British watchmaking has carved out a niche for itself thanks to a handful of strong brands leading the pack. And with the newest versions of the Fears Brunswick 40, Nicholas Bowman-Scargill attempts a daring feat. Together with top US retailer Topper, we are treated to a blend of Californian nature and British watchmaking.

Many small brands have great backstories, making the buyer feel part of a revitalization or community. And Fears Watches has the real story of a family firm now run by the founder’s great-grandson. Before we looked at the new colorful quartet, I chatted with Nicholas Bowman-Scargill about this latest retail collaboration.

The new Fears Brunswick 40

The new Fears Brunswick 40 with Topper

I caught Nicholas Bowman-Scargill mid-launch in California to get his views on this colorful new release, the second Fears collaboration with Silicon Valley-based Topper Fine Jewelers. I asked him what spurred this second Californian adventure, and he said, “After the success of the first collaboration, which launched in June 2022, Rob Caplan from Topper and I were keen to use this wonderful creation with a California dial and do something else with it. But we didn’t want it to feel like a lazy collab. It just wouldn’t be Fears enough.”

When did the project start? Nicholas tells me, “Well, we moved the needle forward when Rob asked whether I had ever been to California in the winter. Because it’s very, very different from what people would expect of California. He invited me for 10 days to experience and see all the places that he and his family knew from growing up. That’s why, in January 2023, I flew out and spent 10 days seeing these incredible sights, and this resulted in four very special watches.”

Retail, online, or both?

I’ve also been keen on asking Nicholas about his brand’s business model. Not many small brands manage the balancing act of selling directly and through select retailers. He tells me, “Since Fears restarted in 2016, we’ve always been very keen not to go down just one route, which means we’ve partnered with select retailers worldwide. Recently, we’ve begun to increase the number of authorized stockists. It’s been wonderful because it has allowed Fears as a brand and our watches to be seen, handled, and enjoyed by more collectors and enthusiasts worldwide.”

The new Fears Brunswick 40

Fratello editor Ben Hodges trying on a prototype

The Fears Brunswick collection

The Brunswick range of watches is the cornerstone of the Fears brand. But what makes them different? Available in 38mm and 40mm versions with a polished and brushed cushion case, the two sizes offer two distinct flavors of British watchmaking. The 38mm version has a vintage vibe with modern touches like tall applied numerals and skeletonized hands. These let the 38mm models play on each side of the court whether you’re into modern or vintage vibes.

The same goes for the 40mm models, though they all have a sportier set of sword hands and a duo-finish dial for most. I’m particularly fond of last year’s Mallard Green boutique edition, but in general, the Brunswick 40 is simply a very good mid-sized sports watch. What is different with the round-crowned Brunswick this time? You’ll find a fresh take on the first Topper collab, which featured a black California dial with the signature cheeky mix of Roman and Arabic numerals. Now there are four new colors inspired by Northern California. Do these make the Brunswick 40 a new watch?

The new Fears Brunswick 40


Quadruple Californian flavors

Let’s start with the California dial that, like the first Topper edition, makes the Brunswick 40 feel like a new beast altogether. A fat diver’s triangle at 12 and horizontally applied indices at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock set the scene for the strong graphic identity of the legibility-focused California dial with Roman markings above and Arabic numerals below the center line. “Fun” is the keyword, and the Whiteout version is crisper than crisp. With a polar-white textured guilloché-stamped dial, it is inspired by the snowy peaks and warning signs on slippery winter highways. A bright mandarin-fresh orange strap, seconds hand, and hour markings reinforce the warning-exclamation theme.

Winter Lake

Another cold-weather-tinged dial is found in the deep blue Winter Lake, which has a more elegant vibe. Lake Tahoe in winter inspires a deep greenish-blue hue with a glossy surface. There’s a clean juxtaposition in the glossy white of the lumed markers and hands, making this an entirely different proposition to the popping Whiteout.

Snowed In

Imaginative and evocative color choices

The Pacific edition features deep green with golden details, but the most special dial aesthetic of the quartet is the Snowed In. The German-made dial here has a very modern, dot-design graphic vibe, coming across as a reverse fumé. I don’t know if you noticed, but the dial is composed of a hypnotic-looking size-variable dot pattern, with dark green in the center and snowy white on the edges. With the same white details as the Winter Lake version, it has an ethereal quality that proves how much a dial redesign and an imaginative color choice (bravo!) can do for a watch.


What’s next for Fears?

I am a three-hander fan, and the Brunswick 40 has become a great sub-range for Nicholas Bowman-Scargill’s Fears. I love the small seconds of the 38, and the 40 has grown into a great sports watch. So maybe the step would be a chronograph, even if I don’t use that complication often. “Fears Brunswick 40 Chronograph” has a very nice ring to it, eh, Nicholas? Keep that in mind.

By releasing these four watches with Fears, Topper shows a solid commitment to small, non-Swiss brands, and in my view, that deserves our praise. I imagine that those collab meetings’ creative sketches and ideas must have flowed like the Sacramento River in springtime. The main specs are identical to the last Brunswick 40 Topper editions but with a big exception. The movement is now the top-grade La Joux-Perret G101. This is an automatic caliber with 25 jewels, a 28,800vph (4Hz) frequency, and a generous 68-hour power reserve. With this new no-date movement, all four watches will be available today for US$3,900. More information can be found via Topper Jewelers and Fears Watches.

Fratelli, what do you think about the British foray into Northern California? Let me know your thoughts about these four takes on a classic dial in the comments.