SEWILLS “FERREIRA” PRS-39

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Resurrecting past glories is always a challenge with a tendency to go rather wrong. The modern VW Beetle resembles Ferry Porsche’s design like a bottle of Tesco Value Red resembles Château Cheval Blanc 2000. Citroën’s chief executive should be publicly pickled in LHM fluid for permitting the DS5 – that Picasso-in-a-frock – to use Bertoni’s sacred DS name.

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Timefactors’ Eddie Platts has been brave indeed in resurrecting the venerable name of Sewills. Joseph Sewell started making nautical navigation instruments in nineteenth century Liverpool, only ceasing manufacture in 2000. Sewill’s original instruments are things of beauty and function, found on merchantmen and even Cunard liners. His marine chronometers have the easy elegance that nineteenth century craftsmen gave to everything from cast iron railway station pillars to postboxes. Even the engraving on his sextants would make modern typographers weep.

So, does the the Timefactors Ferreira (PRS-39) manage it?

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The 316L stainless case holds one of the watch’s chief attractions – the Unitas 6498 hand-winding movement. But this is a Unitas 6498 in the same way that a Mercedes 190 Cosworth Evo 2 is an average ’80s saloon car. The 3/4 top plate and balance cock have blued screws, côtes de Genève (stripes) and anglage (bevelled edges). In other words, they’re beautiful. The movement now has a Nivarox hairspring controlling a Glucydur screwed balance and a swan-neck regulator, so accuracy or fine adjustment shouldn’t be a problem.

The Unitas is renowned as an almost unburstable movement, so the Ferreira could work neatly as an heirloom watch and pass from one generation to the next. All it’ll need is regular servicing and some care.

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The case is 42mm (decide for yourself whether it wears smaller) and the movement’s on display through the sapphire, screwed-in back. Look around the caseback’s edges and you’ll see the Sewills name and PRS number, the depth rating (a useful 100m), the movement’s name and, crucially, the series number. Eddie Platts is only having 100 of these watches made and each one is numbered.

The front of the watch shows off a coin-edged bezel, also in stainless, with the flat sapphire crystal sitting very slightly proud. There are two raised bands around the case diameter that echo traditional gimbal-mounted marine chronometers. The horn lugs are a wide 22mm, holding a grained calf leather strap. No fiddling about with buckles either – there’s a simple deployant clasp with the Sewills name. The cog-style crown turns smoothly.

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The second attractions have to be the dial and hands. The latter – with their unique skeleton, lozenge-topped design – caused quite a fuss in the office when the watch was handed around. There was an absolute 50:50 split between ‘hell, yes’ and ‘blimey, no’. Interestingly, a week later, most of the ‘no’ camp had shifted. So if you’re not a fan initially, give those carefully blued hands time to grow on you.

The dial has a plain white background, a closed minute track and a six o’clock subsidiary seconds dial. The paint on the crisp Roman numerals is very visibly proud of the dial, adding a real sense of depth and quality. And you’ll have spotted the number ‘4608’ just inside that subsidiary seconds dial. That’s a clear reference to the ship – the Ferreia – from which the watch takes its name. 4608 was the serial number of the Sewills ship’s chronometer that enabled the navigator to calculate longitude. The original is now in Greenwich’s Maritime Museum.

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There’s a strong design reference here too; Ferreia’s chronometer carried the words “36 Cornhill, London” in red on its subsidiary seconds dial along with the same closed minute track and Roman numerals. Many Sewills marine chronometers did likewise.

Timefactors’ packaging usually tends towards the functional – and is none the worse for that. The Ferreira arrives in a rather more up-stage piano-black, gloss, wooden box. You’ll also get a booklet explaining the history of the ship that gave the watch its name.

Eddie Platt’s Ferreia raises two questions: has the watch resurrected more than just the Sewills name and is it worth the £980 price tag?

The world of ornate, hand-made marine chronometers has long passed. Functionally, nautical navigation is simpler and more accurate for it. Romantically and horologically, it’s a clear loss. But the PRS-39 carries the same simple elegance and beauty-in-function of those marine watches. The whole watch is an exceptionally high quality piece from the materials to the design and finishing. The significant reworking of the movement alone takes it a long way from being a stock Unitas.

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There’s an evolution here – an updating of the Sewills name rather than a simple resurrection. But that’s exactly the issue with the Beetle and the modern DS – they’re evolutionary parodies of the original. Fortunately, it’s not an accusation that can be leveled at the Ferreia.

Is it worth the asking price of nearly £1,000, making it the most expensive Timefactors watch? The answer is a very definite ‘yes’. To explain that comment, imagine the logo of another, more mainstream, maker on the dial. What would the ticket read? For a Unitas 6498, completely reworked, uprated and decorated, a one-off case and dial design, blued hands? You’d be handing over at least £3,000, probably rather more.

With only 100 made, the Ferreira may not be around on the shelves for very long.

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Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
markchristie mark_mcarthur_christie
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24 responses to “SEWILLS “FERREIRA” PRS-39”

  1. Curmudgeon says:

    Simply gorgeous! Everything about this watch, except the diameter, is perfect. It’s great to see hands that are anything but garden-variety, and that crown is amazing. It’s refreshing to see a company doing things RIGHT!

  2. Mark McArthur-Christie says:

    Actually, the diameter works – I suspect it’s my pic making it look rather larger than it is. That and skinny wrists.

  3. Mark McArthur-Christie says:

    In fact, even given my status as Cap’n Skinnywrists, I was still very, very tempted to add it to the watchbox. But never mess with people from Sheffield.

  4. I am in love with the hands.

    Another winner from Eddie, even if the overall watch is not for me because of the Roman numerals.

  5. Никита says:

    Can’t stand this frill or jabot on the case or how its called… Actually I find the dial + hands gorgeous, but this pseudo-elegant flute makes me dizzy. You should wear something like that for harmony:

  6. Eddie Platts says:

    It’s amazing how many people buy these flops.

    • CortexUK says:

      Eddie, can you make a nice little marine auto in a 38mm case with scalloped lugs, Breguet hands and sub-seconds? Just like this:

      https://truetimetools.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/steinhart-marine-chronometer-ii-premium-05.jpg

      • Eddie Platts says:

        The movements dictate the case size, you can’t really go less than 42mm with the Unitas 6497/8. You could make something like the Steinhart in 38mm using the ETA2895 automatic but they’re hard to get hold of and expensive or you could use a Peseux 7001 (hand wind) and get it even smaller. The choice of movements with small seconds at 6 is limited unless you can find a stash of new old stock movements.

        • CortexUK says:

          Thanks for taking the time to reply. I guess I’ll never get the watch I’ve been waiting for.

          :o(

  7. Phoenikz says:

    Love everything about this bar the sizing. At 36-38mm I’d snap one up.

  8. Colin says:

    Nice, but twice the price of my Steinhart Marine Chronometer, which is half the money and very similar. I do like the hands though.

    • Vincent Kluwe-Yorck says:

      Compare the movements. The Sewill movement is a
      true rarity and costs three to four times (guessed) as much, while the
      Steinhart’s is off the peg!

  9. nicedream06 says:

    Some of the watches look ok, but the lack of quality control and poor attitude/customer service is what turns me off.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    A really big watch i think, but looks good. I rather like smaller like this: http://luksusportal.pl/en/bizuteria-i-zegarki/prezentacje/tourbillon-hublot, but who knows maybe one day i’ll buy it 😉

  11. CortexUK says:

    Yet again, close but no cigar, Eddie. I’ll keep looking. :o)

  12. CortexUK says:

    Er, they all fly off his shelves.

    Each to his own though, I’ve never quite seen one I’ve wanted, though I am as fussy as h*ll. Took me a year to choose an everyday beater quartz (went with the Hamilton Field Quartz 34mm, by the way).

  13. Normunds Gavars says:

    This looks similar to watches made by Mr. Kemmner.

  14. That is a great watch, totally love it. Perfect design, perfect features, it’s a bargain for the price.

    —————————————————-
    http://www.magazindeaccesorii.com

  15. bill says:

    This watch has NOTHING to do with Sewills, and is made of Chinese and Swiss parts. Much like the ‘Smiths’ watches. Mr Platts is squatting brands for a quick buck.

  16. Vincent Kluwe-Yorck says:

    I’m one of the crazies, who bought Eddie’s flop watches, having two of these flops. And even more I’m crazy enough to love them since years, wearing them with pride. Crazy, isn’t it?

    And yes – Eddie’s customer service is horrible. He’s acting as Sleepy Hollow, when you knock at his door to ask silly questions. Even worse, he’s serving you with all kinds of assistence and information, you never asked for, and fulfills special requests without extra charge. What a horrible character.

    But what do you expect from a man, who loves Early Baroque and Queen music?!? 🙂