Time for a Renaissance: Mappin & Webb watches

A pioneering spirit

Mappin & Webb has been a successful retailer of the finest watch brands in world for some time. But what has escaped horological attention of recent years is that like many of these world-renowned watch brands, Mappin & Webb is also a pioneer in watchmaking.

Pivotal to the pocket-to-wrist transition of watches at the end of the 19th century, Mappin & Webb’s early timepieces were favoured among British Army officers during colonial warfare, for both their practicality and reliability. This innovation continued throughout the first half of the 1900s, as it amassed a wealth of expertise and precision in watchmaking.

This year Mappin & Webb returns to the watch market, drawing upon this immense heritage with the launch of both men’s and women’s lines of timepieces.

An aesthetic led by heritage

For men, there is the Clarendon, which has a cushion-shaped case that references the years after the First World War when watch case design was at its most exciting and adventurous.

The Mappin & Webb catalogues of those years show very few round wristwatches, but page after page of square, rectangular, tonneau, cintree, oval and of course cushion-shaped timepieces.

“It was a particularly stylish shape that we found in the archives that was perfect to re-interpret for the modern gentleman,” explains creative director Elizabeth Galton. “From the 1920s to the 1940s, a lot of our men’s watches focused on the cushion shape and it is easy to see why. It has a nice organic profile, is incredibly comfortable to wear and understatedly stylish. With the Clarendon we wanted to create a watch that would appeal to the 21st century dandy, with the look of something quintessentially English.”

The Campaign is a classically-styled military-inspired watch based on some of the earliest wrist-worn watches ever made: the so-called wristlet watch first popularised by British Army officers serving in Africa at the end of the 1800s.

The women’s range of Austen watches includes a straight-sided watch, the Austen rectangular, and a classic round watch.

Clarendon and Austen refer to what Elizabeth Galton describes as “the heyday of Mappin & Webb” between the 1920s and ’40s. As such the Art Deco influences are particularly apparent in the design of the Austen Rectangular.

The slim, streamlined case in white metal, the elegant blued Roman numerals and classic fine Breguet hands impart a cocktail hour elegance to a discreet timepiece that can be dressed up with a subtle diamond set case on a silk strap. Alternatively, the watch takes on a sporty style when worn on a brown crocodile strap.

The rectilinear glamour of the ‘Austen Rectangular’ is balanced with another Austen design: a perfect timeless round watch, which shares the Breguet hands of its straight-sided sister, but has a more classic beauty.

Visit a Mappin & Webb boutique for expert advice on our watches, or view the collection.

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