When local watch collector Jared Steadman decided to designed a watch inspired by Winchester’s Diver Bill, little did he know it would change his life.
Jared, who was given his first watch – a Swatch – by his Mum at the age of seven, became a keen diver, and it was while living in Winchester that he discovered the story of William Walker.
“It was in Winchester Cathedral, that I first heard about Diver Bill – the nickname given to William Walker,” he says. “His copper and brass dive helmet is on show there as testimony to his courage. In 1906, he dived under the Southern wall of the Cathedral and for five years, re-laid the foundations with his bare hands as the Cathedral was sinking into the peat below.”
“While I admired the helmet, it struck me that the window of the copper and brass helmet looked like a watch’s bezel. I’d been collecting watches for some time and decided to design a watch that paid tribute to Diver Bill with a copper case and a brass bezel.”
But how to make a watch? Using Alibaba, Jared sent out a request for a manufacturer who could work from his design, and was contacted by a Chinese company keen to help. A Swiss maker provided a high-quality automatic movement with 26 jewels and six months after sending off technical drawings, he was wearing his own limited-edition creation.”
Jared had had to commit to a minimum order of 300 watches. And with 299 other watches to sell, his background in IT stood him in good stead to market his design across the world. “Through Internet marketing I was able to reach descendants of William Walker in America,” he says. “Many of my sales have come from people across the world with a connection to Winchester and the Cathedral.”
He launched his limited edition Diver Bill watch (£350) in July, with 300m water-resistance, a diver’s bronze bezel and a bronze shark-mesh bracelet.
A new release will follow – an aviation-inspired watch inspired by Hampshire Spitfire-engineer R. J. Mitchell.
So successful has Jared been with sales, that he’s now given up his career in IT to work full-time on his watch design business – The 2020 Watch Company.
“I think a lot of my success has been down to a growing interest in vintage watches and provenance,” he says. “People want a watch that they can talk about and which has a story behind it. Not only are my watches really high quality, but they have a local connection with the past too.”