silver for the case material.
Argentum Silver is a brand producing a silver alloy that is superior to sterling silver. Argentum silver has increased thermal and electrical resistance, it eliminates the need for fire scale and plating of the final product, and what is vital to both silversmiths and consumers, it is tarnish-resistant. Peter Johns, another Brit, discovered, at the Art and Design Research Institute of Middlesex University (UK), the effects of germanium additions to silver alloys, which led to a patent granted in 1998.
James Lamb took .935 Argentum silver flat stock bullion and created the Origin Series cases using simple hand tools, avoiding modern technology. He did not stop there and produced a sterling silver dial base and dial feet, a winding crown and a decorated movement holder. The enamelling was outsourced to an atelier in Britain, while the ceramic sub-dials were created in-house. The artisanal aesthetics of the handcrafted cases and enamel dials were perfectly emphasised by the eccentric dial design. A time-only sub-dial is positioned slightly to the right and seems to be floating on the surface, looking different with each colour variant.
The new James Lamb “Azur” edition comes to life thanks to watch enthusiasts. Pietro Tomajer, founder of The Limited Edition, and Asher Rapkin, co-founder of Collective Horology, approached James Lamb with an offer to produce a unique watch that would be available to very few clients of The Limited Edition and Collective Horology. Only twelve “Azur” timepieces will be released as a capsule collection based on the Origin Series that impressed both Tomajer and Rapkin enough to launch this limited partnership.
The James Lamb Origin Series “Azur” case is handmade from Argentum silver, just like the earlier releases, and shares the same simple yet functional and rather pleasing design, with some upgrades. The watch is 39mm in diameter, perfectly round and satin finished, a bit thick – 9.75mm (and a reduction from 11mm) with soldered lugs that create a lug-to-lug measurement of 48mm. Creating the case involves quite a few operations; forming rings, soldering, cutting, hardening and polishing, to name a few. These processes take a lot of time, and each case gets its unique but hardly visible characteristics. The crown is a new design made of silver and polished, with an etched logo. The lugs suffered some reshaping, and double-spring bar holes now allow the use of both straight and curved straps.
The dial offers a familiar layout, with a white ceramic sub-dial for the hours, minutes, and central seconds, indicated by heat-blued steel hands. Surrounding the small ceramic circle in a frame is the “Azur” – the enamelled, laser-engraved silver dial with triangular facets that should evoke complex geometric images of the sea surface bombarded by sun rays.
The caseback is solid and decorated with a laser-engraved motif in harmony with the dial pattern. On the outer edge of the caseback are hallmarks applied at the Assay Office in London to attest the materials used, a note to remind the owner that his watch is “one of twelve”, and the reference – Origin Azur. The James Lamb logo is in the middle. I keep thinking that hand-engraving would suit the Lamb philosophy better. Indeed there are specialists in Britain.
Why not a word to describe the movement? The Origin “Azur” is powered by a premium grade hand-wound Sellita SW-210, a reliable Swiss calibre, with 42 hours of power reserve. While it possesses good qualities, it is what we see that comes first when evaluating James Lamb’s creation. The “Azur” commands respect as a truly independent, honest artisanal watchmaker’s work, so let us praise James Lamb for that.
The asking price for the James Lamb Origin Series “Azur” is GBP 7,300 or USD 8,900, both excluding taxes, available via The Limited Edition (UK/Europe) and via Collective Horology (USA). For more details about the work of James Lamb, please visit www.jameslambwatches.com.