Ultimate Cars, Watches & Hi Fi S04 ep18 : Arnold & Son [ London ]

Interview with Philippe Boven

The biography of inventive genius and British master watchmaker John Arnold and the history of the namesake watch company he founded in 1764 is well documented. After he presented a hand-made Minute Repeater watch as a gift to the then Monarch, King George III, he gained access to circles of wealthy people. After he won the ‘Longitude Act’ competition to find a reliable method for determining the longitude on the high seas, the company specialized in the manufacture of specialized marine chronometers in the 1770s. Arnold chronometers, also officially supplied to the British Navy, accompanied numerous famous British explorers including Captain James Cook, who discovered Australia among other places; Dr. Stanley Livingstone, who adventured through the African continent and George Vancouver, who founded the Western Canadian city bearing his name.


Arnold and son since 1764 in London, the brand became very very important in the 18th century. He came from Cornwall and Mr.
Arnold understood the importance of working in London and not outside. Obviously he understood the presence of the king will
help him to promote the brand. He offered one of his first ring watch with a small miniature repeater inside to the king George
III. That watch can be seen actually in the Royal British Museum in London.

By offering that model to the king it created a buzz. But that was not necessarily what he was interested in. It brought the
money, it allowed him to invest furthermore in development.


Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

His father was a clockmaker well you know from the church and obviously it’s there that he started to learn with. And then
automatically with the improvement of the technique he was able to reduce the size of the clocks to make watches

He was really more attracted by finding some technical means to improve and speed up the production and so on. He joined a
certain gentleman named Abraham-Louis Breguet. They were very close friends, they worked a lot together. When Arnold died,
Abraham-Louis Breguet offered in memory to his son his first tourbillon in Arnold cage, just to thank his father for the work he
did. And that watch is also in London at the Museum.


Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

The gentleman was not only a PR addict person but was also a master watchmaker, who became the main supplier of the British
Royal Navy; why, for the Marine chronometer. At that time the watchmakers were producing between 5 and 10 watches per
year. The Royal Navy, they had something like 3000 boats, some producing 10 watches per year to supply the Royal Navy was a
headache. So he understood that the approach of subcontracting to inaudible [18:23] a number of watch makers. He
subcontracted the most key procedural movement so that he could speed up the production and increase the production at the
same time. And we have brought one of the watches now on the market which is the TB88 which confirms the way how the
watchmakers were working in the 18th century. It’s a very original movement that was made therein a very simple way, but that
the target they would ensure that you get something resistant and less after sales problem. Easy to reach to develop or improve
if necessary.


Jewellery Theatre Elements

Arnold was producing, was the first watchmaker to produce the first chronometer ever in the world. So that’s important, I mean
the most precise watch ever produced by the first watchmaker was a Arnold watch. And that watch can also be seen in Londonat
the British Museum.

I started in the banking business, then in the car business and I went to the watch industry 20 years ago. So I have been through
foreign language [19:44].

Working in the Swiss watch industry, I had no idea that the watch industry from England was as good as the Swiss one. Now that
we are mixing British brands with the Swiss made that the two certainly be the best brand in the world.


Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

It was really a sleeping beauty. It’s only then 10 years ago that a gentleman named Eric Lutt purchased a number of English
brands and obviously since then Arnold Danson has been sold to a group of Swiss industrialists. We belong to La Joux-Perret
which is our manufacturer. They produce one movement and they are supplying to some other brands around the world but
mainly in Switzerland.

If you see the finish for example here of that particular side or part or bridge, because it’s one bridge of the movement; it’s a
typical English moustache finish as you can see. And here for example you have the Celtic axe, it looks like a Celtic axe that’s the
bridge of tourbillion. And in the back you have approximately the same type of finish so it’s definitively typically English. And
again as I said before, we really try to mix a modern concept of the case together with a movement that has been developed
and improved. But remains the way how the watchmakers were at the time of Arnold more particularly of producing the

As we have a very small team so far, we work together. From the background we try to combine and come with some specific
products like you saw may be in the window, but is a mix between the past and projected into the present. We try to be modern
without being bulky and too aggressive.