One to Watch: The Canadian Comeback Kid

One to Watch: The Canadian Comeback Kid

Three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the young watch company Birchall & Taylor had a problem. They’d just moved into a larger workshop on account of the success of their Reference 1, but the uncertainty stemming from the outbreak had caused half their orders to cancel. Circumstances would not allow the operation to continue. They had no choice but to close shop.

Bradley Taylor, one half of Birchall & Taylor, needed a fresh start. “I’ve never been through a divorce,” he says, “but I imagine this is what it’s like. I even wanted to sell my watchmaking tools, the loves of my life. I hunt down and collect rare ones. Friends told me to relax: ‘You’ll be back in a couple of months,’ they said, and they were right. After a month or two away from watchmaking, I couldn’t wait to get back. I just need to do it.”

And that burning desire to create led to the fruition of the Bradley Taylor Paragon, a watch design he’d been working on for nearly two years. Hailing from Canada, Taylor incorporated tasteful design touches that pointed to the watch’s Canadian heritage, like Robertson screws to secure the caseback to the watch (the “square-drive” screw was developed in Canada in 1908), and it comes on salmon and beavertail straps. The Paragon launched in January to much fanfare, and Taylor is now producing the watches to fill the orders. The hands alone take about 20 hours to produce.

Who is Bradley Taylor?

Age: 29

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Origin story: It all started with a Seiko Monster Taylor had bought, and a cheap set of watchmaking tools quickly followed. He jammed his tweezers into the 7S26 movement, and according to Taylor, he “ruined everything,” but the experience got him hooked. Through a recommendation online from Mr. Michelsen of Iceland’s Michelsen Watches, Taylor looked into Korpela and Hofs Watchmaking School in Le Locle, Switzerland. To get in, he would need to go through a 21-day “bench assessment” to test his dexterity and aptitude.

“They gave me these springs, and then drew letters on a piece of paper,” he says. “You’d have to bend the springs so that they’d lay exactly over the letters when they were relaxed.” All this came “after cutting out patterns from a 3mm-thick sheet of steel for six hours straight.”

After passing the test, Taylor spent three years in Le Locle learning watchmaking, playing American Football, and learning French when he wasn’t entrenched in the craft. After graduating, he cut his teeth professionally, earning certifications from Patek Philippe and Hublot before returning to Toronto.

Why We Love Him

Taylor’s redemption story and passion for watchmaking are infectious. He went from a 2,000-square-foot workshop to an 80-square-foot workshop, but his spirits have never been higher.

The Breguet typeface on his Paragon was designed by Canadian type designer Ian Brignell, and the dial realized by Comblémine SA, Kari Voutilainen’s dial atelier. The Paragon features purpled hands, because blued hands “are a walk in the park compared to achieving a uniform perfect purple hue,” he says. It takes about six rounds of tempering to do it in addition to black polishing and chamfering the internal and external edges.

“People either see the value or they don’t,” Taylor says. “At the end of the day, I’m responsible for the quality of the watch; my name is on it.” Every component of the watch that’s sourced is sourced from the best producer possible to complement the components Taylor makes by hand. The micro-rotor movement comes from Vaucher, for instance. The rotor is engine-turned to match the engine-turned dial. Some aspects of the watch, like the dial color, are able to be tweaked according to customer preference.

What’s Next

Taylor’s next project is an ambitious one. He plans to take a historic hi-beat, flyback chronograph movement apart, redesign the bridges and balance components to make them better, and spend roughly three months hand-finishing each movement. The case, dial, and hands will all be built around the movement. It’s a massive undertaking, but it ties into Taylor’s other near-term goal: Educating folks and spreading his obsession.

“I was a member of Redbar Toronto,” he says, “and I’d meet people who were curious about what I did. I didn’t care if they had a crazy collection or a few Seikos, I’d take them back to the workshop and show them how watchmaking is done. That’s my favorite part of the industry, showing people the tools that make their watches; the drill press I use for hands is just .3mm thick. It’s visually impressive to see it in action.”

See For Yourself

Only 12 examples of the Paragon will be produced, and most have been spoken for. Bradley Taylor can be reached at bt@bradleytaylor.ca or through his website. He takes orders directly, as his watches are not retailed. Each one is hand-assembled in Canada, where his studio is located. And aside from the components imported from Switzerland, everything else is made in Canada.

HODINKEE

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