The Garrick S3, the latest horological instalment from the Norfolk-based watch company, showcases the firm’s technical virtuosity and penchant for high-end finishing. Indeed, the S3, with its openworked dial, is the brand’s most complicated watch to date, demonstrating its ability to compete with Switzerland’s finest Maisons.
In 2014, Garrick unveiled its inaugural watch, the ‘Shaftesbury SM301’. This model proved remarkable at the time because it included a free-sprung balance, a feature usually found on costlier timepieces. In addition, the watch was equipped with an impressive number of components, made either in-house or sourced locally in the UK. The brand still had to look to Switzerland for the movement, a NOS (New Old Stock) Unitas 6498.1, however, Garrick added some in-house enhancements to the legendary calibre, including an agreeable quotient of finishing. With an asking price of just £3,995 (as at 14.1.2015), the Shaftesbury SM301 offered much for comparatively little. This combination of virtue and value remains at the heart of the brand’s DNA.
Since 2014, the Norfolk-based brand has released further watches, again using the Unitas movement. However, with the advent of its ‘Regulator’ model, the company inverted the Unitas, presenting the balance dial-side and making its own in-house gear train. When Garrick released the Regulator, it signalled its intent to make increasingly complicated watches.
Horophiles did not have to wait long before the firm’s ambitions would see the brand ascend to an even higher plane. In 2016, the company released the ‘Portsmouth’, a watch endowed with a guilloché dial and, most notably, a new exclusive movement, the Calibre UT-G01. Created by Garrick, in collaboration with Andreas Strehler, the revered watchmaker from Switzerland, and his company Uhr Teil AG, the movement parts were made in the UK and Switzerland. Furthermore, the watch was assembled, finished and regulated in Garrick’s own Norfolk workshop.
Garrick’s founder, the larger than life, David Brailsford, is clearly a man on a mission. He demonstrates an unwavering desire to build progressively more complex watches, each housing an ever-increasing number of in-house components. Furthermore, he freely admits to reinvesting a sizeable portion of the firm’s profits into purchasing additional plant such as jig borers and lathes. As a result, many of the tasks that Garrick once outsourced are now performed in company’s Norfolk workshop, heightening the model’s quotient of ‘Made in Britain’ parts.
A couple of years ago, buoyed by the success of the Portsmouth, Brailsford unveiled the ‘S1’, abandoning the brand’s historical naming strategy. It signalled a new era for the company. Much of the flawless finishing found on previous models was hidden from view, however, with the advent of the S1, Garrick showcased its exalted craftsmanship via an openworked dial.
Last year, the S2 broke cover. On this model, the brand’s ‘Maritime hands’ were supplanted with traditional lancine-style hands and, for the first time, Garrick’s beloved small seconds indication was replaced with a lithe central seconds hand. However, the pièce de résistance of the S2 is unquestionably its hand-guilloché dial. The incredibly intricate dial pattern showcases yet another in-house competence.
Just as I began to think Brailsford was due for a break, perhaps lying by a hotel swimming pool somewhere and affording his skilled team some time to catch their breath, his unwavering determination has, once again, come to the fore. Garrick has recently released its latest horological instalment, the S3. This new timepiece revisits the S1’s penchant for mechanical nakedness but with a higher specification, raising the new model to the lofty heights of high horology.
Front of house
The first thing you will notice about the Garrick S3 is that the various indications share the stage with numerous movement parts. While this type of openwork design can prove fascinating to behold it can also prove bewildering. However, Garrick has shrewdly presented all indications and the hour track in thermally blued steel, differentiating these components from the many silver-toned wheels and movement paraphernalia.
Furthermore, the functions are restricted to merely the hours, minutes, small seconds and a power-reserve indicator. If the dial featured any additional indications it could have resembled a bowl of blue and silver spaghetti. Thankfully, Garrick has judged everything to perfection.
The previously mentioned S2 features lancine-shaped hands which superseded the Maritime hands seen on many of Garrick’s earlier models. Now, devotees of Garrick can sigh with relief as the distinctive Maritime hands have returned. These hands incorporate anchor-like counterweights, imbuing the dial’s overall appearance with a distinctive aesthetic. However, having spoken to David Brailsford, I know several clients have requested personalised details. Therefore, if you desire an alternative style of hour and minute hands then Mr Brailsford can probably accede to your request.
A small seconds display resides at 10 o’clock while a power-reserve indicator is positioned opposite. The scale and location of both indications infuses the dial with a delightful dose of symmetry.
A thermally blued hour track frames the dial, providing an elegant means of delineation. The design pairs Roman numerals with a chemin de fer. Beyond its aesthetic allure, this latter detail aids readability.
When Garrick released its S1, again featuring an openworked dial, the various wheels sat atop the mainplate. With the S3, the mainplate surface features recessed sections which provide a haven for the various wheels, keyless works and the balance wheel. By making this change to the mainplate, said components sit flush with the surrounding areas, providing a neater appearance.
The balance sits in the lower portion of the dial, supported by a prominent bridge which is embellished with a combination of straight graining and black polished surfaces. The Garrick calibre UT-G04 features a Trinity free-sprung balance made of Sircumet, a non-magnetic alloy exclusive to Garrick. With an index-regulated balance, the effective length of the hairspring is adjusted in order to alter the rate. However, with a free-sprung balance, sometimes termed a variable-inertia balance, the length of the hairspring is fixed and the rate is altered by adjusting timing screws on the rim of the balance wheel. Although the free-sprung balance takes longer to configure, heightening production costs, it delivers superior precision.
Garrick clearly obsesses over the minutiae. For example, the screws affixed to the rim of the balance wheel are positioned in-board, mitigating disruption to the air surrounding the oscillating balance wheel and thereby further enhancing precision.
Given the brand’s obsession for such small details, I was surprised that it has chosen not to equip the balance with a Breguet overcoil. However, mindful of Garrick’s impressive technical abilities, I am sure this could be specified as an upgrade on request.
Another delightful touch on the Garrick S3 is the numerous screwed chatons which populate the movement both front of house and to the rear. Once again, they are made of Sircumet and black polished.
Housed in a 42mm stainless steel or 18-carat gold case, the scale of the Garrick S3 should suit most prospective purchasers. While the case height of 10mm could never be described as ‘ultra-thin’, it certainly sidesteps the hockey puck thickness of some watches. Furthermore, when affixed to the wrist, the S3 does not unduly protrude, mitigating the risk of impact damage.
As stated earlier, Garrick offers a gold case option, however, I personally prefer the idea of an understated stainless steel case. The British company has chosen 904L stainless steel in preference to the ubiquitous 316L stainless steel. Garrick’s choice of stainless steel is more expensive but less susceptible to scratching. Horological rectitude is at the heart of Garrick’s paradigm which I suspect many aficionados will appreciate when seeing the S3.
The case features both brushed and highly polished surfaces with both finishes coalescing harmoniously. Garrick has wisely retained some popular elements from former models, including the brand’s onion-shaped crown. I once owned a Swiss pilot’s watch and loved its lucid dial and historical significance, however, the crown would annoyingly irritate my skin and, with prolonged wear, gouge my wrist. Ultimately, we parted company. While Garrick’s crown is bulbous and prominent, it did not impinge on my arm or mar my simulated-ownership experience.
Returning to the calibre UT-G04, the refined details shown front of house are matched with equal sophistication to the rear.
There is a charming simplicity to the appearance of this movement. The transmission wheel is in mesh with the ratchet wheel which, in turn, is in conversation with an oversized, elaborately formed click. These components are flawlessly presented. The design of the click surpasses mere functionality, encompassing a delightful, considered design.
Once again, screwed chatons abound, each one formed of Sircumet and black polished. The sheer abundance of black polishing is breathtaking, especially at this price point. Indeed, this level of finishing would befit a watch with a six-figure price tag.
Horological fetishists are indulged with partial views of the pallet lever kissing the escape wheel. This movement has no secrets with virtually every part in a state of undress.
Like many success stories, Garrick is a team effort and all member’s of the Garrick family share the brand’s desire for horological excellence. Andreas Strehler has infused Garrick’s movements with his legendary know-how, albeit many movement parts are made in Garrick’s own workshop. In addition, Simon Michlmayr and Craig Baird, both Master Watchmakers, have been instrumental in the conception and execution of Garrick’s vast collection of models.
It is this horological collective working together that has made Garrick an interesting brand, worthy of the term ‘haute horlogerie’. All patriotic horophiles should applaud Brailsford and his team, they have reinvigorated the British watchmaking scene. Lastly, based on the brand’s history, I don’t think we will have to wait long before the arrival of the S4, S5, S6 etc.
- Model: Garrick S3
- Case: 904L stainless steel; diameter 42mm; height 10mm; water resistance 10ATM (100m); sapphire crystal to the front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; power-reserve indicator
- Movement: Calibre UT-G04; hand-wound movement; 19 jewels; power reserve 45 hours
- Strap: Handmade alligator, calf leather, buffalo or ostrich paired with a 316L stainless steel pin buckle
- Price: £28,995 (RRP as at 20.4.2020)