We first bumped into Elliot Brown watches about a year ago at a trade show and we were slightly bemused. Bottom line: expensive-ish - as in £325 odd - posh watches from one of the co-founders of Animal, designed to not only look good, but be seriously rugged too. A nice watch you can use outdoors without worrying it's going to break in other words. Or that's the spiel.
- £325 / 130g
- Swiss movement with five-year battery life
- Custom shock-absorbing steel movement housing
- Waterproof 44mm case machined from solid 316L marine grade stainless steel
- Domed and hardened anti-reflective mineral crystal
- Superluminova detailing on dial, hands and bezel
- Crowns with triple seals and aggressive knurling
- Bolted-on case back
- 2mm military-type ballistic nylon webbing strap, heavy gauge, gunmetal stainless loops
- Choice of alternative leather and stainless steel bracelets
You'll either 'get' nice watches or not. In truth we didn't really see the point of a £325 watch until we started wearing one and the handsome, rugged, Action Man looks and reassuring weight and solidity grew on us. It's oddly satisfying passing a watch over to a friend and watching them being taken aback by the weight - 130 grammes by the way, compared to 38g for a cheap Casio diver's watch.
It also scores high marks for being a big, weighty watch that's still comfortable on slim wrists, partly, we suspect, because the 2mm thick ballistic nylon strap forms a double layer under the watch case.
There are lots of expensive watches out there, but what Elliot Brown says makes their's different, is that it's properly rugged. The Swiss movement sits in a custom steel housing cushioned by o-rings inside the solid 316L marine grade stainless steel case to resist impacts for example.
The crowns - 'knobs' to you and me - have triple seals so they're waterproof even if you happen to leave one pulled out by mistake. And even the strap - there's a choice between the Nylon one here and various leather, metal and canvas options - uses gunmetal stainless hoops for added ruggedness.
Initially we just wore the watch, for running, mountain biking, walking, scrambling and so on. It told the time just fine, looked great and we never worried about wearing it - mostly in fact, we forgot it was there, though on really rough bike rides it can bounce around on your wrist if the strap is loose and it's a tad bulky under long gloves.
Look Ma, No Hands...
Then the unthinkable happened. We dropped the watch by mistake on a hard, vinyl-tiled floor and one of the hands fell off. A few hours later another followed suit leaving us with a sad Canford featuring a single functioning hand.
Ooops... We returned the watch to Elliot Brown and a week or so later it was back with the hands reattached and an explanation: apparently our watch was a pre-production prototype and, they said, hadn't had the hands attached properly.
Psychologically, the damage was done, we'd lost confidence in the watch, so we figured the only way to get it back was to really hammer the Canford senseless and see if it would break. The one caveat was that we knew we could smash the crystal, so hitting it with a golf club, for example, seemed a little futile.
In The Wash
To kick things off we put the watch in the pocket of a soft shell and threw it in the washing machine with a bunch of other kit and stuck it on a 90-minute, standard wash cycle then stood back. There was a little banging - which was why it went in a pocket - but once the final spin was finished, we pulled it out and opened up the pocket fearing the worst.
No problem though, the watch was not only still functioning perfectly and showing the correct time, it was also really clean. A double win.
Out The Window
Next we reckoned we'd best check those hands really were going to stay in place. Instead of a simple drop to the floor, we headed for the second floor office window then hurled the watch onto the grass below. It landed with a dull thud. Face down.
Again no problems, the watch was no longer particularly clean, but the hands were intact. For good measure we hurled it into the ground another five or six times from closer range, again, no problems. We reckon the hands are now well and truly attached.
Into The Freezer
So a quick rinse to get the mud off the strap - tidy us - and it was into the freezer where we simply left the watch for almost 48 hours at temperatures of around -18˚C, a pretty good simulation of some serious winter or alpine use we reckoned.
The verdict: the watch emerged lightly frosted, still telling the correct time and with an intriguingly solid strap thanks to it being damp from the rinsing. Underneath it was perfect, if a little on the cool side.
Bodyweight Hang Test
Finally, to get an idea of the strength of the strap, we fastened it round a pull-up bar, clipped a quick-draw sling to it and hung on it with around 11.5 stone of bodyweight for 30 seconds or so.
As our weight first came onto the strap there was a distinct click that might just have been one of the steel bands clicking over the bar, but after that it held fine despite our trepidation. We're not suggesting you use it as part of a belay system or anywhere else you need serious strength but it suggests that the strap, the pins that attach it to the watch and the fastening are all pretty damn tough.
As an aside, the Elliot Brown guys did something similar themselves at the boat yard using one of the stainless steel bracelets.
On top of all that, we've carried on using the watch as per normal inside and outdoors too and it's been fine.
We're not going to tell you that you 'need' a £325 watch, it's blindingly obvious that you don't, but if you are looking for a nice watch - Ian Elliot's take is that it's one of the few personal adornments men do allow themselves - that's also going to be tough enough to take some serious abuse, we reckon this is one tough mother of a time-piece.
It has, after all, survived a full wash cycle, being thrown out of a second-floor window, 48 hours being deep frozen and gone on to support our bodyweight and emerged still fully functional and as handsome as ever. Its not totally indestructible, the crystal would break under a hard impact and while the case has survived 'normal' outdoor use unscathed, it and the crystal, would both scratch if dragged against the rock.
It's not without flaws: the ballistic Nylon strap gets a little whiffy with sustained use and the tiny screws holding the pins in place are fiddly to remove even using the jeweller's screwdriver supplied with the watch, so we just washed the whole thing - washing machine not necessary. Or you could simply use a leather or steel alternative.
On top of that, the luminous Superluminova detailing seems to have a limited duration, so if you wake up in a tent at three in the morning, you'll also need an additional light source to check the time.
Other than that though and its original loose-handed ways, now cured, we're impressed. It's not an outdoor watch in the sense of having altimeters, barometers and GPS capabilities, but if you simply want a super solid, very handsome timepiece that's capable of taking some hard knocks along the way, you won't go far wrong.
Full details at elliotbrownwatches.com.