By Stephen Doig
The Blacklamp Carbon watch
There are few global watch brands that can say they operate out of a bucolic village in the West Sussex countryside. But then there are few watchmakers that can also boast ‘ukulele maker’ under their skillset. However, such is the visionary nature of Giles Ellis’s pioneering watch brand, Schofield, that the horological rule book is being quietly re-written, from a leafy corner of the English countryside. What began as a personal quest to find a watch that fitted his exacting personal taste has evolved into an international operation that has carved out a curious niche in the competitive world of watch-making.
‘Schofield was never a commercial enterprise, at the start it was about creating one watch for myself’, says polymath Ellis, who previously worked as coding specialist, product designer and restorer of musical instruments, and who heads a talk at the fine watch exhibition SalonQP next month on the design element of watch production.
It was a combination of expertise and uncompromising personal taste that prompted Ellis to handcraft his own amplifier. ‘All my life I’ve been someone who likes things to be just right, and as such the products I’m attracted to tend to be incredibly expensive. So I’ve ended up furnishing my life with things that I’ve made with my own hand.’ The execution of this amplifier laid the foundations for what was to become the Schofield template, even though Ellis didn’t realise it at the time. Despite it being purely for personal use, Ellis branded the amp as a ‘Schofield’ product. ‘At the time, I was into spaghetti Westerns and Schofield was the name of a revolver used by Jessie James. It’s the bad boy’s revolver of choice’.
This incarnation of Schofield swiftly evolved into a watch brand, after Ellis – with trademark dynamism – decided to create his own watch. ‘I got completely immersed in the project,’ he says by way of understatement, ‘and quickly learned that to have the watch made the way I wanted, I’d have to set up a minimum order. I knew that I was going to end up with more watches than I could ever need, and that was the tipping point that turned Schofield into a business.’ Making their debut in 2011 at SalonQP, initially his business plan involved selling a grand total of three: in his first year he exceeded year three of that plan. But to Ellis, this isn’t about meteoric, instant success.
‘For four years before we launched, I was making sure that the business was as solid and had as much integrity as the watches themselves’. To that end, each element is impeccably conceived and handcrafted, with certain models made in Germany (an emerging talent on the world watch stage) and some in England. A carefully curated range includes the Signalman DLC, Signalman Polished and Blacklamp, each impeccably made and some featuring specially developed materials (the Blacklamp employs a patented rendering of carbon fibre called Morta), sleekly designed and (for that dash of English eccentricity) named after UK lighthouses because of their longevity and engineering. Salon QP sees a new addition to the roster, with the launch of the Beater (details firmly confidential at this point) and a new pen with custom-made ink mixed by Schofield. Clearly, Schofield is intent on writing its own future.