Loomes has done watchmaking and their countrymen proud – they’ve produced a watch made entirely in Britain. Near the very top of their website, they proclaim, “Loomes & Co are traditional English watchmakers. Every single component in our Robin range is made in Britain. The watches are hand-built, to order, in Stamford.”
This matters for a few reasons. In recent history, there’s been a lot of pride, and increased pricing, attached to the notion of making all parts of a watch ‘in-house.’ The notion is, by making the movement entirely under one roof, the company has more skill than other companies, and is deserving of charging a luxury price for the result. Of course, the price goes up not just because it’s more prestigious, but also because it’s a huge investment in tooling and talent. The movement has to be designed, mills produced or acquired to make the plates, balance, springs, and clockwork, and to hire the watchmakers to assemble and case the whole wonder, all of which costs money. Watchmakers are in enough demand that watchmaker schools are tuition-free, and the only costs are tools and materials. Our good friend Ariel Adams wrote about the situation on ABlogtoWatch recently, claiming the push for in-house movements ruined the modern luxury watch industry.
Loomes isn’t the first English watch company to make their own in-house movement. Christopher Ward made the SH21 calibre, a 120 hour power reserve movement with power reserve indicator on a sub-dial at the 9 o’clock position. When they made this, they were asked by members of the Swiss watch industry, “Who gave you permission?” Ch. Ward sees the SH21 movement as the future of their dress watch line, replacing their entire C9 collection.
A discussion of modern British watchmaking wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Sir George Daniels and his successor, Roger W. Smith. A couple of years ago, Smith wrote an editorial published on Hodinkee decrying the fact that much of British watch companies didn’t make everything themselves, and had the audacity to call themselves British or watchmakers:
Since my studio only produces around ten pieces per year, they are clearly available to only the most determined of collectors. The field therefore remains open for the first volume-produced ‘true’ British watch, which will of course include a British movement, designed and made in its entirety within our shores.
To date, this has not been achieved by any current British watchmaker. So where, in fact, are we?
In my view today, there are three other distinct types of British watchmaking company.
The first (which is typically an overseas holding company) will rake through our horological history books and appropriate a watchmaker’s name (and valuable heritage). They then make extraordinary claims as to their company having direct lineage back to that original watchmaker.
This is clearly misrepresentative and it is frankly embarrassing when I meet collectors who have bought watches from a “heritage brand” in the false belief that their watch is directly connected to the company’s founder or has been produced in Britain.
At the time, Christopher Ward were Swiss Made only, Smiths use Miyota, Bremont use Swiss or movements made in partnership with La Joux-Perret. Smith was apoplectic when a British brand issued a press release claiming a movement was made in Britain when it instead was Swiss. Since that time, we’re getting closer to a state where it’s possible for British watchmaking to be made entirely in Britain by Britons. In fact, Loomes has done it. They leave no room for doubt at all, when they write,
Robert Loomes FBHI and Robina Hill FRSA are proud to lead highly skilled team of twelve, working together to manufacture components, either in the building or through nearby British engineering specialists.
We are about to show off our new English movement at SalonQP in November. A new design by us, using no imported components. Initially available as a limited edition of twelve in white gold and twelve in yellow gold.
But isn’t that the point? A true British watch is not meant to be easy. Easy has no interest or value. – Roger W. Smith