March 9th is a big day for the now-well-known resurgence of British watchmaking. This particular date is set aside for a new event, the British Watchmakers’ Day, in London. Thanks to Roger W. Smith, this year will be even more exciting thanks to a sealed auction, with the excitement starting at a £297,500 reserve price (equivalent to €348,000).

Other British brands are also making limited editions for the day, and a percentage of Roger W. Smith’s auction will go to the Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers, a non-profit organization. His Series 1 is a near-mythical piece in watch circles as he only makes around 20 examples per year.

Image: Oracle Time

The British Watchmakers’ Day and the Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers

Roger Smith is a scion of British watchmaking and a strong advocate for the recently formed Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers. Over the last few years, we have seen a massive resurgence with several small and large brands. And with everything from microbrand cool to small brands like Fears and Farer and Bremont, to call it a renaissance is no exaggeration. The event at Lindley Hall will feature many exclusive watch releases. They include a special edition of the value-driven Bel Canto by Christopher Ward and this grail piece by the Alliance’s chairman Roger W. Smith. To call him Britain’s leading watchmaker would not be far from the truth, and this time, he leads by example.

Roger W. Smith Series 1 auction piece

A special Roger W. Smith Series 1

The watchmaker’s commitment to the cause of British watchmaking comes through clearly when he claims this to be the Series 1 he would make for himself. Roger W. Smith tells us more: “Over the years, all the commissions for my Series of watches have been made with modest customization in their design to give my clients unique variations. The opportunity with this piece was to make what I wanted and to have some fun!” This comes across with a studied elegance and a red gold 38mm case. The dial is a study in traditional watchmaking with a two-tone look of silver and red gold. Basket-weave hand-turned guilloché decorates the center dial, with a contrasting hobnail pattern for the oversized small seconds at 6 o’clock.

Brushed red gold chapter rings, engraved and manually filled with black lacquer, frame the proceedings with a needle-thin seconds pointer and Smith’s recognizable handset. Have a look at the hour and minute hands. They are finished by hand and are some of the best available in red gold. I don’t know about you, but to me, the signature RWS spade ends are hand-crafted joy epitomized.

Roger W.Smith

With its co-axial escapement, the much-lauded movement has a traditional finish with gilded, frosted plates and gold chatons. Have a look at the raised barrel bridge, and you’ll find an intricate English rose pattern. Smith has said this “really is [his] ideal vision for the Series 1 reference.”

Roger W. Smith Series 1 auction piece

The joy of pure classicism

Many of us have had our fill of ’60s(-inspired) tool watches. For me, there is a deep appeal to guilloché-filled dials. The hand-turned and cut finishes that set a Roger Smith piece apart are difficult to make on a budget. But with the good value of pre-owned watches from Breguet and others, there are still great alternatives. And that includes other British brands like Garrick Watchmakers. With the brand’s £6,500 starting point, nothing beats a handcrafted, bespoke piece of traditional British wristwear. But if you see over £300,000 appearing in your grail budget, head to Roger Smith’s website. The sealed-bid auction for this special Series 1 watch is live and will continue until 15:00 GMT on March 9th.

What do you think, Fratelli? Will you be watching the auction, frantically consolidating your collection? Or, like me, will you be finding a taste for the refinement of guilloché-touched classic watchmaking? Let me know in the comments.

Watch specifications

Series 1 Pièce Unique
Silver with engine-turned guilloché and red gold chapter rings
Case Material
18K red gold
Case Dimensions
38mm (diameter)
Case Back
18K red gold and sapphire crystal
Manufacture RWS movement based on the single-wheel Daniels co-axial escapement, manual winding, 18,000vph frequency, free-sprung Quadrajust balance, frosted and gilded plates,
Leather strap (18mm) with matching red gold pin buckle
Time only (hours, minutes, small seconds small seconds)
Up for sealed-bid auction with £297,500 reserve
Special Note(s)
Auction ongoing until March 9th, 2024 at 15:00 GMT