A 2017 Grayton Origin Automatic Smart Watch

This is a limited edition Grayton “Origin” Automatic watch made in 2017, which bought from Indiegogo. The “smart watch” part of it is the strap, which contains circuitry that tracks and logs your movements through the day (and your sleep if you wear it at night). You’ll see screen capture video of the iOS app below. The watch has a 24-jewel Japanese automatic movement and a great design. The smart strap works as promised but isn’t all that comfortable to wear (I explain why in the video), so I wear it with a normal leather strap.

Grayton Watches is a French based start-up brand founded in 2015 by Remi Chabrat, an expert with 25 years in the the watch industry, and as they say on their website, they’re “dedicated to creating affordable luxury and enduring style with automatic watches for men and women”. The name “Grayton” is (in my opinion) an inspired phonetic play on the words “great on”, as in “this watch looks great on you”. I’m curious to find out if my intuition is correct, so if someone from Grayton is reading this, please let me know.

A 1973 Doxa by Synchron Watch

A 1973 Doxa by Synchron Watch

I made a video about one of my vintage Doxa watches. There’s an interesting story behind this watch — literally behind it, as in on the back of it. There’s an inscription on the case back that speaks of things and practices that are no longer around.

This Doxa was most likely made in 1973, while Synchron S.A. owned the Doxa company, which they did from 1968 to 1978. The case serial number is a possible indicator of the year of manufacture.

Doxa S.A. was founded in 1889 by Georges Ducommun, and began as a maker of dress watches and other timepieces. Over time, they branched out into jewelry and they are now best known for their diving watches.

Like most Swiss watch companies, they were hit hard by the introduction of quartz watches. They put up a good fight but in the end they were sold and then ceased operations in 1980. The company changed hands multiple times. It was part of Synchron S.A. between 1968-1978, and were then acquired by Aubrey Freres S.A., who held them until 1997, when they sold them to the Swiss Jenny family. In August 2002, Doxa re-started its watchmaking operations and they are now producing special editions of their historical watches in limited quantities.

A 1952 J.W. Benson Watch

1952 J.W. Benson Watch

I made a video about my 1952 J.W. Benson watch, which I hope you will enjoy. It has a 15-jewel Smiths movement and a sub-second dial with Arab numerals.

James William Benson (12 April 1826 – 7 October 1878) was an English scientific instrument maker and watchmaker who enjoyed an excellent reputation in London in the late nineteenth century. He was born in Reading, Berkshire, England. He was the son of William Benson and Phoebe Suckley.

J.W. Benson Ltd was a highly regarded London watch/clockmakers and gold/silversmiths who traded between 1847 and 1973. The Benson family had been watchmakers since 1749. A company, trading as S.S. & J.W. Benson, was founded in 1847 by James William Benson (born in 1826 in Reading) and his older brother Samuel Suckley Benson (born in 1822 in London). The partnership was dissolved on 27 January 1855 and James William continued the business under the name, ‘J. W. Benson’.

James William Benson died on 7 October 1878, aged 52, and his sons James, Alfred and Arthur took over the running of the business. Throughout its history, J.W. Benson Ltd was official watchmaker to the Admiralty & the War Department and also held a number of royal warrants, being watchmakers to Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, the Tsar of Russia and several other royal families. The company’s premises were: Cornhill (1847–64), Ludgate Hill (1854-1937), Old Bond Street (1872-3), Royal Exchange (1892-1937) and their original workshop was at 4-5 Horseshoe Court (at the rear of their Ludgate Hill premises). In 1892 it became a limited company and moved to their new ‘steam’ factory at 38 Belle Sauvage Yard.

During W.W.I. the factory was bombed, destroying thousands of timepieces and from this point on the company no longer manufactured its own watches, but still continued as a retailer. The timepieces bearing the company name used high quality Swiss movements supplied by manufacturers such as, Vertex (Revue), Cyma/Tavannes, Longines and by the English maker, S. Smith & Sons. J. W. Benson Ltd continued until 1973 at which time the name was sold to the Royal jewellers, Garrards.

A 1950s Fero Antimagnetic Watch

Here is a 1950s Fero Antimagnetic watch with a 15 rubis Ebauche Bettlach (EB 1343) movement and a peripheral second hand. The dial is exquisitely designed, with guilloche reliefs in the shape of circles and solar rays and a hexagonal star in the center. I call this an early version of a skeleton watch, because it’s sealed between two panes of plexiglass. You can see the movement when you turn it over and you can also see through it.

The downside to this is that I cannot open the watch because the seal (which accords it a certain resistance to water and most definitely to dust) will be broken. The upside is that the plexiglass modulates the ticking of the movement, making it softer and more interesting. This effect can also be seen when the watch is wound, and you’ll be able to hear both those processes in the video.

You can tell this watch was loved, because it’s well-worn. The gold plating is barely visible anymore but in spite of all the wear, there are no significant scratches on it. This means its previous owner(s) wore it a lot and cared for it.

The movement ticks at 18,000 beats per hour and it has a power reserve of 37 hours. The diameter of the watch is 37 mm and the distance between the lugs is 18 mm. The movement itself has a diameter of 25.6 mm and is only 4.2 mm thick.

The Fero brand, trademarked in 1959, belonged to the Fero Watch company, founded by Roger Ferner as Fero & Cie. before WWI in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The Fero name actually comes from its founder and is made up of the first two initials of his two names (FErner ROger). Fero also made watches with the following names: Feldmann, Ceneri, Farad, Ferio, Hello, Legation, Maloja, Pantheon and Tango.

Fero did not manufacture its own mechanisms. Instead they purchased and installed movements from some of the best Swiss watchmakers such as Anton Schild, Bettlach, FHF and others. They did design their own watch cases and their designs were quite distinctive, as you can see here. Fero watches are quite rare these days and it’s fairly difficult to find one in as good a shape as this one. I know, because I found another, likely older than this one, whose bezel and case are completely corroded, so I’m not sure how I’m going to restore it.

I hope you enjoy the video and the photos!

My 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch

I wonder how many of you know that I love old watches, not just new ones? I thought I’d put together a video and photo gallery for one of my pocket watches, my biggest one in terms of size and weight: an 1899 Elgin pocket watch.

Here’s the video:

This particular watch was bought in the United States at the turn of the 20th century by an Englishman who then returned to England, where the watch remained in the family until earlier this year, when the nephew of that gentleman, who has relocated to Romania to spend his retirement years here, sold it to me. The man is Laurie Webb, a fine fellow who now runs a pension house in the village of Roandola near Sighisoara, and whom I interviewed for an episode of “Romania Through Their Eyes“.

And here are the photos. Enjoy!

1899 Elgin Pocket Watch 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch

A comparison of watch designs

Remember my video on watch bands? I intended to create a guide to watch designs and I got around to it last week. This video’s even longer than the last one; it’s almost 30 minutes! Get a cup of tea, sit down and get comfortable, because it’s going to take a bit of time to get through it!

Let me sum up my thoughts on watch design:

  • Elegant, classy
  • Simple, fulfilling its purpose as a watch, which is to tell the time and the date
  • Refined features that hint at the intricacies inside the case without flaunting them
  • Easy to use, easy to read: proper color contrast in the lettering and numbering
  • A joy to look at, makes you fall in love with it every time you see it
  • Sturdy, quality-built, lasts a long time (a lifetime even)

Watch the video for the rest of my thoughts and I hope you enjoy it and it’s of use to you!

A video guide to choosing the proper watch band

This weekend, I put together a video guide that will help you decide the proper watch band for you. You may not have given a lot of thought to this topic in the past, or perhaps you’ve just lived with the band or strap that your watch came with, but I think after you watch my guide, you’ll start to think differently about watch bands — about the materials they’re made of and about the quality that you’ll want.

By average YouTube video length standards, my guide is like a novel, weighing in at around 20 minutes. I wanted it to be thorough. If you haven’t got 20 minutes to spare, here’s the abridged text version.

Watch bands are made of four different materials:

  • Leather
  • Metal
  • Rubber or silicone
  • Cloth

Leather watch bands are simple, elegant, readily compatible with all skin types, but they may wear out quickly, may tear and may smell (with time). If you get a leather watch band, make sure it’s molded round, it’s stitched with strong thread (contrasting thread adds an extra element of style) and that it’s thicker at its base (where it attaches to the watch) and thinner at its ends. This makes it strong and at the same time easy to attach to and detach from the buckle.

Metal watch bands are sturdy, practical, modern and they last a long time, but they may not fit properly on your wrist, may change color (oxidize), may open readily if clasp mechanism is worn or fails, and may not be compatible with all skin types (may cause rashes). If you get a metal watch band, know that mesh bands offer a better fit than link bands and link bands will need to be adjusted to your wrist at a watch shop.

Cloth watch bands are cheap, sturdy and colorful, but they may fray, discolor, smell and may not be easy to attach and detach. Go for cloth watch bands with metal (not cloth) loops and try not to wear them too much, or they’ll discolor and get grimy, and they’ll stay grimy even if you wash them.

Rubber watch bands are cheap, sturdy, great for aquatic sports and easy to wash. Newer silicone bands are colorful. But rubber and silicone bands may discolor or form a film on the surface when exposed to chlorine and salty water, may accumulate dust and grime inbetween their ridges, and let’s face it, they’re not elegant. If you get a rubber watch band, go for simple bands with fewer or no ridges and watch out for silicone watch bands, which will literally attract dust and grime. Only wear them when working out and wash them afterward as you shower, to make sure they stay clean.

Finally, there are two mechanisms for keeping the bands closed: the buckle and the clasp. The buckle is a time-proven design, works forever but is slow to open/close. The buckle will also indent the leather band where it closes and its pin may tear through the punch hole over time, requiring the purchase of a new band. The clasp is a modern, practical design which opens and closes quickly. The clasp pins and pin holders may wear out over time, causing the clasp to open suddenly and the watch to fall from the wrist. Whichever design you choose, go for something simple that is less likely to break.

I hope this has helped you!