Developing the Holton Professional

As a rule we don’t focus-group or conduct marketing studies, so this is a first:  the first watch we’ve designed with any external input.

What makes this watch special is its audience: it was designed for (and in collaboration with) a specialist branch of the British military because their operators preferred wearing the EB watches they’d purchased privately to the ones they were issued with.

Holton and Lume

Hearing their comments a senior member approached to ask if we would consider designing a new watch that would eliminate the problems they continually encountered with their current watches: losses caused by broken spring-bars, awkward bezels that don’t work with gloved fingers, water-entry, torn straps, not durable enough for harsh conditions.

We asked the operators to explain what they needed from a new watch, what they disliked and what malfunctions were typical.

Armed with a challenging wish list and decades of experience building durable watches, ideas for the Holton quickly began to form and it soon became evident that we needed a new watch capable of meeting or exceeding every one of the requirements.

The result is the Holton Professional, whose design manages to echo the minimalism of vintage military watches with slab sides and starkly bold details yet carries clear lineage to Elliot Brown’s house style.

All the operators we met during this project were serious watch guys, with a taste for premium watch brands so our challenge was to design a watch that would live up to their aesthetic expectations as well as being totally fit for purpose. Something functional but uninspiring wouldn’t cut it.

The high grip bezel is the same external diameter as the case, and was designed so that it can be turned (anticlockwise only) by gripping the edge, or by pressing downwards on the top with a gloved hand: a vital point of functionality and one that proved a real game changer after exhaustive testing. It’s not the most shirt cuff friendly design but that’s hardly the point.

Unlike most dive watches, the bezel has a hash mark every minute and instead of being printed on aluminium, every hash mark on the steel bezel is debossed into case-hardened steel then filled with SuperLuminova C3.  We also use a generous amount of C3 for the dial and hands to provide superb performance in poor light conditions. The use of GTLS tritium tubes was specifically ruled out for being the wrong side of too visible when viewed through any kind of night vision equipment.

The hands are millimetre-perfect vintage military; the minute hand is a slender parallel baton design with a point that lines up exactly with the minutes track around the edge of the dial, whilst the hour hand is the opposite; a short stubby sword design. The different hand profiles mean that it’s more difficult to confuse them at a glance, even in poor visibility.

Both deliberately evoke the feel and function of hands fitted to the military watches issued in the 1970s.

The screw down crown is located at 4H out of harms way and recessed deeply into the case to minimise the chance of it being caught or damaged. It’s triple sealed and remains waterproof well beyond 200m.  Unusually every watch is subjected to 3 pressure tests including 10 mins in water at 200m/20ATM so unlike other watch brands, when we state 200m on the dial it’s because the watch has actually surpassed that depth already.

The crystal is 2mm thick sapphire with multi-layer anti-eflective coating on the underside. Every crystal must withstand 3 x 17mm ball bearing drop tests from 500mm with no signs of damage.  The crystal sits neatly just below the external bezel to prevent damage if dropped onto a flat surface such as tiled or stone flooring.

Holton and tank

Instead of the fixed bars used on early military watches, we use solid steel bars that thread directly into the case. These provide the same strength as the old-style fixed bars, but can be unscrewed with our bespoke pentalobe driver that locates positively into the ends of bars, enabling simple strap changes in the field. Soft rubber, tough webbing, functional steel bracelets and smart leather deployant straps all create their own unique style – be it battle ready or dressed to impress.

The case back is bolted down, compressing the seals and movement shock absorption system perfectly. It’s the perfect tonic for anyone with an affliction to misaligned case back detailing and ensures the rectangular plinth that carries the NATO stock number is perfectly straight. Multi level detailing on the case back ensures minimal contact between watch and skin – perfect for warmer climes and long term comfort.

Delivering the first batch of watches personally by hand was one of our proudest moments and hearing such positive feedback fills us with the kind of heart-felt passion that we started this journey with and when it comes down to it, that’s what makes our watches different. We do it because we love what we do and leave no stone unturned until we’re happy to put our names on the dial.

The Holton Professional – the first military issue watch from a British company in 13 years.


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