When it comes to the Marloe Coniston collection, it will serve you well to pay attention to history. History is full of people for whom ‘fast enough’ simply wasn’t a thing. A certain breed of adrenaline junkies have always wanted to push themselves, their engineering and their sanity to extremes. The most obvious take on that is the Outright Land Speed Record, which currently sits at 763.035 mph, set by Andy Green in a twin turbofan jet-powered ‘car’. He broke the sound barrier.
While water speed isn’t quite as flashy – it’s much, much harder to speed through water given the increased drag compared to air – it’s nonetheless been a historically important milestone for engineers to aim for. And where the Land Speed Record has historically had the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats, the floating equivalent has Coniston Water.
Coniston Water is one of the most beautiful places in the UK. The fifth largest body of water in the Lake District (after Windemere and Ullswater), it has a long, narrow footprint that all but begs for some serious water speeding. In 1939, Sir Malcolm Campbell agreed. After building his cutting-edge boat, the Bluebird K4, he set the world water speed record at 141.74 mph.
It’s a record that stood for nearly 20 years until Donald Campbell, son of Sir Malcolm, broke his father’s record four times in his Bluebird K7 Hydroplane. He did the same in 1967, achieving a speed of over 320 mph. It was fast – too fast, as it turned out, as Donald died in the attempt.
To this day Coniston Water still has a huge place in aquatic engineering, as does the legacy of the Campbell family – a legacy that is now a focal point of British watch brand Marloe in the aptly named Coniston collection. The Coniston as a design is in an odd place. It’s not a specific tool watch – it’s definitely not a diver, the lack of numerals precludes a pilot and it’s a bit too ornate for a field watch – but there’s something decidedly engineering led about it. The depth of the layered dial, the fluted crown, the knurled caseband, they’re all the kind of details you’d expect from a watch devoted to a vintage car.
That makes a lot of sense, given the era from which the Campbell family legacy came from, and it means that the Coniston looks and feels solid without the usual stripped-back, militaristic look everyday British watches tend to err towards. Measuring 41mm across, it’s well-sized for a sportier watch, and comfortable on the wrist, equipped with a workhorse Miyota movement for that perfect combination of reliability and accessibility. So far, so solid. That said, most of the collection’s story is told through the four colourways and the engraving on the back – which we’ll get to.
The blue and white CN7 and black and cream K4 are both inspired by their namesake speedsters. The K4 was Malcolm Campbell’s aforementioned fastest water speedster; the CN7 was Donald Campbell’s famous land speed record-breaking Bluebird car.
Then there’s the Trackday which is instead inspired by the family’s successes on terra firma, draped in his racing livery from the Grand Prix de Boulogne. There’s not much to say about the Black Edition, given it’s a cross-collection, stealthier take, but the three mainline versions all show off distinctive elements of the Campbell legacy.
It’s not too much of a surprise then that the Coniston wasn’t built in a well-named vacuum; Marloe collaborated with the Campbell Family Heritage Trust on the overall design and the individual colourways, with donations from every sale going to support said trust. It means that the Coniston isn’t just leveraging the heritage of a British engineering legend but helping to keep that heritage alive. Hence the engraving on the back of each watch: Courage is Not Being Fearless.
When asked by a journalist before a record attempt about whether he was ever afraid, Donald Campbell replied: “Of course I’m afraid, every time I get into the Bluebird. Courage is not being fearless. Courage is overcoming and smashing through fear.”
If that’s not stirring, not much is. But hey, even if you’re not one for legacy, not one for the story of a watch, then you’ll be glad to know that the Coniston, with its detailed design, more-than-solid build and automatic movements, is also one of the best value-for-money British watches around. And given that’s something that – along with breaking speed records – we do very well, it says a lot.
Price and Specs:
More details at Marloe Watch Company.