Part of the Dirty Dozen
Re-founding the family watch firm a century after it originally started, Don Cochrane aims to put Vertex back on the pantheon of British watch brands. A member of the War Office approved “Dirty Dozen,” the firm’s got provenance and a story fit for Commando Comics
Column by Mr WatchMaster
Next we meet Don Cochrane, whose great-grandfather, Claude Lyons, was born in London in 1885 and started working in the watch trade when he was just 17 years old. Claude founded Vertex Watches in 1916, and based himself in Hatton Garden spending over 50 years in Diamond House where he became a leading light of the local community and the international watch trade. The watches were made in Switzerland at 133, Rue de la Paix in La Chaux de Fonds.
One hundred years later, Don has re-incorporated the Vertex company name with the ambition of retaining its British heritage and world-class Swiss engineering. His vision is to re-invigorate the brand for the discerning watch collector.
“As a child I was captivated by these watches. The way they were used to time truly decisive moments with the most profound implications fascinated me.”
During the Second World War the British Military selected Vertex, along with 11 other leading watchmakers, to supply the army with a new watch built to an exacting bespoke design. The specifications were precisely what you would expect of a military watch – waterproof, luminous, regulated to chronometer level and rugged. On top of that, the dial needed to be black with Arabic numerals to maximise legibility.
This select group have become known as the ‘Dirty Dozen.’
We are delighted to bring you an insight into how Don sees the brand developing and evolving – honouring his great-grandfather’s original vision – retaining its passionate original owner’s but introducing the Vertex brand to a new generation of enthusiasts fascinated with the history of military watches.
How is business?
It’s brand new but going very well, being self-funded I needed Vertex to work straight out of the blocks. We have now delivered over 100 watches in two months and most importantly their new owners are really happy.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, delivering watches and maintaining momentum, next a few strap options, then…
Tell us something we don’t know about Vertex watches?
Far from military watches Vertex was best known in the 1920s for their incredible intricate ladies Platinum and Diamond watches.
What watch do you wear?
A Vertex, mainly now the new M100, quite often with different straps as research. Sometimes I will go with one of our 1944 navigation watches just to keep me close to the story. If I’m going out somewhere nice in the evening I might wear one of our vintage gold dress watches, my Grandfather gave me two which I still cherish.
Apart from your own brand, what watch would you like to own?
I really love Lemania, especially the single button chronograph. I also love Blancpain’s style and any dive watches from the 1950s and 1960s.
What do you like best about the watch business?
The resurgence of mechanical watches has been amazing, the more digital the world gets the more we want to hang on to something with a ‘heartbeat.’
What don’t you like about the Watch business?
The arrogance of some of the brands and the way the ‘big brand houses’ seem happy to churn out as many watches as possible – with no care for the brands they have bought or the owner’s relationship with the brand.
What is next on the horizon for you?
I would like to build Vertex back to the level where it is a well-respected name in the industry. While being a little disruptive along the way. The Vertex owners are a great group of people and it would be truly excellent to find a way to make them more of a community.
About Don Cochrane
Don Cochrane has spent over 20-years working with leading brands on a global level. Starting out in advertising at Ogilvy & Mather, his love of cars quickly drew him into Formula One, working directly for Bernie Ecclestone. From there Don helped everyone from Ford to Ferrari with marketing and sales activity. In Norway he helped with the launch of Ford’s zero emissions ‘Th!nk’ project which led on to a lead role in the – then start up – Tesla Automotive. From there he went on to run Aston Martin’s One-77 and the V12 Zagato programmes.
In 2015 Don started working on re-establishing the Vertex Watch Company, a company founded by his Great-Grandfather a hundred years previously, now with new Vertex watches finally back on the wrists of watch owners around the world, Don looks to build Vertex back to the world class company it once was.