English watchmaking has been on a resurgence recently. Outside of the king that is Roger W. Smith, there are a number of brands such as Pinion, Garrick, and of course Fears that are paving the way for the revival of watchmaking in the United Kingdom.
Fears, and more particularly Nicholas Bowman-Scargill (the 4th Managing Editor) I have become familiar with over the past three years or so. Nicholas is a dear friend of Mr James Kibble, who is coincidentally a very good friend of ours. He actually helped make the introduction! And recently, after messaging Nicholas expressing an interest in meeting him and hearing his story, we met for lunch. Before even talking about the watch that he so generously lent me for review, I want to take a look at the family brand that he has revived, and the amazing ethos that is at the heart of the superb watches that he produced.
Most of you will know that when Seiko introduced the first quartz watch; the Astron, way back in 1969, traditional watch manufacturers went into total panic. They either steered into the skid and developed their own in-house quartz technology in order to avoid going obsolete or to carry on the metaphor they steered into the skid and veered off the road into a tree. Unfortunately for a lot of brands it looked like the dawn of the Quartz Crisis was the end, and for those brands that did not have the global recognition needed to keep their wallets filled, it meant they could no longer compete. Whilst some brands such as Universal Genève, Enicar, and Services to name but a view have never been able to recover, there are a small number of brands that after some years, have been revived. And Fears is one of them.
To give you a bit of back story, way back in 1846, a young whippersnapper by the name of Edwin Fear decided to start making wristwatches in a small workshop in Bristol. Whilst the first workshop and showroom was started at Numbers 33-35 Redcliff Street, the success of the brand saw a second location which was soon opened in 1866. This location served as the HQ for the brand until the 1940s. Despite being bombed during WWII, the brand continued to thrive. However, in the same vein as the aforementioned brands, the company closed its doors in 1976.
Fast-forward to 40 years later, and a young apprentice watchmaker at some brand called Rolex realised through tracing back his family tree that he was in fact the great-great-great-grandson of the original founder, Mr Edwin Fear.
So, at Salon QP 2016 Nicholas released the first Fears watch in the 21st century, the Redcliff. Since then the brand has been at the pinnacle of British Watchmaking, and their watches are worthy of the praise that they receive.
Whilst the Redcliff; so named to commemorate the first workshop the brand ever had in Bristol, is the watch responsible for the revamp of the brand, they have gone on to develop some watches which are really starting to turn heads. I for one can see exactly why, and this brings us to the watch that I have had the pleasure of reviewing.
The watch that Nicholas was so generous to lend me is a watch from possibly their flagship collection, the Brunswick line. The watch that I am currently wearing whilst writing this article is the ‘Blue’ variation.
The Brunswick Blue forms an integral part of the Fears collection. The characteristic cushion case draws direct inspiration from the original Fears watches made in 1924. The amazing thing about the Brunswick is the level of complexity in the case construction. The case itself only has one flat surface, the sapphire crystal of the display case back. This level of case complexity is something usually reserved for precious metals and Haute horology pieces for that matter!
The beautiful and subtle attention to detail does not stop at the case. The gorgeous blue dial undergoes 56 production processes to get to the finished article. Looking at the dial, as you can see above, it initially appears two-tone. However, when you tilt the watch slightly into the light, a third tone of blue appears. All of this from the same colour blue, pretty amazing when you think about it! The numerals are then applied to this amazing dial by hand, machined from brass, and then given a mirror-polished and coated in Rhodium to give them their shine.
Now, considering the nature of Fears being a small, independent manufacturer, you would expect the quality of the watch to be purely aesthetic, and therefore not be present in the movement. Perhaps Miyota or Sellita spring to mind?
Well, in fact, the Brunswick Blue is powered by the manual wind ETA 7001. This movement can be found in watches from Tissot, Baume & Mercier, and Junghans and even Blancpain. Some pretty decent horological pedigree if you ask me. Not only is this movement finished with Cote De Geneve in England by Fears, but it is also given a display case back so you can admire the movement at the heart of this gorgeous watch.
The attention to detail is carried on to the strap. I have seen ‘luxury’ watch brands providing their watches as standard on straps which leave a lot to be desired. Straps that crack, split at the seam, and just generally are not worthy of the watches they are on!
However, quality is clearly at the heart of everything that Nicholas does. On the dedicated page of his site on which you can purchase one of these gorgeous straps, the tag line is “70% of your watch on your wrist is the strap”. A mantra that I firmly believe in, and is completely evident in the quality of his straps! Ultimately, he wants to be able to offer the best quality product that he possibly can, and he succeeds in doing so!
Even if he had shown me one of his straps before I ever got to handle one of his watches, that would be apparent! As you can see below, the straps are remarkable, and being sold on his website separately is a testament to just how good they are! Not only are they subtle and beautiful, but they are also handmade in Belgium, stamped with the Fears logo, AND come with quick-release spring bars. For just over £100 these are the pick of the bunch if you ask me!
To summarise, this watch is gorgeous. The quality and attention to detail is unmatched at this price range. The dial is mesmerizing and the proportions are spot-on. I managed to have this watch for a few weeks longer than I should, and I wish I could have kept it forever.
It is a beautiful watch from an amazing brand and getting to know Nicholas really helps to convey that.
- Case Size: 38mm
- Caseback: Saphire Display Back
- Water Resistance: 50atm
- Movement: ETA 7001 – Finished and serviced in-house