December 2022 7 Min Read

Review: Charles Frodsham Double Impulse Chronometer

By Russell Sheldrake

This is a new format for us, and one we’re quite excited about. The watch review is a tried-and-tested formula that all of us are familiar with. However, we feel that there are some watches out there that may not get the attention they deserve. As such, we will be looking to feature watches which we like, regardless of their age or price. Whilst we will always look to handle and photograph the watches we review, we’ve chosen these pieces independently and have not been sponsored by the brands or watchmakers in any way.

These are incredibly English watches. Not only does their name feel like a product of the Home Counties, but their design language seems to epitomise English sensibilities of charm, restraint, and moderation. This makes them excellent candidates for this first instalment of our new Review section.

In both 22k yellow gold and steel, this watch is equally charming.

We were lucky enough to get our hands on two Charles Frodsham Chronometers, one in 22k yellow gold that has belonged to a private collector since 2018, and another in steel that is used by the brand as a gallery display model. Given the opportunity to try the two and compare them, we thought it would make for an interesting contrast – after all, it is rare enough to find one of these in the wild. Finding two in different metals, to compare, is near enough impossible.

Why it’s interesting

Charles Frodsham & Co is the oldest continuously trading firm of chronometer manufacturers in the world, dating back to 1834. Renowned for making marine chronometers, clocks, and pocket watches for the likes of J.P. Morgan and the British Navy. Today, the brand carries forward this heritage by restoring historic technical timepieces and, much more recently, creating their own wristwatches.

To understand what makes the Charles Frodsham Double Impulse Chronometer special we must start, as you can imagine, with the movement. The research and development of this watch took 16 years, although the company worked on other significant projects during that time, such as replicas of John Harrison’s H3 and H4. Why did it take so long? They wanted to include a chronometer escapement in their first wristwatch, as a homage to their history of making chronometers. However, having chosen George Daniels’ double impulse chronometer escapement, they found that miniaturising it was no easy feat. In fact, it was something no one had managed before – not even Daniels himself.

Even on these slightly smaller wrists, this watch still manages to sit comfortably.

After taking advice from Daniels’ contemporary, Derek Pratt – the only other watchmaker at that time to have made a watch with the escapement, the team at Frodsham began the necessary problem solving of the escapement’s tight tolerances, compacting a 2-train layout, an epicyclic up-and down mechanism, and a balance break safety device to ensure the two barrels stay in synchronisation. The latter means that the watch doesn’t start running until it has been fully wound.

Charels Frodsham Double Impulse Chronometer A Collected Man London

This complex movement is accompanied by understated finishing.

Not many of these watches have been produced in the five years that they have been available. This stems from the fact that the watch is produced entirely in house, except for the two crystals, the strap, mainsprings, and the balance spring – which is made to their specification – and the jewels, which are from the company’s old stock dating back to the 1950s.

The company aims to make roughly 12 watches a year, and this number is not always met; however, they are not numbered as you might expect. Each one has a rather long serial number, which is a continuation of the watch numbering sequence first started by John Arnold in 1761, and adopted by Charles Frodsham when he bought Arnolds and Son in 1843. This means that the first of the current wristwatches produced were numbered in the 010780’s.

Having both on the wrist, you feel the difference between the metal types, with the steel feeling like it could be worn and forgotten about far more easily.

They are not the only historical independent to use this continuation of serial numbers: Winnerl, recently restarted by Bernhard Zwinz, has done the same. The brand’s last known serial numbers went up to 555, so at their relaunch they have picked this system back up, beginning just below 600.

Frodsham clients can also choose semi-bespoke options when ordering a watch, that highlight the brand's heritage. There are case options of hard rolled 22k yellow gold, 18k white or rose gold, and stainless steel. These can be paired with any one of four dial styles; plain Arabic or Roman numerals, or either with two historical cyphers, that along with the signature and tracking are applied by vapour deposition, rather than the usual cliché printing.

On The Wrist

As someone who readily admits they have unfortunately small wrists, my hesitation to wear this 42.2mm watch felt fairly justified. That was until I put it on. Despite a case size that could seem on the wrong side of oversized compared to many of the pieces we love at A Collected Man, this watch sits extremely well. Its short, curved lugs help its wearability, and by not extending past the depth of the case they make no difference in its feel day-to-day.

While it is not the slimmest watch in the world, at 10.7mm thick, there are similarities in how it sits on the wrist to something like an F.P. Journe Tourbillon, even if the construction and aesthetics differ. Of course, the dimensions of the case is dictated by the movement and its complex construction, mentioned above. The steel version feels marginally more wearable to me due to the variation in weight between the two metals, but this will always come down to personal preference. The difference certainly isn’t as stark as you find between a steel and gold Royal Oak, but it is still there.

Getting up close with something like this can reveal an entire world of details.

A unique feature of this watch, again down to the complexity of the movement, is the crown’s positioning. Moved up by 15 degrees from its usual position, it is now found at 2:30. The reasoning for having the crown slightly offset is that it allows the large subsidiary seconds to appear at 6 o’clock on the dial. Due to the space that the up and down mechanism and the winding work takes up, either the crown or the sub-dial for the seconds needs to be offset. In real terms this feels like it reduces the width of the overall piece and avoids any unwanted digging into your skin that can occur with bigger watches. This singular crown position might raise a few eyebrows when it comes to handling, setting, and winding the watch, but in reality, it makes very little difference when manipulating it. From having to wind it every day for a week, due to its 40-hour power reserve, it is clear some thought went into the crown’s design as it is incredibly easy to use. When you wind it there is a clear recoil as you release it, causing the crown to rotate backwards slightly when you let it go.

Design Facts

The crisp white dial of this piece certainly evokes the traditional enamel we are used to seeing on museum exhibits, but it is in fact made from the far tougher ceramic, zirconium oxide, which is more durable and will not suffer from the hairline cracks that plague many enamel dials. Contrasting against the white dial are the hands and numerals, blued to a deep shade of purple. The hands again link to the company’s heritage by mirroring those used on chronometers from the 1900s. In addition, they are each made to the same length, only distinguished by a wide spade at the end of the hour hand. Their colouring and shape seem similar to – but perhaps a more refined version of – those found on certain Moritz Grossmann models.

Charels Frodsham Double Impulse Chronometer A Collected Man London

Something that might be a slight annoyance to some, although it certainly has its benefits when it comes to the look of a watch, is that this piece requires curved spring bars measuring 22mm. This can prove rather limiting if you are someone who likes to chop and change their straps to match your mood or outfit, but Frodshams will freely give spare straps to aid this. While curved ends are still available from most decent strap suppliers, it seems that something the watch industry as a whole is hesitant to embrace.

Final Word

This watch is certainly a rare bird – not only because very few have been made, and very few are made every year, but because of the innovation that has gone into its development. While the Swiss lever will remain supreme across the industry, finding brands willing to look outside of this norm is refreshing and exciting for those able to get to grips with the technicalities of these micro-engineering feats. This is part of the reason why so many were impressed when Raúl Pagès released his regulator RP1 with a detent escapement.

There are many layers to this watch and while you can read about a lot of its history, wearing it, and living with it has given us a unique perspective on it.

Not only is it independent, but it is also completely made in England, and on top of that it comes from a company with a lineage stretching back to the 1800s. This is a rare combination of factors found in today’s market where just one of them would make these pieces desirable. Frodsham watches are eccentric in their construction, their execution, and their design, and the watch market likely doesn’t need them, but that only adds to their appeal for us. They don’t need to exist, but we’re very glad they do.

We would like to thank Charles Frodsham & Co for helping us produce this article and allowing us access to their gallery display model.

If you have a watch that you think we should review, please get in touch be sending an email to