We’ve talked plenty about themed and collab watches here on the site. They aren’t always for everyone, but I think there’s agreement that the best examples take their inspirations and incorporate them in ways that, while on the wrist, are not too overt. A proper watch of this type should have broad appeal and have more subtle cues to its source of inspiration. Of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes you do want to go all out and have a lot of fun. But in general, I’ve found restraint and good taste yield the best results. British brand William Wood has found a groove in this segment with its watches, and the William Wood Triumph chronograph gets right up against the edge with its firefighting-inspired design elements but is careful not to pass the limit.

Clocking in with a 41mm diameter and a 16.5mm height (including its domed sapphire crystal), the William Wood Triumph is not a delicate, svelte watch. On the contrary, the fully brushed, slab-sided case is decidedly prominent on the wrist, and a rather pronounced caseback means there are not many places for all those dimensions to go. The watch has 100m water resistance and the brand states that it wears as a “medium to large size on an average wrist,” but I’d argue that on my barely-above-average 7-inch wrist it was indisputably big. Despite the height, the watch is only 49.5mm lug-to-lug, with rounded-off lugs that I quite like, so instead of overwhelming the wrist with overhang, it simply sits tall. There are some watches for which this is an issue, but in the case of the Triumph, I found a fondness for the bulk on my wrist. There seemed to be an intentionality and unavoidability, if not desirability, to the case design.

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One signature of the brand is the fire hose straps. The brand upcycles used fire hoses, colors them, and stitches the hose material into a silicon base. The 20mm straps are flexible, comfortable, and feature quick-release pins for easy changes. When buying any William Wood, you have your choice of multiple colors of fire hose strap, or a newer offering that seems appealing, “Fire Gear.” Instead of old hoses, these beige straps are fitted with the fabric from decommissioned firefighting gear (the coverups they wear when actually fighting fires).

The straps start the theming here, but they’re perhaps only the most overt part — and the most publicized part. The crown on the Triumph and all William Wood watches features a brass insert, upcycled from vintage British firefighter helmets and stamped with the brand’s helmet logo. The crown is flanked by low crown guards, and then one encounters the brass chronograph pushers. I found these to operate crisply and while they required a slight bit of effort, it was nothing onerous. Similarly, the tension on the polished brass bezel with its black and gilt aluminum insert could be improved slightly. For those who are interested, there’s also a rather generic bracelet option offered at no additional cost, though this is perhaps the only situation in which I’d say not to get the bracelet.

The William Wood Triumph’s dial contains many of the cues but is also the clearest evidence of the brand’s restraint in creating a themed watch. The evidence of inspiration is everywhere, but it doesn’t clobber you. Some of these elements are almost coincidental, while others are directly taken from British firefighting. The subdials (running seconds and 30-minute chrono) are shaped like the gauges on engines and fully lumed with Super-LumiNova. The cutout sandwich indices appear to be round plots and a double baton at 12, but the brand asserts the 12 o’clock marker represents the lapel markings of a Crew Manager. Sometimes existing designs just work out. Another example: the chronograph seconds hand has a counterbalance inspired by the head of a fireman’s axe, and more dubiously, a business end reportedly inspired by “the chime inside of a vintage fire bell.” I just call it a lollipop hand, and you probably do, too.

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None of this is to say the dial doesn’t work, rather that sometimes brands are prone to claim inspiration (however honestly) with what are decided uninspired design elements. This model is the Fuel, which has black, gold and beige, but the Triumph is offered in blue and black/red, plus bronze-cased models in purple and green. The handset is gold-toned and a bit flat and blocky for my taste but perfectly legible on this model. The date window is at 6 o’clock, and that’s about all there is to say about it.

The caseback is perhaps just as engaging as the dial, maybe even more so. The red ring around the sapphire caseback crystal is a very on-the-nose reference to fire alarms, and the custom rotor duplicates the red and white colors. The movement inside is the Sellita SW510 automatic chronograph, with a cam-style chronograph mechanism, and while the brand cites a 48-hour power reserve at 28,800 vph, the movement is more commonly credited with at least 56 hours (and there’s no reason to think this wouldn’t be, as well).

The William Wood Triumph is now 3 years old, and as such, I thought I’d use part of this review to suggest how it might evolve for a second generation. While I’d keep the overall look the same, I’d love to see a thinner execution, even if that means sacrificing some of the caseback and rotor design. I think it would be absolutely brilliant if the bezel were fully brass to match the pushers, and if it had etched markings, possibly filled with black. On the dial, the only two changes I would make would be to add a polished gold-tone frame to the date window and to add some sort of character to the hands, even if it were just a bevel. As it is, the Triumph is a superb example of a themed watch, as are most of the brand’s offerings. While sizeable on the wrist, my day-to-day enjoyment with the watch was never hampered by its size, nor any of the elements I think could be changed for the next generation. The William Wood Triumph chronograph is available on your choice of firehouse strap or stainless steel bracelet and priced at £2,520 GBP. For more information, please visit the William Wood website

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