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Review: Arnold and Son DBG

In the last ten years, Arnold & Son seems to have leaped out of seemingly nowhere. The brand draws its heritage from the groundbreaking English watchmaker John Arnold, who in the 18th century developed much of what has become the modern mechanical movement. But, until recently, Arnold & Son has been a complete unknown. What gives?

The DBG is the traveller’s version of the DBS, substituting sidereal and mean solar time for two timezones

In 2012, Japanese watchmaking giant Citizen made a few purchases. One was high-end Swiss movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret, another was Arnold & Son. The two brands were merged, and the rebuilding of Arnold & Son began. Don’t be deterred by this news; Citizen has been very keen to give Arnold & Son the creative freedom it needs. All it has done is furnish it with much-needed financial backing and a world-class movement-making facility, one that Arnold & Son has put to very good use indeed.

It only takes a quick look through Arnold & Son’s catalogue to realise just how impressive its recovery has been. It’s a catalogue of watches that should be the works of decades, not years. The variety, the inventiveness, the quality and the beauty speak of hard work, experience and, most of all, an understanding of what makes not only watches tick, but watch enthusiasts, too. There are no bog-standard complications here; everything is unique, unusual, intriguing. And where some watchmakers release a new movement every year or so, Arnold & Son releases a glut every annually, utilising every bit of skill and knowledge afforded to it. There’s no slacking here.

The difference between the two timezones is reflected on this ‘equation of time’ twenty-four–hour sub dial

This bountiful output presents an unusual problem: which watch to pick to for review. We’ve settled for something halfway between the usual time-and-date–only pieces and the ultra high end concepts like the Time Pyramid—the DBG. It’s a divisive piece, but not because it polarises opinions, but because it is literally divided in two. Here’s the concept: most GMT watches allow for a second time zone, but due to mechanical frippery, those timezones can only differ by whole hours. That neglects countries or states with quarter- or half-hour offsets, the list of which is long. So Arnold & Son devised the calibre A&S1209, which is essentially two movements in one.

Wound from one crown and sharing a second hand, the conjoined movements draw from separate mainsprings, run through separate gear trains and utilise separate balances. This allows both timezone to be set completely independently with no limitations. You can have the times set a minute apart if you so desired. This extra mechanism does swell the case to a larger 44mm, but being as slender as it is, it’s at no loss to comfort or proportion.

Two balances independently drive each separate display, allowing unrestricted setting of both time zones

Something the buy-out of Arnold & Son seems to have really shaken up is the visual side of the watchmaking. Previous Arnold & Son watches were at best forgettable, but these new pieces—this DBG included—are utterly stunning. The textures, the colours, the fonts, the layout, all carefully finessed to make a watch that is very, very hard to fault. The DBG’s twin exposed balances sit with an almost ying-yang–style layout, hugging each other with the kind of precision that speaks of real attention to detail. The reverse of the watch is just as appealing, the symmetry mirrored to showcase as much of the inner workings as possible. The whole piece exudes expertise, standing up to intense scrutiny. Even at £37,000, it could almost be described as good value next to its contemporaries.

There’s no watch brand out there that’s doing what Arnold & Son is doing right now, and that’s exploring watchmaking with forward-thinking enthusiasm. It’s easy to get bored by the latest version of something we’ve seen a thousand times before, but with Arnold & Son, there’s none of that. If all it takes is the influence of a Japanese multinational to kickstart the rest of Swiss watchmaking into a new, exciting era, then what are we waiting for? Bring it on.

The manual-wind calibre A&S1209 follows an elegant symmetry, save for the keyless work used for winding

Watch Spec | Arnold & Son DBG

Case: 18-carat rose gold Dimensions: 44mm Crystal: Synthetic sapphire Water Resistance: 30m Movement: Calibre A&S1209, manual Frequency: 21,600vph Power Reserve: 40 hours Strap: Leather Functions: Time, independent second time zone, equation of time