Flying with Valour
With British watch making enjoying a renaissance, Riddle explores the brands at the forefront of the movement. We start with a Q&A with the founder and MD of Valour Watch Company, Mark Daniel
Article by Andy Barnham and Rupert Watkins
Why do you think there’s been a resurgence in British watchmaking?
I think there has been a resurgence in British watchmaking due to the fact that a few key players have paved the way. Obviously people like the late George Daniels and the prominent Roger Smith are recognised for their roles at the highest levels of artisan watchmaking in Britain but in the relatively recent years, those that come to mind are the English brothers with Bremont and the likes of Christopher Ward who have created very solid brands in their own right.
In the last few years, individuals like Giles Ellis from Schofield have also come to the forefront with excellent timepieces that along with others have focused more attention on British based watch companies. In the end, this encourages other people to think about the possibility of bringing their watch ideas to fruition.
What’s the appeal behind pilot’s watches – especially to non-flyers?
True pilot’s watches or watches with an aviation theme appeal to flyers and non –flyers alike for many reasons but for the most part I think it simply comes down to the buyer’s inherent interest in the idea of flight and aircraft. Timepieces with aeronautical design elements attract a buyer through pure aesthetics, practical functionality or the imagery and idea that they invoke. Aviation design tends to be beautiful as well as engaging and these inherent design elements often integrate well into timepieces.
What has been the biggest challenge breaking into the watch industry?
Having only officially launched the company at SalonQp in November last year, it would be very premature to say that Valour has broken into the watch industry. The watch market is very competitive and nearly all new brands- especially independents – would no doubt tell of the many challenges in gaining visibility in the market place.
SalonQp was a great launching pad for Valour and an excellent way of meeting and having conversations with many watch enthusiasts. The first Valour design released, the Sopwith Aviator is a slightly left field offering but it appeared to be well received with the first sales being generated from the show.
The challenge ahead in terms of truly breaking into the industry is to keep building the brand awareness among the target audience. In a competitive and noisy environment like the watch business, for a new independent brand focusing on a particular niche this will always take some time.
Why the military aviation connection; will you branch out to the rest of the military?
Valour is mainly focused on WW1 and WW2 historical aviation. The reason for this is purely a personal one, in that for as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with aviation but very much from the World War periods. My grandfather was involved in the Pacific theatre of WW2 with the New Zealand Air Force as ground crew while my great- uncle was a bomber pilot with the RNZAF attached to the RAF in WW2 flying Lockhead Hudson bombers out of India.
My great-uncle, who was 25 at the time, died while piloting a bombing mission in 1943. I can remember when I first learnt about this part of our family history as a young boy how it all became a lot more real. Realising that my grandfather’s brother had been killed during the war made me want to know more about it all and I’m sure many other people can relate to this.
With the respect I have always held for those who served and fell during the wars, I wanted to call the company ‘Valour’ as a reference to the bravery of the individuals across all military branches. In regard to referencing other branches of the military in future watch designs there could be a surprise in there from time to time. However, due to my personal interest being focused on the aviation side of it all, the air forces of WW1 and WW2 will be at the heart of Valour timepieces for the foreseeable future.
You have a mechanical background; why watches?
Yes, my background is as a mechanical design engineer and I have been lucky enough to be involved with some really fascinating and unusual aviation projects early on in my career. However, while doing a wide variety of engineering roles over the years I had in my own time been working on a few designs that might form the basis for a wristwatch company but initially the idea was just to make a really interesting watch for myself.
The whole watch company idea was not a spur of a moment thing but a natural extension of my engineering background; a long held interest in mechanical timepieces and a niche market concept that I really wanted to make a reality. As a young boy, I remember being shown a mechanical watch movement under a Loupe and this other micro-world came into view. I can clearly recall at the time trying to figure out how you could actually make parts that small with such precision and to this day I still find the engineering and craftsmanship aspect of watch making truly fascinating.
What’s the future for Valour?
Well, I hope it’s a positive one. I am under no illusions that the short term future for Valour holds many challenges and this includes getting our first watch, the ‘Sopwith Aviator’ out in front of as many people as possible. Right now, we are still under the radar but early customer feedback has been very positive with some already asking for details of the next Valour design.
In March this year Valour will be releasing something really interesting to compliment the Sopwith Aviator timepiece that might give the design a wider audience. Following this, it is hoped that in August /September this year Valour will be showing the first glimpse of the next timepiece – a WW2 aviation inspired design which is currently under development.