I’ve been a fan of Fears for a while now, ever since they first launched the Brunswick which, full disclosure, I just so happen to own. The earlier Redcliffe was a good-looking quartz number, but the cushion case and clean, dressy minimalism of the Brunswick has made it one of my personal favourites.
All that is to say that, when I first heard tell of a shiny new Fears watch, anticipations were high. With the Archival 1930 models, they’ve been met nicely.
Despite Fears having relied on their old school British heritage vibes since 2016, this is their first true archival launch, a rendering of a 1930s, Art Deco rectangular watch. It’s overdue really and, with the ongoing vogue for rectangles, this particular model couldn’t be timelier.
Well, models, I should say. The Archival 1930 is available in both a stripped-back two-hand version and a slightly more Deco small seconds. Other than that, they’re identical. Both have diminutive 40mm x 22mm cases which are, thankfully, a scaling up of the original watch that’s just a bit too small to wear for me. And I like small watches.
The dials are pure classical magnificence, champagne with a bright golden border. Despite appearing inset, that border is actually part of the dial, which has been built up for depth. It’s lovely and I’ve not seen that kind of finish on another modern watch.
On the wrist it feels period-appropriately small, though definitely wearable, and incredibly comfortable thanks to the curved caseback. Paired with Fears’ typically excellent straps in a gentlemanly oxblood, it feels great to wear. That said, it’s definitely a dress watch, despite being in steel, so unless you’re the kind of person to play tennis in a Reverso, it probably won’t be your everyday watch.
What surprised me most however is which of the two I actually preferred. From the initial imagery, I went instinctively to the small seconds and it’s heavier Art Deco feel. But after trying them on, there’s something about the more pared-back two-hander that I found myself preferring. It’s cleaner and the lack of anything else on the dial shows off those perfectly in-line numerals all the better.
It’s a good thing then that there are plenty more of the two-handers than the small seconds. There are 136 of the two-hander, one for each year Fears has been operating as a company and 39 of the small seconds, one for each year they were closed. Meaning that the total limited edition of the Archival 1930 is 175, split unequally between the two watches.
Each watch is engraved with a date, rather than a limited edition number, so if there’s some year out of the last 175 that’s especially special to you, you can always try to get that. Though you’ll probably need to be quick.
What’s not readily apparent from the images is the movements, which are actually new-old-stock. The small seconds are from the 1930s; the two-handers from the 60s. While that means the specs aren’t up there with modern movements, it’s a cool touch and one fitting of Fears’ blowout 175th anniversary.
Price & Specs:
Model: Fears Archival 1930
Case/Dial: 44mm diameter x 22mm height, stainless steel case, vintage Champagne dial with 18k yellow gold coating
Movement: Swiss made calibre ETA 2360, manual winding, 17 jewels (Archival 1930)
Swiss made calibre ZentRa 185/ETA 717, manual winding, 15 jewels (Archival 1930 Small Seconds)
Frequency: 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 40h (Fears Archival 1930) or 38h (Fears Archival 1930 Small Seconds)
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds at 6 o’clock (Fears Archival 1930 Small seconds only)
Strap: Oxblood red British calf leather
Price/availability: £3,500, limited to 136 pieces (Fears Archival 1930) and £3,950, limited to 39 pieces (Fears Archival 1930 Small seconds)
More details at Fears Watches.