Justin Richardson Octavo

Precision, Winter 2021

Although there are myriad watches on the market encompassing every imaginable combination of metals, colours, shapes, sizes and functions, there are few horophiles who have not considered the possibility of commissioning a piece made to their own specific requirements.

Perhaps the most renowned British exponent of the bespoke watchmaking craft is the Isle of Man’s Roger Smith – but the fact that his creations command six-figure sums and require new clients to join a seven-year waiting list makes the prospect of owning an RW Smith more of a dream than a reality for most.

Justin Richardson Octavo watch

Octagonal or classically round, Justin Richardson’s watches can be tailored to individual taste

But more impatient types working with a smaller budget shouldn’t despair, because award-winning jeweller Justin Richardson will happily create a personalised, handmade watch in silver or gold from as little as £1950, with everything from the initial design to the final assembly and finishing being carried out at his workshop in Canterbury, Kent.

Richardson opened his Sun Street Gallery back in 2004 with the aim of highlighting his own work as well as that of guest designers. The gallery has since gained a reputation as the go-to studio for unique items of jewellery made either from scratch or by re-imagining some existing, outdated pieces.

Watchmaking joined the remit around a decade ago, when Richardson decided to offer a range of custom-built models inspired by the type of dashboard instruments seen on British cars of the pre- and post-war eras.

Justin Richardson Classic watch

The initial Octavo design featuring eight-sided cases was subsequently joined by the hexagonal Silver Six line and the cushion-cased Classic, a decidedly different driver’s watch that’s fitted with a perforated rally strap.

These silver-cased, entry-level models are powered by good quality, Swiss-made quartz movement, with the higher-end gold, palladium and platinum-cased designs – which cost up to £29,250 – being powered by Swiss mechanical movements.

The star of the line-up is the pink gold Octavo chronograph, an eye-catching 42mm piece with a choice of dials in palladium silver or classic British Racing Green. Each has a glass exhibition case back giving a view of the robust Valjoux self-winding movement and a crown and push pieces set with a single, rose-cut diamond.

Richardson’s approach to watch design is clearly influenced by his roots as an award-winning jeweller silversmith (he was made a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths 20 years ago) and are the result of an interesting blend of modern technology and traditional goldsmithing craftsmanship.

The multilayered dials are laser engraved in silver then either enamelled or precious metal-plated, with Richardson offering the option of creating special versions with unique finishes that result in truly bespoke pieces.

Cases, meanwhile, are designed in 3D by the gallery’s CAD specialist prior to the computer files being sent to an independent casting company that returns the raw product to Sun Street where the processes of filing and polishing are carried out prior to the watches being built up to completion. It’s an example of British craftsmanship at its best.