Simon de Burton
The world said goodbye to one of the great designers of the past century when Sir Terence Conran died in September 2020. The restaurateur, writer, retailer, cigar aficionado and founder of London landmarks such as the Design Museum, the Bluebird Café, Quaglino’s restaurant and the original Habitat and The Conran Shop stores touched the lives of millions around the world.
If you’ve ever travelled in a Land Rover Discovery, for example, you may have benefited from the Conran touch – because it was Sir Terence who was behind the original model’s spacious and light-filled interior.
Sir Terence’s flair for design continued until the end of his life, with one of his final projects being the creation of the inaugural model for the Brooklands Watch Company, which was founded four years ago by aviator and saloon-car racer Simon Jeffs following a visit to the Brooklands Museum. There Jeffs discovered the Holden Apparatus, the world’s first chronograph for establishing official speed records – and made up his mind to create a watch that paid homage to those golden years of the automobile at the turn of the 20th century.
Brooklands became the world’s first banked motor racing circuit when it opened in 1907, having been built on land belonging to Hugh Fortescue Locke-King who instigated its construction after the Motor Car Act of four years earlier saw a blanket 20mph speed limit imposed throughout Britain. Concerned that the rule would hinder UK car production, he initially intended the concrete track to be used for high-speed testing – but it quickly became the home of British motorsport and the scene of numerous two- and four-wheeled record attempts (as well as the country’s largest aircraft manufacturing site).
In order to ensure the watch reflected the significance and remarkable history of Brooklands, Jeffs called upon the skills of Sir Terence, whose parents had been Brooklands regulars – his mother as an aviatrix, his father as a motor racing spectator. The designer visited the museum on a research mission and became especially inspired by the legendary Napier-Railton in which John Cobb established the all-time Brooklands lap record of 143.44mph in 1935.
As well as the layout of the car’s W-12, 24-litre Napier-Lion aero engine providing the “Triple-Four” name for the watch, its remarkable con-rod arrangement (three per big-end) has been replicated in the design of the automatic winding rotor, which can be seen through the sapphire crystal back of the 43mmcase. The dial, meanwhile, features the same, vertical subdial layout that was found on the stopwatches used by Brooklands timekeepers, and chronograph hands based on those of the Brooklands villa clock.
Perhaps the nicest detail, however, lies in the fact that the perimeter of the dial is claimed to rise at exactly the same angle as that of the Brooklands banking which, in places, climbed as high as 30 feet. Finishing touches of this Swiss-made watch include a winding crown tipped in “Conran blue” and a blue leather strap embossed with the pattern of a vintage racing tyre.
The Triple Four Racing Chronograph (to give it its full name) will be made in just 500 examples, each in a presentation box with an enamelled badge based on the much-coveted “Brooklands Gold Star” that was awarded to anyone who lapped the circuit at more than 100mph. The badge references the 1935 members badge, the year the Napier Railton broke the Brooklands lap record. Also included in each box is a unique, stamped metal plate carrying the edition number of the relevant watch.
For a limited period, the Triple-Four Racing Chronograph can be bought from The Conran Shop at Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 and is also available direct from the makers.
£5,754.00 inc. VAT; brooklandswatches.com