Graham Watches (Est. 1695 – ) George Graham (1673 – 1751) acknowledged by many as “the father of the chronograph” was a master watchmaker who lived on London’s Fleet Street and who also earned a reputation as a talented inventor. It is his surname that is associated with the Graham Watch firm we know today.
London was among the places to be if you were a watchmaker in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was highly developed with a business culture, the world’s first scientific society and a navy all of which needed time keeping requirements. Many famous Swiss watchmakers, contemporaries of George Graham, opened watch shops in London and Geneva. Unlike many of these, Graham’s shop was more interested in ideas and inventions than gaining material wealth.
Included among Graham’s many inventions that he did not patent is the first stopwatch. He devised a mercury pendulum system to make clocks more accurate in very hot and cold weather. He also invented the dead-beat escapement that made clocks more accurate in general and built the master clock for the Greenwich Royal Observatory.
The escapement he invented is known today simply as the Graham Escapement and is still used in high-precision pendulum clocks. It was a predecessor to the Swiss anchor movement almost universally now used in wristwatches.
In 1695, Graham began work in Thomas Tompion’s workshop. He learned his trade from Henry Aske and went on to work for Tompion.
Graham and Tompion moved from being colleagues to friends and George married Tompion’s niece, Elizabeth. In 1713, after Tompion’s death, Graham took over the business premises. A few clocks and watches during the last years of Tompion’s life, are signed Tompion & Graham.
Graham continued the business at the same address – at the sign of Dial and Three Crowns in Fleet Street – after Tompion’s passing. In 1720 he moved to a new house, The Dial and One Crown, at the other side of the same street, nearer the Fleet Bridge, next door to the Globe and Duke of Marlborough’s Head Taverns. Graham remained at this location until his death.
Graham’s Swiss watches were famous for their high precision and he was soon commissioned to create the main watch for the Greenwich Royal Observatory. Graham often shared his ideas with other watchmakers including John Harrison and Julien Le Roy.
Graham became one of London’s most famous watchmakers and was a pillar to both the scientific and clock making establishments. He wrote many treatises devoted to horology.
In 1721, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and contributed over twenty papers to its scientific journal, the Philosophical Transactions. George Graham became Master of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1722.
He died in 1751 and was buried in Westminster Abbey in the same grave as his mentor and friend, Thomas Tompion. The inscription of the stone reads:
“George Graham of London, watchmaker and F.R.S. whose curious inventions do honour to ye British genius whose accurate performance are ye standard of mechanic skill. He died ye XVI of November MDCCLI in the LXXVIII year of his age.”
Many of Graham’s watches were forgeries, even in his lifetime, but the fakes can generally be detected since Graham not only marked the number in the usual place, on the back plate, together with his name, but also on the pillar-plate, under the dial, and on the under-side of the cock.
Immediately after Graham’s death, some competitors rushed to claim the goodwill associated with his name. Only two days after his passing, the following notice appeared in the General Advertiser : ‘Thomas Mudge, watch-maker, apprentice to the late Mr. Graham, carries on business in the same manner as Mr. Graham did, at the sign of the Dial and Crown, opposite the Bolt and Tun, in the Fleet Street.
According to Graham Watches current website, “George Graham’s curious inventions are the inspiration behind our watches.”
Now, a Swiss-based watch brand, Graham Watches is part of the British Masters group. Graham London makes their watches in-house in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland; the capital of watchmaking.
Under the direction of its current founder, Eric Loth, the modern collection Graham’s Swiss chronograph wristwatches occupy a leading position in the industry. Graham London was resurrected in 1995 and is today a privately owned Anglo-Swiss watch company that designs and builds its own watches in the La Chaux-de-Fonds production facility.
Eric Loth was born in Bienne, Switzerland and grew up in Le Locle. Loth’s background in engineering began at an early age since his father was a professor at the Engineering School of Neuchâtel. Consequently, he was always in the company of technicians and engineers. Nevertheless, his entry into the watch creation world was completely accidental.
He earned a degree in mechanical engineering and post graduate degrees in physical metallurgy and in business administration. Through assignments at different companies and industries (including watchmaking) his work has resulted in no less than 24 international patents in materials technology and watch applications. His passion draws from the inspiration he derives from the many forms of art he admires.
In 1994, his family, friends, and partners encouraged him to acquire a luxury watch brand. After a long search, he found a brand that would give him a means to express his passion for innovation and art.
The names he considered came from the rich history of great inventors of 17th and 18th century- England. Research between 1996 and 1999 yielded that the foremost heritage was attributed to George Graham, inventor of the Chronograph and to John Arnold, inventor of breakthrough escapements, who won the famous Longitude Prize and was, by far, the leading supplier of Marine Chronometers to Britain’s naval, merchant, and explorer vessels. Product development during the late 1990’s used these inventions and concepts to create a broader concept that translated them into unique, contemporary time pieces.
From the start, Loth’s goals included reviving the British watch-making heritage. Within 10 years, the British Masters collections had re-established these brands as pre-eminent British timekeeper purveyors. Graham watches fascinate experts and collectors who are moved by aesthetically amusing objects that combine exclusivity and originality with excellent craftsmanship.
One of its most famous lines is the Chronofighter with its unusual movement that sports a lever for the thumb. This watch is admired by fans of sports model wristwatches. Additional hands operate simultaneously or separately by connecting to the movement or detaching from it.
Collections of Graham’s watch lines include:
TOURBILLOGRAPH (Trackmaster Chromium, Trackmaster Black, Silverstone Woodcote, Trigger)
SILVERSTONE (Stowe GMT, Stowe, Luffield GMT, Luffield, Nime Zone)
SWORDFISH (Booster, PVD, Grillo)
SWORDFISH JEWELLERY (Lucy, Snow White, Ali Baba)
RBS 6 NATIONS (Chronofighter RAC 6 Nations Celebration, Chronofigter Oversize Referee)
MERCEDES GP PETRONAS (Mercedes GP Silverstone, Mercedes GP Trackmaster)
CHRONOFIGHTER (Oversize GMT Steel, Oversize GMT Steel & Gold, Oversize GMT Gold, Oversize Dive Trigger, Rac / Flayback, Oversize)
TOURIST TROPHY (Tourist Trophy Isle of Man)
The firm’s website declares that the company stresses that a great deal of their attention goes into the detail that is intrinsic to creations.
“We love details. Cases, bezels, crystals, crowns, pushers, dials, hands, case backs, buckles and straps are all usually pretty big but designed with great attention to detail (and with a grain of English eccentricity),” says Loth.
“So are the accessories: Our boxes include a zipped travel pouch. The zipper is not just any zipper but a Swiss RiRi. And the boxes and travel pouches are Swiss made too, by local craftsmen.
“The warranty certificate comes in the shape of a passport. As each watch has a personality, [and] is almost a living thing, it of course has to have its own passport with its own photograph in it. Each such passport is signed by a watchmaker because ultimately, this is what we are: Watchmakers.”
Graham has collaborated with the Navy SEAL Foundation, a national non-profit charitable organization whose mission is to provide immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare Community and its families.
The United States Navy SEALs were formed by President Kennedy in 1962. This elite force operates in all environments as well as in extreme climates. The Chronofighter Oversize Navy SEAL Foundation limited edition watch is specifically designed with the highly specialized Navy SEAL operators in mind.
Another of the firm’s collaborators is the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles franchise, the Kings. Graham is the team’s Official Timing Partner.
To celebrate this, Graham developed a limited edition called, “the Chronofighter Oversize LA Kings®.” It is highlighted with the Kings’ team colors (silver, black and white). The start and stop lever on the left of the case is made of the carbon material known as carbon fiber and used in NHL hockey sticks. The lever is a unique piece of carbon which provides the watch with more stiffness and enhanced usability.
The black ceramic bezel gives the watch its strength and personality. The watch is light to wear and provides performance that goes beyond technological limits.
The team’s 2012 Stanley Cup victory is recognized by a stone set on the side of the case at 3 o’clock. The “2012” inscription is engraved alongside a white diamond.
Graham watches are available in specialized boutiques all over the world.