The GREAT Britain Watch by Roger Smith
The GREAT Britain campaign is the most ambitious international marketing campaign for the United Kingdom ever. GREAT promotes the very best that Britain has to offer in order to encourage the world to visit, invest, do business with and study in the British Isles. Roger Smith, one of the world’s best watchmakers and a Brit, should of course be involved to promote his country. So he created the GREAT Britain watch.
Unfortunately, the GREAT Britain watch is a unique piece. Understandable as well, but a shame for all those UK fans that want to own such a rare piece of horological history. Creating and building – entirely by hand of course – costs around 10 months of very skilled labor, which adds up to a price of £180,000 GBP (equivalent to €220.000 Euro or $300,000 USD).
If you look at the watch from the front, you might wonder what on Earth makes for a price like that. For starters there is the dial. Made from sterling silver with applied blued steel Roman numeral batons, the multi-relief, three dimensional dial that comprises of some thirty-four individual parts which show the Union flag. The individual dial components were engine-turned and engraved by hand. Designing, prototyping and finally making the individual dial components, took up to three months!
Creating a dial like this, requires several engine-turned patterns and each one was handcut on the Daniels’ original Straight-line engine. The lettering was also cut by hand, and so were the hands and numerals. This was followed by a series of heat treatments to solder them to the silver base dial. Silver soldering is quite a precise process, as the dial and all the delicate components have to be heated by flame to a temperature of 730 degrees centigrade, until the solder melts and bonds the two metals together. Regulating the temperature is vital, because when it gets too hot the silver dial and the parts will also melt!
This treatment stage was followed by more of the same until all individually designed and manufactured components formed the dial’s Union Flag. The dial background was flame whitened (!!) prior to the fitting of the flame-blued Roman numeral batons. As the last step in this rigorous process, the words and dot markers were inked in by hand. The result is however a dial that has an infinite life-span.
Watches made in the Roger Smith workshop can rightly claim to be made to a standard which goes way beyond what is normally considered to be a luxury watch. Fewer than ten pieces are created per year and every single component is handmade within the Roger Smith’s workshop.
And if you think that designing and creating this unique dial was a time-consuming process, have a look at this… Exactly, designing and creating a movement like this, or a three-piece platinum case like this, is extremely time-consuming. Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, everything is entirely made by hand.
Who knows Roger Smith’s work, they know his watches will never compete Piaget or Vacheron Constantin for being ultra-thin. He has chosen, for various reasons, to create robust movements.
As Roger says: “Strength and rigidity are little-used words in watchmaking and yet are essential for good, reliable timekeeping and indeed for the long term future of the piece.”
The photo above shows the dial-side of the movement, which is finished to the same level as all other parts on this Roger Smith watch. The finish is a typical ‘English finish’ and can be characterised by the gilded and frosted plates and bridges which elegantly frame the black polish applied to the gold cocks, jewel chatons and steel work. Of course the screws are flame-blued and feature a purple and blue hue, similar to the flame-blued hands and Roman numerals on the dial.
The attention to detail continues throughout the entire timepiece, like on all of Roger’s timepieces. Everything goes far beyond normal standards. Let me just give you some specifications and end with a close-up of a magnificently beautiful movement.
- Case: three-piece platinum case, entirely hand-fabricated from Three strips of platinum, which were rolled to the correct size, bent to form circular rings, soldered together and driven (under great pressure) into a tapered form. The strap-lugs were hand soldered onto the middle ring and then profiled, prior to the case been sent for assaying in London
- Movement: 3/4 plate with floral hand engraved raised barrel bridge, fitted with the Isle of Man’s Triskellion symbol and two applied sterling silver cartouches engraved GREAT Britain and MMXIII, both secured with blued screws, single wheel Daniels Co-axial escapement developed by Roger Smith, free sprung balance, 23 jewels, gilded and frosted hand engraved plates, red gold chatons and cocks, screw are flame-blued to a purple and blue hue.
- Strap & buckle: the GREAT Britain watch comes on an alligator leather strap, with a buckle that is also fabricated by hand from platinum and hand engraved with the maker’s name (R.W. Smith).
More info: www.rwsmithwatches.com