Great Britain has given a lot to the world, from some of the best literature ever written to some of the most famous musicians, but somehow it has struggled to keep its watch industry alive since the 19th century, despite originally being the center of watchmaking.
It has lost the first place to Swiss watchmakers, who are reigning supreme even today.
Recently though, the UK is back in business, with plenty of British watch brands putting the country back on the map of the world’s best watchmakers.
These British watch brands, both old and new, are becoming game changers once again, helping UK dust off its rich watchmaking heritage.
With this in mind, maybe it’s time to revisit some of the best British watch brands today and see what they’ve got to offer.
20. Harold Pinchbeck
Exclusivity is the name of the game when it comes to independent watchmaker Harold Pinchbeck, a name with a story that goes as far back as 1710, when Christopher Pinchbeck established the brand.
Today, the company continues to be run by the Pinchbeck family, and produce some of the finest watches in the United Kingdom.
Their high quality timepieces are handmade, limited in number, and luxurious, boasting the excellent craftsmanship that the Pinchbeck family has developed over the centuries.
Besides the Swiss movements, everything else is made in the UK, with their finest parts reserved for their high end watches.
Dent is another very old British watchmaker, tracing its roots to the year 1814, when the famous Edward John Dent, responsible for later starting the work on Big Ben, London’s most recognizable landmark, started the company that would wear his name ever since.
The brand has manufactured clocks and watches for the UK for three centuries already, with one of their clients being none other than Winston Churchill.
At first they focused on precision chronometers to be used by the Royal Navy during expeditions around the world. Today, they continue to produce limited edition timepieces, keeping the brand’s tradition alive.
18. Wessex Watches
Wessex Watches is a newer player in the industry and produces some of the most unique timepieces in the world.
Each timepiece is produced to order by Wessex and comes with an individual engraved pattern on its dial, making each watch different.
Every dial is handmade, so there’s no identical watch in the brand’s portfolio.
17. Elliot Brown
Elliot Brown is still a relatively young watch brand, being founded only in 2013, but its watches have already acquired a impeccable reputation. The brand focuses on building watches that can endure anything nature can throw at them and that will last for years.
They’re crafted using weapons grade materials, feature high water resistance and a shockproof construction.
The brand is thus a favorite of extreme sports enthusiasts, and they’ve had collaborations with the British military, mountain rescuers, and various other government institutions interested in the kind of durable watches that Elliot Brown is offering.
Based in Glasgow, Scotland, AnOrdain is a watchmaker that benefits from the accumulated experience in different fields that the brand’s creators share.
What’s interesting about this watchmaker is that they employ some unusual materials, covering their Copper based dials with enamel powder. The powder is layered carefully before getting it to 800 degrees Celsius, in a process that takes over 12 hours.
Another good thing to know about the brand is that they assemble between two to four timepieces every day, which gives us a hint about the mastery and the attention to detail they pour into every piece.
Vertex was once the official watch brand of the British Armed Forces, part of the WWII’s “Dirty Dozen”, the 12 watchmakers selected to craft timepieces to specific standards for military use.
It went down after the quartz crisis of the 1970s, only to be revived in 2016 by the original founder’s great grandson.
Despite the break, today’s Vertex hasn’t forgotten its heritage, so they continue to create tough, waterproof, and highly legible watches regulated to chronometer standards.
Besides their iconic military grade timepieces, today they also offer some newer and more luxurious designs as well.
Launched in 2015, Farer aims to create high quality timepieces at fair prices, a purpose driven by the overpriced watch market of our days.
Their watches draw inspiration from the 1960s and the 1970s explorer watch designs, but they upgrade those classic looks with some very playful color palettes, Swiss movements, and premium materials and construction.
Their pieces are aptly named after British explorers and vessels of the past, with collections offering divers, GMTs, or chronographs, all worthy of attention and sold at decent prices.
13. William Wood Watches
Taking inspiration from the deeds of the firefighting community and named after the founder’s grandfather, who was a decorated British firefighter veteran, serving for more than 25 years, William Wood Watches has a unique take on watchmaking.
The brand’s watches, besides featuring an iconic firefighter helmet as a logo at 12 o’clock, they are also crafted using up-cycled firefighting materials, such as on the brass crown or with the smoke scented red rubber straps.
Behind the handsomeness of the timepieces lie Swiss and Japanese movements powering the timekeeping functions.
Nowadays based in Geneva, Speake-Marin is British at its heart. They’re well known for unique enamel and engraving techniques, innovative watches and the use of some very intriguing complications.
They currently offer only three collections, all of them luxurious, and all of them inspired by British traditions and their recognizable style.
The company took birth back in 2002 in Essex, England, and they launched their first watch in 2003, called Piccadilly.
Going further into traditional British aesthetics, we’ve got Graham, a brand that draws its wisdom and inspiration from George Graham, known for his involvement into the discovery of magnetic fields and the development of chronographs.
As you might expect, the brand itself bases much of their collection on chronographs, but without skipping on some very interesting visual twists.
Their watches are indeed unique and fresh, while staying true to the conservative British style.
10. Mr Jones
The watches of British brand Mr Jones are unique, but in a very playful and creative manner, as the brand isn’t one to follow traditions or trends.
The man behind the idea, designer Crispin Jones, decided to do away with the established rules of watchmaking and follow his artistic instincts and vision.
Among Mr Jones’s collection you’ll find some very comic timepieces, free from the usual functionality other watch brands offer and catering to those quirky individuals bored by the rules of our society.
The brand has thus managed to tell a different story with their watches, putting a smile on the wearer’s face, and sparking conversation when other people notice their watch designs.
Oh, and another important point is that Mr Jones watches are affordable, not exceeding the $400 mark.
Moving from the playfulness of Mr Jones above all the way to the seriousness of the military, we’ve got CWC, or the Cabot Watch Company, one of the most practical of the British watch brands, producing timepieces at military standards for the British Armed Forces.
They’ve began issuing their watches to the British service personnel back in the 1970s, no matter the branch, and they keep doing that today. But that doesn’t mean their timepieces aren’t available for the civilians out there.
As a brand that doesn’t do much to impress with styling, focusing instead on pure functionality, CWC is incredibly renowned all over the world.
That alone should tell enough about the qualities of their watches. They’re affordable and long lasting timepieces that can take a beating.
8. Arnold & Son
Arnold & Son is an impressive watchmaker with a long history and rich English heritage, staying true to its origins, despite wearing the “Swiss Made” label nowadays.
The artistic designs of their dials are incredibly stunning, with some of their timepieces being nothing short of works of art, especially their perpetual moon and skeleton timepieces.
The story of Arnold & Son began in 1787 with British watchmaker John Arnold, who was crafting ship chronometers for the sailors of the time.
7. Loomes & Co.
Continuing what Thomas Loomes started in the 1650s with the largest clock and watchmaker company in London during those times, Robert Loomes created Loomes of Stamford, known as Loomes & Co., a brand that has won several awards for their British styled timepieces.
The company strives to manufacture everything in-house, though today they still source some parts from other local producers. But that only makes their watches entirely British in manufacture, style, and elegance.
6. Schofield Watch Company
The Schofield Watch Company is based in Sussex since its founding in 2011. Originally they had their watches made in Germany, but it all changed in 2013 when they started producing everything in England.
Their timekeepers are inspired from the aviation world, and feature an old-school vibe, with some traits gotten from the coding world, seen in the numerals they use on their simple and uncrowded dials.
Inside most of their watches ticks a modified Swiss ETA 2892, named Soprod A-10, and the complications they usually go for, a date display, GMT function, and power reserve, they’re incredibly subtle, adhering to the overall simplicity of their dials.
5. Christopher Ward
Another British brand that designs their timepieces in England but manufactures them inside the Swiss borders, Christopher Ward, is well known for their different approach to watchmaking, eliminating the middlemen and offering their watches directly to customers.
Their timekeeper collection is quite vast and diverse, presenting its fans with divers with a water resistance rating of 600m – no typo here, elegant dress watches, moonphase complications, or large pilot watches.
They’ve developed their own in-house movement, called Calibre SH21, and they aim to offer their timepieces with affordable price tags.
Garrick brings the world a collection of odd and unusual timepieces, something that feels more individual and personalized than what the vast majority of the industry is offering.
They’re unconventional in how they create their dials, with impressive textured Guilloche patterns and a refined British character that makes them stand out.
Started in 2013 in Oxfordshire by digital designer Piers Berry, Pinion is a fresh endeavor in watchmaking, led by the philosophy of its founder that the company shouldn’t fall prey to outside influences of any kind.
Pinion thus aims to be British to the core, offering stunning timepieces inspired from World War II instruments but with modern design twists that give them a unique appeal, or classic dress watches that explore new ideas and designs.
Though not expensive, the small batches they’re produced in makes them highly sought after.
2. Roger W Smith
Roger W. Smith comes from the Isle of Man, and used to be an apprentice of renowned British watchmaker George Daniels. The eponymous brand became synonymous with high end watches crafted by hand using traditional methods.
RW Smith watches are therefore luxurious, refined, and very limited, as they only produce 10 pieces a year.
The brand itself is quite young, being founded in 2001, but they have already become a big name in the eyes of many collectors all over the world.
Despite its young spirit, Bremont is the largest watchmaker from the UK. The brand was launched back in 2002, but it quickly rose up to the top with its astonishing aviation inspired designs, winning the hearts of many flight enthusiasts.
But that’s not their only trait, as they also make watches for the adventurers out there, and employ innovative mechanics and a highly recognizable British style.
Bremont watches are also hand built and made to withstand adverse conditions, which puts them in a high tier when compared to most other watches on the market. That also makes their price tags quite high, so they’re not for everyone.
At first, it may seem there aren’t many British watchmakers out there, but if you look more closely you’ll find out that there are plenty of names that make the British watchmaking industry, many of them interesting, unique, and true to their origins.
Sure, you could go to brands like Bremont, who have become the biggest in a short time, but there are also brands like Arnold & Son which have a very long history, and even wacky creations from brands like Mr Jones.
In conclusion, we think British watchmaking is rising again, only needing some time for the world to start noticing the many great names that have emerged recently.