In 1975, the car manufacturer British Leyland went bankrupt. There were many contributing factors — bad product, striking workers, confused marketing — but one reason stood out among the others: the cars produced in the Far East were not only better, but cheaper, too. These were cars that could be trusted to start on a cold morning, that rust could be considered an if instead of a when with, and weren’t assembled by a disgruntled worker from badly-fitting panels and cheap fixings. It was the start of the shrinking of the world, the era of a global economy that turned isolated continents into links in a financial chain.
That was then, and this is now; today we have the internet, the remnants of a global financial melt-down, and a change in the tide as the Far East grows ever more capable. Remember when Made in China was a byword for cheap rubbish? Not any more.
The growth of China’s industry has been impressive to say the least, and now it’s home to a vast chunk of the world’s industry.
But there has been another change, this time a little closer to home. Swiss watches have been rising in price at a stomach-churning rate, and many people who aspired to own a Rolex or an Omega are left chasing an RRP that’s spiralling out of control. So what does this mean for the watch enthusiast that can’t (or won’t) pay £5,000 for a new Submariner? This is the stomping ground of the new-school watchmakers, and one of them is SevenFriday.
Founding the company in 2012, brand owner and creator Daniel Niederer set about challenging one of the oldest industries in the world by taking his manufacturing to China. More about that in a minute.
What we have here is one of three colourful additions to the P1 family, the P1/04 Blue. There’s an orange and a green version too, all as bold and bright as this one here. The PVD’d steel case is wrapped in a supple layer of blue rubber, and the stacked dial offers a glimpse of the beating heart inside. It’s a big watch, but it wears well, the straps pivoting from just inside the case rather than from extruded lugs as is the norm. The details are well thought-out and pleasing without being fussy, giving the P1/04 a unique persona that doesn’t get annoying in the way an overtly-outgoing friend can.
Everything here is made and assembled in China (the design is done in Zurich), right down to the powerhouse that drives the disk-like hands. In the nineties and early noughties that would have rung alarm bells in any sensible watch-buyers head, but not today. The specification is good, fit-and-finish is exemplary; it feels like a watch worth many thousands of pounds, perhaps even — in this world of boutique specials — tens of thousands. The price is actually a startling £850, and for that you get a handsome leather strap with a sumptuous suede upper.
Don’t let the lack of Swiss Made on the dial is hold you back, long live SevenFriday.
[Note: This is an updated post of a Guest Article published earlier on our website by Gary Robery from Watchfinder.co.uk]