From the Firehouse to the Wrist: Hands-On with the William Wood Valiant Black Watch

William Wood Watches, established in London in 2016, is named for founder Jonny Garrett’s late grandfather, a distinguished 25-year veteran of the British Fire Service. The watches pay tribute to their namesake, and firefighting culture in general, in ways that go far beyond the name, standing out from the crowded pack of luxury sport watches by their use of upcycled firefighting materials in their design construction. We had a chance to examine up close the Black Watch from the British brand’s Valiant dive watch collection.

The case of the Valiant model is 41 mm in diameter and made of stainless steel. William Wood offers two versions differentiated only by their movements, both self-winding mechanicals: either a Japanese Seiko NH35 or a Swiss Sellita SW200. My review watch was outfitted with the Swiss movement, which is visible behind a sapphire caseback. The sapphire crystal in the front of the watch, covering the dial, is double domed and treated with a subtle blue tint. The case’s sober, satin finished surfaces attest to the watch’s tool-oriented design, as does its water-resistance to 100 meters.

On the case’s fluted, screw-down crown, you’ll discover the first of several examples of sustainability in concert with the firefighting-tribute theme: Its surface features a medallion made from melted down London Fire Brigade brass helmet from the 1920s. This decorative piece is crafted in Hatton Garden, London’s famed jewelry district. The sloping, unidirectional rotating bezel, which ratchets with a pleasing series of clicks, can be used to set dive times, or, as William Wood’s press materials point out, also to track the oxygen capacity of a firefighter’s air tank.

The dial of the Valiant is where you’ll find the most distinct of the aesthetic touches that make this timepiece unique. Printed around its outer perimeter, in place of a traditional minute track, is a ring of checkered markings that are found on the side of a British fire engine. The double-index at 12 o’clock represents the collar markings on the lapel of a U.K. Fire and Rescue Service Crew Manager. Underneath it is an applied emblem of a vintage fire helmet and the cursive William Wood signature. Finally, the central seconds hand is finished with a counterweight that resembles the chime inside a historical fire bell.

The Sellita SW200 movement inside the Valiant, which replaces the ETA 2824 in earlier models, is self-winding by means of a gilded rotor emblazoned with a William Wood signature, and holds a power reserve up to 38 hours. It includes 26 jewels, beats at a 28,800-vph frequency and enables both a hacking seconds function and a quick setting of the date, which is displayed on the dial at 3 o’clock, in the crown’s middle position. The Japanese Seiko caliber in the other, slightly lower-priced version of the Valiant, incidentally, offers a slower frequency (21,600 vph) but a slightly longer power reserve (41 hours). Bordering the exhibition window in the caseback that shows off the mechanism is an engraving denoting the watch’s limited edition number (out of 250 pieces).

The watch’s most obvious and notable use of upcycled materials can be found in the straps. William Wood watches all come with a handsome three-watch travel roll in fire engine red, and no fewer than six types of straps are available to fill it: metal bracelet, NATO textile, black rubber, and three extra-special straps that have been hand-cut from fire hoses actually used by the U.K. Fire and Rescue Service for more than a decade. Not only are these fire hose straps both extremely sturdy, supple and comfortable on the wrist; they also have a faint whiff of smokiness from their years of service. Best of all for those who prize versatility in their wristwear, the straps and case lugs are designed to quickly and easily swap them out without the need for a tool.

The William Wood Valiant Black Watch with the Swiss automatic movement retails for $1,310, the model with the Japanese movement for $915 — both very reasonable, considering you also get the handsome and useful watch roll as well as a watch that is truly, as founder Jonny Garrett puts it, “a real piece of firefighting history.” If you need further enticement, a percentage of that cost is donated to firefighting charities; past beneficiaries have included the U.K.’s Fire Fighter Charity, which provides mental, physical and social support to the firefighting community, and the Australian Bushfire Relief Fund.

Manufacturer:William Wood Watches, London, U.K.
Reference number:N/A
Functions:Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Movement:Sellita SW200, automatic, 38-hour power reserve, 28,800-vph frequency, hacking seconds, quick-set date
Case:Stainless-steel case with screw-in crown, double domed, blue-tinted sapphire crystal, sapphire exhibition caseback, unidirectional rotating divers’ bezel, water resistant to 100 meters
Bracelet and cla­­sp:Stainless-steel bracelet or rubber strap with fire hose insert, with steel pin buckle
Dimensions:Diameter = 41 mm, height = 16 mm
Price:$1,310 ($915 with Japanese automatic caliber)
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  1. Kevin Hooper

    Appears to be just another Rolex Sub wannabe like millions of others. Nothing creative here.

  2. “slightly lower-priced version”??? Qualitatively equal mvmt. You must be well payed calling a 25% cheaper watch with that mvmt. as such!

  3. Can I assume with this price at least the one with the Sellita SW200 gets the Top grade one?
    With a quality shock protector i.e. incabloc and not that “special tools required” joke.

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