Dr. Edwina Davies waxes lyrical about the Robina by independent watchmaker, Robert Loomes & Co. 

Independent's day - The Robina by Robert Loomes & Co

Conversations with my son revolve around watches and cars in the main. This has had an effect on me. I now look at people’s wrists as well as their faces. A while ago he said, “I’ve found a watch you’ll like”. Such a statement usually means that the watch being referred to has a traditional feel and this is true in this case; the Robina. It’s totally English, serene of face, beautifully formed, graceful and unpretentious.

But he knew I would be delighted by this offering from Robert Loomes for a host of other reasons not purely the aesthetics and the skills employed in its creation but the tradition on which it rests.

There is history here.

Brian Loomes, Robert’s father, was a watchmaker previously based in North Yorkshire. Despite the current location of Robert Loomes’s business in Stamford, he has northern ties, albeit to Yorkshire. I am a Lancastrian by birth.

It is totally English. Every part sourced in this country.

Independent's day - The Robina by Robert Loomes & Co

It is named for his wife and all wives should be honoured.

Because it embodies a Smith’s movement he may have been alluding to my advancing years. I recall the era of Smith watches. Teasing is a son’s prerogative and he can be ageist.

Like its male precursor it is a limited edition of 100 pieces only.

It’s time for a closer look.

The dial

The face is clear, uncluttered, and perfect. The Roman numerals are highly legible, bold, and black, except for the shortening of the six, to accommodate the small seconds dial. A simple railtrack defines the minutes with the five spaces blocked out in black for clarity and ease of reading.

Independent's day - The Robina by Robert Loomes & Co

Made of brass the dial has been painstakingly turned and then given a matt white finish and rhodium plated. The whole watch is hand finished with attention paid to every detail and so the hands, for example, are steel, traditionally blued.

The upper portion of the face bears the legend, “Robert Loomes” and “Made in England”.

At 6 o’clock the small seconds has been milled out. The simple hand points to black strokes marking each second, each fifth integer is slightly longer than the interim ones, and the quarters numerically denoted.

The case

The high gloss of the Sheffield steel case contrasts with the matt white of the dial. The polishing of each case blank takes seven hours, case blanks which had to be searched out. Finally a company in Derbyshire was found which could supply them.

In form like the Robin, the Robina is 30mm in diameter but a slim 9mm in depth.

Look at the reverse. It is a view afforded by the sapphire crystal glass. Their production has been revived by the company so that they have the accolade of being the sole English producer. Enjoy the beauties of the hand engraved movement with its elegant scrolls. The creator’s name and its pedigree, “Made in England” are reiterated.

The movement

It is manual wind.

Initially Robert Loomes had to import parts but after a valiant search found English sources, manufacturers who could meet his exacting requirements. Every part is now English in origin or made by Loomes.

Independent's day - The Robina by Robert Loomes & Co

His quest for a movement led him to a cache of Smith movements which he uses but meticulously disassembles, rebuilds, adjusts and sets individually so that every watch is “tuned” to perfection. Each watch is individually created and set. This is not a simple reassembling of parts.

Robert explained how the Smiths movement was vastly uprated. He remarked. ” At 18,000vph, it is ideally suited to low volume watchmaking, where a genuine watchmaker has to build each watch. Aside from all the incidental manufacturing, stems, gaskets, dial washers, etc… we completely rebuild the escapement, poising both statically and dynamically and re-jewelling as required”.

He went on to explain with justified pride, “We are thrilled that we are able to utilise our new escapement jewels in the watch. Previously we had only been able to fit English train jewels because we couldn’t make small balance jewels. Now we can, and I am confident we are the only British firm to manufacture our own, surely if someone else did we would know by now?”. The charming caveat at the end of his statement, is typical of this modest, quintessential English gentleman.

His narrative of his search for the requisite sapphires emphasises his dedication and devotion to the cause of English watch making. The movement which survived Hillary’s Everest climb still beats.

With its blued screws with their hand polished heads, no detail has been overlooked in the pursuit of perfection. Every component has been sourced with the utmost care and their utilisation monitored. The completed watch has not only been scrutinised at every stage of manufacture but when completed is rigorously tested.

Conclusion

I love the clean functional form of this watch and the perfection of its finish. Details do not vie with each other for attention. It is refined and presents itself modestly. The simple black strap complements the whole and it is an object lesson in restraint and elegance.

If you have the time, access Robert Loomes’ interview at SalonQP and hear his story about the challenges faced when he set out to create a truly English watch. It is inspirational. At its price point, as a limited edition, the Robina offers so much. Take a look and enjoy the prospect.

Technical Specification

  • Model: The Robina by Robert Loomes & Co
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 30.00 mm; height 9.00mm; water resistant to 3 Bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds.
  • Movement: Smiths 12-15, manual-winding; frequency 18,000 vph (2.5Hz); 16 jewels; power reserve approximately 34 hours.
  • Strap: Black leather strap with steel pin buckle.
  • Limited Edition: 100 pieces.

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