A couple of months ago, British watchmaking atelier Garrick started teasing the S4. Seeing all the shots of the watch in development and finally hitting production, it quickly became obvious that the dial would be something rather special. While the Garrick S4 is positioned as an entry-level collection, it is rich in traditional watchmaking techniques. Today we’re diving a little deeper into the watch and brand as we talk to David Brailsford, Garrick’s co-founder.
David is a strong advocate of traditional British watchmaking craftsmanship. At every chance he gets, he can run off on a passionate monologue stating why it’s important that British watchmaking should be upheld with the greatest respect. Ever since the brand’s venture into more complexity, displayed by the S1, S2 and S3 watches, the emphasis is on honouring the craft. Industry greats like George Daniels and Roger W. Smith come to mind, which serve as inspiration to many, David included.
The recently introduced Garrick S4 follows the same path but offers it in a more accessible package. You’d struggle to find anything with this level of handcrafted detail in an equally priced piece. It is fitted with a dial made almost completely by hand. The movement is vaguely based on the tried and tested ETA 6498 but has been reworked in typical British watchmaking style. A handcrafted three-quarter plate and a handcrafted and hand-engraved barrel and crown wheel cover show Garrick’s approach to watchmaking.
With vast bespoke options available, it is expected that no two Garrick S4’s will ever be the same. Despite that, it is a Garrick in design and construction through and through. Multiple elements tie it in with previous collections.
The launch of the S4 has been a success and we felt it was a good opportunity to catch up with David again and ask him some questions regarding the S4, current challenges and future plans for Garrick.
Robin Nooij, MONOCHROME – David, we’ve been following Garrick for some years now. How is the company doing in today’s challenging times?
David Brailsford, Garrick Watches – I have to admit when the first lockdown was announced, I was very scared along, with many other brands but luckily, we’ve been on a roll the past few months and things couldn’t be better. It has been a challenge, mainly because we’ve been plagued with staffing issues but our order books are full and that’s all that matters.
We carry no stock and every single watch is built to order. My partner, Simon, does some of the dial work and Craig does the assembly and finishing. Clients seem to like this approach but long waiting lists are our biggest problem right now!
You focus on celebrating traditional British watchmaking craftsmanship in Garrick watches. What’s so interesting about British watchmaking in your perception?
Our main goal has always been to put British watchmaking back on the map but sadly it’s been an uphill battle. Many brands claim to be watchmakers without even employing a watchmaker or building watches in the UK.
Considering the investment and skillset needed to make watches in-house, it’s just not viable for most British brands to do this, after all, it took us around 5 years of development before we felt in a strong enough position to produce higher-end pieces.
There are some superb British brands such as Fears, Pinion, Vertex and Schofield, all assembling rather fine watches in the UK and not shouting about the watchmaking thing, so does it matter? I think not, because nine times out of ten, people are buying into the brands and the people behind them. I truly believe that Britain has some of the most innovative independent brands in the world and long may it continue!
After the initial Norfolk and Regulator collections, you made a big step in complexity and craftsmanship. What has that brought you so far?
We just try to do things differently and it’s extremely important to us. A good example is our Regulator which unlike typical examples features 3 separate indications. Today we’re putting more and more effort into our dials which are all extremely time-consuming to build and finish. It is the key component to make a watch stand out in the first place. This is what put us on the map over the past 3 years and we hope to continue on that foot into the future. It has brought us new clients, new possibilities and creativity and lots of ideas for coming projects.
And now, amidst a global pandemic, you’ve released the S4. What led to the decision to offer this as an entry-level piece to British watchmaking by Garrick?
I’m glad you mentioned this because we’ve had so much stick from other brands who simply can’t understand how we arrived at this price but the answer is simple – we want to put watches on wrists!
We spent nearly 9 months developing and refining the dial. After many years of searching, we managed to buy ourselves a rose engine which meant mastering engine turning. Considering the complex nature of the build, our profit margin is extremely small, but we feel extremely happy we’ve been able to put this type of watch within reach of most collectors.
Could you explain a little about the complexity of the watch and the challenges it posed?
I’ll try to keep it brief but here’s a rundown of the dial building process:
First, the dial blanks are turned from brass on a lathe and two feet are riveted to the underside.
The dial blank is then ‘flattened’ using fine abrasive paper in order to remove any burrs or imperfections, creating a smooth surface. Thereafter, the dial is bead blasted or engine turned, depending on the client’s wishes, creating a choice of frosted or guilloche variants. A chapter ring, effectively a circlet of metal, is paired with a smaller ring for the small seconds. These are then drilled, creating holes to facilitate fixing.
The chapter ring is clamped between two plates and baked at 300°C. This hardens the metal and removes any springiness. After the chapter ring has cooled, it is ‘spun’ on a lathe, creating a motif termed ‘satiné circulaire’. Furthermore, the hour track and minute track are delineated from one another with an engraved pattern called ‘sauté piqué’.
The Roman Numerals and markers are engraved by laser and the resultant recesses are then inked by hand using a special syringe pen. Once the ink has dried, the chapter ring is cleaned and spun again to remove any excess ink. It’s a rather time-consuming process with many steps where things can go wrong. It takes time, determination and skill to make them just right.
We’ve covered the S4 in a previous article, what are the key elements people most understand about this watch in your eyes?
I think we’ve taken what is a traditional Daniels or Breguet style dial and made it unique by adding the frosting to the centre section and plating it in dark rhodium. And considering the level of craftsmanship that is poured into each of them, it’s hard not to mention the competitive price. People get a lot in return for their hard-earned cash.
What’s in store next for Garrick? Can you shed some light on possible future ideas and concepts?
Towards the end of the year, we’ll be releasing a smaller watch powered by our new in-house calibre. We’ve never been in a position to do this until now and we’ve had to make a huge investment, so it looks like I’ll be cycling to work in future! No fancy cars for me or anything else for that matter!
We are hoping to make this movement available to other brands at some point in the future. Time will tell but we’re determined to make it work. And with the support of our team, friends and relationships in the business we’re confident, and I feel there’s a good chance we will succeed.
Anything else you want to share with us and our readers?
Myself and my partner Simon are both passionate about watchmaking. We don’t live a fancy lifestyle and we plough everything back into the business. I personally answer every single email and we’ve become friends with many of our clients.
Why do I mention this? Well, this is what you get when you buy from a small independent brand and it’s a damn good reason to support us all. Independent brands the world over, have so much to offer!
More information at Garrick.co.uk.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.