In its 175th year since founding, Fears launch the debut model in their new Archival family – a series which aims to recreate specific pieces from the Fears archives. The Archival 1930 is a faithful reincarnation of a rectangular watch made by the brand in (you’ve guessed it) 1930. The most easily identifiable cosmetic change is the slight upsizing to 22mm across and 40mm from lug tip to lug tip. The dial’s minute track, numerals and seconds subdial, where present, are all proportionally faithful to the original. This strict adherence to the original design gives a watch that looks like it has been frozen in time, but feels thoroughly modern and robust.
Although not overtly symbolising the Art Deco movement, the rectangular case and accompanying elongated dial certainly hints towards it. The stretched out minute track and 18ct gold border sitting directly inside are a great example of 1930s wrist watch style. The gold can appear a muted and almost black tone, but then flash with opulence with just a little light coming from the right direction. The heat blued hands appear simple enough to also be a reproduction of those used 91 years prior, but actually follow the same ‘pipette’ shape as those on the flagship Brunswick model – taking on a different character when not skeletonised.
Seeing the watch first hand I was struck immediately by the anti-reflective coating. Fears uses ARdur® Swiss coating on both sides of the crystal, and it appears to be one of the most impressive anti-reflective coatings I can remember seeing. The second thing I was able to appreciate is how robust and wearable the watch feels. Although upsized from its predecessor, at only 22m in diameter the Archival 1930 is still modestly proportioned yet feels perfectly at home on my 7 inch wrist. Part of that is due to the very slim polished bezel and subsequent large champagne dial, but part is also due to the case shape. Although the case fattens out a little towards the mid-point, the case back does the opposite and curves around the wrist. Both surfaces are brushed along their lengths aside from a slight polished bevel where they meet the top and bottom surfaces.
Two versions of the Archival 1930 are available. The first houses a 1930s ETA 717 / ZentRa 185 movement. This same movement was used by Fears in the 1930s, though not in the original watch which is being reproduced here. Due to the slightly smaller dial of that original watch, the subdial in the lower half of the dial would have needed to be spaced differently had the same movement been used. The second version features hour and minute hands only, with a reconditioned ETA movement from the 1960s inside. Although the lack of the seconds subdial is less faithful to the original, the additional space it leaves creates a different and more modern feel. The lack of a sub-seconds complication allows this variant to come in a slightly thinner case, at 8.5mm compared to 9.3mm
All of the movements used are new-old-stock which have been fully rebuilt and reconditioned, with upgraded mainsprings. The continuity of design and components continues with the Oxblood calf leather strap, which is tanned in the same Bristol tannery as straps used by Fears in 1930.
Celebrating 175 since the founding of Fears, there will be 175 individually numbered pieces available. 136 of those will house the 1960s movement, and 39 (representing the 39 years Fears remained dormant before restarted by Nicholas Bowman-Scargill) will house the 1930s movement with sub-seconds. The Archival 1930 is priced at £3,500 or £3,950 (depending on version) including VAT. Hopefully there will be more gems to come in the Archival family with nearly two centuries of watches to pick from, but this feels like a sublime start. FEARS.