The William Wood Valiant is the third model from the London-based (designed but not manufactured) brand. The Valiant collection is available in numerous different color combos, the one shown here is the Rose Gold, but below you will see pics of the other stainless steel offerings. Bronze cases are also available, but I chose the Rose because it was a little bit different and slightly dressier, but I have to say the standard black dial/red bezel combo has really grown on me after looking at photos of it while doing this review. William Wood has taken a very different approach to create a microbrand, starting off with the name. Usually, the names of brands, especially these days, tend to irk me. Seems everyone is doing someone’s name, but usually they are made up. This one is not. William Wood was in fact a real person, and as you may have guessed just from looking at the watch, he was indeed a firefighter.
Wood is the grandfather of the owner of the brand, Jonny Garrett. He has taken elements of firefighting and incorporated them into the watch dial, the crown, and the strap. We see dive watches, which is what this Valiant is, pilot watches, sports watches of all kinds, comic-inspired watches, and much more, but I can’t remember in recent memory watches inspired by firefighters. Now, this is not a watch specifically built for firefighters; I imagine most of them are wearing G-Shocks, but there are a lot of nice details to commemorate firefighting.
William Wood Valiant Specifications
Swiss Sellita SW200 or Japanese NH35 Automatic movement
Case diameter 41mm
Lug to Lug of 49mm
Case thickness 16mm
Lug width 20mm
Water Resistant 100 metres / 10 ATM
316L Stainless Steel case and metal band
Double domed sapphire crystal glass with anti-reflective coating and blue tint
Rotating bezel with Super-LumiNova 12 dot
Super-LumiNova hands, indices, and bezel 12 dot
Domed dial with date window and sweeping second hand
Crown inset made from original 1920’s British brass firefighters helmet
Deployment clasp buckle on metal band engraved with William Wood logo
The presentation box includes a red travel roll which can hold up to 3 watches, an instructions manual, and a warranty
3-year international warranty from the date watch received
Most likely you have watched the video above or at the very least, could see the title. Before we go any further, we should probably address that. As you just read in the specifications, the William Wood Valiant is priced at $973 and is powered by a Seiko NH35 automatic movement. I have discussed in countless reviews how I feel the NH35 is a decent movement, it does the job but is also very inexpensive and the maximum price of any watch that uses one should be $500. I have reviewed multiple watches over the years that have gone well over that price, and I always try to find some justification or some reasoning as to why such a high price tag for the movement used. Case in point, the Zelos Hammerhead Titanium. It had a titanium case, unique design, meteorite dial, dual lume, etc. It is priced at $899 I believe. I was told the movement was used because if anything else was used, that the price would have been much higher and he wanted to keep it under $1000. I am not sure that would have mattered and if he had used a more expensive movement if people would have not been willing to pay for it.
What is interesting here is that the Valiant will be available with a better movement, come the fall of this year (2021). Listed on the website are variants with the Sellita SW200 Automatic movement. Unfortunately, that raises the price to $1600. Most would expect a watch such as this (don’t worry, I will get to all this watch does have to offer shortly) with an SW200 to be price around $1000 or just slightly above, so the fact that it jumps to $1600 is quite the headscratcher. Now, I can’t really find a way to justify or defend this price, but I can show and discuss the rest of the watch as best as I can. The price is what it is.
As I stated, this watch is heavily inspired by Firefighting and fire personnel, and I find it to be quite an attractive piece overall. The packaging is quite elaborate (check the video for a good look at the packaging) and creates a fun unboxing experience. Depending on what version you order and what strap or straps you order, they will be packaged in the 3 watch travel roll case as well. Beyond multiple colors of dials/bezels available, there are just as many fire hose straps available, as well as fabric straps and a stainless steel bracelet. The website is set up as such to try and get you to buy an extra strap, either by offering a discount to add a second strap or if you decide to add something to cart and then navigate out of the checkout system, it will offer you code to get. a free strap (Freestrap is the code). So, if you are reading this and plan on purchasing a William Wood Valiant, use that code to score a free second strap.
The 41mm Stainless case is familiar-looking but does not seem a total copy of something else I have seen before. The case sports a satin-brushed finish, with a polished stainless steel crown, with a polished rose gold bezel ring. This is something I wondered about while photographing this piece-“Would it have been better to make the crown rose gold as well, to match the bezel and dial?”. I still am waffling on that question. Part of me thinks it would be more cohesive, and another part thinks it would have been too much, and less is more.
The crown of course screws down as this watch is rated to 100m of water resistance, and unscrewing to set the time or date, is relatively easy. You’ll notice something else about the crown though, and that would be a brass ingot inset into the top of the crown. This piece of brass is actually made from a piece of a 1920’s British firefighters helmet and then the William Wood helmet logo is stamped into the brass, which, at least in my example, creates more of a silhouette of a helmet than an easily identified helmet.
Of course, many other design elements were done to incorporate the Firefighters theme on the William Wood Valiant, such as the checkered markings around the dial, which are the exact markings from the side of a British Firetruck, the second hand that resembles a bell chime, the double stripe indices at 12 o’clock resembling a firefighters rank, and probably most obvious, the fireman’s helmet as the logo. This helmet is very prominent on the dial, and of course, is finished in rose gold for this version, but would be stainless steel or yellow gold, depending on which one you are looking at. This logo used in pretty much all marketing for the brand and is on their website multiple times as well as on the leather watch roll the watch comes in, and as I just talked about, the crown.
The Valiant has a matte dial with a slightly pebbled appearance and this is also a sandwich dial. Between the sandwich dial and the massive domed sapphire crystal, it creates an intentional distortion which I have to say, I do find attractive on this piece. For the most part, it never prevents you from being too easily read the time but does give a unique dimensional feel to the piece that is quite fun to look at. I think where things tend to get busy is the lower half of the dial. There is just a lot of text going on, and every line uses a different font, and it just all seems a little too busy. I feel the William Wood text could use some improvement as well, whether in size or shape and think with just a few tweaks the dial would be even sharper but is muddled as is.
When it comes to functionality, I have no complaints at all. The bezel is easily readable with the rose-tone markings on the black aluminum bezel, the action is clean and crisp, as is the crown as earlier stated. On my 7 1/2 inch wrist, it fits like say a 41mm Submariner would, a similar-sized Steinhart, and probably the 42mm Oris Sixty-Five, to which quite a few have said this one reminds them of.
The rubber straps use quick-release pins for easy on and off and changing of straps, and yes, the insets are made from actual fire hoses. Now, to be clear, the stitched on part of the straps is the actual firehose, and the rest of the strap is standard rubber of course, which had to be molded and custom made. Since they are using actual fire hoses for the straps, no two straps will look the same, some will have some extra “patina” or markings on them as well, which adds to the unique character. The straps have a simple polished square buckle, which kinda feels like they cheaped out a little bit, but I have to say these natural rubber straps are ridiculously comfortable and pliable and might be one of the best feeling rubber straps I have seen on a microbrand watch to date.
With the sandwich dial below holding a large amount of C3 SuperLuminova compound, I was pretty sure the lume would be more than adequate and I was correct. Is it the brightest, longest-lasting lume I have ever seen? No, but I find it to be above average for sure, and this William Wood Valiant looks great in the dark.
Look, there are some watches that I review, that there is just no way to hide the negative. This is one of them. I feel that besides the movement, everything about this watch is a step above most microbrands. From the presentation, the case finishing, the dial work (even if it is too cluttered for my liking), the overall aesthetic, rubber straps, etc. Even with the 4k video, it is hard sometimes to convey how nice a watch looks in person because you can’t feel it like I can. By NO MEANS, do I feel this is a cheap-looking or cheap feeling watch. It is not just another average microbrand watch in my opinion and there is a lot of special touches and fine details going on here than you would find on say a sub $500 microbrand.
I just can not get over the movement at this price, or the Sellita version at its price either. I feel this watch does have a great look and story, and maybe that is enough to sell enough of these watches for the brand. But I stand by you should know your market and competition, and at $1000, you have a lot of options, and at $1600, you could buy a Sinn for example, a higher-end Seiko, an Oris, and many others. All of those brands have many years of heritage and history behind them, that customers will probably gravitate to over this watch. Microbrands need to make their offerings more appealing in my opinion, and a much lower price tag or a better movement in this example would have made this review very different. This is just one person’s opinion of course, even if I have been reviewing watches for almost a decade now.
I've been an avid watch lover since the age of 7. Watches are not only my hobby but a passion. My favorite style used to be dive watches, but field or non bezel watches have been growing on me. When I'm not reviewing watches I am either cooking or with family and friends.
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