Elliott Brown Canford Watch Review

26th Sep 2016

elliott Brown Canford (1)

Regular readers of our blog will know that, although Peak Mountaineering tests a broad range of products, we often also try to seek out items that are different from the more mainstream offerings.  These are sometimes produced by small manufacturers, maybe offer unique or interesting design features, are products that stand out in some way or they offer viable alternatives in the often cluttered and competitive outdoor market place.

And so I was intrigued when, some months ago,  I was offered the chance to try a watch made by prestigious brand Elliot Brown.  I must say that I didn't accept this opportunity straight away because I needed to reassure myself this was the sort of product I would use for outdoor use. I did my research and it was clear this watch warranted a review…….

Introducing Elliot Brown

The watches arrival wasn’t, as it turned out, my first contact with the company - a week before I received a call from brand co-founder Ian Elliot.  Soon into the conversation I clocked Ian to be as enthusiastic and effusive about his products and brand image as it was possible to be and having the chance to chat to him before testing was priceless.  I have never been called by a company owner before a review and now I think it should happen every time (but I know it won’t!) - it was so useful to find out more about the company history, watch features and brand ethos. 

Before Elliot Brown was born Ian and his partner Alex Brown worked at a top level with manufacturer Animal.  In fact, Ian co founded the Animal brand in 1988.  After a long history there the guys had a vision to create something different.  A brand that drew on their experience of watch manufacture and design but which would allow them to push the boundaries.  On the ‘About Us’ section of their website they comment on this decision by saying ‘we followed our hearts, trusted our instincts, and made a small range of watches that we're proud to put our names on.’  A bold challenge maybe, but Elliot Brown’s range of functional and yet aesthetic watches was born.

Above all Ian and Alex wanted to focus on quality and functionality and planned to keep their range simple.  A couple of models started them off and the Canford and Bloxworth are their staples, but soon a woman’s watch is to be added to the range. 

Beyond talk about the watches, Ian and I chatted about the companies plans for the future, his involvement in adventure sports and the companies charitable work.  It was all fascinating but I was also particularly taken by the companies commitment to giving back.  They have, for example, produced a Canford watch model which, for every sale, offers a commission of £36 to Mountain Rescue.  Similarly, they supported the Special Boat Service Association (SBSA) with a similar special edition watch.   A great ethos.  

All in all, my conversation with Ian was a very pleasant and inspiring 50 minutes and as I put down the phone I was more excited than ever to try out the watch……

Special Delivery

…….The watch arrived soon after our chat and I opened it enthusiastically.  Just as expected, everything about it, from the packaging to the watch itself, exuded quality.  Firstly, there was a hand written note from Ian.  Then, the watch itself came packaged in a craftsman standard box proudly embossed with the company logo.   There was a screwdriver for strap changes and then, upon opening the box, I found the watch itself……

The Elliott Brown Canford  

…….The watch model I have been testing is a Canford.  Elliot Brown have 2 watches in their range (the Canford and Bloxworth) although each model comes in a variety of styles and finishes.  The model I was sent has a leather strap although Elliot Brown also produce a nylon or rubber strap option (available to buy separately too).  The watch features a simple and elegant standard face with second hand and a day indicator.  At it’s simplest, that is the Canford.  Elegant, stylish and practical.  Fortunately, that is only half the story……

An elegant watch designed for rugged use

……Beyond the outer styling, there is a lot more to this timepiece.  Elliot Brown were never setting out to create just a dress watch (although it is certainly elegant  enough for this role) - their focus was on also making a watch that would perform just as well for the rough and tumble of active sports.  This is where the Elliot Brown difference really starts to shine through.

The Canford features a Swiss movement which in itself sits in a custom made shock-absorbing steel and elastomer movement housing rated to ISO1413 standard.  This provides the shock absorption needed for everything from mountain biking to skiing (and everything in between too).  The case itself is made from 44mm marine grade stainless steel and is waterproof to ISO2281 standard and individually tested to 200 metre depth.

The glass is domed, anti-reflective, hardened mineral crystal and there are two triple sealed 6mm knurled crowns, a bolted down sealed case back, super luminova coated indices and hands and an internal rotating timing bezel. 

Finally, the strap on the Canford sent for test is made from premium waxed hide leather with nubuck lining and a quick release deployant buckle.

It is a comprehensive package all ready to put to the test…..

The Test

…..I had a hurdle to jump in testing the Canford.  The model sent retails for £325 and, beyond the fact that I have never owned a watch worth anywhere near this much and that it looks far too ‘posh’ for rough use, I also had to get used to the fact that it is actually designed to be used for all my usual activities. 

I started gently but, as I got more and more used to its strengths, I pushed the watch further and further.  It is now my day to day watch and is used for everything I do.  In reality, this then includes all normal everyday activities along with hillwalking, climbing, skiing, mountain biking, a range of water activities and running.  It has very rarely left my wrist over the last 5 months.

The results

Riding bumpy trails, climbing (although I don’t ever tend to wear a watch for tougher grade climbing or jamming), swimming, kayaking, skiing, coasteering, running, walking - nothing bothers the Canford.  It hasn’t missed a beat with everything I’ve thrown at it. 

The glass design features were explained to me in detail during my phone conversation with Ian Elliot and there is a lot that has gone into making this so durable and high performance, but simpler for me to say that so far nothing I have done has damaged the glass in any way.  I did accidentally knock it quite hard against a rock one day and felt sure I’d turn the watch over to see a crack or scratch, but there was absolutely no damage whatsoever.  I’m not saying it can’t be damaged, but it does seem incredibly durable.

The watch time hasn’t been reset in all the time I have had it and hasn’t lost a second.  I’m not at all sure whether vibration affects time keeping, but if so the shock absorption clearly works well and maybe I shouldn’t be at all surprised - the details of the system are actually very advanced.  Within the housing sits a second shock absorbing frame with elastomer dampers.  This ensures that the Swiss movement is protected from bumps and vibration.  A great feature for rugged outdoor use where we obviously tend to do bumps and vibration well!

The face is a perfect work of simple elegance.  Bold hands are framed with luminous detailing allowing the hands to be seen at night.  This luminous detailing continues on the second hand and at key points around the face.  The plain background shows off the numbers and hands well and a small aperture on the face shows the date.  Around the side is a rotating bezel that is operated by one of the crowns that sit on the right hand side of the housing.  This works really well and has been useful for everything from clocking the time left until I need to refresh parking meters to timing distance on navigation courses.  The crowns are chunky and have a grippy pattern allowing use with lightweight gloves or wet hands.

I was keen to get a watch with a leather strap and Elliot Brown were happy to send one.  This is a premium product that looks elegant and feels comfortable on the wrist.  There is a buckle adjustment on the back but, once set, this doesn’t actually need to be used for removal.  Elliot Brown have fitted what they describe as a quick release ‘deployant buckle’.  This is a genius feature that allows you to click open the watch and the swing arm allows enough extension for the watch to be removed.  I have never had a problem with this opening by accident but, if it did unclip, the design ensures the watch can’t fall from the wrist.

Summary

I love nice things and particularly love great design, but I have never previously imagined owning a watch costing £325.  However, a watch is the only jewellery item most men wear and so it seems reasonable that spending a sizeable amount on a stylish and reliable timepiece could be a good investment.  Even better if it is a watch that will cope with being worn just as well with a business suit as a wetsuit. 

I have worn the Canford from the first day it arrived and I’m still wearing it as I write this.  On first acquaintance I thought it would feel bulky (it does weigh 138 grams) but it wasn’t long before I didn’t notice it on my wrist anymore.  It feels comfortable on and has a really well balanced weight.   I have got to love it so much I would now be really sorry to see it go.

I also wasn’t sure a watch of this type would match my lifestyle but it actually matches it perfectly.  I’m not going to jam challenging gritstone routes in it because it will get damaged but I don’t wear other watches for this job anyway - for every other activity I undertake it stays quite happily on my wrist at all times.

The Canford is everything I hoped it would be and full marks to Ian, Alex and their design team for producing a desirable, functional, attractive and reliable timepiece.  Whether your adventures take you to Buckingham Palace or the summit of a distant mountain, the Elliot Brown Canford could happily become a trusted and treasured companion.

Posted by Paul

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