Britain's finest hours
It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Britain was actually good at making things. When it came to cars, chocolate, clothes and pop music, Britannia ruled. Alas, no more. Britain sold its soul to the service sector, subprime mortgages and collateralised debt obligations, which, of course, worked out really well. Still, there are some British brands making a decent fist of it. Bentley and Aston Martin have their fans, even under foreign ownership. And there are some British watchmakers enjoying success, though they have, smartly, outsourced all their production to Switzerland.
One such brand is Graham London, which, despite the 'London' in its name, has its watches manufactured in Switzerland. The Graham London Silverstone Tourbillograph (top left) is limited to 25 pieces and priced at a wince-inducing HK$406,000. The Silverstone Tourbillograph is a real man's watch, with a rose-gold case that measures a huge 48mm. The dial features both a tourbillon and a chronograph, with three subdials indicating seconds, 30 minutes and 12 hours. Other features include a see-through caseback and a lovely black crocodile leather strap. The Graham London Silverstone Tourbillograph has a 48-hour power reserve and is water resistant to 50 metres. The watch is available with either a black or white dial.
Arnold & Son is another old English brand that has been given a Swiss resurrection. Arnold & Son began life in London in 1764 but by the start of the 20th century it had retreated into obscurity. In the 1990s, the brand was revived by a group of intrepid expat watchmakers based in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Since Arnold & Son's resurgence, the brand has been producing top-class watches with a quintessentially English influence. The Arnold & Son TE8 Tourbillon (above centre) is the pick of the new releases and is well worth its HK$1 million price tag. Limited to 25 pieces, the TE8 Tourbillon is as innovative as it is stylish. The rose-gold case is 44mm and has a transparent caseback, but it's the dial that steals the show, with the wonderfully intricate tourbillon and movement on show. The power reserve for the TE8 Tourbillon is a massive 80 hours and the watch is water resistant to 30 metres. The time-piece comes with a choice of black or brown hand-stitched alligator leather strap.
Our third Brit-Swiss hybrid is the Bremont MW Heli-Chrono (above right), which was released in Hong Kong in September. Bremont only launched in 2003 but the brand has already garnered attention as one of the more popular British luxury brands in Asia. The 'MW' in the title of the watch are the initials of Hong Kong actor Michael Wong, who happens to hold a helicopter pilot's licence, which presumably accounts for the 'heli' in the name. The MW Heli-Chrono is a beast of a watch, based on the Bremont ALT1-P. The case is a large 43mm and features three subdials indicating seconds, 30 minutes and 12 hours, with a small helicopter-shaped indicator in the seconds counter. The case is made of DLC (diamond-like carbon), which makes it extremely tough, and it comes in a rather fetching black. Limited to 50 pieces, the Bremont MW Heli-Chrono costs HK$39,800.