It’s not surprising these days to hear that certain watch brands are turning to recycled materials such as plastic and PET bottles for watch straps. However, when a watch brand says it is using upcycled fire hoses — you pay attention — especially if you have a first-responder in your family. In fact, British watch brand William Wood is taking fire hoses that have been used a decade by British fire fighters and is cutting them and turning them into watch straps. Not only does this recycling effort help the planet, but also it brings attention to the first responders of the world. Recently, I went hands-on with a William Wood Valiant Blue Watch and the experience was uplifting.
Impressions of the William Wood Valiant Blue Watch
The straps — made in blue, red, yellow and khaki green — are rubber with inset fire hoses that come from different fire stations in England. The look of the fire hoses, with a patterned motif is super cool. Because of its look, you can tell right away that it is not just another normal strap. I got a few questions about what my strap was made of and even comments about the look. I wore the blue-dial Valiant that is typically sold with a single strap. I got each color strap, though, and played around with the different looks. The blue dial with a blue strap is my favorite because it is the most color coordinated and is very versatile, but putting the bright red strap on — that really screams first-responder — adds a daring and bold look and feel. You almost want to go over to the nearest fire house and start talking to the fire fighters about your watch and hold your wrist up to the fire trucks. (Yes, I really did want to do that.)
Add to that the charitable side of the company, which is, of course, fire fighter related, and the back story of William Wood the man (and his grandson who founded the brand) and you have a true conversation piece. And a sustainable one at that. I love the concept that William Wood is donating a portion of the proceeds of sales to benefit first responders who put their lives on the line every time they answer a call.
About William Wood
Based in London, William Wood watches appeal to an international audience not only because the watches are nicely designed and boast good movements (they are all offered with a choice of a Swiss Sellita movement or a Japanese Seiko movement), but also because of the humane side – the “giving-back” and “paying-tribute-to” side — of the brand as well as the environmentally conscious side of the brand.
It was just a few years ago that Jonny Garrett founded William Wood, named for his grandfather – a first responder who served in the British Fire Service for more than 25 years and even was awarded a Certificate of Merit when he and others saved five children under the age of five in 1966 while he was on the Blue Watch (one of four shifts, including red, white and green, in the UK firefighting system). Today, William Wood pays tribute to first responders around the globe with this collection.
Details of William Wood Valiant Watches
The William Wood watch brand has so many small details built into it that, each taken singularly, seem small, but when looked at as a whole, tell a much bigger story. Those details range from naming the brand William Wood, to name the collections after the traits a firefighter possesses, including Valiant and Chivalrous, to creating dial colors that recall the UK firefighter shifts: blue watch, red watch, green watch.
But the true tribute that links the past to the present comes in the form of the recycled and upcycled fire hoses that are used in the creation of the William Wood straps. In fact, the recycled fire hoses that the brand uses for its straps for the Valiant collection come from different UK Fire & Rescue Service firehouse regions in England. The blue upcycled fire hose is from William Wood’s region. Each fire hose is cut by hand and so each is unique, and maybe even has its own story.
The 41mm stainless steel watches also feature metal that comes from an original 1920’s brass London Fire Brigade firefighter helmet that was melted down for recycling. The metal is used in the watch crowns, which are made by a family-run jeweler in London. The crown took four months to develop and perfect. Between the crown and the strap, each watch has its own unique history. Even the brand’s logo is inspired by that helmet.
The perimeter of each dial boasts a checked pattern that directly mimes the design on the side of a British fire engine. Super-LumiNova hands, indexes and bezel markings ensure easy readability in the dark or under water (it is water resistant to 100 meters). The watches boast a see-through case back and are engraved with the limited-edition model number. Each is made in a run of just 250 pieces. The watch is delivered in a fire-engine red three-watch travel roll with a metal William Wood firefighter helmet logo on it.
Philanthropic Aspect, Production and Prices of William Wood Valiant
The William Wood brand is all about honoring first responders, as well as using recycled fire hoses and materials for a sustainable contribution. For this reason, William Wood donates a portion of the proceeds of the sale of its watches to The Firefighters Charity UK and to other international firefighting charities. In fact, William Wood teamed with almost two dozen other luxury watch brands in January of this year to create a unique watch that was auctioned to help during the Australian Bushfires.
With a Swiss Sellita SW200 automatic movement, the Valiant retails for $1,315. With a Japanese Seiko NH35 automatic movement, it sells for $915. All Valiant watches are sold with a choice of straps made from upcycled hand-cut fire hoses (each of which is unique), fabric NATO straps, a black rubber strap or a metal bracelet. Additional straps can be purchased for about $132 each, or customers can buy a full watch roll with each of the four fire hose straps for $390 for the holidays.
(Note: Portions of this article by Roberta Naas first appeared on her column on Forbes.com)