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The Great British Watch Company is designing and manufacturing a new heritage watch with a dial made using aluminium salvaged from a World War II Spitfire.

The watch creation is aligned with the restoration of a historic combat Spitfire. The watch, called `The Few’, pays homage to the type of watches worn by Spitfire pilots and used to help them navigate during World War II. Designed to have the same functionality as these watches, each dial has a unique patina which can include battle scars. The dial, hands and crown are all made from original Spitfire parts. The initial batch of watches was reserved within 10 minutes: limited numbers will be made due to the restricted amount of original material from the Spitfire and the time involved in making each one.

Watchmaker Colin Andrews founded his business in 2011, keeping it dormant until 2019 as he built up his skills and experience. He aims to build a series of watches made in Britain.

Cutting edge technology required

Having designed the watch, Colin needed business planning support and technical help with the necessary 3D modelling and prototyping techniques to take his designs forward.

A mock-up of the watch. Each dial will have an unique patina highlighting its authentic origins including battle scars

High tech skills create prototype

Following a referral from the Cheshire & Warrington Growth Hub, the Business Growth Programme (BGP) was perfectly placed to help as it could provide technical help with the design development of the watch as well as business advice. Colin joined in November 2019 when he decided to work for the business full time. He attended business start-up workshops, masterclasses and benefited from one-to-one support with modelling and testing his business plans during April and May 2020.

Using CAD design tools with 3D visualisation, the watch design was improved and a method for fitting the finely-honed components together was devised. Energy Centre Technician Dean Rooney helped with the technical development, introducing Colin to 3D drawings and modelling during the rapid prototyping process. The watch casing was 3D printed in carbon fibre onyx using the cutting-edge additive manufacturing machine from the recent Innovation 2 Commercialisation (I2C) project at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park.

Point-of-market

While the business is at the pre-launch stage, the 3D model and prototype has enabled Colin to promote the watch and he now has a full waiting list. He said: “The support helped accelerate the prototype process and allowed me to concentrate my efforts into marketing the watch. The programme has also put me in touch with the Science and Technology Facilities Council to help with engineering the watch and it is helping to create the final version including having produced a lifelike prototype in titanium 306 stainless steel.”

Colin is also applying for a place on the European Social Funded (ESF) Accelerate course which offers companies and employees training to upskill and reskill. BGP are continuing to support the company with their initial prototypes.

The Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Entrepreneurs, SMEs and pre-start businesses registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, meeting the eligibility criteria, can apply for support. Help is available from our team of Business Engagement Managers and access is also available to facilities at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science ParkRiverside Innovation Centre and the NoWFOOD Centre

If you are a business seeking access to facilities and expert growth support, contact the University of Chester’s Business Growth Team by emailing businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk.