If you’ve been using your time inside to binge-watch Vikings (or even the inferior Last Kingdom) you’ll know the name Wessex. It’s the ancient English kingdom that, as the name suggests, once held sway over most of the west country. It lasted a good long time, too, from the mid-500s to nearly the turn of the millennium in 927, when King Æthælstan united the rest of the county under Wessex.
If you’re wondering quite where this history lesson is going never fear; if you remember one thing, just know that it’s this important part of British history. Combined with the haute horology traditions of the continent, it is the inspiration behind the aptly-named Wessex Watches.
It’s the favourite time-period of Jamie Boyd, history and horology buff, plus founder of said watchmaker, whose workshop also happens to be in the centre of what was once Wessex.
Jamie’s been an avid aficionado of fine watches since he was presented with a Seiko Seahorse at the age of five, imported (circumventing customs) by his Lancaster gunner and wireless operator father. It’s a story we’ve heard time and again, but one that still resonates and for Jamie it spurred a lifelong love of watches.
That came to a head in 2015 when he decided to build his own custom timepiece. After assembling a few watches of his own in the past, Jamie decided he wanted to go one step further with a custom dial. The problem was that, while cases and movements could be bought in at relatively decent prices, a custom dial was another matter entirely. And so he set about creating his own.
Flash forward to today and Wessex watches makes some of the finest (and among the only) dials in the UK. Originally the dials used the kind of old English motifs you’d expect from the name, along with the kind of intense forms of guilloche you’d normally see on the more classical pieces from Breguet, Vacheron Constantin and Roger Smith. More recently though, Jamie has made a departure from those typically two-dimensional engraved frescos of weaves and spirals in favour of the Wessex Peerless.
By name as by nature, the Peerless is a magnificent piece of craftsmanship. Made from two distinct layers, the dials have a striking, architectural feel, with the relatively unadorned top layer with clear, easy to read Roman numerals giving way to a phenomenally engraved under-dial. The result is a seriously impressive level of depth.
The Peerless being made to order, you can even choose what particular type of guilloche you’d prefer in both the main and the small seconds subdial.
Prefer barleycorn or clous de Paris? No problem, for a little extra cost of course. Even then though, you can go further; just look at the Wessex Peerless Tsunami, with its beautiful rendition of the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa. It started at a one-off project and now doubles as a showcase for what Wessex watches can do.
All three in the Peerless collection – the Peerless, the Peerless Premium and the Tsunami – all come equipped with the ETA 6497-1 Élaboré Art Deco Skeleton hand-wound movement, a world apart from your usual stock movement. The skeletonised calibre is among the most stunning to emerge from ETA, definitely worth taking the time to look at – which is why, incidentally, the Peerless Premium is reversible. Well, sometimes you just have to show off your watch geek side.
Wessex Watches is still a small, artisanal workshop and Jamie certainly doesn’t want to change that any time soon. Aside from the unscalable nature of these kind of hand-made dials, there’s a certain charm to something made in Britain, by a British craftsman, for you. That the watches are incredibly well-priced for their quality is almost just a side-note.
More details at Wessex Watches.