In the still of the night – The Schofield watches Blacklamp Carbon
The night can be make the innocuous feel foreboding, with perceived perils waiting to harm the unsuspecting. Many children have sought the reassurance of sleeping with an illuminated bedside lamp after story books have been closed.
Seafarers have appreciated the intermittent flash of a lighthouse lamp. It has provided a metaphorical guiding hand to assist those at sea, past the perilous rocks which wait hungrily for the disorientated.
Giles Ellis, founder of the Schofield Watch Company, would appear to be fascinated by lighthouses. His first foray into watchmaking was the Signalman with a depiction of Smeaton’s Tower on the caseback.
The Schofield Signalman
I met Giles Ellis for the first time earlier this year and, despite meeting many other people from the watch industry since, he certainly left an indelible impression in my mind. His design prowess and attention to detail are noteworthy.
Ellis is a product designer by trade and, within a few seconds of meeting him, you are made instantly aware of his fanatical obsession with detail. Lesser men would probably not worry about the minuscule elements Giles has clearly expended much time upon. Consequently, the resultant watch is exceptional, especially considering its attractive pricing.
The highly polished steel case of the Signalman Polished has a stepped caseband. It is delightful to touch, sublimely interfacing with light. It must have presented many challenges with its involved construction. However, expedience does not seem to be something that Ellis is unduly concerned about. His designs are his future legacy and he clearly places much value on his name, refusing to be associated with anything remotely mundane or perfunctory.
Powering the Signalman is a self-winding Soprod (A10) movement with 9335 module. The watch features a date, GMT function and power-reserve indicator.
Those seeking a more discreet appearance can seek the Signalman DLC but with nearly all of the 100 limited edition pieces sold, hesitation on the part of the prospective buyer is likely to result in disappointment.
The Schofield Blacklamp Carbon
I knew a new model was on the drawing board when chatting to Giles earlier this year. Indeed, I recently saw the watch at SalonQP and my reaction was honest and heartfelt with the expression “Wow” readily leaving my lips.
It is the originality of the design and smile-inducing features which distinguish this watch as special.
Hours and minutes are imparted with sword-shaped hands, blue at their centre and highly polished on their extremities.
Subsidiary seconds are presented on a subdial adjacent 6 o’clock. The hand is slender, with a succinct red tip at one end and a counterbalance opposite.
A central circular area, featuring snailing, is framed with neat blue strokes to indicate minutes. An additional snailed area encircles these markings, extending to the edge of the dial.
Ellis has used a modern font for the Arabic numerals located at 3 o’clock, 9 o’clock and noon. The subsidiary seconds display usurps the use of a numeral at 6 o’clock. The intervening hours are marked with a highly polished dot.
The sparsity of functions on the dial ensures matchless lucidity with an absence of distracting or extraneous detail. However, this should not be misinterpreted, for the dial is not plain but rather exhibits a prudent use of stylish expression, expertly judged by a talented designer.
The pièce de résistance is the inner flange featuring a ring of Moonglow®. In nocturnal light, it illuminates with a bright green hue. The resultant mien is spellbinding and, to my knowledge, is unlike any other watch available for sale.
Presented within a charming presentation box, along with the watch and paperwork, is a small torch which can be used to activate the Moonglow® ring.
Constructed from carbon-fibre, the case appears to have a slightly mottled grain. There is a distinct absence of the customary conspicuous weave typical of carbon-fibre. Not surprisingly, this is no accident. Giles Ellis explained he did not wish for the watch to exhibit the fibrous appearance that has become de rigueur with many sports watches. Therefore, the watch has a Morta® case.
Morta®, a brand that Schofield has trademarked, is a composite material which took a year of research and development. The name comes from the Bog-oak or Bog-wood, sometimes referred to as Morta, which shares similar visual characteristics to the carbon-fibre material.
The composition of Morta® consists of sheets arranged in a series of six different directions, 0-90, 90-0, +45, -45, 0-90 and 90-0. These are then placed over a mould, autoclaved and then returned to the mould to be built up into a single billet for machining. Each resultant case has a unique grain, according an individual appearance.
Where carbon-fibre is ordinarily selected for its low-mass, Ellis has selected the material for its hardness and interesting character. Indeed, his watch case consists of 98 laminates of carbon fibre which is substantially more than the 17 typically used on a Formula One car. The result is a much denser material.
Some commonality with the Signalman
Whilst the Blacklamp Carbon is very much a new model within the Schofield Watch Company range, Giles Ellis has retained some elements of his Signalman model. This has provided a lineage that connects both models and makes the design distinguishable from other marques.
The stepped caseband has been retained and perfectly suits the new carbon-fibre model. The tips of the lugs, in common with the Signalman, sit much lower than the horizontal plane of the caseband. This ensures elevated wearer comfort as the strap is encouraged to encircle the wrist.
The sapphire crystal above the dial, in common with the Signalman, slightly arcs near its circumference, nestling just below the bezel. It may sound a small detail, but it enhances the whole design.
Differentiation is repeatedly conferred
The crown features a tritium gas light. It emits a “low level glow” that is not discernible during the day. However, at night it is said to provide a “pinprick of light” from under the wearer’s cuff.
In addition, the presentation box has a circular ring of luminous material encircling the push button which opens its pleasing form.
On the caseback of the Signalman, a lovely depiction of Smeaton’s Tower features. However, in the case of the Blacklamp, an exhibition caseback affords a view of the Unitas 6498 movement.
Giles Ellis chose the Unitas 6498 for the “sound of the tick”. He felt the movement, originally launched in the 1950s, had one of the best sounds commercially available. There is something cathartic about the aural appeal of a ticking timepiece. This will resonate with many watch fans and it was an intelligent move on the part of Giles Ellis to capitalize on this attribute.
The Unitas 6498 is a hand-wound movement. The soothing process of taking time out, momentarily breaking from the hustle and bustle, and winding the watch, was another aspect which appealed to Giles.
Traditions have been respected with regards to the finish of the movement. The broad Geneva stripes and heavy rhodium plating reinforce the perception of quality with this model.
Adjacent the movement the name of a specific lighthouse is stated together with its co-ordinates. The limited series of 101 pieces allows would-be purchases to select their chosen English lighthouse from a list, assuming it has not already been sold.
The ownership proposition
There is a refreshing innovation to the approach adopted by Giles Ellis. He has sought to sell his watches directly via his website. His reasoning is that he cannot produce watches to the same exacting standards, maintain selling prices and pay retailer margins. Based on the evidence, I see little reason to argue with his logic.
A potential difficulty when trading with the public directly via an e-commerce website is maintaining relationships. However, Schofield Watch Company seem to have overcome this latent risk with The Schofield Club.
As well as providing a means of communicating with its client base, existing customers have the ability to purchase a strap-kit with a myriad of interesting and ingenious materials to sate the majority of tastes. It is this means of engaging with Schofield’s customers which leads to repeat purchases and enhances the ownership proposition.
Made in England
There is an increasing debate within the watch industry as a whole with regards to the stated country of manufacture. Some brands source many components from China, only to state the watch as “Swiss Made”.
The issue is confusing to customers and is increasingly drawing interest from various legislative bodies.
Giles explained at our first meeting that the Signalman was “Made in Germany”. Whilst his watch was designed in England, the production took place in Germany. However, since May 2013, his watches are both designed and produced in England.
The Blacklamp has 92% of its “value content” attributed to England, more than double the proposed 45% specified in a recent EU proposal.
Giles Schofield has hit the mark with the Blacklamp Carbon. It is good-looking, masculine and highly legible.
The ingenious glowing details will find favour with those who appreciate the calming reassurance of illumination in the still of the night. However, for some, it is the design prowess of this model which will encourage purchase.
- Model: Schofield Blacklamp Carbon
- Case: Morta® (carbon-fibre case); diameter 44.00 mm; height 15.00 mm; water resistant to 20 bar (200 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds.
- Movement:Unitas 6498 movement, hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz); 17 jewels; power reserve 45 hours
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