Something a little different: an homage to the early 20th-century wristwatch, designed by a history teacher: the Lufbery Trench Watch.
What is a “Trench Watch”?
Since Stuart King – the man behind the Lufbery Mark VII Watch – is a history teacher, it’s only right to start with a little history lesson. Until the late 19th century a watch was a thing you kept in your pocket. Although Girard-Perregaux had been producing wrist-mounted watches for the German Navy since the 1880s, wearing a watch in this way really gained in popularity during the first World War. Soldiers could tell the time without fumbling in their pockets and so they began to strap their watches to their wrists for easy access while in the trenches. Hence the nickname “trench watch” for these “wristlets” which later became known as “wristwatches.” For more information, there is a great history of military watches blog on the Lufbery website.
Lufbery Mark VII Trench Watch Review
The Lufbery Mark VII comes in a large cardboard box with the brand name and logo on the front. The logo is based on the British military “broad arrow” which can only be used on official MOD products, so it appears here as a stylised design. Inside the front cover is a grainy image of a World War 1 Tank and inside there is a booklet with information about the watch and the watch itself on a cushion.
The box design is not yet finalised, so there will be some improvements in the finished version. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the attention to detail for a low-price (£100-£150) watch.
The Lufbery Mark VII comes in a steel case that has been plated with an antique gold colour. It reminded me of tarnished bronze and set it aside from the countless silver-coloured watches out there. Trench watches were tiny by modern standards, so the Lufbery Mark VII has been expanded to a 40mm case which looks good by modern standards. There’s a domed sapphire crystal on top which could have done with an anti-reflective coating as I struggled to photograph it with reflections. On the back is a lightly etched design of a WW1 Mark VII Tank. I often complain about light engraving (as opposed to deep engraving or stamping) but in this case, it actually suits the vintage feel.
The 18mm lugs imitate old-fashioned wire lugs but actually have modern spring bars inside, so you get the vintage look without having to get your straps custom made. The crown is listed as screw-down on the spec sheet but did not seem to screw down on the review models – maybe this will be changed in the final production but a push/pull crown is absolutely fine for this kind of watch. It is easy to grip and looks suitably “vintage”.
Lufbery lent me two models for review – both share a case, but one has a mechanical Seiko NH15 movement with a date window and the other has a quartz Seiko VD78 movement with a sub-seconds dial at 6. The watch wears well, is not as thick as it looks (it’s only 11mm but looks thicker due to the design) and is well constructed.
Dial and Hands
Lufbery sent me two watches to try: the quartz and the automatic. Both feature a deep blue dial with bold, lumed cathedral hands. Both have the same applied, lumed numerals and well-printed logo. Where they differ is that the automatic has a date window at 3 and the quartz has a ticking seconds hand at 6. I personally – against expectations – preferred the quartz version. Although I like my watches to display the date I found that the quartz looked more “authentic” and the ticking seconds were so small they never bothered me. It’s an easy watch to read, and I enjoyed the vintage looks of the watch. The lume is excellent, for those who like that kind of thing.
The applied numerals give a nice 3D effect. I would have expected a fully printed dial at this price point so it was a nice surprise to see such depth. The downsides for me was that the date window looked a little out-of-place and the dial was so dark that indoors the tips of the hands got a little bit lost. Outdoors the hands are easy to read but I got reflections from the sapphire crystal. Personally I wish there was a half-way house with a mechanical (hand-winding or automatic) movement that also had that small seconds dial.
Strap and Buckle
The Lufbery Mark VII strap is made of Italian calf-leather with hand-stitching. It’s not the most comfortable strap in the world but I really think it suits the watch. It is unusually thin, at 18mm, but it does not look out of place thanks to the wide wire lugs.
The buckle matches the case colour and has the arrow logo engraved into it. I thought it was very good – especially considering the asking price for the watch.
Lufbery Mark VII – Video Review
What I Liked
- It’s not a black-bezel dive watch – I love to see something different
- Great lume
- The price makes it a viable impulse buy for a watch fan
What I Didn’t Like
- The date window on the automatic version spoils the dial a bit for me
- I found the domed sapphire crystal very reflective and wished it had an anti-reflective coating
- I found myself wishing for a hand-wound or automatic version with that sub-dial at 6.
Lufbery Mark VII Trench Watch – the WRUK Verdict
Overall, I really liked the Lufbery Mark VII. Okay, it’s not an exact replica of the vintage watch, nor does it have the pedigree that some expect but I found that the creator’s passion shines through. For the money, I think it is a great little impulse buy. My pick would be the quartz version.
Buy a Lufbery Mark VII Trench Watch
The watches go on pre-order via the Kickstarter platform on 30th October. The quartz version starts at £100 for early-bird orders and the mechanical version will be £150. Sign up to be informed of the release at https://lufberywatches.com/