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Briston Affordable French Watches - The 5 Best Models

Posted on January 28 2021

Briston French Watches

 

Briston is an exciting French brand that creates distinctive affordable watches.

The watches are notable for their uncommon square cases and their smart-casual elegance. The brand is the brainchild of a watch industry veteran who previously worked at Cartier, Baume & Mercier, Raymond Weil and Zenith.

By fusing French chic with the founder’s experience of British university life the designers have created a collection of memorable and colourful watches. Briston also experiments with different case materials - acetate for example - and uses these in their eye-catching square designs.

It’s a young brand, so I’d like to give you a brief overview and then present you with a list of the best 5 models currently available.

An Introduction to Briston Watches


Briston is an eclectic blend of French and British influences.

Although founded in 2012, the origins of the company can ultimately be traced back to Brice Jaunet’s formative years at Oxford University. There he was introduced to a life-style of lazy days on the river, games of cricket and a fashion that was sports-casual and what we’d later refer to as preppy.

It was life straight from the lines of a Rupert Brooke poem and would have a lasting effect on the French native.

In the intervening years, Jaunet made quite a name for himself in the European watch trade, beginning with Cartier. He then moved to Baume & Mercier and Raymond Weil, before closing out this part of his career in a series of increasingly prominent roles at Zenith.

Like most entrepreneurs or founders, there was a desire to strike out on his own. He was clear that he wanted his own watch brand where he could channel his creativity, specifically exploring the styles he had discovered in his youth.

Recruiting Swiss watch designers, Jaunet set out to build affordable watches with a very particular style. Influenced by sports and travel he set about creating a watch range built around cushion-case models.

Briston watches are all equipped with a variation of this square case, the corners being rounded to soften the look. They refer to this style as ‘chic yet casual’ and the result of Briston being a 'French brand born out of a very British spirit'.

It’s a compelling story and they’re also keen to stress that the brand is comfortable with quirkiness creeping into the designs. In a sense, that can be seen as a reflection of the eccentricity found in the upper echelons of university life at Oxford and Cambridge.

In practical terms that has meant a bold use of colour in Britson designs and some experimentation with the case materials. I’ve been quite enamoured with the acetate models - a material usually found in higher-end eyeglasses rather than watch construction.



Are Briston Watches Good?


It’s a fairly straightforward question and a reasonably simple answer.

Given the history of the brand’s founder, the price of the watches and the components used, I’m confident that Briston watches are well-made.

In 2018 alone the company sold 225,000 watches. This was from having grown the business to a point where Briston watches were stocked in 1000 locations in 50 countries.

Importantly, they’re a company that innovates and experiments. The cellulose acetate cases are new to me and although aesthetic considerations play a part, this level of experimentation isn’t employed by budget brands.

The people behind this company - Brice Jaunet and his team - come from a background in the luxury watch trade and have high-standards and a clear vision for the brand. Automatic Briston watches use reliable Seiko movements which is as expected at this price-point.

The Best 5 Briston Watches


Despite highlighting the colourful and quirky side of the brand, my favourite models - the ones that I believe are the best - tend to be the more conventional designs.

Of course, the square case means that most of the models are unconventional - but in terms of colour I feel that the pared-down models suit me the best.

There’s a lot of black and grey on my list.

 

Clubmaster Classic Watch
The Clubmaster Classic is probably the obvious first choice for this brand. It’s in the name. The Cubmaster is their core line and this is the classic design.

It’s a vintage-inspired chronograph reminiscent of a Panerai Italian dive watch. It has the same case and a sandwich dial layout which is slightly unusual and militaristic. The dulled case and distressed leather strap reinforce this aesthetic.

I’m particularly taken with the larger crown and can appreciate the symmetry of the dial layout.
It’s so easy to go wrong with busy chronograph dials, but Britson has successfully avoided the pitfalls and retained both a symmetrical layout and the inclusion of a date window without encroaching on the numerals.

The white numerals are simple and bold. Exactly as you’d expect on a military watch.

At 40mm it’s around the right size for an average wrist, particularly when you have the additional chronograph pushers and that large crown.

The remaining specifications are comparable to other watches in this price range. It’s quartz-powered, has 100M of water resistance and a mineral crystal.

Briston Clubmaster Classic 16140.S.C.1.LVBR

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11.7mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Chronograph Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Briston Diver Acetate Watch

 

If your budget stretches a little further, then this automatic model should be your first choice.

There are three main features that make this slightly more expensive watch desirable.

  • The unique acetate case
  • It has an automatic movement
  • It’s a legitimate dive watch

Let’s start with the case. The beautiful tortoise shell acetate case is slightly transparent and catches the light and your eye. With the cushion-case shape, the overall impression is of a vintage piece.

The double crowns - the classic Supercompressor style - give another nod to the past. As do the red accents on the dial. They remind me of a sporty 1970s diver.

Automatics are in a minority within the Briston range, so I’m pleased to see that this model is mechanical. The Seiko NH35A is often referred to as a workhorse movement and I certainly subscribe to that view.

It’s the same movement I use with my own brand.

The design is on point and the watch has a reliable Japanese engine. Rounding out the build is 200M of water resistance. That’s important as it signifies that this really can be taken underwater.

It doesn’t just look the part.

It’s a substantial watch - a little bigger than the previous model - with a unique design. But it’s not all about the style. The components and specifications mean that this watch can perform too.

Briston Diver Acetate 17642.SA.TD.1.NB

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 14.5mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Acetate case
  • Seiko Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 



Briston Clubmaster Iconic Steel Watch

The Briston Clubmaster Iconic Steel takes the DNA of the brand and presents it in a more refined package - ideal if you’d prefer something more formal.

At first glance, the Iconic Steel looks to be a relatively simple piece, with little in the way of complications. On closer inspection, you’re able to see the details that make this such a successful design.

The case is polished and paired with a silver/grey sunray effect dial. The indices are straightforward and match the equally plain hands. There’s no colour here - instead, the design relies on the polished case, sunray dial and sunlight to provide the flair.

The neat date window is tucked away at 6 o’clock rather than the conventional 3 o’clock position.

The crowns on Briston watches are often large, but on this model, it’s modestly sized. That probably sums up this design - it’s understated and elegant.

The 40mm case again houses a Seiko automatic movement - this time the rotor is decorated and visible through an exhibition case back. It’s not designed as a sports watch, so there is only minimal water resistance.

In the introduction, I was keen to point out the brand’s colourful designs and their use of uncommon case materials. This watch is the antithesis of that approach. It’s a timeless and classically styled piece - albeit presented in a cushion case.

Briston Clubmaster Iconic Steel 19640.PS.I.11.NG

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11.7mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Seiko Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



Briston Sunglasses Watch

In contrast to the Iconic Steel, this model is a colourful, busy watch marketed as a travellers timepiece. I’ve seen it referred to as both the Sunglasses and the Safari model.

Regardless of the exact description, this is a lively and vibrant piece that takes full advantage of the acetate’s distinctive appearance. It does resemble the colouring of sunglasses, although with the black PVD finishing and the beige strap, hands and markers it also suits the Safari moniker.

Despite the brand’s focus on the smart-casual preppy style, I’m drawn to the sporty edge of their line. This watch, like the Clubmaster Classic, has a soft military aesthetic that I really like. It’s informal but restrained.

It mixes a few styles - the sporty chronograph with an outdoors theme and vintage styling - and blends them seamlessly. The whole package is practical and down to earth with the specs reflecting that.

It’s mid-sized, with a quartz movement and 100M of water resistance. Aside from the matte tortoise shell case, the other design touch that caught my eye was the red tip on the chronograph hand and the red dial text.


Briston Clubmaster Sport 18142.PBAM.TSS5

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Acetate Case
  • Miyota OS21 Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance



Briston Clubmaster Sport Watch

 

This is a true sporting chronograph. A throwback to the popular motorsports watches of the 1970s.

It takes the brushed stainless steel case of the Clubmaster Classic and marries that with a simple black dial. The two contrasting white chronograph sub-dials create a reverse panda-dial aesthetic - a style I’ve always got time for.

Although the hour markers are the same as the previous model, the white accents differentiate this style of watch. Equally so, the squared-off sub-dials. It transforms the design so that it has a familiar vintage sports look.

It’s an iconic look that works well on this affordable quartz model. I’m not particularly keen on rubber straps and would probably swap this for either a distressed leather strap or a colourful NATO.

This a real everyday watch. Not too formal and not too rugged. It’s somewhere in the middle - but still bound to catch your friend’s attention.

Briston Clubmaster Sport 16142.S.SP.1.RB

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


Briston is a brand that constantly grabs my attention.

Although France gave birth to the brand, it’s a company that can really trace its conception back to Britain. To Brice Jaunet’s days at Oxford University. Days spent in his sporting pursuits, cricket and boating featuring prominently.

This British education, among the country’s young elites, gave spark to the idea of a French watch brand taking style cues from Britain. Over a decade at the top of the European watch trade gave Jaunet the skills, contacts and motivation to make this vision a reality.

Briston is now available in over 50 countries at 1000 points of sale. It’s a product that watch buyers value.

I may not have done the brand justice in my choice of the five best watches. I believe these to be the best models in the range - at different price-points and taking into consideration the relative specs - but they are still the ones that appeal to me the most.

Follow some of the links, see the these watches in more detail and go and check out the colourful models.

And of course, tell me where I’m wrong in the comments below.


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