Watches: Arnold & Son HMS Beagle Set

By Thierry Ané on July 11, 2014

Whether in the “Instrument” or “Royal” collection, Arnold & Son offers exquisite timepieces with English-inspired designs and stunning movements in tribute to the work of John Arnold and his son. In the eighteenth century, these talented watchmakers made an enormous contribution towards the development of Marine Chronometers for use on board ships and the Swiss brand named after them has spared no effort over the years to introduce exceptional timepieces faithful to these maritime roots.

Their precision timekeepers are never more connected to the brand’s history than when they are adorned with miniature paintings in celebration of the most famous figures or ships in the history of exploration. It is in fact one of the brand’s many talents to present sumptuous sets of watches that combine Fine Watchmaking and decorative arts to revive the great moments of England’s Maritime History.

Just for the pleasure of discussing these amazing timepieces, let me remind you of some of the brand’s most beautiful sets so far. In 2011, Arnold and Son unveiled a magnificent homage to the life of a British explorer, navigator, cartographer that was captain in the Royal Navy: James Cook. The "Hornet World Time James Cook Set" presents three pivotal moments of his life: The Landing at Botany Bay, The Discovery of Antartica, and The Death in Hawaii.

Last year Arnold & Son released the "HMS Victory Set" to honour a mythical ship particularly famous as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It includes Cannons Ablaze, Cannons Deck, and Victory at Sea, three refined models with hand-engraved silver dials.

In 2013, the brand also introduced the "TB East India Company Set"Watches: Arnold & Son TB East India Company Set with A Fleet of East Indiamen, East Indiamen in the China Seas, and The Honourable East India Company’s Ship: a beautiful tribute to these legendary vessels known as the East Indiamen involved in the trade of basic commodities like cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, tea or opium between Europe, the Americas, India and China.

Today, Arnold & Son adds another milestone in this saga with the “HMS Beagle Set” that celebrates a ship that undertook three survey voyages in all. On the second survey voyage the young naturalist Charles Darwin was on board and ensured the ship’s posterity: a five-week stopover in the Galapagos Islands indeed gave him the foundations for his theory of evolution.

The silvery white and silver opaline dials of the three timepieces forming this set have been hand-painted with illustrations of the HMS Beagle at some stage of its voyage. Tiny brushstrokes create beautiful images in every shade of grey greatly inspired by original drawings from documentation of the expedition. These three splendid illustrations confirm Arnold & Son’s mastery of decorative arts and provide a magnificent reminder of Charles Darwin’s voyage of discovery.

The “HMS Beagle Set” also stands out by the fact that, unlike previous sets that were showcasing three interpretations of the same watch, this time the brand uses a different model for each timepiece composing the set and also three different colours of gold.

The simplest model, namely the HM comes from the “Royal Collection”. This two-hand model equipped with the manually-wound A&S1001 calibre offers 80 hours of power reserve and is housed in a 40 mm case in white gold. This is a very classic model with medium-size proportions with nothing to distract our attention from the splendid miniature painting adorning the dial.

Crafted in rose gold and also mounted on a black alligator strap, the TB features one of Arnold & Son’s signature complications: a central true beat seconds that allows for accurate time readings. The hours and minutes are elegantly placed in a sub-dial at 9 o’clock featuring Roman numerals. The self-winding A&S6103 calibre that animates this model can of course be observed from the sapphire back: it boasts the brand’s signature Haute Horlogerie finish, including refined Côtes de Genève rayonnantes on the bridges.

Last but definitely not least, the Ultra-Thin Tourbillon Escapement features the brand’s A&S8200 calibre. This manually-wound movement entirely developed in-house is equipped with one of the thinnest tourbillons on the market. This complex escapement can be admired through the aperture located at 6 o’clock on the dial. It creates a beautiful symmetry with the sub-dial for the time of the day located at noon. This precious timepiece is presented on a black alligator strap like the previous two and is also secured by a pin buckle in the same material of the case: red gold for this model.

This is another mind-blowing set created by Arnold and Son. I love the fact that the brand sticks to Maritime History for its decorative timepieces and I truly think that presenting different models in the same set is an excellent idea. I have no doubt that watch connoisseurs will fight to acquire one of the 8 sets that the brand will produce. For more information please visit Arnold & Son web site.