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220 Watch Company goes live with new Spitfire-inspired pilot watch

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Launching today, The 220 Watch Company’s R.J Mitchell pilot watch is a step up in the British brand’s offering and looks certain to fly the business forward.

There’s a plethora of watches out there which tap into a story of some sort, and most tell a story which we have all heard time and time again.

However, this is where the 220 Watch Company is different. Now on its third timepiece in the same number of years, Jared Steadman and his brand are telling the relatively unknown story behind the Spitfire, a key tool to allied success in World War II.

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Each one of the watches so far has been inspired by a historical event, the first and second by William Walker, a diver made famous for shoring up the south and east sides of Winchester Cathedral in the early 20th century.

From the narrative discovery in Winchester, the William Walker and Diver Bill watches were born and allowed the 220 Watch Company and its owner Jared Steadman, a watch enthusiast from young, to gain traction in a busy but vibrant British market.

Now, in keeping with the historical theme, the R.J Mitchell pays homage to the designer of the world-famous Spitfire, a key weapon in the armoury and result in an allied victory in World War II.

In terms of a step-up for the brand, the previous two timepieces have been priced in the sub-£400 category meaning the £795 price point of the R.J Mitchell not only keeps the loyal customer base interested, but also opens the door to a news mass audience of watch lovers around the world.

An upgrade to an ETA 7750 auto-chronograph movement with day and date functionality, the watch is 43.5mm in diameter, 22mm in lug width and 15.6mm deep.

In a titanium case, the brass bezel nods to the history with the brass in the spitfire cockpit which contained brass buttons and triggers and in conversation with WatchPro, Steadman says he likes mixing materials and looks forward to seeing the contrasts when the brass patinas get darker.

With sapphire crystals, super-luminova, a custom rotor wheel and custom screw down crown, the watch is water resistant to 100m. It also features custom piston pushers and a custom buckle.

As part of the conversation with WatchPro’s Alex Douglas, 220 Watch Company founder and director Jared Steadman, said: “Not only in terms of technical upgrade but the price and the investment to get everything up and running is a big step. This is the third year and we’ve done one once a year.

“This is going to be £795 so it’s more than double the previous prices. We do think we’ll have some returning customers as well as bringing in some of a new market which is exciting for us. Every time we’ve launched we’ve done kickstarter and direct pre-orders which has worked well for us. This said, the last couple of years is just starting from the ground up to building a decent enough client base for the brand.”

On the development of the R.J Mitchell, it followed an evolved but similar pattern to the previous watches based on William Walker. Accepting there had been hundreds of different spitfire watches, Steadman acknowledged that none of them had actually been named after Mitchell.

Steadman also deduced that from as micro brand point of view, he felt none of the Spitfire inspired watches hit the quality the Spitfire and R.J Mitchell deserve. In terms of inspiration, Steadman went on to commend the designs of IWC.

He explains: “You’ve got companies like IWC that do something similar and it’s much like that in terms of inspiration. They obviously have that history and the heritage which I love and they produce some wonderful watches, but they’re obviously hugely expensive. I therefore hope the RJ Mitchell can hit the quality mark while remaining accessible to the market we want.”

Looking at the watch more closely in conversation with Steadman, WatchPro discovers how the pushers have two design influences. In one instance, they are piston shaped, a reminder of the Rolls-Royce engines that powered the Spitfires over land and sea.

However, there is another, more romantic inspiration too. Relating to the red stripes on the top pusher, they nod to a story which suggests why many World War II pilots had their pushers painted red.

Steadman explains that the wives and girlfriends of pilots back home used to know just how important the watch was to their partners due to the importance and danger of getting timing precision right in a bid to ensure safety, thus meaning the pilot would be constantly checking the watch.

Because of this, the partners painted the pushers red with nail polish to remind the pilot of life back home and in most cases, just what they were fighting for.

Steadman remarks: “It’s a beautiful story, and we wanted to include it in the watches design. The red also acts as a highlight for the red seen on the dial in the RAF roundel.”

The final aspect of The 220 Watch Company’s latest piece is the inscription on the caseback, which reads “Never was so much owed by so many to so few,” the famous Churchill wartime quote.
On this, Steadman adds: “I wanted to include that and as a nod to everyone in history that fought in the Battle of Britain.”

Going live at 1pm, The 220 Watch Company still also has the William Walker and the Diver Bill to offer its enthusiasts and hopes the story behind them can live on.

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