Britpop Genius: Richard Loftus & Old England Watches

Strange to think that way back in the late 1960s Accurist was arguably the dominant mid-market watch brand in the UK, with Timex, Smiths-Ingersoll taking much of the bread `n’ butter customers and the Swiss brands like Omega, Rolex, Garrard, Heuer and many more competing for the posher end. The genius that help give Accurist a huge market share, and export plenty of watches around the world, was Richrd Loftus.

At just 23 he was busy selling pop art design watches that captured the Sgt Pepper Swingin’ London vibe of the era. Big, bold colours on the dials, plastic and synthetic straps not old fashioned bracelets – this guy was doing Swatch before the Swiss caught on in the 80s.

Twiggy wore an Old England wristwatch, the Beatles, Liz Taylor and royal rebel Princess Anne managed to strap one on inbetween horse riding competitions – allegedly.

The times were groovy and Loftus was busy designing a beach watch in 1968, which he described as being `ultrasonically sealed in plastic, so it’s waterproof, with a synthetic strap that just hooks onto the watch case.’

Here’s an example, still with its original strap -which incidentally smells of fag smoke! How do I know? Well I bought it last year and its Ronda 17 jewel movement still keeps decent time, inside that see-thru case. Despite the tobacco smell imbued within the strap, I don’t think this watch escaped from the jewellers shop for about 10 years, as it’s in remarkably good nick for something made circa 1969-70. Similar to many `UFO’ dial designs, it is quite chunky, with a 42mm case, excluding crown.

The thing I love about this watch is that it still looks fresh, modern and different, 50 years later. The red second hand and deep dished silver-grey dial face catch the eye, and the beefy winding crown does a great job of setting the hands and adding power to the spring, via the stem that’s gripped tight in the plastic sleeve for water resistance.

Like the Tissot/Lanco Project 2000 Autolub, the movement is designed as a sealed for life bit of tech – I like that thinking, it makes the watch practical.

OK, I’ll admit that the Ronda 17 jewel movement lacks the sheer elegance of a comparable ETA, Omega or Buren from the late 60s, but the rubies catch the eye nicely and it’s worth a look for a budget movement. Always fascinating to see old school technology in action.

Cheers Old England, we miss you. 



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