I’ve been involved in watches long enough to be familiar with some pretty niche brands and products, but it’s a testament to the size and breadth of this community that any of us can still come upon a brand that is doing interesting, creative, high quality work that we’ve simply never heard of before. While it’s certainly an oversight on my own part to let small brands slip through the cracks, there’s something fun about the joy of discovery, and realizing that there are still watch brands with deep cult followings that I have yet to hear about, even ones that have been around for quite some time, like the Schofield Watch Company. As we all know, you only get to discover something once, so it’s a comfort knowing there are more brands like Schofield out there to hear about for the first time, filling in our own watch blind spots.
Schofield makes watches in small batches with a heavy dose of whimsy. They’ll customize casebacks to customer requests, offer dials in colors that they call “Not Quite Red” and similar, and seem to take a relaxed attitude toward high end watchmaking in general (the copy on their website is clearly and refreshingly written by a real person with a sense of humor). Their watches aren’t cheap, starting around £3,000, but when the small details that go into making these things are factored in, they seem to represent a good value if you favor small brands that put an artisanal touch on their products. The brand’s newest watch, the Bronze Beater B4, appears to be a solid representation of what Schofield is about.
A basic concept of Schofield’s brand is that their watches seek to tell a story. In the case of the Bronze Beater B4, that story is based on traditional Japanese craft. This might seem to be a strange topic for a British watch brand to address, but they have a unique take that is quite different from what you might expect if your only exposure to Japanese watches is Seiko, Grand or otherwise. With the Bronze Beater, Schofield’s founder Giles Ellis is highlighting a Japanese penchant for the simple and understated. The case is made from “Japanese bronze” that has been machined and finished at Schofield’s facilities in England with a deep patina, distinct from other bronze watches in Schofield’s catalog that are polished in a more traditionally European style. According to Schofield, the layer of patina on the Bronze Beater B4 is stable and will occasionally exhibit a “purple bloom,” which is all in line with a Japanese preference for allowing things to show their age.
The dial’s blue tone attempts to capture the shade of indigo dyed Boro, a textile that will be familiar to contemporary Japanese denim enthusiasts. Boro textiles are made from stitching together and repairing garments to extend their use, and the clothing, bags, and bedding made using this process often have an appealingly rugged patchwork quality. While the dial here doesn’t extend the metaphor completely (it’s made up of two slightly different solid blue tones in an inner and outer sector) the very idea of reusing something through generations is intrinsic to traditional watchmaking. A novel quirk of the dial that must be noted here: the seconds “hand” is essentially the length of a typical seconds hand counterweight. It rotates at the same pace as a second hand, but is intended simply to show that the watch is running, and would not be especially useful for setting the watch to a reference time.
In terms of specs, the Bronze Beater B4 is a large watch, coming in at 44mm in diameter and 14.8mm tall. It runs on a Swiss STP 1-11 movement with 44 hours of power reserve, and has a water resistance rating of 200 meters. All signs point to this watch being worthy of the “beater” designation, but it’s also clear that a lot of care has been taken in thinking through the small details, like the track of lume running around outer perimeter of the dial, and the complex caseback engraving depicting Daruma-San, a traditional Japanese doll, along with representations of gingko and cherry blossoms.
There’s a lot of charm in this watch, and at £3,280 (before VAT removal, if you’re in the United States), you’re clearly buying into Ellis’s unique design vision. Part of the fun of this hobby, though, is stumbling across creators who have a distinct perspective and seek to take their brands in unique directions. There are only 29 of these watches being made, so it’s not meant to take the world by storm or become a viral sensation in the watch media, but one gets the impression that’s the furthest thing from the mind of those at Schofield and their clients. More information can be found here.