The Garrick Portsmouth is a high-end watch featuring an exclusive hand-wound movement and, specifically, a prominent balance bridge. Angus Davies enjoys a period of ‘hands-on’ association and discusses his feelings about this latest British watch.
When David Brailsford burst onto the watchmaking scene with his brand, Garrick, a couple of years ago he entered a commercial arena dominated by large, established watch brands. In reality the odds of success were small.
However, within a comparatively short period of time, David has built Garrick into an impressive British micro-brand, fulfilling the desires of patriotic souls who subscribe to the company’s very individual design language and British DNA.
The first model to be released was the Shaftesbury featuring the company’s own in-house free sprung balance. Indeed, at no stage could anyone allege Garrick of plagiarism such is the profound uniqueness of each timepiece.
To date, each watch has been crafted in Garrick’s Norfolk workshop, delivering a dose of Britishness often lacking in a world dominated by large brands from Germany, Japan and, most pertinently, Switzerland. From the outset, Garrick has been very transparent about the origins of its movements, openly declaring it was modifying vintage NOS Unitas movements and stating unambiguously that to craft an English in-house movement would be prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, Garrick has always imbued each Swiss movement with a high quotient of Britishness, replacing some parts with its own in-house alternatives. Moreover, the case, dial and hands are either sourced from British companies or made in-house.
Now, the brand has unveiled the most significant model in its history, the Portsmouth. This hand-wound watch features an exclusive movement made in collaboration with watchmaking legend, the acclaimed Andreas Strehler and his esteemed company, Uhr Teil AG. Strehler has clearly brought his exacting standards to the table, evident with each perfectly executed component.
While many of the movement parts are crafted by Uhr Teil AG, Garrick continues to make other components in-house. Furthermore, the finishing of components, assembly and subsequent regulation all take place in Norfolk. Brailsford always stated he wanted to create a totally homegrown watch but conceded he had to be pragmatic, accepting a 100% British watch still remains elusive. Nevertheless, the Portsmouth has an impressively high percentage of its value added in the United Kingdom.
The first aspect of my press loan to arrest my attention was the engraved silver dial, sporting an ‘England’ motif, ideally suiting patriotic souls. I must confess when I saw the first images of the dial released by the brand, I was not too sure about the success of this new design. Thankfully, once the watch was in my hands, the dial proved mightily handsome. Nevertheless, I must confess that I would feel a strong compunction to have a bespoke dial and exploit the versatility the brand offers. Indeed, a white grand feu enamel dial or a traditional silver dial adorned with clous de Paris motif would probably proffer greater appeal to me.
Garrick is of sufficient size to deliver an impressive degree of technical competence whilst still offering the facility for bespoke commissions. This company is the horological equivalent of a Savile Row tailor, able to sate very specific client requests. There is a part of me which would like to explore this facility further, but always within the constraints of good taste of course!
In the north-easterly section of the dial, an arcing cartouche proudly proclaims the maker’s name. Its scale is significant, again conferring a degree of individuality seldom found elsewhere. Positioned opposite and delivering a visual counterbalance, an open-worked small seconds display charmingly mimics the full dial, albeit on a much smaller scale.
The thermally blued Maritime hour and minute hands boldly convey the prevailing time and impart information with notable clarity. There are no excuses for lateness, these hands communicate the time without ambiguity. The hour hand is particularly long, which provides visual symmetry with the minute hand when the watch is set to 10:10 hours. At the heart of the dial, a machined cap with frosted finish provides a neat covering of the collet.
At the base of the dial is the pièce de résistance, a magnificently executed balance bridge. To the casual observer the appearance of the balance bridge and its position at 6 o’clock may lead them to wrongly assume the watch is a tourbillon. It is not. However, the balance is exquisitely presented and upholds Britain’s historical reputation for high-end watchmaking.
The balance bridge is grained on its upper surface, while the bevelled edges are highly polished. Beneath the balance bridge, the free sprung balance can be seen, a detail I will return to later. A sumptuous sea of perlage can be seen below the balance wheel, its flawless execution standing testament to the exalted creation of this fabulous timepiece.
Encircling the dial is an applied chapter ring. It is satin brushed and detailed with blue markings.
The 42mm 316L stainless steel case shares the same diameter as other Garrick watches. However, this is where the similarities end. The case is a wholly new design.
Comparing the case of the Portsmouth with its older sibling the Norfolk, the lugs are more refined, curving downwards and proffering better wearer comfort. The bezel is shallower, helping to contribute to the reduced case height. The newly designed crown proves easier to turn and its profile looks more resolved. Indeed, each aspect of the case looks a cut above the similarly sized case of the Norfolk. This is not to demean the Norfolk which is a far more accessibly priced timepiece but helps illustrate why Garrick charges substantially more for its latest watch, the Portsmouth.
Interestingly, the case looks much smaller when worn, appearing more like 40mm in diameter. This is not meant to be a criticism but merely an observation. Moreover, for some this will be viewed as a positive aspect of the Portsmouth.
The ‘new hand-wound exclusive movement’, Calibre UT-G01, is beautiful.
Appraising the rear of the watch, looking at the movement via the exhibition caseback, one can see the ratchet wheel adorned with solarisation. The intricately formed click is unique to the watch and sits above an area decorated with perlage. The jewels are mounted in chaton-like settings and the screws are thermally blued.
Returning to the dial area, and specifically the balance, there are further movement details worthy of discussion. The balance wheel is made of ‘a patented metal alloy called Sircumet and is employed for the first time within a wristwatch’. The screws are set in-board to mitigate turbulence, hence aiding precision. The in-house free sprung balance also offers improved precision and mitigates the likelihood of positional errors.
My press loan sported a silver toned frosted movement which appeared quite contemporary in character. Again, Garrick’s bespoke service can pander to the precise needs of each customer, including the addition of Geneva stripes on the movement bridges should the client desire.
The frequency of the balance is 18,000 vph (2.5Hz) and the movement contains 19 jewels. The movement has a power reserve of 44 hours.
I am unashamedly proud of being British and know I am not alone in this regard. The England motif dial is highly innovative and based on the models favourable reception at the recent SalonQP event in London, it evidently appeals to English patriots.
However, I accept that some would-be buyers may not like the highly individual England motif dial. This is not a problem, Garrick offers a bespoke service capable of satisfying the requirements of individual free thinkers. Personally, I can’t help imagining a Portsmouth with a white grand feu enamel dial with my name on it. A possible present from Mrs Davies? I would like to think so.
While I was in possession of the Portsmouth many observers wrongly assumed the watch to be a tourbillon. The rationale for selecting a timepiece with a tourbillon escapement is increased precision. However, the Portsmouth already delivers an impressive degree of precision with a stated ‘daily variance of +3 seconds’. Furthermore, many purchasers of tourbillons do so based on the appearance they exhibit. With many onlookers saying the Portsmouth resembles a tourbillon, it appears Garrick has delivered all the attributes of a tourbillon while sidestepping the expense this usually entails.
Cost is always a moot point whenever discussing matters of horology. Clearly, the Garrick Portsmouth is substantially more expensive than its siblings. However, apart from sharing the same maker’s name, there are few similarities. The execution of the movement is a cut above other Garrick models and its no-compromise creation is manifest wherever you choose to look. Moreover, the dial and case are executed to a much higher standard, exhibiting an incredibly refined aesthetic. The Garrick Portsmouth is an expensive watch but, based on its array of attributes, justifiably so. Indeed, I would even suggest the watch is actually underpriced and would warrant another £4000 on the asking price and still prove competitive.
While I may prefer to own a Portsmouth which eschews the England motif dial, I remain a patriot and admire Garrick for creating a watch with a high percentage of its value added in Great Britain. Indeed, irrespective of which dial you choose, you can be rest assured that much of the beauty imparted to this timepiece takes place in Blighty.
Model: Garrick Portsmouth
Case: stainless steel; diameter 42.00mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; seconds.
Movement: Calibre UT-G01, hand-wound movement; frequency 18,000 vph (2.5Hz), 19 jewels; power reserve 44 hours
Strap: Leather strap with stainless steel pin buckle. Alternative options available.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.