What’s the story behind the new military issue watch range?
Just as a bit of context, we come from the extreme sports marketplace, and I was the co-founder of a brand called Animal which started in 1988. We made clothing, accessories, watches and watch straps made out of velcro.
In fact, we were actually the first business to invent the velcro watch strap, which was intended to prevent watch loss for the extreme sports community.
Elliot Brown is the result of 25+ years of unique watch building knowledge and a blank sheet idea to build the world’s toughest, most wearable timepieces up to a new kind of standard.
Over the years we have naturally developed relationships and collaborated with some really powerful organisations, including Mountain Rescue England and Wales as a provider of equipment. Other relationships include the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and military charities for whom we have made special editions.
Some members of one charity in particular purchased a special edition watch, wore it in the field, concluded it was better than anything they had used before and asked Elliot Brown if they would consider developing a new watch that would be 100% fit for purpose. That conversation was around two years ago at which point the Holton collection was simply a new watch brief.
Armed with some great feedback and the unique knowledge that we developed over the years of designing watches and accessories for extreme sports, the Holton collection was created. It’s unapologetically fit for purpose and perfect for its military users and civilians alike.
Can you tell me a bit more about the technical aspects of the watch?
The Holton range carries a shock-absorption system protecting every movement within the 316L gunmetal steel case, The crown is triple sealed and we go about testing every single watch in water at 200 meters or 300 meters depending on the model, as well as testing them all in air pressure twice during construction – it’s just one of the unique ways of ensuring our watches really are fit for purpose and is a very different approach to the majority of watch brands.
The high grip bezel is unusual with a knurled outer surface in the shape of pointed pyramids, with one of the rows also facing upwards. Because of this, the wearer can put the palm of a neoprene glove or cold, wet muddy fingers on the bezel and turn it easily.
Additionally, to make the bezels perform longer, the stainless steel insert insert with the numerals and markings and the outer component of the bezel are case hardened. This means they are both six times harder than normal stainless steel, so it will look brand new for years and years. It’s got a vickers hardness of 1200.
The crystal in the watch is 2mm thick and treated with an anti-reflective coating on the underside. It’s set very slightly below the level of the bezel, so if it’s dropped on a flat surface it won’t hit the crystal. The crown is also located at 4 o’clock, rather than 3 o’clock and that’s so that if you are bending your wrist back it’s not going to dig in to you – again adding to the functionality.
The watches fit all Elliot Brown strapping with changes made very easy thanks to solid strap bars that can be removed using a tool (supplied) that locks neatly into the end of the bar.
What was the main inspiration behind the design of the watch?
The inspiration behind the watch was the myriad of military timepieces that have gone before combined with our clear, uncomplicated house style. Its simple slab sides combined with uncluttered, highly visible markings provide the kind of character and feel essential in a watch of this stature. You can produce the most functional watch in the world but if it looks and wears poorly, no-one will wear it.
Previous watches have all had inherent weaknesses – such as flimsy spring bars and straps, a single sealed screw down crown reliant on the user’s ability to keep if fully screwed down, no ability to easily change straps for different tasks, relatively fragile construction, poor performance with gloved hands, little longevity and no prior testing in water at a level far beyond that of the typical operator. Every single weakness has been addressed and resolved on the Holton.
It seems a lot of meticulous attention to detail has gone into the watch?
It was about going back to square one and establishing what we needed to do to make sure the timepieces were absolutely fit for purpose. But of course we didn’t just want to produce a really ugly looking tool, we wanted to create something that the users would enjoy wearing.
Could you tell me a bit more about the broad arrow featured on the dial?
The broad arrow is also known as the pussers arrow and has been used for years to denote government property.
Because the Holton is a piece of issued kit use of the broad arrow is entirely appropriate and it’s worth making a clear distinction between this watch and military inspired watches from other brands – that are generally a license arrangement. The Holton is issued as a piece of equipment as opposed to being a private purchase. It is issued from military stores to personnel as part of their equipment.
What has the response been like from the military?
In a word incredible. It has been so well received.
You mentioned some retailers also stock the watch?
We sought permission to market the watch as a retail model, first deliveries hit our retail customers doors towards the end of December 2018 and already it’s by far our fastest selling collection ever.
What has the response been like from general shoppers?
Phenomenal, we have almost sold out – and we bought quite deeply into it as well.
Had you anticipated that?
We’d like to say yes absolutely but a fairer judgement would be that but we had hoped for success but you never know until it lands. The reactions and a feedback have been incredibly positive with strong sell through across the board.
So there is definitely an interest for military style watches in the retail market?
I would say military watches are the inspiration behind many collections and form large parts of collections around the globe. The connection between consumer and genuine military timepieces is long held and a very healthy component of our business.
What’s the plan for the future?
Our retail trade is expanding really nicely, and we anticipate that trend will continue as we carefully nurture relationships with the right retailers. Additionally, our plan is to grow very steadily, rather than creating a bubble that inevitably bursts. We have no desire to do that whatsoever, and would rather select the right long-term partners who want to tell our story and sell technically capable watches to a knowledgeable audience who appreciate what we do so well.