Under the spotlight - 8 British watchmakers who make us proud

First published: 22-05-2015

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We Brits know our stuff when it comes to the finer things in life - tea, cricket, Aston Martins and, of course, watches. Now, many people would say this is one thing the Swiss have total authority on, but there are a handful of British watchmakers flying the flag on the international horological stage and by Jove, they're doing a grand job!

We may be a small island nation, but we've had a huge impact on the culture of watchmaking over the years. For example, time (specifically, time zones) is measured against GMT - Greenwich Mean Time - with its base at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London.

Furthermore, it was our Queen Elizabeth I who was gifted the first wristwatch, while Prince Albert (okay, he was German, but he was our prince at the time) began the trend of attaching one's pocketwatch to an outer garment with a clip - now known as an 'Albert chain'.

English architect Robert Hooke was also one of the men credited with inventing the balance spring, which increased the accuracy with which watches could display the time.

We're terribly proud of the British heritage of watchmaking and innovation, so we decided to take a look at some of our favourite brands to have come from Britain.

Accurist

After launching in the 1940s, Accurist became a leading British watchmaking brand, marrying quality with style. The Beatles and Twiggy could be seen sporting Accurist watches on their wrists throughout the 60s, with fashion-forward designs that were hugely popular.

Since then, Accurist has continually pushed the boundaries in terms of design and advertising, all while still being one of the most prominent watchmakers in Britain. They also teamed up with the Royal Observatory in the countdown to the Millennium, making them the only brand ever to be associated with the Observatory.

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Specialising in quartz watches, Accurist (and the Accurist London sub-division) has a flair for really slick designs, both in metal and leather. Quartz itself is one of the most affordable movements available, meaning that Accurist's watches are incredible value as well as high quality. They also balance their designs pretty evenly between men's and ladies' watches, so anyone can find the perfect Accurist model to suit them.

Ben Sherman

Founded in the 1960s by one Arthur Benjamin Sugarman, Ben Sherman started out life as a shirt manufacturer in Brighton. Since then, it has become a globally recognised British brand (even if Sugarman sold the company and moved to Australia) and now creates a whole range of clothing and accessories, including watches.

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Many Ben Sherman watches made now still have designs that pay homage to the company's origins in the 1960s. Oversized numbers are a big feature in their range of men's watches, while subtle colour schemes are used to let every design exude an understated kind of classiness.

Camden Watch Co.

From the heart of London's bustling Camden Town came this super-trendy brand. Founded by British Anneke Short (whose watchmaking training was completed in Switzerland) and a Swiss chap by the name of Jerome Robert (whose, well, life training was completed in Switzerland), the company aims to reflect the spirit of Camden in its watches.

The designs are named after the busses that run through Camden Town. The No. 24 is the oldest unchanged bus route in all of London, so it is little wonder that it has been commemorated by the company with a really cool and classy watch.

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This ladies' No. 24 showcases perfectly the ethos of the Camden Watch Co., bringing more traditional designs to a modern market to pay homage to the heritage of Camden. The sophisticated black and gold colouring makes it a really smart watch, while the petite size (28mm) means it is perfect for everyday use.

Olivia Burton

The ladies of Britain need never feel out of style - not if Olivia Burton has anything to do with it! Founded by two graduates from the London College of Fashion, Olivia Burton is a totally stylish and feminine brand, with a huge range of designs to cater for ladies all over the country.

Olivia Burton aims to marry up contemporary trends with a vintage kind of chic, making watches that will match a variety of looks and events. From smart office wear to dynamic party wear, there is an Olivia Burton watch for every occasion.

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While many watches in their range feature plain and classic faces, you also have the option of picking something with a really gorgeous design. From floral garden scenes to butterflies and birds, all the motifs make use of gorgeous colour schemes, from pretty pastels to more bold and vivid shades.

Radley

Featuring the trademark dog in almost every design, Radley has a distinct and attractive style. Radley watches are made exclusively for ladies, with options ranging from oversized to petite, so every taste is catered for.

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There are also plenty of choices in terms of colouring. Many Radley designs have a subtle and neutral colouring, whereas others have multi-coloured patterns, doing away with subtlety altogether and opting instead for bright purples, oranges, reds, and pinks.

Royal London

As a quintessentially British company, Royal London has a wide range of watches that evoke the classic style of Victorian and Edwardian Britain. With the combination of Roman Numerals and vintage colouring, Royal London watches could be mistaken for old railway carriage clocks or be seen as mimicking the face of Big Ben himself.

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Royal London has a particularly dapper range of pocket watches too, which is ideal if you're looking for something really classy. Pocket watches hark back to the regency eras and exude a gentlemanly kind of sophistication. This silver skeleton model has a simple and classic colouring that allows the skeleton section to really stand out, while the Roman Numerals help to evoke that traditional style.

Ted Baker

Having started life as a small store in Glasgow in 1988, Ted Baker has become one of Britain's most beloved brands, with outlets all around the world. Ted first began making jewellery in 2007 and now, the watches stand out as being just as stylish and dapper as their world-famous suits.

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While the majority of Ted Baker's ladies' watches make use of subtle and delicate colour schemes, many of the men's watches are designed with very eye-catching colour combinations, often having the bezel and dials stand out from the background. Though the designs themselves are typically very classic and minimal, some real personality is displayed through the use of such bold colours.

Vivienne Westwood

The woman at the forefront of the 1970s punk movement has remained one of Britain's most prominent designers. Her partnership with Malcolm McLaren catapulted her to fame when they created a range of provocative and innovative garments to cater for London's anti-establishment subculture.

Since then, the punk movement has changed somewhat, but Westwood is still able to create designs that shock and inspire fashionistas everywhere. Her fan base includes such big names as Marion Cotillard and Pharrell Williams, and she doesn't seem to be slowing down in a hurry!

As well as daring outfits, Westwood is known for her accessories, including her collection of watches which marry traditional design features with more contemporary elements.

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A frequent component of Westwood's early designs was tartan, and this continues to feature in her contemporary models; this ladies' watch perfectly captures the heritage of her brand. With a range of colours all packed into one watch face, the strap is minimal enough to help the face really stand out.

Showing your patriotism can be as simple as wearing a watch made by a prestigious British watchmaker. With so many talented designers to choose from, you're bound to find something home-grown to suit your style perfectly.

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