Elliot Brown is a UK-based watch brand that's known for making ultra-rugged but good-looking watches, and its latest addition to the range is the Bloxworth Heritage Diver (for men) and Bloxworth Hali (for women). I was loaned one of these new watches a few months ago, and basically haven't taken it off since. I've seen the brand pop up in our best outdoor watch guide, but when it comes to my personal wristwear of choice, I've always swapped between smartwatches and impractical fashion watches. Until now.
Like the rest of Elliot Brown's range, the new Bloxworths won't tell you your GPS location or how many steps you've done that day, but they also won't run out of battery or get upset when you bash them against a rock. I can attest to this, because I boldly decided to wear mine coasteering and rock climbing before taking the extreme close-up photos for this article, and it still looks (and works) great.
If you want more proof of toughness, the brand itself puts its watches through the kind of stringent tests you'd expect from the very best dive watches on the market, including smashing samples with a 3kg stainless steel pendulum mallet and doing a 200m water pressure test. As a watch that I can take anywhere and do anything with, without worrying about charging, tech hiccups or pricey breakages, I am completely sold.
As well as the peace of mind that comes with knowing that if I happen to encounter a swinging 3kg steel mallet, I'll be able to tell you what time it happened, I also like my watches to look good. In particular, I am a sucker for a cool design detail you can explain to people, whether they want to hear about them or not. As I found out when I chatted to Ian Elliot, who founded the brand with long-time friend Alex Brown, these watches have plenty... and we have Covid, in part, to thank.
"We'd designed both of these watches, signed them off, and then lockdown hit," explains Ian. The launch plans went out of the window, and the watches went into a drawer. Then they came out again, and the tinkering began. "It was one of those situations where we'd not even thought about them for a few months, because at the time we couldn't make anything anyway. And then we got the designs back out, and you know what it's like when you… it's not the overnight test, it's like the three month test. And we just started picking out little tiny details."
Let's take a look at the hidden features and design flourishes that ended up on the new-and-improved, post-lockdown Bloxworth Heritage Diver.
1. The strap is a 60s throwback
The Bloxworth Heritage Diver (nicknamed the 3HD) takes its style cues from vintage dive watches of the 50s and 60s, when brightly coloured rubber straps that had been textured to look like fabric, complete with mock stitching, were all the rage. "Our textured pattern is made from the central spine element of our shield logo repeated then alternately repeated at 90 degrees a little like chequer plate," explains Ian. "It’s one of those subtle details we love to get into when we’re designing a collection, because it... gives the collection a visual nod to historic dive watches [but in a way] that's unique to EB."
There's more to the straps than that, too. The team have added diamond-shaped perforations in another nod to 60s styling, as well as a way to boost breathability. The strap also tapers from 22mm next to the dial, to 20mm at the clasp end. "We changed that quite a few times as well, until we were happy with the thickness and the flexibility and the comfort. We sometimes go through quite a lot of prototyping before we get something that we're dead happy with."
2. There's a clever clasp for wetsuit-wearers
In the pre-lockdown version, the buckle on the bracelet edition had two extension options, with the larger option designed to fit over a wetsuit. "It had a 3mm and I think a 5mm extension on the buckle, and there was absolutely no need for us to change that… until we had the idea of a ratchet," smiles Ian. The new version can be extended to your exact size preference. "So you throw it on over your wetsuit, having extended it all the way, and then literally it's the work of a second just to click it back to where you need it. And I have to say, it's one of the nicest things that we've ever designed, in terms of a functional thing. Because I'm on the water all the time I'm always sticking a wetsuit on, and it is really, really good."
3. The reverse straps celebrate EB's local area
"The breather lines in the back of a rubber strap could just be lines, right? But we're like, 'No, let's make them more interesting'," says Ian. The Heritage rubber strap has ropes, inspired by Elliott Brown's Dorset location. "During lockdown I was sketching intertwined ropes. Because our boatyard is full of boats and ropes. So that's just a little nod to our headquarters in a boatyard."
The Hali women's version – named after the Greek for ocean – mixes things up again, with breather lines based on the OS contour lines from Tyneham Cap, a local peak overlooking Kimmeridge Bay where the EB team like to surf and SUP. "It’s one of those nice-to-have details rather than just putting any old pattern on the underside," says Ian.
4. The Bezel insert is ceramic
While most of Elliot Brown's other watches have a hardened steel or aluminium insert on the bezel, the Bloxworth 3HD uses black ceramic. "We wanted something that was completely scratch-resistant but also had a bit of gloss to it. When you use steel, it tends to be quite matte. And when you stamp the steel to indent the area where you can infill it [with luminous paint]… the little radiuses and the corners get rounded by the stamping tool. It's not like pushing your foot into snow, where it's crisp round the edges. Whereas with ceramic you can have this fantastically sharp detailing."
It also has the benefit of being extremely scuff resistant. "You'd be really going some to scratch that," smiles Ian.
5. Polished details make the design pop
After deciding the matte surface was a bit "blokey", one of the post-lockdown additions was to add some more polished edges to the women's Hali watch. "The third time that we effectively picked it up, we started doing little things like, where the matte ends and the little coin edge begins, we put this tiny chamfer and polished it, and it just gives it a little bit of pop," says Ian. "And on the shoulders, it was originally two surfaces, so it was one surface on the side and there was a top. And we thought, wouldn't it be cool to just chamfer that piece [between the two surfaces], and polish just the middle bit? And then on the end of the crown, we polished that as well."
6. The bracelet version is solid steel
Most stainless steel bracelets are hollow; Elliot Brown watches are solid. "We machine things from solid lumps of stainless steel," says Ian. "The same with the buckle mechanism. A lot of buckle mechanisms are folded, it's very thin, pressed metal, whereas we just use solid lumps of steel because it just lasts and lasts and lasts. There's never any hint that it's going to break or do anything untoward."
All the steel in the watches is marine-grade, 316 stainless steel, which means it won't rust, even in saltwater. "Most decent watches are made from 316 stainless. It's just a lovely malleable material and it ages beautifully, it develops a bit of a patina over time and is very much part of our DNA," says Ian.
The Bloxworth Heritage Diver launched at the end of 2021, and prices start at £550. The Bloxworth Hali launched in June 2022, and prices start at £495. Both are available to buy from elliotbrownwatches.com (opens in new tab).