One particularly fascinating aspect of Ireland’s post-recession creativity boom has been the advent of what Forbes magazine dubbed the country’s ‘watchmaking revolution’. With a number of indigenous new brands having only recently emerged, and others that have been around for over a decade, it’s time to get familiar with Irish watch designers.
NTN started out two years ago as a side project of Ian Walton, one-half of the Dublin-based industrial design studio notion. The stated aim of this modernistic watch brand – officially launched in September 2016 – is ‘to distill products to their most essential components’, a philosophy clearly evident in their clear-cut W1/D timepieces.
Sold online and stocked in select Dublin design stores, the watch features a stainless steel case made from just two parts and is available in three finishes, accompanied by a choice of four hand-stitched, vegetable-tanned leather straps in almond, black, fog or blue. Designed and fully produced in Dublin, NTN is set to put the city on the watch-making map in 2017.
Inspired by the time-honoured Irish legend of the giant Finn McCool – who apparently created Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway as the beginning of a path to Scotland – Finn watches were specifically created to honour Northern Irish heritage in a unique way.
Both of the company’s models, named Fingal’s Cave and The Causeway, feature hexagon-shaped cases as a nod to the basalt columns for which the Giant’s Causeway is famous. Launched on Kickstarter during the summer of 2016, Finn has already shipped watches – all made with Swiss quartz movements – to 18 countries.
Luxury mechanical watch-making brothers John and Stephen McGonigle picked up their passion from their father, whose primary hobby consisted of repairing clocks for friends and neighbours. Having both attended Dublin’s Irish-Swiss Institute of Horology (ISIH) – and gathered work experience in world-renowned Swiss companies like Audemars Piguet, Franck Muller and Christophe Claret – the brothers set up their own brand in 2006, in their hometown of Athlone.
Marrying Swiss technicality with Irish flair, McGonigle’s incredible collection of watches has appeared in Forbes magazine, and pieces are available to purchase only after enduring a waiting list that lasts months. In 2016, the brothers released the Ceol Minute Repeater – their most complicated design yet, called ‘a Celtic masterpiece’ by SalonQP fine watch magazine. Each one, hand-finished to the order of the end user, sells for upwards of €200,000.
Another youthful brand, Ansley Watch Company only came on the scene in 2013. Designed in County Meath by Irish and Swedish design duo Arthur and Eda Smith, these stylish watches are traditional in style and yet still contemporary, and are made to be treasured – with faces made from 42-millimetre and 36-millimetre sapphire glass.
Ansley makes similar timepieces for both men and women, with interchangeable leather and woven straps available. Every watch is engraved on the back with the ancient symbol for equality and comes with its own classic leather travel wallet.
Straight-shooting SAS Watch Company’s name is an acronym for Sea, Air & Sport, referring to the fact that this brand produces watches specially designed for divers, pilots and sportspeople. Their durable Dubh Linn dive watch can survive depths of up to 1,000 meters (3,281 feet), while the AIR First Edition showcases a slightly sleeker silhouette. All SAS designs are made with Swiss movements.
Having partnered with Irish explorers Mike O’Shea and Clare O’Leary and supplied watches for part of their Ice Project expedition (with a little help from John of McGonigle), SAS has more than proven their chops in the realm of tough watches. Based in Wicklow – where several of their pieces are hand-assembled – SAS also produces a line of military watches called Míleata, made with the strongest materials available and designed to match military service uniforms.