British watch brand Fears is has chosen to celebrate its 175th anniversary with the Fears Brunswick Pt – a reimagining of their own Brunswick in a diamond-set platinum case. Does this mark the beginning of a new chapter for Fears?
Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, the owner of Fears – the English watch brand observing the 175th year since its founding, is emphatic that his brand does not produce ‘vintage’ watches. Since the brand’s return a handful of years ago, its watches have observed the motto “Elegantly Understated” with a level of finesse generally reserved to the most personally-run houses of high horology yet, sitting in the brand’s comfort-zone below £5,000 a piece courtesy of more modest movements, these timepieces have appealed to a very different market.
Certainly, it takes a particular kind of character to say “No” to the more established or commonplace (depending upon one’s stance) options in that price bracket although, for those possessing the inclination for something individual, Fears has become a valuable option. From this brand, whilst you may be furnished with a reliable-if-simple ETA 7001 manual movement instead of the latest engineering ejected from the skunkworks of Rolex or Omega, you have access to serious exclusivity. Whilst it’s easy to be distracted by the limited run of five Brunswick Brown models sold in just a couple of minutes earlier in the year, Fears’ standard-production Brunswick Midas (a watch which, incidentally, will see its last production run this year) is similarly offered in only five examples per annum.
Nevertheless, a conventional movement does not say anything about the quality of these watches. In the past, the Brunswick Blue featured a dial with the same galvanic coating as seen on the likes of Audemars Piguet whilst the pipettes on the seconds track of the Brunswick Salmon Dial were printed to the smallest size technically possible. Still, when faced with an anniversary as significant as the 175th, Patek Philippe gave us a blend of technological mastery and uninhibited vulgarity in the 2014 Grandmaster Chime. Surely, for a brand as artisanally-inclined as Fears, a similarly bold piece could be offered?
In response to this need, Fears has launched its first precious metal watch since the 1960s with the four-piece-per-year Fears Brunswick Pt – a transformation of the Brunswick into a framework for all future precious metal Fears.
Now, I must confess that I was surprised by this watch when first shown it by Mr Bowman-Scargill a week ago. Not only did the owner make reference to a “hoodie” (hardly a garment befitting advocacy for sartorial elegance) but he also bypassed his love of yellow gold for something altogether more demure: Platinum. In this regard, the new Brunswick Pt takes the 38mm silhouette of its more commonplace sibling and seemingly changes all the details.
To a considerable extent, this transformation has been dictated by the material of choice and, by extension, much of the story of this watch is told by the hallmarks proudly displayed on the case back and lugs. Most obviously, the case is shown to be 95% pure platinum whilst the London Assay Office is indicated by a leopard’s head. More interestingly, this watch bears the optional traditional orb-filled pentagon as a symbol of platinum purity. Finally, the initials ‘NBS’ are added to the case back as the registered mark for Fears precious cases and, you will have guessed, are the initials of the current managing director. The same marks are repeated on the buckle which matches the material and design of the case.
These marks, however, only tell part of the story as the blue-white metal chosen played its own role in the watch produced. As a metal to work with, platinum could rightly be seen as wilfully recalcitrant as, when compared to gold, it is in the production of platinum products that money is seriously spent. To create the case, an artisanal process has been chosen instead of modern machine production whereby a single jeweller — Canterbury’s Justin Richardson — requires 100 hours with a piece of wood coated in platinum polish to hone the case into shape. As for details, this watch foregoes brushed lug tops whilst the case back is all new.
Now, it may seen perverse to speak as fancifully as I am about to about a simple case back but, to my eye, this might be my favourite part of the Fears Brunswick Pt. Originally, the Fears Brunswick presented its movement through an exhibition case back. Upon seeing the appeal of a more classical solution, Fears began producing examples with a solid, circularly grained alternative. With the platinum model, however, this extends to a thick, square unit secured at each of its four corners with a screw. The result, I can only imagine before handling an example in person, is the solid presence of a pebble polished by the movement of the sea over it with the ‘divine heaviness’ associated with gold in the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger. This case conceals the same ETA (formerly Peseux) 7001 manual movement as other Brunswick models although the plates have, I understand, been shaped, decorated and platinum-plated specially for this range-topping model with
A detail worth observing on this watch is the presence of diamonds on both dial and the case. In both cases, the stones chosen are D-colour flawless diamonds – an appropriate choice for a watch at this level. Importantly, these diamonds are added in just about the most modest way imaginable in order to bring what I see as a touch of the historic king of dress watches: the Patek Philippe ref. 96. Given that these diamonds can, at the buyer’s request, be deleted, the more important gem is the one subtly sunken into the divot normally seen on the Brunswick’s crown. Devised as a way to demarcate every platinum Fears watch (these can, let’s not forget, be ordered with the steel watch’s dial options), this addition provides a touch of refined lustre as a clin d’œil to the eagle-eyed collector.
Speaking of the dial, this watch is specially offered with an anthracite dial finished in with a similar array of hand-brushed surfaces as the Brunswick Blue. However, these dials are coated in real anthracite — a surprising rarity in the watch industry — and feature platinum-plated indices. Rather surprisingly for a watch with a diamond-set dial, the feature which most catches my eye is the choice of hands. As though to add to their visual weight, the hands retain the pipette shape of previous versions but do away with their subtle skeletonisation in favour of a solid, frosted and polished platinum form.
The final touch (and the most revolutionary, one might say) is the strap choice. Yes, I know, hardly the obvious standout feature of such an esoteric watch. The material chosen is hand-sewn Kevlar with a blue Alcantara backing – a material far removed from the 1930s travelling gentleman I picture wearing a Fears Brunswick. However, as was explained to me by Mr Bowman-Scargill, the material was chosen not just for its unique weave but also to provide a new tone for the Brunswick whilst accepting that such a watch was never going to altogether shed its origins.
Ultimately, Fears are extremely honest about this non-limited platinum watch and the expectation for it to be no major seller. After all, for £28,200, it’s hardly an accessible product. Instead, the Fears Brunswick Pt plays an altogether more important role for this burgeoning British brand: it is a vote of confidence for the future. Whilst almost any brand can launch a credible stainless steel watch, the organisation to register the hallmarks, arrange manufacturing with the best craftsmen available and source the materials to produce a diamond-set platinum watch is in an entirely different league. I look forward to seeing more precious metal models from this brand in future.
Availability: 4 pieces per year priced at £28,200
- Dimensions: 38mm x 12.12mm
- Material: 950 Platinum (polished & brushed)
- Crystal: Domed Sapphire with Internal & External ARdur Swiss Anti-Reflective Coating
- Features: Anthracite-Coated, Hand-Brushed Dial with Platinum Plated Indices / 950 Platinum, Bevelled, Polished & Frosted Hands / Dial Set with 6 D-Colour Flawless Diamonda & Crown Set with Larger Example
- Water Resistance: 5 ATM / 50 m / 165 ft
- Movement: ETA (Peseux) 7001 Top-Grade: Manual Winding / 40-Hour Power Reserve / 17 Jewels / 3 Hz, 21,600 vph, 6 Ticks-per-Second / New Bridge Design, Linear Graining & Platinum Plating