September 17, 2008
by Ariel Adams
If you ever wanted to know who the original maker of the automatic wrist watch was, it was Harwood, a British watch company. They didn’t invent the automatic winding mechanism, that was done previously in pocket watches, but they were the first to bring them to the wrist watch with a patent in 1924. Founder, John Harwood was a soldier in World War 1 and a watch maker. He wanted to create a watch that could withstand the elements better, as well as make it more convenient. He understood that constantly winding a hand-wound watch exposed it to lots of dust and other types of wear. Thus, it seemed an obvious solution to bring automatic winding via an internal rotor to the wrist watch. The design of which needed to be miniaturized and modified to work best on the wrist, rather than the pocket. In addition, Harwood created an interesting crownless, bezel adjustment system.
Well that was history, and since then Harwood watches went the way of so many other watch makers. Now, after many years, the Harwood watch name has been revived. While the new company has no real roots with the original Harwood (and no patent rights to exclusively make automatic watch as that patent obviously expired LONG ago), it is another sign that the watch industry is doing so well, that we are beginning to see more and more old names anew.
The new line of Harwood watch are technically very nice. Other than being automatics, they have an interesting (though not exclusive) no crown system for adjusting the watch (which existed on several of the original watches). You use the bezel to make all necessary adjustments to the time. A window near the 6 o’clock position on the dial tells you whether the bezel is in safe mode, or adjustment mode. This is good to ensure that you don’t accidentally make adjustments to the time. I also really like the 5 link metal bracelet that looks to be a nice high quality design. The leather and crocodile straps are pretty standard.
Aside from that, the watches are a bit blase. Sure they are very legible with an old-world charm, but not particularly exciting. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them a yawnfest, but this isn’t exactly the haute look of the season. One of the silliest parts of the watch is the unnecessary messaging on the face. An homage to “heritage” with a statement around dial saying: “The world’s first manufacturer of automatic wristwatches – Patent NO 106583 – 1924 – Harwood Watch Co.” I mean come on, is any of this really necessary? Maybe some of this on the back of the watch would be appropriate, but does anyone really want to stare at this writing every time you look to see what time it is? No, you don’t. At least the smaller 35mm version doesn’t have these egregious words on the face. Then again, this isn’t a woman’s watch, and I would presume that only a few men would take the 35mm over the more reasonably sized 39mm size.
So yes, there are steel, gold, and even some diamond studded versions available. Pretty basic stuff really. I’d like to see how much of the “first automatic wrist watch” messaging they use in their marketing materials. Got to push any unique angle you know! Check for the new Harwood watches soon.