In the last few years, I co-designed several bespoke watches with my good friend Ben Birkett. His encyclopedic knowledge about mechanical timepieces and clocks is world-class. That is why his watch restoration business is thriving and he is constantly in demand. The building his premise is located comprises several workshops occupied by artisan craftsman. Ben recently informed me about a specialist engraver (in a neighbouring workshop) who had personalised an exclusive Audemars Piguet royal oak offshore tourbillon chronograph for a very wealthy customer. Ben didn’t divulge the price for the job but judging by the expression on his face I presume it was very expensive.
In the past, I have featured many engraved watches on my website from watchmakers like Franck DuBarry, Kees Engelbarts, Linde Werdelin, Stefan Kudode and Urwerk. There is no disputing that all of these timepieces are sensational. However, due to the exclusive nature of these watches, they are well beyond most people’ budgets. That is why I was pleasantly surprised to discover a British brand called Wessex that produces exquisite watches at affordable prices.
Wessex is the brainchild of Jamie Boyd, who is located in the picturesque region of Chippenham, Wiltshire in the UK. Jamie developed a lifelong passion for watches when his dad presented him with a Seiko Sportsman Seahorse as a 5th birthday gift. Over the years Jamie developed a penchant for more ornate decorative dials and in particular the art of engraving. By 2018 Jamie had launched a micro brand who offer high-quality watches with bespoke dials at realistic prices.
A few weeks ago, I had an in-depth telephone conversation with Jamie Boyd to discover what makes him tick (excuse the pun). Essentially, he is a very humble guy who has a passion for fine watchmaking and high-quality craftsmanship. This is reflected in all of his timepieces including the premium Peerless collection that has meticulous double-layered handmade 925 silver dials with decorative guilloche engravings. One of the customised versions that really appealed to me is a model called the Tsunami. This watch really is extraordinary and was commissioned as a special 21st birthday gift. The first layer comprises a Saigaiha pattern (Japanese wave) and the top layers have an exquisite interpretation of the Great Wave off Kanagawa. Truly this watch is remarkable and certainly an heirloom that will be cherished for life.
Presently Jamie purchases high quality 43mm 316L stainless cases for the Peerless range (46mm for the Premium range) from an external supplier and customises the dials. However, in future, he has aspirations to design and manufacture the cases in house. Certainly, that will allow him more creative autonomy, which I am sure will yield some positive results. At the heart of the Peerless collection watches is a Unitas 6497-1 Elabore Art Deco skeleton movement, which is visible through the sapphire crystal case back. Coincidently, I have used this exact mechanism (same supplier) in my Polaris and Kaleidoscopic models. Therefore, I can categorically say that I am very impressed with his selection. However, it is pertinent to mention that Jamie has equipped the Tsunami with a non-skeletonised Unitas calibre.
Certainly, I would highly recommend Wessex especially if you are looking for something unique. Prices range between £1,149 – £4,250 (approximately $1,493 – $5,529) which is highly competitive for a hand-engraved Swiss mechanical watch. For more information about the company follow this link