Watch brands tend to fall into one of two camps. In one stand the big dogs of haute horlogerie, the Swiss marques who’ve carried the torch for high-end watchmaking and present their wares as feats of mechanics that just happen to look quite good. In the other, fashion brands, whose watches are more akin to accessories than time-tellers and where design takes precedence over construction.
But the middle ground is being increasingly colonised by brands that understand the importance of marrying engineering and design, without charging a premium for the privilege. Hence the success of homegrown watchmakers Farer, whose timepieces are designed in Britain before being built in Switzerland, and infused with watchmaking heritage without being beholden to history. Farer’s dual citizenship is fitting considering that voyages are in the brand’s DNA. The name is a medieval term for a traveller, and its watches are designed to accompany their owner throughout life’s journeys. Which means that, unlike fashion watches, they’re built to withstand the daily grind, with premium metals, Italian calf leather straps and sapphire crystal. So no matter where you are, and what conditions you find yourself in, your watch will weather the storm.
The brand was founded by a quartet of British friends, who decided to take advantage of a lifetime’s experience in design and horology. They were inspired by the pre-Quartz crisis golden age, when watches were functional, not fashionable, and had to withstand the rigours of daily living. Their aim is to take that era’s standout principles – colour, texture, dedication to detail – and emulate them in a modern way. The result is a debut collection of seven watches, from three-handers to GMTs, where bold but refined styling meets tough-as-nails materials.
Of course, giving tradition a modern spin is vital if you want to avoid simply packaging nostalgia. Take the Farer Johnson
, named for aviation pioneer Amy Johnson. The face is uncluttered, with numerals jettisoned in favour of minute markers. It’s a minimalist approach that speaks less of Scandi-inspired trends, more to the influence of 1950s watches like the Tudor Oyster and Patek Philippe’s iconic Calatrava. But these touches are held back from retro by details like the compass engraved on the caseback – a nod to the brand’s explorer DNA – and the bronze-coated crown, which develops a signature patina to mark its time on your wrist.
The same tension exists in the Farer Stark
, whose moniker is a tribute to Freya Stark, the first westerner to traverse the Arabian Desert. Its curved dial and domed glass stand apart from flat, fashion watches, instead drawing design inspiration from brands like Universal Genève, whose mid-century timepieces embodied horological refinement. But it’s a watch where inspiration never falls into pastiche, thanks to a liberal dose of colour: a thin red line that circles the face inside the hour markers, and is echoed in the subdial’s second hand; or the cobalt trim to the hour and minute hands, reflected in the subdial numerals. It’s watchmaking that recognises the importance of design personality.
Equally, Farer recognises the value of the wearer’s personality. Since developing a deep watch rotation does no favours for your wallet, Farer’s innovative system means you can remove and replace each strap in seconds. So the same watch on a leather, NATO or Milanese strap can take you from work to the gym to the pub. Which we think counts as a journey worth toasting.