The United Kingdom seems to be a hotbed for independent watch brands these days with names like Vertex, Garrick, Bremont and Pinion, among many others. Farer Universal is a relative newcomer and takes inspiration from 1960s and 1970s watchmaking, adding colourful and sophisticated dials to a variety of styles. We reviewed its Aqua Compressor Endeavour last year and walked away impressed, and its most recent chronographs are right up there with established brands like Hamilton and Tissot (see our editorial on Microbrands vs. Accessible Established Brands). The Stanhope was introduced in 2018 with the brand’s smallest case to date and a hand-wound ETA movement, joining two others in the collection, the Lansdell and Hudson. Most of Farer’s portfolio contains automatic watches with a couple of quartz options, so the 37mm hand-wound collection stands out in both size and movement. The Stanhope proved to be the most popular of the trio with the first batch selling out quickly. Let’s take a closer look at this classic design with a contemporary twist.

BACKGROUND farer

Farer was founded in 2015 with a small offering of affordable Swiss quartz pieces, but within three years it launched four new collections featuring mechanical ETA movements, including classic three-handers, GMT’s and Super Compressor dive watches. The 37mm hand-wound series was the fourth collection and each piece is named after a British explorer (all Farer watches are named after either explorers or vessels). The Stanhope was inspired by Lady Hester Stanhope, a British aristocrat born in 1776 and known as one of the most pioneering women in history. She led an expedition to Ashkelon in 1815, which was the first modern excavation in the history of Holy Land archaeology, and travelled throughout the Middle East (often alone) a century before the famed T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). The watch proudly adopts her name as a symbol of British exploration and adventure (the other two in the collection are named after explorers Henry Lansdell and Henry Hudson).

Attention to both colour and detail are signature elements of Farer with its focus on the “art of the dial.” A whimsical sophistication can be seen through its entire range, showcasing bold colour palettes, multi-level designs and intricate textures. Each collection shares a common case, but the dial variances give individual pieces radically different personalities. Similar to the Endeavour I reviewed, the Stanhope is arguably the most subdued of its collection but has a complex blend of design elements that’s far from simple or straightforward. Farer’s watches are designed at the brand’s London studio before prototyping and final production are completed via Swiss partner Roventa-Henex, allowing for a Swiss Made designation on all models.

CASE AND DESIGN

The majority of the brand’s watches have round cases, but the Stanhope comes with a vintage-inspired cushion case, not unlike a Panerai Radiomir. The 316L stainless steel case is small by today’s standards at 37mm in diameter (8.3mm in height), but the cushion case and all-dial design make it feel larger than advertised. The lugs are also short with a wide 20mm width (for a smallish case), adding to the larger than 37mm wrist presence. I often prefer watches at 39mm and above, but this one wears better than some of my larger pieces. The entire case is polished to a mirror finish with a polished caseback and exhibition window.

The hand-wound ETA movement is on full display and each back has an individual serial number engraved. A slightly domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating protects the dial. The onion crown is a bit on the small side but works very well with the case aesthetically. Winding is a pleasure and it’s still fairly easy to pull and set the time. Apart from dial design, another signature element is the use of bronze for the crown as all Farer watches feature this, but the hand-wound collection needed a different approach. The company says that daily interaction with bronze can result in some discolouration on your fingers, but it didn’t abandon the concept entirely. The compromise is a steel crown with an embossed bronze insert at the end, and the resulting two-tone look is cool (and will form a patina over time). The case is water-resistant to 50 metres.

DIAL AND HANDS

The dial may look relatively simple at first glance, but look closer and there’s a lot going on. It starts with a main off-white plate sporting a piqué texture and punched for a lower level sub-dial at 6 o’clock. Small notches are also cut at the hour marks, which include applied polished steel Arabic numerals at 12, 3 and 9 o’clock, filled with midnight blue. The remaining hour markers are steel batons with powder blue tips for contrast. The outer minute track is on the same lower level as the sub-dial, finished in midnight blue with a powder blue ring and scarlet red marks. The track is broken up at the hours by raised wedge markers with Super-LumiNova dots in the centre.

Returning to the small seconds sub-dial, the base is midnight blue with a white and powder blue track, and powder blue numerals every twenty seconds. A scarlet red seconds hand adds some pop to the otherwise darker theme. The hour and minute hands are steel with Super-LumiNova inserts. The minute hand doesn’t extend to the outer track but works better aesthetically by remaining within the main textured section. An applied polished steel logo sits under the 12 index with FARER UNIVERSAL printed underneath. SWISS MADE is printed at the bottom. All of these elements come together for a well-balanced, deceptively sophisticated dial that’s my personal favourite of the brand’s entire portfolio.

MOVEMENT

The Stanhope is powered by a hand-wound ETA/Peseux 7001 Top grade movement with 17 jewels, 21,600vph (3Hz) and a 42-hour power reserve. Functions include hours, minutes and sub-dial seconds. This is a simple, reliable workhorse used throughout the industry by brands like Tissot, Baume & Mercier, Montblanc, Omega and even Blancpain. The Junghans Meister we recently reviewed also relies on a 7001.

Accuracy is rated at +/-12 seconds per day, but like the Junghans, the Stanhope was accurate to well within 10 seconds during a week of testing. Seen from the exhibition caseback, the movement is decorated with Côtes de Genève and blued screws.

STRAP

Strap options are wide and varied when ordering a Stanhope (leather, rubber and steel options abound), but a common link is the use of tool-free, quick release spring bars. My unit came with a chestnut Barenia leather strap with matched stitching and light padding. It was very comfortable out of the box and not overbearing with the thin and light case, and as mentioned before, the 20mm width of the strap helps the watch wear larger than the dimensions suggest. I have a few quick-release straps laying around and enjoyed changing the look in a matter of seconds (I think this feature should be standard on all straps).

CONCLUSION

Farer has become one of my favourite brands out there, microbrand or not. It has a growing portfolio of well-thought, stylish collections that put many comparable established brands to shame. I’ve been following them closely since the release of the three-hand automatics, but the Stanhope is the piece that really caught my attention. The cushion case and dynamic (yet subtle) dial, matched with the proven hand-wound ETA 7001, is a compelling combination, to say the least. The Lansdell and Hudson have bolder colours and more conspicuous designs, but the textures, colours and multi-level aesthetic of the Stanhope culminate in the tour de force of the hand-wound collection. It’s versatile enough to walk the line between a dress and sports piece as well, so whether presenting in the boardroom or hiking on the trail, the Stanhope is right at home.

The Stanhope and Lansdell retail for USD 1,175 or CHF 1,075, while the Hudson retails for USD 1,165 or CHF 1,060. Interest-free financing is also available via Klarna. All Farer watches come with a five-year warranty, 30-day return window and free shipping worldwide. You can purchase a Stanhope at Farer’s online store and more information is available at the website.

 

This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.