‘Ordinary’ Grahams

It is often a misconception that all Graham watches have the unique trigger mechanism for starting and stopping the chronograph. This design feature isn’t something that is easy to miss.  This public awareness of the Chronofighter is enhanced because Graham choose to use this radically designed watch as limited edition models to celebrate some of their sponsorship ventures in sports that perfectly reflect their own demeanour and courage.

However, Graham do produce a few other styles of watches. Never a brand to conform to what is en vogue, or widely accepted as the boundaries of watch designs, these other models deserve much scrutiny and pleasure can be derived by simply finding new perspectives to view these high end timepieces.
The Graham catalogue consists of the, aforementioned, Chronofighter range, either the oversize or smaller RAC models, plus the courageously and wonderfully designed Swordfish, the highly practical and technically brilliant yet audacious Grillo, the simpler yet meticulously designed Silverstone range, including the Stowe, Luffield, and Woodcote models and the horologically fascinating Tourbillograph.

Further to my review of the Graham Swordfish model which can be seen here

This article concentrates on another two of these models, kindly lent to me by AndrewMichaels jewellers: A stainless steel Grillo Alarm GMT and a rose gold, carbon fibre and DLC Silverstone Woodcote.

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Both of them are a world apart from the Chronofighter range and yet both of them distinguishable from themselves and the rest of the high end watch market.
As with any of the Graham models you will find this pair to be meticulously detailed with incredible quality of fit and finish.

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Practicality is always a key word when describing Graham timepieces as well and these two are no exception. Add to that the fact that every single one of Graham’s timepieces are motivated by COSC rated movements it becomes clear that Graham watches are no over-the-top fashion statements relying on their mold breaking designs.
The Grillo has a date function (did you notice?), a 24 hour GMT function and a delightful mechanical alarm. The Alarm is controlled by the lower crown and the time, date and GMT function by the upper crown.

It has a 46mm diameter and, due to THAT date magnifier, is 20mm thick. It has a water resistance of 100m and an industry standard 42 hours power reserve for the timekeeping. I make that distinction because the alarm function also has its own mainspring and is automatically wound. This hasn’t got a 42 hours power reserve. It is a more practical 10 – 15 seconds.

Speaking of practicality: The Silverstone has a chronograph, large date display and a 24 hour GMT function.

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It is composed of a PVD applied DLC case, rose gold pushers/crown/inner bezel/hands/hour indices and carbon fibre dial and outer bezel. It has a 42mm case which is increased to 48mm at its maximum due the oversized crown and pushers. The water resistance is also a usable 100m.

Both models sport very comfortable and flexible rubber straps with oversized (yes that description again) buckles. The Grillo’s buckle is stainless steel and the Silverstone’s is DLC.

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The Grillo’s rubber strap is its only component which is more subtly designed than the Silverstone’s. I’ve always liked Graham’s standard rubber straps. They are wonderfully designed and as nicely finished as rubber straps can be.

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However, the Silverstone’s rubber strap really shines and wears its racing heritage on its sleeve, well next to the wearer’s sleeve, with its tyre tread pattern throughout.

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The Silverstone is the watch here that will be immediately accessible and, in fact, very visually appealing to most people. There is a wonderful harmony to the symmetrical dial lay out. The use of high end materials may seem ostentatious on paper but work in unison to stunning effect. I just love the contrast of the warm, precious, glowing radiance of the rose gold against the high tech, reflective depth of the carbon fibre.

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The crown and pushers are almost instantly seen as being out of proportion with the almost delicate (for Graham anyway) details of the rest of the watch. However, they are in keeping with Graham’s philosophy of practicality and, due to the use the precious metal, they do become a true highlight of the overall design. Adding to the whole instead of taking away.

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As can be seen above the PVD caseback has an applied rose gold medallion.

The Grillo, on the other hand, takes a certain leap of faith by the owner. However, look beyond those polarising aesthetics and you’ll find an incredibly practical, wonderfully executed timepiece of very high quality. Graham know their demographic and I’m sure there is a large audience for a watch like this. If you find yourself thinking this watch is funky in a Steam-Punk cool kind of way then this is most definitely for you. I imagine the owner of the Grillo as someone who wears a hat with ear flaps on all year round. They probably have a tattoo. And they listen to bands you’ve never heard of but when you do get to hear them you wonder why that is. Mr Non-Average, in other words. This is a good thing for those wanting to own a Grillo because the above persona is fairly common but a complete rarety amongst those that are into wrist watches enough to buy a high end piece like this. I’ve never seen one of these in the wild and I look at everyone’s wrist. A super practical, unique and cool watch that is exclusive. You can’t ask for more than that.

The dial has a stunning sunburst pattern that is not instantly apparent. The case is not only a wonderful design but the different elements have been emphasized by clever use of polishing and satin finishes.

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So, on to my favourite aesthetic feature of the Grillo and what, undoubtedly, makes it stand out from anything else on the market: The date magnifier.

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I have tried to research the actual magnification that is given by the date window but have not been able to find out. I would guess it is an impressive 4X, at the very least. The magnifier is not just the whimsical result of some designer’s over-active imagination. It is meant to represent, as was given in the design brief, a vintage loupe, as would have been used by the great George Graham himself. Now, I’m sure this interesting fact isn’t going to sway those that find the date magnifier to be a little over zealous to populate a watch dial but I’m sure it will enhance the enjoyment of those that do find this fascinating timepiece appealing, due to its disarming character and practical nature.
Given the right lighting conditions the magnifier will refract and distort light beyond recognition and the wearer will be rewarded with their own kaleidoscope or pseudo firework display. I have never seen another watch able to achieve anything like it.
Unfortunately, you can’t have it all and the added practicality and visual eccentricities of the date magnifier does impede time reading, somewhat, at certain times of the day. The hour has a very neat design feature whereby the hour can be determined easily at any time of the day due to the cut-out in the hour hand and the small dial printed towards the centre of the dial. The minute hand does, unfortunately, suffer for legibility and accuracy at any time between about 9 and 21 minutes past the hour. Graham will, no doubt, claim it adds to the character of this extroverted watch but most of us would say that its a little frustrating.
Superficial? Undoutedly. Super? I think so.
The alarm is easy to set by aligning the red hand with the time you want the alarm to sound.

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This is facilitated by the lower crown. When it is pushed in the alarm is off. The spring for the alarm can be wound in this position. Pull the crown out and the alarm is armed. Rotating the crown in this position sets the red alarm hand. The alarm is easily loud enough for a wake-up call. If the alarm has been set in the middle of the day as a reminder and you happen to be in a noisy situation when it goes off then the watch vibrates and the reminder is still maintained. A very practical, rare and horologically interesting addition to this exceptional timepiece.

The hour and minute hands are polished and stand out from the dark dial perfectly. As does the perfectly white seconds hand with its red tip. So many wonderful design features in such a small area.

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The 24 hour GMT display is the complete opposite of the date magnifier. Fairly subtle in its design and yet very easy to read the second time zone from. Again this is meticulously finished with a polished frame highlighting the black on white numerals.

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The lume featured on both watches is within keeping of Graham’s usual class leading brightness and longevity. Easily legible after many hours in the dark.

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As with any design that adds features that are beyond what is required for the item to function there will always be divided opinions.

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Design is truly subjective. But what cannot be denied is the attention to detail and quality of materials and finish applied to every single Graham timepiece. I feel sorry for those that do not find Graham watches visually appealing because they really are missing out on some exceptional timepieces.

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So, in conclusion, Graham has a fairly unknown depth to its catalogue. Each one of these timepieces does fit nicely with Graham’s philosophy and own tag line: “Graham Watches conform to the time. But that’s it.” And, although George Graham himself may not have created anything so outrageous aesthetically I am sure he would have approved at Graham of London’s dedication to practical, well thought out, timepieces that are manufactured to a very high quality throughout.

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All words and pictures by Richard Atkins (unless otherwise stated). Please ask if you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article.

 

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