This article is not going to be your usual Fratello Watches piece. Of course it will feature a watch, a very nice one actually. It will be something else though. To understand the watch and its significance we have to see the whole picture and that needs to be explained a little bit. Our topic is the Pinion (Axis) Iron Heart. Cool name, huh? Wait till you read the story.
Pinion Iron Heart
You have probably read the press release published by Bert earlier this year (if not, click here to read the Pinion x Iron Heart introduction). Now that the first stage of production is completed and Iron Heart has the watches ready for delivery, we thought it was time to give you a proper introduction to Iron Heart and their signature watch. I was invited to spend a few days in Gosport (United Kingdom), Iron Heart’s HQ and meet the men behind this brand. To be completely honest with you, I knew nothing about the denim culture other than the usual big E Levi’s and the likes. What I was about to discover is so cool though that I might just develop a second hobby. Gosport is not one of the fashion capitals by any means and that suits Iron Heart very well. You can find their address on their website but don’t expect anything too fancy. They are based in an industrial site that used to belong to the navy so from the outside you would never guess what is going on behind those doors.
Door to Denim Heaven
Iron Heart was founded in Japan by Shinichi Haraki, a veteran of the Japanese denim scene. He started producing and distributing jeans and work wear, clothing for bikers, especially Harley Davidson riders. A few years later, Giles Padmore – an avid denim enthusiast and big fan of Japanese denim brands – contacted Haraki in the hope of a future business deal with Iron Heart. This turned out to be a great move. During the past 11 years, Giles and Haraki have been working together. They introduced Iron Heart to the World. And the World loves it.
Why is the Japanese denim scene so exceptionally great? I asked Giles. The explanation he gave me is pretty logical and shows how determined and open people Japanese are. After the 2nd World War Japan – as we all know – was “occupied” by the US. Well, they did not really occupy it but went and “helped” rebuilding and reestablishing the country. Of course with the politicians and the military, the coolest cats of that era came; the G.I.s. When Giles got to this point in the story one scene from a movie popped into my mind. If you’ve seen Apocalypse Now you probably remember the surfing scene with Robert Duval.
Now, this how cool these guys were back then. Imagine the very conservative, totally closed and remote Japanese people struck by war and all the hell that came with it. Now picture the G.I.s riding their Harlies, smoking Lucky Strikes with engraved Zippo lighters and their indigo denims. Must have looked like aliens to the Japanese. So they became obsessed with this culture and everything belonging to it. They started copying the style of these soldiers and just like most areas of life they traveled, learned and with time they actually became better than the original. Brands appeared on the market and slowly became the World’s leading producers of the finest denim products money can buy.
Haraki is the head designer of the brand with Giles offering input for the non-Japanese market. They come up with the ideas for the Iron Heart collections. The production is then done in Japan. By production I mean the garment and even the denim. The fabrics they use are produced exclusively for Iron Heart in a factory in Japan using the most advanced yet traditional technology. Most of their denims are selvedge which is the highest form of this fabric and basically means that to produce the material one continuous cross-yarn that is passed back and forth on the loom. This means that the edges are woven and they do not curl or fray.
While the guys in Japan are dealing with manufacturing Giles, his lovely wife Paula and the team (Matt, Dylan and Axel at the time of my visit) are taking care of the distribution, marketing, finance and everything you can possible think of. There are of course retailers around the world from Asia to the United States but you can order their stuff online and from the HQ they will ship out the goods to you.
The range is pretty wide from jeans to chinos, from shirts to jackets, boots, accessories etc. You name it, they have it. Each and every piece I have seen whether that was a pair of denim or a key chain is made to perfection. These things will last years and years and the best thing about them is that with time they will only look better and cooler. Their prices are not the cheapest for sure but for a decent pair of designer jeans you would have to pay roughly the same price and trust me, these things are better than those mass-produced items. Other than selling their own clothing, Iron Heart UK also alters or “pimps” – as Giles would put it – jeans. You send your pair of jeans and they will repair if for you, adding some extra character to the pair. Also if you are really into denim and would like to have your pair hemmed with chain stitching that produces the roping effect used an original American Union Special (that once belonged to none other than Levi’s) for a tenner – British pounds that is – the guys will do that too. It is unnoticeable when worn and other than denim enthusiast nobody will know what it is but this shows just how serious these dudes are.
Giles is not your typical watch guy. He is very active and the watch he wears goes with him everywhere. He told me that at one point he wanted to start collecting watches. “I thought I would get one from every brand – but after 3 I got bored”, he says. Through a good friend/customer he was introduced to Pinion and he fell for the design and simplicity of the watch. Not too long after that the idea of an Iron Heart branded Pinion was born.
They used the Pinion Axis as their base model and made a few changes. Pinion designed a new dial with the Iron Heart logo above the 6, changed the colors and gave the watch a new case back that bears one of Iron Heart’s signature logos. It’s not only the watch that was changed. The pouch it comes in was also redesigned. The outer fabric is a Paraffin coated cotton canvas. This is the material Iron Heart uses for some of their bags and super tough work pants. In addition the pouch has the same back patch as you would find on their jeans. On the patch – where you usually find the model number of the jeans – you’ll find the model number of the watch: IHWA-01.
The pouch holds the watch as well as a Bergeon 6767 springbar tool in case you would like to swap the strap for a fresh look. Giles uses his model all day in the office, during repair and ‘pimp’ activities of denims and when swimming in the cold and misty waters of Hampshire. As he very eloquently puts it “the watch – just like all our stuff – does what it needs to do: tells the time, shows the date and looks great in the meantime.”.
While I was there they received Haraki’s special time piece which Giles will take with him when he goes to see his business partne and friend later this month. The watch can be ordered from Iron Heart’s website as they are responsible for the distribution of it too. The price of the Pinion Iron Heart will be a bit above £2000. Good news for those who can’t afford it though is that an app will be release soon as well. So even though you won’t have it on your wrist you can still sport it on the screen of your smart phone.
My thanks go out to the whole Iron Heart team for their hospitality and kindness. They are indeed an exceptional group of individuals, driven, enthusiastic and the producers of magnificent stuff. And the Pinion Iron Heart is no exception.
More information can be found on www.ironheart.co.uk. More photos from our visit can be found in the gallery below.