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William Wood British Firefighter Tribute Watches - Buyers Guide

Posted on February 03 2021

William Wood Watches

William Wood watches are unique. They are Firefighting watches.

Every detail of a William Wood watch - from the brand name to the strap material - is a reference to Fire Fighters.

The founder of this young British brand grew up in the shadow of a hero - his Grandfather, a Fireman who was awarded a Certificate of Merit for his heroism. Taking inspiration from the man he describes as “charismatic, loving and strong” he built a watch brand to pay tribute to his Grandfather and colleagues.

I want to tell you this great backstory - a story that begins in my home town of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

The Short History of William Wood Watches


Although founded in London in 2016, the roots of this watch brand lie in the past. In the colder, less-fashionable Newcastle of the 1960s. There were no swinging-sixties in North East England, a region more associated with shipbuilding and mining than mini-skirts and free love.

William Wood - Grandfather of Jonny Garrett - was a Fireman at Newcastle’s city centre Fire station. The building is an iconic feature of the city, known to generations of Geordies, particularly those like myself who were taken there for school trips.

It’s an attractive building, decorated with Griffins and was inconveniently positioned on a busy shopping street, ensuring a noisy spectacle during call-outs.


Jonny’s grandfather was based there during a career as a Fireman that spanned decades.

His crowning achievement was to receive, along with colleagues, a Certificate of Merit. It was the first to be awarded to the Newcastle & Gateshead Fire Brigade and was the result of Wood and his team rescuing five children from a house fire in 1966.

More than just a hero on paper, Wood was a role model for his grandson who was clear in his mission to build a business - a business that would use his family as inspiration. As he states “I knew that building my lifelong career around him would get me out of bed every day ready to take on the world”.

The vehicle for this would be a watch company.

But not just a watch brand that would build a large collection of watches across a series of niches. Garrett wanted to create something that would specifically honour firefighters of the past while also raising funds for the current and future care of these brave men and women.

The brand name was a simple tribute - William Wood. The logo, a 1920s Fireman’s helmet.

The result has been a small range of award-winning timepieces, notable for the attention that they pay to detail. Each collection is named after a key attribute - Valiant, Chivalrous and Triumph.

Importantly, each watch uses materials in their construction that have been reclaimed from the Fire Brigade. My favourite example of this is the straps fashioned from discarded firehoses from his grandfathers home region - Tyne and Wear.

The Ethical Side of William Wood Watches


I’m not the Greta of the watch community.

But I do like companies that have either a sustainable or ethical side to their business. It’s a sign of honesty and if a brand has an interesting backstory then I’d like it to be an authentic one.

Authenticity is central to the William Wood ethos.

I’ll get into the details as I focus on each watch individually, but it’s worth highlighting a couple of quick points. Firstly, each watch uses some recycled material - usually that means that the strap has been created from a used fire hose.

Secondly, William Wood Watches have used a percentage of the brand’s profits to support causes close to the founder’s heart. In much the same way that fellow Brits Elliot Brown donated to the RNLI, William Wood have raised funds for The Fire Fighters Charity UK.

Are William Wood Watches Good Quality?


As you’ll see with the individual watches, the brand places great importance on the attention to detail.

For example, the straps are made from Angus Duraline British fire hose rubber. The lume is Superluminova and there is a choice of Swiss or Japanese movements. The domed sapphire crystals are tinted and it’s small details like this that point to the level of thought and workmanship behind each watch.



I’m confident that William Wood watches are well-made, albeit with prices that reflect both the standard of components and the build quality.

I'd like to now give you a brief overview of the brands watches.

William Wood Valiant Watch

The centrepiece of the William Wood collection is The Valiant - an automatic divers watch infused with firefighting references. It’s a beautiful piece that is available with a Japanese Seiko movement - or it can be upgraded to a Swiss-made Sellita.

Before I get into the specifics - and there are quite a few items - let’s just have a broad look at the watch. It’s a mid-sized dive watch, with a 41mm case, 100M of water resistance and a sapphire crystal.

Stylistically, the Valiant has a relatively straightforward Rolex Submariner aesthetic.

At the risk of repeating myself, this watch wins when it comes to the details. The name comes from the firefighter shift patterns that we have here in the UK - Red Watch, Blue Watch etc - and there are a number of subtle design references.

  • Double indices at 12 o’clock represent the markings a Crew Manager would have on their uniform
  • The outer dial contains a checked pattern taken from British fire engines
  • The second hand is styled like the chime from an old fire engine bell

In addition, there is also the crown.

William Wood has melted down a brass firefighter’s helmet from the 1920s and used this as an insert for the crown. The pattern is the brand’s helmet logo. This wasn’t an easy job and was carried out by an independent jeweller in Hatton Garden.

Of course, you aren’t just limited to the red version of the Valiant. It comes in a number of colours, and within each, there is the ability to choose a strap. These hand-cut recycled fire hose straps come in a variety of colours and are a real selling point for the watch.

But I really like this model with the stainless steel bracelet. It’s probably the most boring option when considering the brand’s backstory, but the plain stainless steel bracelet creates a great contrast to the bold red bezel and simple black dial.

The Red watch has an exhibition back, with the rotor of both movements being signed. It’s also limited to 250 pieces, with the number of each engraved on the rear.

William Wood Valiant - The Red Watch

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 16mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Domed Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

Valiant Collection
Valiant Collection

from: William Wood Watches


William Wood Bronze Special Edition

The Bronze Special Edition is just as it sounds. It’s a limited edition bronze variation of the Valiant. There were only 200 of this watch produced - and there are no colour variations.

It’s only available in blue.

Again, that is part of the brand’s story. William Wood, the grandfather and firefighter, was a part of Blue Watch. Crucially, Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service were able to donate a rare blue fire hose for use as straps.

This blue colour palette has been matched with a bronze case. The case and bezel are bronze - a tough material that will patina with age - and the dial and bezel insert are a rich blue. The styling of the dial, hands and case back are all unchanged from the Valiant.

There are a few additional options for the strap - like the green above - but I see no reason to replace the blue fire hose. That’s the authentic choice.

William Wood Bronze Special Edition

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 16mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Bronze Case
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Domed Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance
Bronze Special Edition
Bronze Special Edition

from: William Wood Watches


William Wood Chivalrous Peacock Edition

The Chivalrous is William Woods more affordable quartz offering. Each colour variation is limited to 250 watches, with a number of colours already out of stock. It’s an attractive watch with a unique selling point.

Of the colours, I’m quite taken with the simple white dial and British racing green hands. This is known as the Peacock edition. Bearing in mind the colourful strap options - once more using recycled fire hoses - I think this is all the colour I need on a dress watch.

And that’s very much the style of this model - the name hinting more at sophistication than the rugged styling of the Valiant. It’s a mid-sized classically-styled quartz watch, that can be very distinctive depending on your choice of the dial and strap colours.

But the unique selling point?

Again, the brand has melted down a 1920s brass firefighters helmet and worked that into the watches construction. Instead of an exhibition back that exposes the generic quartz movement, a commemorative brass coin has been created and placed beneath the sapphire crystal.

The idea is that you carry around an authentic piece of firefighting history on your wrist.

It adds a little charm to what is otherwise a fairly typical quartz watch. By adding the recycled fire hose strap and unique coin, William Wood have elevated this to a collectable piece.

This is the least expensive watch in the brands stable and a good place to start.

William Wood Chivalrous Peacock Edition

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 10.7mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz movement
  • Domed Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance
Chivalrous Collection
Chivalrous Collection

from: William Wood Watches

Conclusion


William Wood watches are a quirky British company that build watches designed around firefighting. Specifically, founder Jonny Garrett was inspired by his grandfather - a fireman from North-East England who served as his role model.

His watch designs have built in subtle references to firefightingutilising anything from the patterns on fire engines to the rank markings from uniforms. Taking this a step further, they’ve been able to source used fire hoses for straps and have melted down vintage helmets to add to the watches construction.

The results can be stunning and the small numbers of watches produced add a feeling of scarcity to the individual models.

Using recycled materials is a real positive, but maybe more noteworthy is the companies donations to Fireman’s charities. They’re not just taking inspiration from these brave men and women, but are using the legacy of William Wood to give something back too.


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