Don’t call it a comeback for the best British watch brands, many of whom are putting England back on the horological map. Whereas cities like London were once at the very centre of watchmaking, that hasn’t really been the case since the 19th century. In fact, nearly all the British luxury watch brands were outsourcing production by the 1970s, representing a trend that would sustain itself for decades to come. That’s continuing to change with the emergence of new players, including microbrands and mass producers alike.
To be fair, plenty of top British watch brands still send their manufacturing abroad. However, the invigorated focus on quality control and aesthetic distinction remains palpable. After all, England is already home to some of the best in music, fashion, literature, and more. Why would horology be any exception?
Sure, countries like Switzerland and Germany still reign supreme, but the United Kingdom is certainly no slouch. As such, our list of the best British watch brands straddles a full spectrum of prices and styles. On it, you’ll find military watches, luxury watches, affordable watches, and expensive ones too. Nothing infers a growing industry like ample amounts of choice, and on that front, England delivers. We thus present the 15 best British watch brands.
Among all the names to emerge in the last two decades, Bremont might very well be the most quintessential. Since launching in 2002, this top watch brand has become the largest producer in the British Isles. Brothers Nick and Giles English continue to take a downright masterful approach toward innovative mechanics and groundbreaking designs, all while bringing more and more of the operation in-house.
It’s then no surprise that aviation-style models bearing the SOLO or MBII designation remain the stuff of legend. Bremont also delivers some truly incredible diver’s watches, such as the Supermarine Type 301. All the while, a military vibe persists.
Arnold & Son
While technically a Swiss luxury watch brand, Arnold & Son hails from the British tradition. Its spiritual origins go all the way back to 1787 and a trailblazing Brit named John Arnold, who excelled at crafting ship chronometers for some of the most accomplished seafarers of his time. To this day, the brand honours its historic foundations by way of two nautical-themed collections: the Royal and Instrument.
Taking that navigational motif to new heights are recent models such as the HM Perpetual Moon Aventurine, which likewise retains a classical vibe. What you end up with are elegant British designs and top-shelf Swiss mechanics, two things no watch-lover would argue with.
A sister company to Arnold & Son, Swiss watch brand Graham similarly takes inspiration from a British titan. His name was George Graham and he was fundamental to the discovery of magnetic fields and development of chronographs, among other things. Collections such as the Geo.Graham and Chronofighter Classic uphold British craftsmanship traditions to truly eye-popping effect. Under the skin are unique and powerful Swiss-made movements.
Hailing from the Isle of Man (which resides under the British Crown), Roger W. Smith famously hand-makes his mechanical watches from scratch. A protégé of George Daniels—aka one of the 20th century’s greatest watchmakers—Smith and his team meticulously ply their craft inside the master’s old workshop. The luxury brand produces about 10 watches per year, which rank among the finest timepieces you’ll ever lay your eyes on, hence the two-plus year waiting list.
Models like the Series 4 Triple Calendar Moonphase in 18k red gold will run you about £250,000 and be worth every penny. More than one of the best British watch brands, this is mechanical mythology in the making.
Looking for affordable British military watches of discernible quality? Then Cabot Watch Company (CWC) is definitely your brand of choice. It was founded by an ex-serviceman named Ray Mellor, who kicked things off by winning contracts with the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Jump ahead decades and watches like the G10 are still worn by the British Army. That’s joined by a dynamic slate of choice models, some of which are powered by premium Swiss-made movements.
Because CWC sells its products directly to consumers, you save a bundle.
The spirit of adventure reigns supreme at nascent watch company Farer, which names its models after British explorers and vessels. With help from Swiss manufacturing partner Roventa-Henex, this top brand gives classic 1960s and 1970s designs a modern upgrade by way of prime materials, Swiss movements, and exquisite colour combinations. Expect to drop between US$1000-$2000 for one of its stellar chronographs, GMTs, or diver’s watches.
Upon leaving Audemar Piguet Renaud et Papi, English watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin launched this eponymous watch company in 2002. Like some other brands on the list, it operates out of Switzerland while taking a swath of design cues from the British tradition. Currently, Speake-Marin offers just three luxury collections, which respectively go by the names of One & Two, Haute Horlogerie, and Cabinet des Mystères. Every watch is limited in supply and stunning in execution.
Schofield Watch Company
Schofield is both the name of a gun used by American outlaw Jesse James and the name of this British watch brand…and that’s no coincidence. Virtuosic founder Giles Ellis created the company after building himself his own watch, and he continues to oversee every stage of development. As a result, models like the Signalman Bare Bones, The Beater, and The Telemark deliver absolute distinction, making them some of the best British watches we’ve ever seen.
While the majority of output features Swiss-made movement and components from a variety of manufacturers, more and more of the operation is moving in-house. Keep your eyes peeled for this exceptional British watch brand.
This defiantly British watch brand designs, finishes, assembles, and tests its products in-house. Models like the Axis II pick up where its best-selling predecessor left off, combining a bronze case and streamlined dial face with Swiss-made mechanics. As the brand explores new ideas and designs, its price range follows suit, meaning you can score a quality piece like the Atom for as little as £790.00. Pinion watches are produced in small batches, so get one before it’s gone.
Loomes & Co.
England’s best watch brands don’t get more British than Loomes & Co., which comes to us from founder Robert Loomes. Striving for independence, Loomes continues to invest in various forms of machinery, all with the goal of manufacturing everything in-house. Along similar lines, the brand sources components big and small from local producers. The result is a resoundingly British watch, such as the award-winning Everest or The White Robin.
British luxury watch brand Garrick recently kicked off a new chapter by co-designing its own hand-wound movement, also known as UT-G01. Consider it yet one more notch of distinction for this truly accomplished brand, which assembles everything in-house and by hand. Injecting classic British aesthetics with idiosyncratic flourishes, these small-batch watches exude pure craftsmanship and deserve all the attention you can throw their way.
Once known as the official watch brand worn by the British military, Vertex initially shuttered during the 1972 Quartz Crisis. In 2016, the original founder’s great-grandson relaunched the brand, placing a newfound emphasis on luxury mechanics and palpable attitude. However, don’t take that to mean Vertex has forgotten its own history of iconic field watches and military-grade stunners. That brings us to models like the M100, which wraps a robust and luminous dial face inside a 40mm case of brushed steel.
Striking a playful and creative accord, Mr Jones watches are as unique as they are affordable. Brought to us by designer Crispin Jones, this top British watch brand frequently employs downright illustrative visuals, turning your wrist into a veritable work of art. Also featured is a modest spread of minimalist eye-catchers for men and women alike. The best part? It’s all priced to move.
A thoroughly modern brand, Christopher Ward launched in 2004 as a strictly online venture. To this day, it still cuts out the middleman at every turn, thereby offering high-quality watches at an affordable price. Within the brand’s epic portfolio you’ll find innovative diver’s watches and sophisticated dress watches and everything in between. It’s all designed in England and manufactured in Switzerland, giving you the best of two worlds.
Representing a joint venture between two veterans from lifestyle label Animal, this British watch brand strikes a deft balance between impeccable detail, effortless style, and durable construction. Each and every model undergoes rigorous testing before it hits the proverbial shelves, all to ensure it can withstand virtually any environmental extreme. As Elliot Brown likes to say of its watches: “They’re built to last for years, not fashion seasons.” That’s an offer no thrill-seeking Aussie can refuse.
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