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Riley Watch Co. Howard Hughes Chronograph HH-01 Is Inspired By Colourful Aviation Pioneer

Riley Watch Co Howard Hughes Chronograph HH01

In Britain we know more than most about eccentricity (just look at any of the colourful parades involving royals). What’s more, this eccentricity often finds its way into the watches designed here, particularly when it comes to colour. The small independent brand based here in the UK, Riley Watch Co., are no different and their inaugural collection, the Howard Hughes Chronograph HH-01 is full of rich colour and bold design. Although some of its eccentricity must also be attributed to the man the collection is inspired by and named after, Howard Hughes.

If you’re unfamiliar with Hughes, I suggest a quick read of his Wikipedia page, he’s one of the most enigmatic, chaotic and intriguing figures of the American 20th century. By trade he was a film producer, investor and philanthropist but a keen interest in aviation led to him becoming an aeronautical engineer and pilot. After making a fortune in Hollywood (he produced the 1932 film Scarface) and real estate, he developed a series of iconic racing planes including the Hughes H-1, which set the world airspeed record at the time.

Unfortunately, a series a near-fatal crashes left him both physically and mentally unwell and throughout his later life he became increasingly erratic and eccentric. On one famous occasion he spent four months inside a film studio screening room eating nothing but chocolate, chicken and milk, watching an endless stream of movies while naked. He subsequently became a recluse living in the penthouses of numerous hotels he owned.

How do you go about the process of translating such a bizarre, intriguing and enigmatic life into wristwatch form? Well, you can take it in one of two directions, you can either focus on the Hughes H1 Racer or you can focus on the naked films thing and I think Riley Watch Co. made the right decision by going with the former. The Howard Hughes Chronograph HH-01 is a retro aviation inspired watch with a cool rectangular case with rounded corners that measures 40mm x 42mm.

Riley Watch Co Howard Hughes Chronograph HH01

The dial of the Riley Howard Hughes Chronograph HH-01 features a bicompax chrono display with squircle (yes, that’s a real word) subdials consisting of a 60-minute timer at 9 o’clock and a 24-hour timer at 3. There are six colourways available, each offering a different interpretation on the design. The first two are the Classic with full cream display then the Deep Green with a cream dial and green scales.

Next is the Sky Blue with white dial, blue scales and orange accents. Similar to that is the yellow, which simply swaps the blue elements for, you guessed it, yellow. Lastly there’s Matte Green, which has a sage green dial and off-white scales and the Midnight Blue in two shades of dark blue. Of the six, I think the Matte Green is my favourite, although the Dark Green and Sky Blue are really appealing as well.

Riley Watch Co Howard Hughes Chronograph HH01
Riley Watch Co Howard Hughes Chronograph HH01

Below the surface, you’ll find the Seiko VK63 meca-quartz chronograph movement. It’s a movement that we’ve seen before in watches like the Brew Metric, so Riley Watch Co. are in good company in using it. Meca-quartz operates by using a traditional, battery powered quartz system for the primary functions of the watch paired with a mechanical chronograph module. It gives you the feel of a mechanical watch while having the accuracy and reliability of quartz.

Riley Watch Co Howard Hughes Chronograph HH01

The Riley Howard Hughes Chronograph HH-01 is priced at £179 – at time of writing it is currently for sale at £129 – and each colourway is limited to 50 pieces. For an accessible, colourful and eccentric timepiece inspired by one of the great characters in the history of aviation, you couldn’t ask for anything more. Riley have already started working on their next project and that too is inspired by a key figure in aviation, someone or other connected to a certain Lockheed Vega 5B.

Price and Specs:

Model: Riley Watch Co. Howard Hughes Chronograph HH-01
Case: 40mm width x 42mm height x 12mm thickness, stainless steel
Dial: Beige, deep green, sky blue, matte green, yellow or midnight blue
Movement: Seiko calibre VK64, mecha-quartz
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Strap: Leather
Price: £129

More details at The Riley Watch Co.

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.