The story behind one of the most sought-after new watches in the world…
What a difference a few metres make. It’s the difference between breaking a world record and not. Hell, it’s the difference between having a spacious abode and a broom closet. It’s also the distance that originally separated two distinctly different watch brands: Vertex and Rolex.
Both were based in London’s Hatton Garden and yes, they both had similar names. Yet while Rolex became… well, Rolex, Vertex took a very different route.
Most avid watch collectors will know Vertex as one of the ‘Dirty Dozen’, a collection of twelve military timepieces all commissioned by the British military at the same time. Among them were the likes of IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and, of course Vertex.
Unfortunately, things didn’t last and while their Hatton Garden neighbour rose to become the most famous watch brand in history, Vertex lost out to the quartz crisis of the 70s and fell into obscurity. So far so tragic. Like all good stories however, there’s a twist to the tale, one that occurred just two short years ago.
Don Cochrane, last in a long line of family members with ties to Vertex, decided to revive the brand. It’s important to note here that, while reviving a brand is nothing new – it happened to Breguet and Blancpain if you’d believe it – but that it was revived by someone with a relationship to Vertex.
It could quite easily have turned out that Don just used the Vertex name, one well-known by military watch collectors, and churned out a line of ‘best of British’ timepieces with no relevance to the original but the name. Don’s vision was entirely different.
Oh there’s a strong British connection of course, the Vertex M100 even still has the MoD’s signature arrow on the dial, but that’s not the point. The real interesting fact is that it’s the closest thing to the original Vertex military timepiece as you can get without buying an increasingly rare original.
The case is simple round steel and the dial impeccably clean and clear, complete with the pair of 12-o’clock dots imitating a gun’s iron sights. It’s a utilitarian, hand-wound military watch through and through. There are however a few modern additions to the original model.
Those aforementioned iron sights are red; the numerals are applied blocks of lume rather than painted and the movement is proudly Swiss. As I said, this isn’t a British watch, even if it is a British brand. That’s not a problem to me, nor should it be to most watch lovers. It’s better than being told it’s made in England when it’s not. That little doozy happens far too often.
Most importantly though, the Vertex M100 also happens to be one of the most sought-after new watches in town.
It’s a cool watch, there’s no denying that, but at £2,500 it’s not what you’d expect most collector’s to be clamouring for. But like a child and chocolate cake, they want what they can’t have. Given that you can only buy a Vertex M100 if you’re invited by an owner, you can start to see why it’s so popular.
It’s not just feigned exclusivity; Vertex is a self-funded enterprise and can only produce so many watches (600 to be precise) and Don wants to make sure they go to good homes. So far, those homes include Elon Musk and Jodie Kidd so he’s obviously doing something right.
Vertex is still a story in the making to be sure, but they’re tearing through their 600-piece first run with thousands all but begging to be allowed to buy them. What will happen when those pieces are over and it’s time for the second model not even Vertex know at this point. The only thing that’s certain is that I’ll want to get in on the ground floor. It’s not Rolex; it’s far, far cooler.
Words by: Sam Kessler