Elliot Brown Holton Professional Watch Review

To say I was excited to review another Elliot Brown watch is an understatement.  Since reviewing one of their Canford models 3 years ago I have totally bought in to this iconic British brand. Here is my detailed review of the Elliot Brown Holton Professional…..

What about my Canford?

My Canford is, as I would expect, performing faultlessly and continues to be a joy to own and use.  It did, at some point last year, require a new battery but that was a pleasure of a process to sort out too.  A quick contact with the EB team, shipped the watch off and within a few days it was back with me with the battery sorted out, the watch resealed for water proofness and EB even sent a new style storage case. 

It was testament to how they treat their customers that I received such great service and I was also informed about progress at every step of the way.  The Canford is exactly how you expect a prestigious watch to be and the companies after sales service is exactly how you hope a premium company will be. 

A bit of Elliot Brown Holton Professional history 

Even before discussing the features and performance of this watch, it is important to explain the process that brought this product to life.  Elliot Brown were approached by, as they explain it, a specialist branch of the U.K. military who were looking for a service watch that addressed the design issues they were experiencing with their current issue timepiece. Elliot Brown will only say a specialist branch of the military, but read into this a group of people that do dangerous things in dangerous places to protect us – think special forces.    

It goes without saying that they need their equipment to perform faultlessly and they didn’t feel their current issue watches were up to the task – so much so, Infact, that many of them were choosing to buy Elliot Brown models themselves. Could you, they asked EB, produce a watch that meets our exacting requirements? 

I would have loved to be in the room for the team meetings with the military personnel, but what Elliot Brown had before them was a bunch of people who knew exactly what they wanted, understood premium watch design, were happy to speak their minds about the failings of their current service offering and that demanded a watch that was fit for purpose in the field while also having the aesthetic qualities to represent British military history and was ‘dressy’ enough for everyday use.  

The EB team got busy drawing on their 20+ years of watch building experience and the Elliot Brown Holton professional came to fruition….

Features and Use Test

The Elliot Brown Holton Professional sits effortlessly in 2 camps.  Line it up alongside any other model in the range and it is clearly an EB.  But, compare it to other service watches and it is clearly designed to honour the prestigious history of the military watches that have gone before.  It must have been an exciting project to work on and yet, I imagine, also an intimidating one – this is the first service issue watch produced by a British company in over 13 years!

The design brief identified the need for a watch that would survive prolonged exposure to dust and water, was durable and shock resistant, had clear visibility in all conditions, featured a uni directional bezel that could be operated with a gloved hand, had easily changeable straps and comfortable strap options that wouldn’t break.  So, how do the features stack up?

In terms of being built to give a long life in very challenging environments, the Holton is very much built for the hard yards.  The case is made from 316 stainless steel coated in an anti reflective PVD with a mud and grime repellent layer. The PVD coating, which at 0.8 microns thickness is twice the military standard, is designed to strike the balance between in the field durability while also giving the crispness needed for the case detailing. I should also say that before writing this I had no idea what PVD actually meant, but a bit of Googling and it is revealed to stand for Physical Vapor Deposition – a technique where a solid material is vaporized in a vacuum environment and deposited on substrates as a coating.

The Elliot Brown Holton Professional is rated waterproof to 200 metres but, in EB’s case, this means it leaves the workshop having been triple checked to that depth.  An Elliot Brown rated to 200 metres has already, by the time you wear it, surpassed that depth.  

The crown on any watch is arguably quite a vulnerable feature – it sticks out of the watch casing and is a point where water could find entry.  Elliot Brown have positioned the Holton bezel at the 4pm position which helps prevent it getting damaged and it is deeply recessed so that, although it is big enough for a firm grip to allow adjustment, it sits low in the case to prevent damage or catching.  It also features triple seals to prevent water or dust ingress. It is built, in every detail, for business.

The bezel is a key feature of a watch of this type and the Holton features the best design I’ve seen.  Firstly, many bezels are hard to operate with wet, cold or gloved hands and yet here, by edging the bezel with a ‘hobnail outer knurling’, it is a cinch to turn in any conditions.  This is also aided by the bezel precisely matching the diameter of the watch to allow an uncluttered grip.  

Another superb feature is that, when turned, a 120 click mechanism allows very precise adjustment that could even be accurately operated in darkness.  Again, the bezel features the same anti reflective PVD coating to match the rest of the watch housing.  

The requirement for visibility in all weathers and in darkness has been addressed by the use of C3 Super Luminova markings on both the face and bezel.  It works faultlessly and the watch also benefits from details like a triangle to help orientate the bezel and broad markings of the watch hands.  I wake up in the middle of the night and have absolutely no problems telling the time.

A watch of this type is worn for long periods of time and so comfort was another key detail.  You can choose the Holton Professional with either a webbing strap or Elliot Brown’s EPBM rubber version.  The one I received had the webbing version and this works really well – it feels secure and comfortable.

I also had a black EPBM version and have found this to be equally comfortable and secure.  The reality is, for my needs, I will likely mostly use this option, but it is nice to have the choice.  Elliot Brown do make other strap models (I have a lovely leather strap on my Canford and a stainless steel version is also available) and I really like that each strap will fit any EB watch.  You can quickly and simply switch between straps according to preference and use.  

Infact, switching straps is a breeze because EB chose to feature solid steel strap bars that secure by screwing them into the casing shoulders using a provided tool.  Really, once these are in place it feels like there is no chance they will come loose.  This is partly because of the strength and screw fit of the strap bar, but it is also aided by the screw having a 5 lobe head design that meshes securely with the pentalope tool design.  It is a simple and efficient design and such a massive improvement on those spring loaded bars that are less secure, fiddly to use and often, while fitting, ping across the room to be lost under the sofa!

And so, the remaining features are focussed on the main watch casing, face, case back and glass.  Again, the function of each has clearly been considered in intricate detail.  The glass is 2mm Sapphire Crystal treated on the inside with an anti-reflective coating and the glass is fitted slightly below the bezel height to offer protection from chipping or damage. Having said that, this is clearly a very durable surface anyway because to pass the EB quality control tests each crystal has to survive having a 17mm steel ball dropped onto it from a 0.5 metre height 3 times. 

The watch face is both elegantly simple and yet designed to perform.  Elliot Brown wanted it to give more than a nod to military watches that have gone before while still closely fitting the design brief.  There are clear and elegant cardinal graphics for the 3,6,9 and 12 hands and the addition of a triangle at 12 o’clock aids immediate orientation.  All the markings feature the same C3 luminescent treatment as for the bezel, and the only other addition is a simple date marker and the EB name and logo.  It is simple….and beautiful as a result.

The minute hand is an uncluttered and elegant finger design while the hour hand is, as EB describe, a short stubby sword design.  Lastly, the second hand has a lovely C3 arrowhead shape and long gun metal finger.  They all work together perfectly, offer the necessary clarity to read the time quickly and accurately and yet again look very attractive.  Absolutely full marks for the design team.  

And so, lastly, we have the little seen and yet important watch back.  Elliot Brown have chosen to bolt the case back with hex bolts to offer perfect allignment, an optimum compression seal and to provide the required tension for the interior shock absorption system.  Apart from all that, there’s the EB logo, some info and about the watch and that, as they say, is a wrap.

Oh, except that the graphics on the case back are deliberately raised to allow ventilation and, it you are choosing to wear the Holton with the EPBM rubber strap, they have followed this idea through by added a featured back that actually forms ventilation channels.  Those features are, as it happens, based on the contours Tyneham Cap on Dorset’s World Heritage coastline – you’ve got to love attention to detail like that! 

Summary

Owning and wearing an Elliot Brown feels very special.  Infact, it feels like you are part of a family.  I know that sounds strange given that this is just a watch, but the personal touch of Elliot Brown being a unique and dedicated British watch manufacturer, the care and attention to detail which they incorporate into their products and the sense that you are buying a product that reflects the companies passion for their business.  I am proud to wear an Elliot Brown and feel part of the family – in the months since I received it this watch has only been removed for climbing sessions. 

The Elliot Brown Holton Professional is also part of that inclusivity.  To be wearing a watch designed for and chosen by elite forces offers a sense of pride in the product and pride in the country.  It is a beautiful high performance timepiece and instils great confidence.  I know I am gushing about it but why not – I love it! Details are available on the EB website here.