New brand Valour Watch Company, launching at SalonQP, is offering a very different take on watches inspired by wartime aviation – you may need big wrists…
“I’m really not expecting it to be everyone’s cup of tea,” says Mark Daniel of the hulking debut model from his brand, the Valour Watch Company, but then he’s only planning to make 200 pieces. “The whole point is to do limited edition concept watches, each different from the last. I’ve got other designs that are far safer, but I thought: go big, come out with something leftfield – that’s how I want Valour to be known.”
The curious look of the watch – 54mm wide and 16.8mm thick – is explained by its name, the Sopwith Aviator: its burly contours recreate the nose of the Sopwith Camel, the celebrated WW1 biplane. In place of a propeller sits a (relatively small) three-hand dial resembling the plane’s cockpit instruments, while deep within the caseback you can see lodged a finely-decorated Soprod movement. Though certainly leftfield, the design and workmanship are meticulous, and the watch is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist.
“I saw my first mechanical watch when I was about 13, and it stuck with me – the level of intricacy, the engineering,” says the 35-year-old New Zealander, a micro-engineer by profession who, among other things, was engineering director for the creation of the Martin jetpack. Setting up a workshop – lathe, mill, 3D printer – in his kitchen to develop his ideas and prototypes, he eventually quit corporate life and began the hunt for Swiss watchmaking suppliers.
The Sopwith Aviator is essentially a watch within a case within a case: the outer steel cowling houses an inner case of aircraft grade aluminium (there are even two levels of sapphire crystal), around which are the nine individual cylinders of the aircraft’s Clerget rotary engine – the stem of the winding crown passes though one of them.
If the design is bold, the decision to enter the already crowded field of military-inspired aviation watches might seem bolder still. But Daniel’s ardour and obsession for military history is genuine, and summed up in his chosen name for the brand – and his use of a Victoria Cross in the logo, which he says, “comes from a place of absolute respect.” He has goals around Valour offering charitable support in this area.
First he needs to sell some watches. The Sopwith Aviator is priced at £4,260, although the first 24 “founder” buyers will receive a £500 discount. Daniel intends to release between one and two watches a year, each inspired by the heritage of wartime aviation.
Read more about Valour and the Sopwith Aviator watch here.