Guides Watches

The Best British Watches You Can Buy Right Now

Roger Smith Series 1

Since the early days of watchmaking when Mr John Harrison was building the first proper marine chronometer (and helping Britannia rule the waves in the process), the UK has been a substantial figure in the watch world. Granted, for most of that we’ve been a hub of collectors rather than makers, but in the past decade there’s been a patriotic renaissance in homegrown horology.

What began with Bremont and Christopher Ward in the mainstream (and Roger Smith at the upper end) has blossomed like an English country garden into a colourful, dynamic and distinctly British approach to timepieces. From stripped back tool watches to eye-catching hues just the right side of garish, we might not make all that many timepieces here, but design wise we’ve been nailing it. So, whether you’re after a fun quartz piece that won’t break the bank or something that can stand up to the Swiss heavyweights, here are the best timepieces our green and pleasant land has to offer.

Below £400

Quirky impulse buys and elegant entry-level timepieces that won’t break the bank.

Accurist Model 7410 Chronograph

Accurist Model 7410 Chronograph

Sure, it doesn’t have a particularly notable name but this racing chronograph from the ever-accessible Accurist doesn’t need one to stand out. The retro combination of blue, white and red with a classic tricompax layout makes for an eye-catching nod to 1950s four-wheelers.

The tachymeter around the edge plus the split-second red chapter ring scream petrolhead louder than a revving V12. With a reliable quartz movement, solid water resistance and relatively hefty 42mm case, it’s also a pretty respectable daily beater.

Case/Dial: 42mm stainless steel case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: Quartz movement
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
Price: £129.99

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Mr Jones A Perfectly Useless Morning

Mr Jones A Perfectly Useless Morning

British eccentricity that won’t break the bank? Enter Mr Jones. The watch designer’s poolside ‘A Perfectly Useless Afternoon’ is one of the most charming quartz pieces around and this autumnal follow-up ensures that lightning strikes twice.

The peripheral forest serves as the indexes, while the hours are shown via a falling leaf and the minutes by a bird; all designed by illustrator Kirstof Devos. The curled-up fox isn’t a timekeeper, but it is the translation of the artist’s name from Flemish to English. Sure, it’s quartz but when it looks this idiosyncratically cool, who cares?

Case/Dial: 37mm stainless steel case with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: Quartz movement
Strap: Black leather
Price: £195

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Iota London GMT

Iota London GMT

Of the three GMTs in Iota’s collection, we had to pick the London, didn’t we? Not only is it named after the brand’s hometown (Iota is based in Greenwich, fittingly), but the minimal, Bauhaus-adjacent combination of stainless steel and white shows off their finer details nicely. The top half of the dial is defined by architecturally inspired diagonal lines, with the meridian debossed down the middle.

It’s subtle – and the GMT hand is subtler, made to blend in but accented with a black tip. It’s a quartz, but a Swiss one and has the kind of finishing touches a watch lover can appreciate – including a proper sapphire crystal and quick-release Italian leather straps.

Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel case with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: Quartz movement
Strap: Charcoal Italian Nappa leather
Price: £265

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Omologato Le Mans ‘59

Omologato Le Mans ‘59

You hear British, you hear racing, you think Aston Martin. It’s a fact of life. The marque has an incredible history on the track and, when it comes to endurance, that history began with their first win at Le Mans in 1959 – a moment that the Le Mans ’59 from racing-inspired watch brand Omologato pays homage to.

That’s most evident in the British racing green dial and its vintage, bi-compax dial layout. Other nods are more subtle – like the yellow index at 59 – and the overall shape, which takes cues from the race winning Aston Martin DBR1/300. It’s a watch you could easily imagine Jackie Stewart wearing as he passed the finish line.

Case/Dial: 41mm stainless steel case with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: Seiko VK64 Meca-Quartz Movement
Strap: Italian leather
Price: £385, limited to 50 pieces

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Paulin Neo B

Paulin Neo B

As with many smaller brands, Paulin watches are made in batches and it’s not hard to see the shift over time between the original, very yellow Neo B to this much more orange, hand-dyed finish. It’s the kind of bold pop of colour I’ve come to love over the past couple of years (cards on the table, I bought the blue version) and the kind of watch British brands just do best.

Opting for a Seiko movement over Miyota and encapsulated in a svelte case that lets the ever-verbose dial do all the talking, it’s a pop art splash of summer colour to rival any summer-ready timepiece.

Case/Dial: 38mm stainless steel case with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: Seiko NH35A automatic movement with 41-hour power reserve
Strap: Leather
Price: £395

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Beaucroft Senate Cambridge Blue

Beaucroft Senate Cambridge Blue

Tiffany blue might be all the rage, but all that means is high prices a low chance you can get hold of one. This brightly handsome number from Cambridge-based Beaucroft might not be quite the same (it’s Cambridge blue, honestly) but it’s nevertheless an incredibly cool entry-level automatic piece with Doxa levels of eye-catching colour.

Paired with a thin yet fluted crown and a crisp, clean dial layout worthy of an off-kilter independent watch brand, it’s one of the funkiest pieces in its price range. There are a fair few strap options (the midnight blue nylon is a standout) but you can’t go wrong with a killer mesh bracelet.

Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel case with 30m (3 bar) water resistance
Movement: Miyota 9039 automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Leather, steel mesh or nylon strap
Price: £325

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£400 – £600

Solid automatic movements, heritage designs and a splash of colour.

Arken Instrumentum

Arken Instrumentum

This battle-ready tool is a proper box-ticker, and what looks large is in fact rather svelte at 40mm with an 11.5mm thickness and lightweight in full titanium. A tried-and-true tool watch with a sports-chic integrated bracelet, Arken’s debut is an uncompromisingly utilitarian 300m diver, defined by that big, toothy bezel and muscular shoulders doubling as a crown guard.

With its three differently-shaped hands and two different lumes – blue for the handset and indexes, green for the second hand and 12 o’clock point on the bezel – there’s more going on after the first glance than you might expect.

Case/Dial: 40mm titanium steel case with 300m (30 bar) water resistance
Movement: Miyota 9015 hi-beat automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Titanium bracelet
Price: £429.99, limited to 300 pieces

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Studio Underd0g Mint Ch0c Chip

Studio Underd0g Mint Ch0c Chip

Nothing says British summertime like mint choc chip ice cream and, while we’re still in the frigid winter cold, Studio Underd0g’s latest is still cool enough to risk a brain freeze. A follow-up to the designer’s phenomenal Watermel0n, this watch is slightly more toned down yet still offers a quirky big-eye bicompax chronograph layout, this time in textured mint green and cocoa-dusted tachymeter scale and subdial.

Consider the chocolate-coloured strap (made by British specialist The Strap Tailor) the flake on top. It’s more of an impulse buy than an ice cream in 30-degree heat; fingers crossed it’ll be back in stock soon.

Case/Dial: 38.5mm stainless steel case with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: Seagull Manual Winding ST-1901 movement with 45-hour power reserve
Strap: Alran Chevre Goatskin strap made in collaboration with The Strap Tailor
Price: £440

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Isotope Hydrium Burnt Tangerine

Isotope Hydrium Burnt Tangerine

According to Isotope, the brand’s always wanted to make a tangerine dial. From any other watchmaker that might seem like a stretch, but from the makers of the one of the most fun GMTs on the market, it sounds about right – and the Hydrium Burnt Tangerine is an eye-catcher if ever there was one.

Aside from the colour, it’s enhanced with an elevated version of Isotope’s signature tear shape. The dial’s set off even more against the dark, microblasted stainless steel case and black rotating diving bezel, making for a tool watch that’s a world away from what you might expect.

Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel case with 300m (30 bar) water resistance
Movement: Swiss automatic movement with 40-hour power reserve
Strap: Cordura or FKM straps
Price: £533, limited to 100 pieces

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Christopher Ward C5 Malvern Revival

Christopher Ward C5 Malvern Revival

Christopher Ward might seem like an odd brand to do an honorary revival piece, but if there’s one thing they do well, it’s hit on trends, of which re-issues are a big one. And to be fair, they are one of the most significant British brands around, so we’ll give it to them.

It helps that the stripped-back C5 Malvern was always a handsome dress piece, and the Revival Special Edition is about as faithful as you can get, complete with now-vintage big-C emblem. It’s an entry level piece for Christopher Ward but with its light catcher case and Milanese bracelet, looks sharper than its price tag would suggest.

Case/Dial: 40.5mm stainless steel case with 30m (3 bar) water resistance
Movement: Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel mesh bracelet
Price: £590

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Elliot Brown Bloxworth Founder’s Edition

Elliot Brown Bloxworth Founder’s Edition

Not a lot of great stuff happened during lockdown. Fortunately, the Founder’s Edition of Elliot Brown’s Bloxworth is one of the rarities that did. Between the soft, cool grey dial and the bronze-coloured coating, this collaborative timepiece encapsulates the novel design language of the brand – and without turning your wrist green.

The overhanging bezel boasts a ceramic insert for hardwearing diving style, while the basket-weave, sandwich dial has a bit more retro about it. Powered by a quartz movement (don’t worry, it’s Swiss), this might just be the best Elliot Brown to date. Lockdown agreed with them, apparently.

Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel case with 200m (20 bar) water resistance
Movement: Ronda 713 quartz movement
Strap: Tobacco brown nubuck
Price: £570, limited to 250 pieces

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Prestex Duckworth Verimatic Blue Fumé

Prestex Duckworth Verimatic Blue Fumé

It shouldn’t be too big a surprise we’re huge fans of recently revived British heritage watchmaker Duckworth Prestex. Not only have we included them here, we also used their eye-catching orange timepiece in our style shoot.

This blue version, while certainly more wearable, is no less cool, complete with a high contrast yellow second hand. It’s a sportier take on the cushion-cased watches of the 30s, powered by a workhorse Miyota movement and is one hell of a splash for a watch brand barely a year old. Here’s hoping we see a few more colours popping up soon.

Case/Dial: 39mm stainless steel case with 200m (20 bar) water resistance
Movement: Miyota 9039 automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Blue suede leather
Price: £595

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£600 – £2,000

Inspired materials and classical colourways with a surprising eye for detail.

Alsta Nautoscaph IV Great White

Alsta Nautoscaph IV Great White

Since their re-founding back in 2014, Alsta have built on the bones of the Jaws watch with four generations of Nautoscaph, the timepiece worn by Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper in the legendary tourist-scaring blockbuster.

The version even has a cool alternate colourway – the aptly named Great White, with all the necessary diving accoutrements like a rotating bezel and 300m water resistance, this time with a silver dial that echoes its apex predator namesake. While the case may be considerably different from the 1970s original, it looks killer with Alsta’s own ‘Valencia’ beads-of-rice bracelet.

Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel case with 300m (30 bar) water resistance
Movement: Seiko NH35A calibre automatic movement with 41-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel
Price: £695

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William Wood Bronze Ruby

William Wood Bronze Ruby

Resplendent in all the firefighter finishing touches a first responder could want, William Wood’s latest limited edition might be par for the course for the brand but, in a combination of deep burgundy dial and bronze case, is better-looking than ever.

Available on a variety of colourful straps upcycled from the hoses of different fire departments – the standout being the new versions made from British Fire Uniforms – the Bronze Ruby encapsulates everything that William Wood stands for. It also has one of the most impressive watch boxes around, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Case/Dial: 41mm bronze steel case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: Seiko NH35 automatic movement with 41-hour power reserve
Strap: Straps upcycled from British Fire Uniform or the hoses of different fire departments
Price: £795

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anOrdain Model 1 Fume Dial Green

anOrdain Model 1 Fume Dial Green

Enamel dials are hard to make. Making them in Glasgow is pretty much impossible. And yet fantastic vitreous enamel dials are what the Scots at anOrdain have made their name with – the most spectacular of which is their most recent series of sparkling fume colours.

The cartographic gold numerals, slim indexes and heat-treated hands add some matte gold contrast to the smoky green, wrapped up in a slim and elegant case. The only downside? The Model 1 Fume Dial has a serious wait list. For now, at least.

Case/Dial: 38mm stainless steel case with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Leather
Price: £1,800

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Wessex Peerless II Spiral V

Wessex Peerless II Spiral V

Peerless by name, peerless by nature, the Wessex flagship offers two distinct sterling silver dials layered one atop the other for an unsurpassed depth to its construction. That depth is accentuated with superb spiralling guilloche – among other engravings – that can be customised to order.

Obviously, the more work it takes, the more it’ll set you back but what would you expect for a bespoke finish? Things are equally impeccable inside with the movement (again of your choice) on full show through the wider-than-usual exhibition caseback. Finished with a large, fluted crown, the Peerless is ornate in the most traditionally British way possible.

Case/Dial: 43mm stainless steel case with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: Hand-wound ETA (Unitas) 6498-1 Élaboré or 6498-1 Art Deco Skeleton movement
Strap: Hand-made Italian calf leather
Price: £1,799 or £2,199 (Art Deco Skeleton movement edition)

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Marloe Pacific 52

Marloe Pacific 52

A celebration of the de Havilland Comet, the aircraft that changed the face of aviation back in 1952, this vintage styled take on the Marloe Pacific embodies the golden age of air travel, albeit a little less lavishly than the jet-set lifestyle of the time.

The fuselage colouring and subtle salmon highlighting all hark back to a bygone era of old-world class, a mix of utilitarian mechanics and luxurious finishing touches. As a first for Marloe, the case combines brushed, polished and frosted surfaces for the brand’s most nuanced timepiece to date. It’s not a pilots’ watch; it’s a watch for those flying first class.

Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: Sellita SW215-1 automatic movement with 40-hour power reserve
Strap: Leather
Price: £1,195

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Farer Lander Midnight

Farer Lander Midnight

After the success of their sea green dialled GMT, the next expansion of the Lander collection is a bit more pared back in midnight blue. It’s just as detailed as ever, with a stepped dial and a copper ring around the periphery of the dial to match Farer’s signature crown flourish.

Overall, it feels like a more serious watch, elegant rather than eccentric and, while I’m always a fan of garish colour, it’s hard to knock the Lander Midnight for taking a different approach. If you’re looking for an everyday traveller’s watch with just a dash of British flair, look no further.

Case/Dial: 39.5mm stainless steel case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: Sellita SW330-2 automatic movement with 56-hour power reserve
Strap: St Venere leather
Price: £1,190

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£2,000 – £5,000

Watchmaking serious enough to worry the Swiss.

Sidereus Newgrange Moon Phase

Sidereus Newgrange Moon Phase

The self-appointed representatives of Irish watchmaking, Sidereus’ unique case shapes take their design cues from ancient Celtic buildings, hence the characteristic side elevation. Otherwise, they’re downright lovely dress pieces, if larger than you might expect, of which the Newgrange Moon Phase is the standout.

The multi-tiered, tone-on-tone dial includes unique skeletonised hands and a flash of orange that’s particularly bright on the midnight blue dial. A subtly different timepiece in various brushed and polished finishes and backed by solid, modified stock movement, the Newgrange is more beautiful than a bottle of Redbreast.

Case/Dial: 44mm stainless steel case with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: Modified Sellita SW280-1 automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Calf leather
Price: €2,600 (approx. £2,150), limited to 50 pieces in each finish

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Bremont Broadsword Jet

Bremont Broadsword Jet

By all accounts, Bremont’s partnership with the Ministry of Defence has been doing pretty well for the Henley watchmakers. Between the lower price point and military style, it’s not hard to see why – particularly in this latest, blacked-out version with rose gold indexes.

The touch of gilt detracts a little from the utilitarianism of the original Broadsword, but it makes for a much more modern update of the Dirty Dozen-style timepiece. With a two-part case rather than Bremont’s signature Trip-Tick construction it’s a touch more basic than, say, the MBII. That doesn’t stop it being one of their coolest pieces to date. And hey, not a cannibalised historical artifact in sight.

Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel or brass case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: Modified calibre 11 1/2’’’ BE-95-2AV with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Black rubber
Price: £2,995

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Vertex M60 Aqualion

Vertex M60 Aqualion

How do you create a dive watch, complete with all the ISO Standard necessities, that blends in with the pared-back, utilitarian vibes of the legendary Dirty Dozen? The Vertex Aqualion.

The underwater alternative to the M100 can reach 600m down, has an incredible notched bezel inspired by a vintage Bren gun and somehow still feels in keeping with the brand’s military DNA.

Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel case with 600m (60 bar) water resistance
Movement: Sellita SW300-1 automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel
Price: £2,850

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Schofield Treasure Watch

Schofield Treasure Watch

It’s been ten years since Schofield first launched their ultra-cool Signalman and, to celebrate their anniversary, have graduated from lighthouse inspiration to the treasure washed up when they don’t actually work. Each of the new Limited Edition Treasure Watches is serialised with the name of a hoard found somewhere in the UK, starting with Sutton Hoo and running up to 29 models.

Available in two variants – one in stainless steel, the other in gold-plated brass – the Treasure Watch is otherwise pure Schofield, with a clean, utilitarian dial. Less utilitarian is the fully gold-plated ETA calibre inside. There’s no sapphire caseback though, so you’ll need to take my word on it that the ultimate hidden treasure is, in fact, there.

Case/Dial: 44mm stainless steel or brass case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Black Quadrant leather
Price: £3,480, limited to 29 pieces each

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Fears Archival

Fears Archival

The biggest release from heritage British brand Fears, the Archival is a modern interpretation (read upsize) of an early model from the brand back in the days when they were based in Bristol. While the small seconds is now completely sold out, the timeonly – which is in my opinion the more handsome of the pair – is still available and offers a superlative Art Deco, 1930s look with a genuine vintage movement.

Pay particular attention to the border around the dial; it’s a lot more than a bit of gilding. Fears have been playing off their old school good looks since the days of the Redcliffe Quartz and the Archival is the culmination of their overdue re-entry into the watch world.

Case/Dial: 40mm x 22mm stainless steel case with 30m (3 bar) water resistance
Movement: New old stock ETA 2360 calibre manual wind movement with 40- hour power reserve
Strap: Leather
Price: £3,500, limited to 135 pieces

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Zero West TT58-R

Zero West TT58-R

If you’re as much a mechanic as you are a watch collector, Zero West is for you. The Hampshire-based watch brand’s entire raison d’etre is an ode to vintage machines across land, sea and air. This chunky, industrially machined number is named after the Aston Martin 1958 TT which took a 1-2-3 finish at the renowned Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy.

The TT5-R isn’t just aesthetically linked to those cars; it includes a machined disc taken from the drive shaft of one of the actual finishing cars – that driven by Sir Stirling Moss. It’s a piece of automotive history.

Case/Dial: 44mm stainless steel case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: ETA 2824 automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: ~Leather
Price: £3,700

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£5,000+

The handmade elite of the British watch world.

Garrick S4

Garrick S4

Garrick made their second entry into the GPHG last year and, while they didn’t win, the S4 hammers home once and for all they’re easily up there with the big boys. Each S4 is made to order, meaning that they’re fully customisable – hence the incredible burgundy colouring on this particular piece.

Even the base model is a masterclass in refined finishing and, thanks to its stainless-steel case, is far more accessible than it looks. In fact, even with a modified movement and hand-finishing up there with the most artisanal Swiss maisons, you can get one of these British beauties for less than 6K.

Case/Dial: 42mm stainless steel case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: BF03 calibre automatic movement with 46-hour power reserve
Strap: Handmade alligator, calf leather, buffalo or ostrich
Price: From £5,495

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Robert Loomes The Loomes Original

Robert Loomes Original

The Original, watchmaker Robert Loomes’ flagship is less about haute horology, guilloche and flashy techniques; it’s all about provenance. The classically styled timepiece, aesthetically driven by traditional clocks, is made from components built here in Britain, from blued steel hairpsprings to screws. Incidentally, the steel used throughout is hardened using charcoal, for added carbon, and nitrogen for sheer resistance.

Fun fact: the latter is added by using hooves of the horses that graze around Loomes’ Stanford studio. Very locally sourced. The movement inside is as pared-back as the elegant dial, designed to be smooth and reliable through its runtime. The Original doesn’t shout about its hand-made origins; it doesn’t need to. Sometimes a whisper will do.

Case/Dial: 39mm yellow or white gold case with 30m (3 bar) water resistance
Movement: Loomes Made Movement with 30-hour power reserve
Strap: Leather
Price: £68,500

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Roger Smith Series 1

Roger Smith Series 1

Though it’s the least complicated of watches from the successor to legendary watchmaker George Daniels, the Series 1 is, in my mind, the definitive Roger Smith experience. Elegance incarnate, the various types of guilloche across the dial make for a deceptively restrained finish, while the Roman numerals and case shape hammer home Roger Smith’s classical sensibilities.

Inside is the latest, single wheel version of the Daniels Co-Axial escapement with a free sprung Quadrajust balance, a haute horology evolution of what you’ll often find in Omega timepieces. And of course, the entire piece is made in-house, under one roof on the Isle of Man. Interested? You can check out our in-depth feature on Roger Smith on page 46. Or just check out our cover.

Case/Dial: 33mm or 40mm platinum, yellow, red or white gold case
Movement: Roger W Smith movement
Strap: Leather
Price: From £120,000

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.

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