Exclusive insights into the history and horology of our watch and clock makers.
6. Vertex – Reliable, durable, and shockproof; a brand defying all the odds
The year was 1912 and, amongst the ranks of imposing buildings in London’s Hatton Gardens and the Rue de la Paix in Switzerland, Vertex Watches Ltd was born.
After building himself an admirable reputation in the watch trade, one bright young man, Claude Lyons, established the Vertex watch company in 1912. By 1915, Lyons was producing watches for the armed forces, supplying the War Office during WWI. Lyons specialised in the re-casing of Swiss movements in Britain and his company prospered.
By the early 1920s, Aureole was producing complete watches for Vertex and, by the end of the decade, Vertex had become the sole importer of Movado watches to the UK. The ’30’s saw Vertex continue to prosper, with work alongside Revue Thommen to produce a new range of steel All-proof watches. By 1938 Claude’s son-in-law, Henry Lazarus, had joined the company.
Equal to its long and rich military heritage, Vertex is a British watch brand that has continued to defy all the odds. Despite the chaos of WWII and destruction of the Hatton Gardens factory and showroom during the bombing of London, Vertex would not be beaten.
In 1943 the British War Office posted the specification for their first purpose-made military timepiece. It had to be accurate, reliable and durable, waterproof and shockproof. The watches were to have a black dial, Arabic numerals, luminous hour and minute hands, luminous hour markers, a railroad minute track, a shatterproof crystal, and a stainless-steel case. The War Office eventually chose 12 manufacturers to fulfil this request (now known by collectors as The Dirty Dozen). Vertex ended up pre-producing nearly 25,000 W.W.W pieces (Watch, Wrist, Waterproof) which were delivered during preparations for the D-Day landings, and were on the wrists of soldiers who went on to liberate Europe and Asia.
The company continued to flourish, becoming the exclusive importer of Thommen watches to the UK in 1951 and commencing co-branded watches with the same company in 1956. But things were not to last. With pressure from the new quartz revolution and the lease at Hatton Gardens coming into expiry, Henry closed the company in 1972.
It wasn’t until 2015 that Vertex was back on the scene, re-incorporated by Claude’s great-grandson, Don Cochrane. Vertex was reborn, like a phoenix, from the ashes of his grandmother’s memory. As a tribute to her 99 years of life, Cochrane rekindled the spirit of her father’s work and beat life back into the heart of Vertex.
It is fitting, that the watch that defined the Vertex return, was an echo of its iconic timepiece, the Cal59, reincarnated as the M100. There could have been no greater tribute to his great grandfather’s work. The M100 became the first new Vertex watch for 45 years and, to this day, there is a selective purchasing process, based on referral or military service.
The re-birth of Vertex continued to echo its military past when the MP45 and MP45B were created in 2019, based on an ordnance timing watch commissioned in 1945 but never produced due to post-war rationing constraints.
Now, Vertex continues to go from strength to strength, and Cochrane has his sights firmly fixed on the future. The website displays a number of handsome timepieces with a choice of straps, amongst them is the AquaLion M60. The AquaLion nods to the first watch ever created by Lyons, the Dreadnaught in 1906, but takes the future in its stride. Waterproof to a depth of 600 meters, the AquaLion M60 will see adventure to rival its ancestors.
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