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Arnold & Son: In a class of its own


by John Wallis

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October 30. 2018 - by John Wallis

A Swiss manufacturer with British heritage, Japanese influence and the traditional knowledge of haute horlogerie: Arnold & Son are at the the upper echelons in the world of prestige watchmaking. With only 600 luxury watches per year, the brand is one of the most exclusive manufacturers in the industry. Discover some of the masterpieces at CHRONEXT!


Arnold & Son seems to have exploded into the typically impenetrable Swiss watch industry in the last ten years or so, but the legacy of the company stretches back for centuries. The first Arnold & Son was founded in 1787 by Englishman John Arnold.

Golden Age

Arnold was a giant of the early days of serious watchmaking, regarded by many as a figure just as important and influential as the legendary Parisian Abraham-Louis Breguet. Indeed, the two were friends and collaborators, with Breguet crediting Arnold with the idea for Breguet's most famous creation, the tourbillon. For his own part, Arnold is best known for mastering the marine chronometer, a vital tool for navigation in the Age of Exploration, requiring the most advanced and precise timekeeping the world had ever seen. Many of Arnold's inventions were used for centuries, and some are still found in modern watches.

New Glory

In the 1990s, the name was bought by Swiss investors and Arnold & Son was re-founded, with the intention of bringing the great watchmaker's legacy into a new era. The company was later bought by the movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret in 2010, which in turn was acquired by Japanese watch company Citizen in 2012. With Swiss management, Japanese investment, British heritage and access to the finest movement making equipment and expertise, Arnold & Son has capitalised on a clear recipe for success.

Much like the original John Arnold, the modern brand is known for creating superlative mechanism-oriented watches that blend the very best of high tech, prestigious complications with aesthetic and mechanical beauty. Formed into "Royal" and "Instrument" collections, Arnold & Son timepieces span a range of styles and applications, including many unique and truly innovative designs. Its technical credentials are among the most impressive of any in the industry, making complications most brands can only dream of. Nineteen of its twenty-three calibres are fully exclusive.

Best Known Watches

Arnold & Son has turned heads with many of its incredible creations, but among the most famous are the True Beat and Double Tourbillon Escapement. The True Beat (the brand's term for what is often called a dead beat) is a complication that causes the seconds hand to "tick" in one second intervals, rather than moving in a constant sweep like most mechanical watches. This mechanism makes for more accurate readings and has historical links to maritime timekeepers of the sort that made John Arnold famous. The modern firm has also paired the True Beat with other difficult complications like a chronograph with regular sweeping seconds (the CTB) and an ingenious retrograde date display (the TBR). These are spectacular feats of horological engineering, relying on the most advanced manufacturing methods.

The Double Tourbillon Escapement (DTE) is another stand-out masterpiece, featuring not one but two tourbillons regulating separate mechanisms on the same dial, allowing the wearer to set the time in two different zones - including zones that are a quarter or half and hour removed from GMT. Even without the tourbillons, the use of two different gear trains and even mainspring barrels in this manner is incredibly difficult and rare, and it's something that the brand has achieved in several models, including the DBG (another dual-time watch) and the DBS, which amazingly shows both regular time and sidereal time side by side. Sidereal time is synced to the stars rather than the sun, and again has links with maritime navigation. 

Other Top Models

Not every Arnold & Son features mind-blowing complications - the brand is a true master of all sides of haute horlogerie. Some of its watches are known for their exquisite skeletonisation, allowing the wearer to see the full depth of mechanical complexity behind the dial. Others exploit exotic materials, such as meteorite stone or gunmetal (John Arnold's brother was a gunsmith), or demonstrate sumptuous artistic skills. The Métier d'Arts pieces include watches dedicated to British history, featuring enchanting portraits or engravings of great ships or fascinating period-inspired patterning. There are many references to the life and times of John Arnold, both his work for the court of King George III (Royal collection) and his conquest of the maritime chronometer (Instrument collection).

A large number of Arnold & Son watches show their mechanical components on the dial, even when they are not fully skeletonised, often exhibiting beautiful symmetries, dynamic and alive with moving parts. There are also some more conventional-looking timepieces, but no-less aesthetically pleasing in their superb cultivation of traditional forms.

Final Thoughts

Among smaller, independent brands, Arnold & Son seems to be in a class of its own. Any watch industry observer would agree that it is one of the most important brands to follow for lovers of prestige horology. The company is evolving the very best of historic fine watchmaking into groundbreaking modern miracles, and the models are truly gorgeous to behold.

John Wallis

by John Wallis

Living and working in London, John has been writing about watches since graduating university. He got his start at SalonQP, London's finest watch show, where he was inspired by the breadth and creativity of the modern industry. His fascination with mechanical horology has only grown from there.

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