The British watch industry really seems to have had a resurgence the last year or so, with a variety of smaller brands coming to the market. Of course, that means that brands needs to do something to separate themselves from the pack, and the folks over at Elliot Brown have focused on the robustness of their watch. For the price points you’ll find their watches coming in at, it is a surprising amount of punishment they put the pieces through.
First, they start off by testing the individual components. For example, their mineral crystals (which they felt were the better, tougher option, rather than sapphire) have a 16.5g ball bearing dropped from a height of 0.5m, three times. If it doesn’t chip or shatter, it’s been hardened properly. They also do a test on their straps (including stretching, dragging a felt pad across it, and soaking the strap) to simulate years of year.
They also test the cases prior to assembly, making sure they can survive a 75% limit (so, 150m) using air pressure. After assembly, however, they ramp things up to the full 200m, using water pressure. If that wasn’t enough, they also select a portion of the batch to be subjected to a shock test. These watches are hit twice by a 3kg hammer on a pendulum – once on the left side of the case, and once on the crystal. This simulates a 1m fall to a hardwood floor. Don’t like simulations? Well, then rest easy – a set from each batch are also dropped four times in a row from a height of a meter.
In short, these watches are put through their paces, and it’s something that Elliot Brown is rather proud to bring up. We always assume our movements are going to be safe and sound, but it’s refreshing to see a brand (especially a smaller one) be so open about what they’re putting their production pieces through, all for the sake of delivering a robust watch to the customer.
That said, you could make something that’s robust, yet the looks of the piece aren’t exactly appealing. Fortunately, they’ve kept that in mind as well, and have developed a pleasing style for their Canford. They start off with what I’d call a fairly traditional shape for their 44mm stainless steel case, which is brushed with a polished bezel.
On top of the case, you’ve got that domed, hardened, and AR-coated mineral crystal. While this isn’t as hard as sapphire, it’s also less brittle. This means, should you get to the point of damaging the crystal, it’s more likely to just scratch, rather than shatter. Of course, should it break, the mineral glass will be much cheaper to replace than sapphire would be.
Flip the watch over, and you’ll see a caseback that’s bolted into place, rather than screwed in. This is to ensure that the shock-absorbing movement holder is in exactly the right place. You’ll also see one the bolder casebacks I’ve seen lately. Yes, it’s just their logo, but the amount of relief on it, as well as the alternating finishes, is nice to see. More than just good looks, it also serves a function – by reducing the amount of the caseback that’s actually in touch with your skin, they’re hoping to reduce the “sticky” feeling you can sometimes get on your wrist.
Over to the side of the case, you’ll see two knurled crowns that are fairly easy to grab a hold of. The top one controls the internal timing bezel (unfortunately, you don’t need to pull this crown out to activate things, so it’s easier to knock the timing off than I’d prefer), while the lower one controls the setting of the time and date. Oh, and should you for some reason forget to push the crown back in, they’re claiming water resistance should be maintained, due to the triple seals used (the bezel crown is also triple sealed).
This leaves us with what all of these materials and testing are protecting – the dial and the movement. Driving the time (and date) in the Canford we’ve got an Isaswiss 331-103 Swiss movement. This is tucked away under a white dial that, rather being a flat expanse, has concentric circles. This repetitive pattern adds a nice bit of texture without being visually overwhelming.
I also quickly became a fan of the simple color scheme used in what can easily be considered a modern interpretation of the iconic pilot watch. While our sample came in a crisp white and blue, there are other options available (for instance, a black dial tucked into a PVD case on a brown strap). Sure, the numerals aren’t lumed, but with this particular watch, it’s not that big of an issue. This is because you do have lumed pips at each indice, along with the double dot at 12 o’clock that is common for a pilot watch. So, there won’t be an issues telling the time in the dark. The omission of lumed numerals also allows for them to hew more closely to the color scheme they devised for each watch, making for a cohesive look and feel.
That also carries over to the strap. While you might reasonably expect a black leather strap to be paired to a watch like our review sample, it actually has a deep navy color. They’ve also added some internal shaping (and stiffening) so that the strap is firmly against the case. This was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, you do get the look you’d have from a bracelet with solid endlinks. On the other hand, the stiffening means the strap sort of follows it’s own curve away from the lugs. Which, on my wrist, meant it was a bit looser of a fit at the lugs than I might prefer.
Thankfully, the strap is thinner and much more pliable as you move away from the lugs, so comfort there isn’t really an issue. For the buckle, they’ve gone with a deployant clasp that I can only call a “half” butterfly. On paper, it’s not that big of a deal, and I know many watches have a similar configuration. In practice, though, this meant it was a pretty snug fit getting the watch and strap over my hand to get it in place. Then again, this is one of those battles you’re always dealing with on a watch with a deployant – balancing the fit once it’s locked down against the fit getting the watch on and off. Here, it was a minor detail, and shouldn’t be a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination.
Even with those minor quibbles on the strap and deployant, this 122g watch was still comfortable to wear. It set well on my wrist, and I didn’t really have any issues with the deployant digging into my wrist as I worked. I can’t speak to the caseback engraving and it’s effect on reducing sweating, though – not really that kind of weather over here in Chicago. That said, I didn’t have any issues with it digging into my wrist at all, nor did I walk away with an imprint of the EB logo on my wrist at the end of the day.
While I know I’m personally enamored by watches coming from the isle of Britain, the Elliot Brown Canford present as a compelling option for anyone, not just anglophiles such as myself. Yes, it’s a quartz, so some may count that as a demerit. I think in the larger scheme of what EB has built with this watch, though, the quartz makes sense. They’ve emphasized the ability to withstand a good bit of abuse through their testing regimen. And yes, mechanical movements can be tweaked to stand up to the same, but pricing there reflects the challenges. With the quartz, however, they’ve kept prices manageable (around $535) while keeping with the theme of robust reliability wrapped into a handsome package. elliotbrownwatches.com
- Brand & Model: Elliot Brown Canford
- Price: £312 (~ $535)
- Who’s it for?: The person who admits that they’re a bit rough on their watches, but wants something more refined looking than the normally-recommended G-Shock
- Would I wear it?: Absolutely – it’s got clean styling that appeals to me
- What I’d change: The way that the strap is formed to curve away from the lugs
- The best thing about it: The absolute sense of reliability that the watch conveys once you learn of the testing regimen