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In Conversation with Jonny Garrett, Founder & CEO, at William Wood Watches

The Watches of Switzerland Group 4 minute read
william wood

William Wood Watches are an Independent British Luxury Watchmaker producing unique watches made from upcycled firefighting materials, in dedication to their Founder's late Grandfather, William Wood, a decorated British firefighter.

Delighted to be speaking with you today and thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this interview. Could you introduce yourself and explain what it is you currently do?

Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed on Calibre. I am Jonny Garrett, the Founder & CEO of the British Independent watchmaker William Wood Watches.

Could you give those who haven’t heard of William Wood Watches an overview of the brand?

I would love to. The brand is dedicated to my late grandfather, William Wood, who was a firefighter in the Newcastle & Gateshead Fire Brigade for 25 years. He was stationed at Newcastle Pilgrim Street Fire Station where he spent his firefighting career retiring in 1982. Our luxury watches are dedicated to him, firefighters and first responders internationally.

What makes our watches incredibly unique is the fact that they are made from upcycled firefighter materials, including 100-year-old melted-down British brass firefighter helmets, decommissioned fire hoses, and firefighter turnout uniform. We have a range of 5 luxury core collections that appeal to a wide range of watch enthusiasts, and we donate a percentage of each watch sale to firefighting charities around the world.

Can you explain a little bit about the brand’s remarkable history and how the brand was brought to life?

I created the brand back in December 2016, knowing that from a young age I wanted to commit my lifelong career to doing something that I loved, and that could actually make a difference. From as young as I can remember I have always been curious about luxury craftsmanship. Seeing the hours, weeks and months of meticulous work that goes into creating a luxury product, with the end result being a thing of beauty. This is why I love watches, seeing hundreds of components coming together and creating a timepiece that can be appreciated and handed down for generations to come.

What significant elements of your brand were shaped by your history and heritage?

A large part of it. To the normal eye you may not see all the small intricacies that appear in our designs each shaped by our firefighter history. Take for instance the 12 o'clock indices on our mechanical ranges, these take inspiration from the lapel markings you find on a Crew Manager ranked uniform in the UK Fire & Rescue Service. Or the sub dials on our Triumph Collection inspired by a British fire engine dashboard, we have even named the colours of our Valiant Collection after the UK Fire & Rescue Service shift patterns (White, Red, Blue and Green Watch).

I think when people hear about upcycling and horology, especially from firefighter materials, they expect there to be a compromise on quality. But it is remarkable the high level of craftsmanship we have managed uphold. Customers tell us frequently that our timepieces can compete with watches in their collections that they paid up to 10x the price for. That is testament to years of perfecting our craft, and turning a material that is meant to save lives into a piece of horological history.

Can you please describe William Wood’s key watch collections and what they represent?

Our Triumph Collection is our prestigious chronograph range inspired by our deep firefighting heritage. Featuring dials from a fire engine dashboard, water pump gauge hands, brass chronograph pusher buttons made from a melted-down 100-year-old firefighter's helmet, and a case back inspired by a fire alarm. The beating heart of the watch is a Swiss-Made Sellita SW510 movement with a 6pm date window, 30-minute sub-dial and 60-second sub-dial. It is the perfect luxury watch for a collector or enthusiast.

Then we have our iconic Valiant Collection, which is our 3 hand automatic diving range. It has a clean aesthetic, sandwich dial and double-domed sapphire crystal glass that creates an optical illusion when you rotate your wrist. Our Valiant Collection is available in either a stainless steel or bronze case and is compatible with all of our upcycled fire hose straps or stainless steel bracelet. This is the perfect everyday or holiday watch.

Our Fearless Collection is our rugged field watch ready for action. With a smaller compact case measuring 39mm and stealth matte black finish. This watch is not only built for adventure but looks ready for action at the drop of a hat. With a dial inspired by the rough face of charcoal, applied rose gold indices filled with lume, and a caseback moulded into a UK Fire & Rescue Service firefighter helmet, with a coloured visor looking through to automatic movement.

Last but by no means least is our elegant Chivalrous Collection from our dress range. With a slimmer case, chauffeured indices and dauphine hands, this is a lovely dress companion. Placed in the back of the watch is a limited edition commemorative coin made from a melted-down 100-year-old British brass firefighter's helmet. Each coin is engraved with a limited edition number and sealed with a sapphire crystal glass.

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In your opinion, what sets William Wood aside from other luxury watch brands?

Our story, design, upcycling and charity. A lot of our customers feel a connection to the story about my grandfather. They can also think of a family member, past or present, who they admire like my relationship with my grandfather.

The next point is our design, we carefully consider every design decision that goes into our watches. For example, the checkered seconds track around our watch dial is the exact markings off the side of a British Fire Engine, and the back of our seconds hand represents an axe head. When you look closely you will be able to admire all of our subtle salutes to firefighting.

Our upcycling would be the next point that sets us aside from other luxury watch brands. Every William Wood watch that we have built, and plan to build, includes upcycled firefighter materials. Knowing that your William Wood watch has over 100 years of real British firefighting history on your wrist is a very special touch.

Finally what sets us apart is our charitable donations. Last year we produced the world's first William Wood Watches Motorcycle made from our watch parts and upcycled firefighter materials. It was a thing of beauty! As a result of the project we donated £10,800 to The Fire Fighters Charity in the UK. This is a magnificent charity that helped my grandfather when he was alive through their firefighter recuperation facilities in Littlehampton - it’s funny how life goes full circle! We also auctioned off a custom watch from our Triumph Collection for the 20 year anniversary of 9/11 which sold for $19,000, with all proceeds going to The Tunnel to Towers Foundation in New York.

Finally, looking towards the future, what are you most excited about for William Wood in 2023?

We are excited to move into the luxury retail market, and there is no better way to begin this journey than with Watches of Switzerland Group, the best in the world. For years now we have received enquiries asking where people can try on our watches. Now through our partnership customers can try on and purchase a William Wood watch in a Watches of Switzerland boutiques across the UK and USA.

Discover the brand and our selection of William Wood watches at Watches of Switzerland.

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