So, anyone who knows me well, or follows me on Instagram, will know I recently bought a Graham 1695 and I absolutely love it. When I first suggested the Graham to my follow editors and friends, all of them met the idea with genuine disbelief and negativity. Ilkay actually met the idea with a great deal of offense and anger, our friendship hung in the balance. However, this was before they understood what the brand was about, why their designs and movements were so special or before they had actually seen the pieces in the flesh. Today I am going to enlighten all of you just as I enlightened the doubters and disbelievers around me.
History of the Brand
Right, quick history lesson. Graham was a very famous British watch maker started by George Graham in 1695. George Graham is considered one of the most important figures in watch making after inventing the Dead Beat Escapement in 1715 and constructing the Mural Quadrant, for Edmund Halley, in the Greenwich Observatory. The Dead Beat Escapement set a new benchmark for accuracy and was used for the next 150 years. In 1995, Eric Loth started the Swiss company The British Masters with the aim of recollecting the tradition of British watchmaking, namely the two brands Graham and Arnold & Son. Max Imgruth, who later went on to start Swatch Group USA; was also involved with starting the British Masters originally. The first collections from Graham and Arnold & Son were launched in 1998. In 2010, they sold Arnold & son to focus on Graham and changed their name to Graham London.
Graham is now known for its extremely innovative and unique chronograph movement, recognisable by the large lever over the crown on the left hand side of the watch. The idea behind this unique design is best describe by the brand themselves. This extract is from the website: "The distinctive start and stop lever on the left of the case is the renowned GRAHAM Chronofighter signature which enables to activate the chronograph functions. The system recalls early stopwatches used by World War 2 flying officers which were just large pocket watches strapped over bomber jackets. Instinctive and precise, it is a fail-safe system which does not distract the wearer because the lever on the left of the case is effortlessly reached with the right hand. The thumb, the fastest of all fingers, starts and stops the chronograph. The result is precise timing." This is what sold me.
My Graham Chronofighter 1695
After getting a message from a dealer who was selling this piece at an unbelievable price I went and tried it on at Frost's in London. I absolutely loved the feel of the watch on the wrist, the unique movement and design and the beautiful engraving on the back. As I learnt more about this brand and their designs, I fell more and more in love with this watch. Eventually, I met this dealer at a Thai restaurant in Twickenham and paid him £1500 in cash for a watch that retails at nearly £3000.
This photo of the case back simply just does not do it justice. Check it out in person
Whilst I was looking at this piece I was considering a Tudor Black Bay or the new Tudor Black Bay 36mm. Although this is a fantastic watch, to me the Tudor just felt cheap on the wrist compared to this Graham. It felt as though they had compromised on quality to make the watch affordable where as the Graham was just a serious watch. With a highly modified valjoux 7750 (known as the G1745), a crisp two stepped dial, date and completely unique design, its just a different league from the Black Bay. More watch and more bang for buck. To me a Black Bay is a cool beater watch from the Rolex sister brand with a base ETA movement, whereas the Graham is a serious, innovative, unique, big boy watch. I feel comfortable wearing my Graham with my friends who own Hublots and Rolexs without feeling inadequate in any way. The same cannot be said for the Tudor which just did not leave me with the same pride.
(my Graham looking very comfortable at Ascot)
Graham: What they have to offer
The Chronofighter is there iconic piece with the large lever, large case and military style dial. The Chronofighters are split into two models: the standard Chronofighter Steel and the Superlight. The Chronofighter Superlight is impressive with the entire watch made from Carbon and Black Carbon Composite. This means the watch weighs less than 100g. Quite an impressive feeling on the wrist for a 44mm watch. The Superlight and Steel models come in large array of materials and colours, in a very Richard Mille fashion. They also have a model called the Black Arrow which comes with a Khaki dial and a PVD case.
The Chronofighter 1695 has since been discontinued and was a more vintage style piece paying homage to the story behind the Brand and to Mr Graham. 1,500 were made each year from 2012-2015, all with the amazing engraving of the Greenwich Observatory, for which George Graham himself contributed to building. In an all steel, smaller 42mm case, its a very sleek and discrete watch when it wants to be but still holds the iconic design features which gets me second glances on the Tube. Another reason I love it so much. I like to wear it on a disgusting blue Alligator strap or a sleek steel shark mesh strap. The two really do give the watch a different look.
Graham also have a GMT model, a diver, a Tourbillon and a series called the Silverstone. The Silverstone series has a conventional chronograph movement but keeps the Graham style with large case sizes and racing style materials such as Carbon Fiber and PVD. Furthermore, the diver is very impressive as it is a chronograph with one of the highest water resistance with at 600m/2000 ft.
Graham: Why every horologist should be interested
The watch industry is at a point where it is difficult to be completely unique and original. Almost every watch out there takes inspiration from other pieces. People forget the Rolex Submariner is based on the Blancpain 50 Fathoms. Graham are a small, fairly new brand that are truly unique in almost every way. They have a completely original, unique, patented design which no other brand can copy and they are the only brand out there to only make chronograph watches. I found quickly that on the wrist these are series watches. They have such a big presence but are yet so comfortable, the crown never digs into your hand as its on the other side of the case. The best part about it is all watch guys know what it is but rarely have I ever met anyone else who has one. Yes I predominately collect chronographs but I like to own things other people do not have. This is a piece I will rarely see on the Tube or down the pub or in the office. However, people still notice and comment on my watch every single day and are blown away by the beautiful engraving on the back and overall presence of the watch. If you are tired of watches that are all very similar looking and based around the same boring design, then Grham is for you. If you want an exceptionally well made and presented watch at a fairly affordable price, Graham is for you. If you want a watch that will get you as many looks and comments as an Audemars Piguet or a Richard Mille (good or bad) without having to get a second mortgage, then Graham is for you. I chose a Graham 1695 over a Black Bay 36mm and was one of the best decision I ever made.