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Arnold & Son TBR
I make no excuses I am proud to be English. Our national history is punctuated with innovation and industrial success. This is perfectly exampled by the English prowess for creating timepieces in the 18th century.
Initially, time keeping was born out of a need to determine longitude when navigating treacherous seas. Great names such as Harrison, Tompion, Mudge, Graham, Earnshaw and Arnold wrestled with time with sublime outcomes.
The pursuit of enhanced accuracy, lead to innovation and craftsmanship, seldom bettered to this day.
Sadly, whilst England dominated the world stage in terms of trade, courtesy of the Industrial Revolution, we never transposed this to watchmaking. The death knell of English watchmaking was the industrialisation of watchmaking in Switzerland, America and Germany.
One company who is keen to retell the story of English watchmaking and pay homage to the quest for determining longitude, is Arnold & Son. Ironically, they are not located in Clerkenwell but La Chaux-de-Fonds in the foothills of the Jura mountains.
The brand has a strong appreciation of English horological history. This is evidenced by their brand being proudly presented on the dials of their watches, with subtext beneath stating, “London 1764”.
A timepiece which immediately engaged with my eyes was the Arnold & Son TBR. Whilst it is a modern watch, harnessing cutting-edge technology, it has beauty of those handsome pocket watches crafted by John Arnold back in the 18th century.
The dial and case
The choice of dial colours immediately presents me with a dilemma. The model is presented in two variants and choosing a favourite would be difficult. Both watches have an aesthetic appeal but for different reasons.
The rose gold TBR has a “silvery white and silvery opaline” dial. The latter tincture being used for the two overlapping areas which draw the eyes in admiring gaze. The chosen colours have a purity and innocence, unsullied by outré adornment. Restrained luxury is conferred with the gold on the case and hands without being overbearing or showy.
The steel cased version has a “light-grey and silvery opaline” dial. Whilst the body in white appearance is the same, the alternative hues of the finished watch bestow a different character. There is a juxtaposition of contemporary grey detail with traditional blued hands. The result is a charming harmony which evokes a joyous grin.
At 9 o’clock an off-centre subdial displays hours and minutes. The traditionally shaped hands and Roman numerals doff their hat to John Arnold’s glorious pocket watches of yesteryear. The subdial is framed by a minute rail, enhancing legibility and aiding interpretation.
A larger centrally located dial is reserved for the watch's two complications, true beat seconds and retrograde date. The interface between this dial and the aforementioned subdial take me back in time to mathematics lessons and learning about Venn diagrams.
A true beat seconds or dead beat seconds is a rare complication. The second hand rests on a seconds mark for one second before moving. It moves in a digital like manner i.e. not sweeping but jumping in defined integers. This was the perfect complication for navigation. The true beat seconds hand resembles an arrow and indicates time with laser-like accuracy.
The second complication features on the centrally located dial. Arabic numerals are used to indicate the date. The odd numbered dates are presented in numerical form, whilst even numbered dates are indicated with a succinct dot. The dates circumnavigate the perimeter of the centrally located dial except where the off-centre subdial overlaps its westerly aspect.
Arnold & Son have not sought expedience with the date indication. A serpentine shaped hand, points to the date. The date display employs a retrograde mechanism which advances towards the last date of the month in an arcing trajectory and then springs back to 1 on the first day of the month. It is a joy to behold and makes other offerings appear pedestrian by comparison.
The profile of the crown is slightly oversized with rounded edges, neatly knurled and adorned with the brand’s logo on its vertical flank.
A sapphire caseback affords a view of the exclusive Arnold & Son Manufacture movement.
I cherish the sight of finely finished movements and the Calibre A&S6008 does not fail to impress. A self-winding movement with peachy detailing underscores the mechanical integrity of the watch.
The brushed skeletonised rotor provides a wonderful window to view the components beneath. The bridges are decorated with Côtes de Genève rayonnantes, a radiating motif, providing a pleasing alternative to the usual stripe decoration.
Rhodium treated movement featured on rose gold version
Arnold & Son present the same movement in two variants depending on the case material. The rose gold version of the TBR contains a rhodium treated movement with blued screws. The stainless steel variant has a NAC grey treated movement with black polished screws.
Both movements harness Haute Horlogerie finishing with petit perlage visible on the plate and hand bevelled bridges. These features all reinforce the feeling of quality. There are many examples of meticulous manufacture which would make John Roger Arnold beam with pride.
Rhodium treated movement featured on rose gold version
Tradition, does not mean that Arnold & Son have ignored modern technology. The combination of true beat seconds and self-winding movement would have proved difficult to create a few years ago. LIGA fabrication technology has facilitated fabrication of components with microscopic precision. Some components are made to tolerances of a micro or one thousandth of a millimetre. Whilst Arnold was a skilled craftsman, this level of preciseness would have been inconceivable to him back in the 18th century.
English watchmaking is experiencing a renaissance of late. Yet, sadly it will never return to its former domination of the horological scene.
Arnold & Son have captured the essence of 18th century English watchmaking, distilling and refining it into a handsome modern day timepiece.
The dilemma for some would be which model to choose and I vacillate between the gold and stainless steel model. In all honesty, both watches proffer a charming appearance with a quality movement.
I think John Roger Arnold would be proud of the elegant watch which carries his name, crafted by his admirers, the Swiss anglophiles from the picturesque Jura region.
- Model: Arnold & Son TBR
- Reference: 1ARAP.W01A.C120P (18-carat rose gold); 1ARAS.S01A.C121S (stainless steel)
- Case: 18-carat rose gold or stainless steel dependent on model; diameter 44.00 mm; height 13.75 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and case back.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; true beat seconds; retrograde date.
- Movement: A&S6008 Manufacture movement, self-winding; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 34 jewels; power reserve 50 hours.
- Strap: Hand-stitched alligator strap presented in co-ordinating colour (brown or black) on pin buckle.