You would think after five decades building watch businesses in the UK, Neil Duckworth might have taken one look at the impact of covid-19 in 2020 and concluded the world was telling him it was time to put his feet up.
Instead of slowing down, Mr Duckworth sprang into action, putting the finishing touches to a plan to bring back Prestex watches, a brand founded by his grandfather Franck Duckworth in the 1930s.
The first watches with the revived Duckworth Prestex name on the dial are being offered on pre-sale this month for delivery in June, and already Mr Duckworth is reaching out to potential retail partners.
“We are looking for retailers in a number of countries, starting with the UK,” he tells WatchPro.
“The first target is to sign up around a dozen partners, with stores and ecommerce, and it would be great to get a retailer in Bolton, because that is where it all started,” he adds.
Neil Duckworth began his career in the mid-1970s as a sales assistant at his family’s business, Prestons of Bolton (he later returned as managing director in 2001 before most of its seven stores were sold).
Karl Massey acquired the best stores, the Prestons name and all of its stock and revived the business as one of this country’s premier Rolex, Patek Philippe and Tudor authorised dealers with showrooms in Wilmslow, Cheshire, Leeds (with a monobrand Rolex boutique and a pre-owned watch shop) and Guildford in Surrey.
In the gap years away from the family retail business, Mr Duckworth launched and ran Nuval for 15 years, which handled distribution for the likes of TAG Heuer, Maurice Lacroix, Oris and Ulysse Nardin.
That experience, particularly with TAG Heuer, landed him the role of managing director for LVMH Watches and Jewellery from 1997 to 2001.
A five year hiatus from the watch business in 2003 saw Mr Duckworth return to his first love — music (he was educated at the famous Chetham’s School of Music) — as head of his own production studio.
But he was back in watch distribution in 2008 bringing brands such as Technomarine, Carl F Bucherer, Reservoir, Favre-leuba, Chronoswiss and Delma to the UK.
Few executives could be better prepared to pivot into creating their own watch brand, and Mr Duckworth’s family history with the Prestex brand made it an itch he had to scratch.
“After devoting 40 years of my life in the watch business, I am truly delighted to announce that I have finally launched my own watch brand: Duckworth Prestex,” he declares.
“This is not so much a new launch as a brand revival. Prestex watches have existed since the 1930’s made by by grandfather Frank Duckworth so this is a realisation of a lifetime’s wish for me,” he adds.
Duckworth Prestex launches with two models.
First up is Verimatic, a 39mm automatic collection in steel cushion-shaped cases housing Miyota 9039 movements. There are three fumé dial variations in orange, blue and black.
They can be pre-ordered today for £595 each, or in a limited edition set with all three references for £1,785.
Secondly, the Chronograph family, also in cushion-shaped cases, but this time the 42mm watches house a quartz Miyota 6S21 chronograph movement.
Sunray dials in black, green or blue have white small seconds and chronograph minutes sub dials.
They are priced at £495 each or, again, there is a limited edition box set of all three for £1,485.
Mr Duckworth’s family firm, Prestons, was originally founded in 1869 in Bolton and by the 1920s it was making its own pocket watches under the Prestex name.
Prestex expanded over the next few decades to produce a variety of timepieces including chronographs, pocket watches dress watches. Reference designs are already being poured over for future Prestex Duckworth watch launches, WatchPro it told.
“I’m incredibly proud to give new life to a historic British name. In buying a Duckworth Prestex watch, you’re buying into a tradition, which as a third-generation watchmaker, I’m delighted to represent. Despite our close links to the past, we’re looking firmly to the future with the latest technology and a whole new family of designs that look forward to the next hundred years,” Mr Duckworth concludes.
The watches are currently for sale on the new Duckworth Prestex website.