Here at TimeScapeUSA we love to evangelize about our favorite brands, and Graham is a line that not many people in the States are acquainted with. It's a brand full of cloak and dagger, the delights of European hubris, and exotic space-age materials, and worth getting to know for the enthusiast of contemporary watchmaking with flair.
George Graham was an 18th century English watchmaker working in London. The Graham Watch website claims he invented the chronograph – and it's an understatement to say that claim is hotly contested. But everyone agrees that he invented the dead-beat and cylinder escapements, two of the many intermediate constructions littering the evolution of the watch from the verge staff up until the standard pallet and escape wheel of today. Graham was a scientist first, and a significant figure in the history of British instrumentation and worldwide horological development.
But it doesn't take a keen eye to notice he wasn't Swiss. That honor falls to one Eric Loth, a 22 year veteran middle-manager and consultant in the watchmaking industry. So is Loth more than just another hotshot with a masters degree in physical metallurgy? In 1995 he and his collaborators initiated The British Masters as a tribute to the great English watchmakers of the past, with Graham as their flagship brand. No word as to whether anyone involved was actually a citizen of Perfidious Albion, but for awhile in the early 2000's Loth made alliance with one Mr. Jean-Pierre Jaquet, a man famous for producing technical novelties using standard platforms.
The genesis of the Loth's project saw fierce efforts toward innovation and the slow consolidation of the Graham design aesthetic. Twenty years later, everyone is a little older and the brand has settled on peddling solid variations on the ETA 7750. With Mr. Loth's interests in advanced materials engineering, Graham pieces have a signature look – ample use of rubber, ceramic, aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber offset by outré dial designs.
But I would be remiss if I didn't mention The Trigger.
Every brand seeks to build in terms of a theme, an overarching aesthetic that signals to the world a patrimony of design – a continuity, a lineage. With the birth of the Graham Chronofighter 10 years ago, Eric Loth had his hook: the gigantic left side trigger that starts and stops the chronograph function. Based on an Italian watch design dating from the Second World War, as a feature it has pronounced advantages. The trigger allows chronograph operation while wearing heavy gloves; the user does not need to “search” for a small activation button; and the larger mechanical interface allows for a theoretically faster activation. Most importantly, the trigger allows people trolling Google Earth to recognize the brand allegiance of the wearer from low orbit.
As one would for a dinner guest who reveals a taste for monster trucks or Ayn Rand, one should avert one's gaze from Graham's hot tub forays with the National Hockey League. Is the institutionalized roughhousing of America's least important professional arena sport really the venue for haute horology? Is Kunal Nayar, a D list character actor on The Big Bang, a viable brand ambassador? At least Glenn Hughes, a man who briefly fronted Black Sabbath when I was still a sophomore in high school, was actually born in England.
At TimeScapeUSA we advise: stick to the watches. With its signature “Engineered” look, the patented Trigger, and the ETA 7750 (reliable like the older brother your parents secretly love more), Graham is still positioned to be a brand with a passionate following. Recent diversions like the Silverstone, inspired by auto racing, and marine models like the Prodive and Swordfish Booster, show that Eric Loth can still bring something new to the table.