Made in Norfolk, the Garrick S1 is a limited edition timepiece equipped with a high-end exclusive hand-wound movement. Angus Davies spent 10 days in the company of this fascinating watch, marvelling at its skeletonised dial and no-compromise craftsmanship.
This detailed review of the Garrick S1 includes live images, specification and price.
Since arriving on the watchmaking scene a few years ago, Garrick has not let the grass grow under its feet. In 2014, this British watch company launched its inaugural model, the ‘Shaftesbury’, an elegant watch proclaiming hours and minutes using leaf-shaped hands and incorporating a small seconds display at 6 o’clock. Since then, the ‘Hoxton’, ‘Norfolk’ and the ‘Regulator’ have joined the brand’s collection.
Each of these models share one common element, a vintage Unitas 6498.1 base. However, typical of all Garrick watches, the movement of each model has been heavily modified in the company’s impressive workshop. Thermally blued screws, hand-finished bridges and, in some cases, an in-house free sprung balance, are just some of the enhancements delivered by this ambitious company. The dial of each watch features various parts crafted within the confines of the brand’s workshop. Even the hands are the result of talented watchmakers skilfully manipulating metal. At the heart of Garrick’s DNA there has always been a strong desire to perform as many operations in-house as possible.
However, despite its success with the aforementioned models, David Brailsford, the company’s founder, has always held a burning desire to produce a watch endowed with an exclusive movement. David’s dream was realised when the brand unveiled its first version of the ‘Portsmouth’, a watch equipped with the calibre UT-GO1. This watch signalled an intent to reposition the company’s watches upwards, to a much higher level, illustrated with very impressive finishing and a sumptuous balance bridge.
Following the release of the initial Portsmouth model, Garrick did not rest on its laurels. It revisited the Portsmouth and released a further version, the aptly named Portsmouth Mark 2. While this watch was mechanically identical to the Portsmouth, it was blessed with a gorgeous guilloché dial. The Mark 2 was unveiled at SalonQP 2017 and has gone on to become one of the brand’s most popular models.
A few weeks ago, the British watchmaking concern unveiled the new Garrick S1. With this new model, Master Watchmaker Craig Baird, based at the company’s Norfolk workshop, has showcased his watchmaking prowess. He has modified the aforementioned UT-GO1 movement, adding a power-reserve indication and, most notably, open-working the dial.
I recently contacted the brand and requested temporary ownership of the Garrick S1, eager to appraise it over a number of days.
When I first saw the Garrick S1, I must confess that I thought its dial was a little ‘busy’ and wondered whether it would be easy to live with. However, one benefit of wearing a watch for a few days is that you become familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. I can already attest that the numerous exposed wheels do not detract from the excellent readability of the dial.
The exposed wheels engender genuine affection as they interact with each other. Their progress is slow so don’t expect to see them rotate, however, they provide a visual reminder that this is a mechanical watch harnessing much hand craftsmanship. Indeed, each of the gold and rhodium-plated gears are cut by hand.
Garrick has equipped this watch with its ‘maritime hands’. Personally, I like the unusual profile of the hands, but the brand is able to offer alternative styles on request. The thermally blued hands are skilfully created in the company’s workshop.
A small seconds display is positioned at 10 o’clock. It consists of a silver-coloured chapter ring floating above the gold plated base. This design language is shared with the power-reserve indicator located at 2 o’clock.
A visual highlight of the dial area is the balance bridge and the balance below. The upper surface of the balance bridge is grained, while the bevelled edges are mirror-polished. The screws holding the balance bridge are mirror-polished and flawlessly presented. The rim of the balance features three screws, set in-board. By positioning the screws in-board there is less air turbulence, resulting in greater precision. The balance spring is made of Sircumet which proffers excellent anti-magnetic properties. While the watch has been in my care, I have derived much pleasure from watching the balance wheel oscillate to and fro. Indeed, the Garrick S1 delivers an amazing sense of theatre.
The winding mechanism is another area which Garrick has chosen to disclose. The winding shaft, crown wheel and castle wheel can easily be seen. The silver-toned cover plate is grained and provides an attractive contrast with the adjacent gold plated base.
Encircling the dial is a brushed steel chapter ring. Each one-minute integer is succinctly indicated with a neat circular mark, save for the area occupied by the balance. The chapter ring, in conjunction with the elongated minute hand, confers a user-friendly means of read-off.
Garrick has clearly wanted to showcase its watchmaking expertise, equipping the S1 with a myriad of exquisite details. For example, the dial features several screwed chatons, a detail which will find favour with any self-respecting purist.
The 42mm stainless steel case successfully blends highly polished and satin-finished surfaces. The sapphire crystal is slightly domed but remains free of glare, courtesy of excellent antireflective treatment.
Garrick has equipped the S1 with a bulbous crown. The shape of the crown is not only attractive but practical, offering ease of manipulation. Despite its prominent shape, it does not chafe the skin. Indeed, I found the watch very comfortable to wear during my temporary ownership.
An exhibition case-back affords sight of the hand-wound UT-G02 movement.
The gold frosted finish of the movement confers a very traditional appearance, typical of a vintage English watch. Again, gold chatons abound. Thermally blued screws populate the various bridges, upholding fine watchmaking practice.
Whilst winding the Garrick S1, I derived much pleasure watching the transmission and ratchet wheels rotate. As the latter wheel turns, it interfaces with an elaborately shaped click. The sizeable click looks more than capable of holding the tensioned ratchet wheel in position and is beautifully designed. It would be true to say there is nothing perfunctory about this watch.
The ‘English-shaped’ bridges feature hand bevelled edges. I particularly like the small pallet cock which bestows wonderful glimpses of the pallet lever industriously nodding.
Garrick has equipped the S1 with a free sprung balance. The effective length of the hairspring is fixed. The rate of the watch is altered solely by adjusting the aforementioned in-board screws. A notable benefit of a free sprung balance is that the hairspring ‘breathes’ more easily than a balance fitted with a curb regulator. Moreover, with a free sprung balance the rate will be less susceptible to change when the watch is held in different positions.
The stated precision of the Garrick S1 is very impressive. ‘It is regulated to ensure a daily variance of +3 seconds’, a feat which surpasses the precision of many tourbillons.
On seeing a watch on a website, in a photograph or even behind a pane of glass, one forms an opinion. However, experience has shown that an opinion of a watch can easily change once the timepiece is affixed to the wrist. It is for this reason that I always recommend would-be buyers to try on as many watches as possible prior to making a purchasing decision. Likewise, I seldom write about watches I have not had the opportunity to wear. There is no substitute for ‘hands-on’ appraisal.
Unlike the Portsmouth Mark 2, a watch I adore, the Garrick S1 did not immediately ensnare my heart. I wondered how easy the dial would be to read given the numerous wheels at play. However, during my short period of ownership, my fears were allayed. The bold, thermally blued hands proclaim the prevailing time with clear and seemly tone. The dial elements beneath the hands do not hinder interpretation of the time, but deliver a visual treat which should be savoured.
The raison d’être of this watch is to share mechanical manoeuvres often hidden from view. Winding the mainspring causes the small wheel at the heart of the power-reserve indicator to rotate. Horological voyeurs are likely to enjoy the spectacle of seeing the pull out piece of the winding mechanism move with a simple pull of the crown. But, most notably, it is the view of the balance wheel pirouetting clockwise and counterclockwise which delivers the most entertainment. There is something quite cathartic watching the hairspring breathe with life. A fleeting glance of the prominent balance bridge may lead some to assume the watch is a tourbillon. It is not. However, the impressive precision conferred by the UT-G02 movement could shame many costlier watches equipped with a tourbillon.
There are many aspects of the Garrick S1 which make it remarkable. Having spent time with this watch, I can appreciate the virtue of its creation. Personally, I would find it hard to choose between the Portsmouth Mark 2 and the skeletonised S1, a situation I suspect the British brand will take much delight from.
- Model: Garrick S1
- Case: 316L stainless steel; diameter 42mm; height 10mm; sapphire crystal to front and case-back; water resistant to 10 atm (100 metres)
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; power-reserve indicator
- Movement: Calibre UT-G02; hand-wound movement; 19 jewels
- Strap: ‘Alligator or premium leather’
- Price: £27,995 (RRP as at 10.5.2018)