Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Harwood Watches Without a Crown

Harwood Watches are distinctly crown-less.  Which does sound a trifle strange since they do originate from  the Isle of Man - a self governing Crown Dependency of the United Kingdom.  As it just so happens a timepiece crafted by Harwood Watches does not depend on the crown for winding, but rather on a patented crown-less bezel adjustment system.

John Harwood
Harwood Watch Company does have quite an impressive claim to fame: The first watch company to incorporate an automatic winding system into a wrist watch.  Of course, Abraham Louis Perrelet invented the automatic winding system way back in 1770 and Abraham Louis Breguet, of tourbillon fame,  who managed to make it work, but it was Harwood's founder, John Harwood, who in 1924 patented crown less bezel adjustment system utilizing a weight which would swing back and forth hitting a small gear which would wind the watch (now referred to as a "bumper" or "hammer" self-winding mechanism.) John Harwood was a watchmaker and a soldier during World War I. He knew from experience the winding stem was a gateway for moisture and dust to enter and confound the movement.  He mulled over the possibility of a winding mechanism within the case of the watch.

Harwood Steel with Diamonds
While watching a couple of kids playing on a see-saw, in a flash the possibility became a reality.  After a couple of trial and errors, the first automatic winding system on a wristwatch was born.   John Harwood journeyed to Switzerland with  two working prototypes and intricate plans for design to and registered his invention at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property of the Swiss Confederation at Berne.  A year later  Harwood was issued patent No. 106583 . Between 1924 and 1929 Harwood commissioned Anton Schild S.A to help him develop the winding system and produce the raw movements, and Fortis S.A. finished them.  Fortis then brought this new line of automatic watches to market. Weird thing about this story is that in 1929, the year Fortis displayed this breakthrough line of automatic watches "Harwood perpetual" at Basel World, Harwood filed for bankruptcy and the company was liquidated two years later. 30,000 watches were made before the collapse, which I have no doubt are attractive collectors items.
John Harwood automatic prototype
The new Harwood, although the dial reads "The world's first manufacturer of automatic wristwatches - Patent NO 106583 - 1924 - Harwood Watch Co."  just beneath the bezel, has no real connection to the original company and no real claim to fame to the original patent. However, since it seems John Harwood barreled headlong  into the Great Depression with only 30,000 manufactured watches underneath his belt, and could not pull through ,groundbreaking invention or not, he deserves recognition and I applaud the current Harwood for that. 

Here is a great insightful  blog from Oriental Watchsite about the Harwood History.

As to the watches, I find the design comfortably appealing. The fluted bezel serves as the point of adjustment with a clear "safe mode" or "adjustment mode" at the 6 'o'clock just in case one turns the bezel by accident.   The watches are all automatic in vision  with the original Harwood invention. The watches are available in steel, gold, sterling silver (not often used) as well as an edition sporting 48 brilliant cut diamonds on the bezel.  The watches are sized at either 35mm or 39mm strapped to the wrist by high quality alligator leather straps.

To Commemorate 80 years of John Harwood receiving the automatic winding  patent, current Harwood unveiled Limited Edition Watch called the "HARWOOD LOUIS REGUIN"  The enamel dial is decorated with an exquisite vision of floating angels surrounded by china blue borders.  As the name suggests, the artistry on the dial is reminiscent of renowned Swiss miniature painter,  Louis Reguin (1872-1948). 
Platinum versions are limited to 25 pieces and steel versions to 100 pieces.   

1 comment:

  1. It the Zodiac Rolographic similar to the Harwood rolling sphere?
    Does it someone knows?