The 4th of July marks the 53rd anniversary of Sir Alec Rose's solo circumnavigation of the world - a British sailor who captured the hearts of millions.
When you think of great British sailors, the names Chichester, Knox-Johnson and Cowper come to mind. But one man quietly goes under the radar - Alec Rose, a fruit merchant from Southsea, single-handedly raced across the Atlantic in 1964 before achieving his life's ambition to sail around the world. His is a story of a dream realised through ambition, with no sponsorship or financial gain, and in turn becoming inspiration to millions of people.
Being on the seas is demanding for a team of two or three - whilst one trims sails, another can be at the helm with another brewing the tea. But sailing single-handedly, especially when considering the challenge of circumnavigating the globe, is one matched by few others. Alec purchased his 36-foot cutter Lively Lady (a single mast sailboat) second-hand, before converting it himself to a Ketch (a two masted sailboat) following his successful race across the Atlantic (and back again!). In 1966, he entered a competition to sail around the world. Unfortunately, damage to his boat meant he had to postpone his attempt until the following year, but in 1967, he set off from Portsmouth and sailed down the Solent strait, out into the English Channel and onward around the world.
Despite several significant incidents of damage to his boat, vicious storms, illness and injury, Alec was able to remain bravely focused on his endeavour; helped along, no doubt, by the very British stoicism for which he has become renowned. During his voyage he spent vast periods of time alone, often without even a bird aloft to keep him company, but despite these intense periods of isolation, he never felt lonely. After stopping at Melbourne to visit his son, he had some last-minute repairs carried out in New Zealand, and then made his way back to Britain. On the 4th July 1968, 318 days after bidding farewell to his wife, Alec Rose arrived in Portsmouth to a hero's welcome - 250,000 people had amassed to welcome him home. He was given the gold-standard celebration-tour, fine-dining and fame for being the “Shoestring Sailor”. He was knighted days after his return and given Freedom of the City of London - prize indeed for a worthy sailor.
Nature inspires. It’s what makes us tick; whether it be the sun rising or the trees blowing in the wind, we are constantly being fed stimulating sights, sounds and smells, that can both conjure up memories or solidify new ones. Mother nature, especially in the context of seafaring, is a force to be reckoned with, and it’s her power, this awe-inspiring display of might, that has inspired the Solent range.
Through the development of a network of lighthouses, navigational buoys and seafaring skill, journeying the open ocean rewards competency and knowledge, but punishes ignorance. It’s a brutal environment at times, but with wits and courage, there’s often no more a beautiful or inspirational place to be.
In designing the Solent our research revealed the overall approach of robustness, something that all nautical furniture seems to adopt; whether it be the hull of a yacht, the bob of a buoy or the granite-flared base of a lighthouse - each has an underlying seam of strength.
The world of seafaring and navigation is steeped in elegance and fortitude, stoicism and bravery. We hope our efforts reflect this sentiment; our own sentinel of the sea.
Over the course of around a year, from initial ideation to production, we spent more time on concepts and ideas for the Solent range than we had on any other collection. The design swung from elegant, rounded case profiles to hard-edged, brutally angled designs. The dials iterated around the theme of lighthouses and seafaring before everything came to a glorious crescendo of harmony. We arrived at the design of the Solent range through a long and often-times absorbing process of trying everything and seeing what resonated. It’s a process that we’ve refined since, but the joy of a design that feels right, far outweighs the methods used to get there.
The Solent is a surface-simple yet underlyingly complex design. The case design is a combination of various energy-dissipating angles and chamfers, inspired by the lighthouses and ocean-furniture designed to withstand brutal environments. It’s slim and neat, but looks and feels robust. The dial design follows suit, with bold, uncompromising colours and subtle design flairs. Each dial represents an area of seafaring that is essential - the navigational buoys marking sub-surface hazards, and the power of wind.
We like to celebrate the rear of our watches as much as the front - which is why we’ve created an exhibition caseback on the Solent showcasing the spectacular engineering marvel that is the Miyota 9039, in all its utilitarian beauty. Respected for its solid reliability and accuracy, the 9039 also exposes its beautiful and eye-catching decorations as the rotor swings from side to side.
Surrounding this visual spectacle is a painted ring with the words of British “shoe-string” sailor Sir Alec Rose - who became one of the first people to single handedly circumnavigate the world - "I had a good ship under me and I felt as free as the birds that circled above. I was king of my little world".
The Windward (shown above) takes its cues from the wind-direction instruments and vector field diagrams showing wind patterns. It seems obvious (and a little silly) to say it, but wind is hugely important when sailing and the direction of it dictates the direction you can sail effectively. It must be embraced and harnessed to transport you to your destination, using nature’s power and seafaring skill to fill the sails efficiently and propel the yacht through the ocean’s swell. A colour scheme of greys, white and the Solent signature yellow forms the Windward’s classic yet contemporary aesthetic and sits alongside the cardinal in beautiful contrast.
The Cardinal takes inspiration from the navigational buoys of the same name, designed to keep mariners safe from sub-surface hazards, such as wrecks, reefs and rocky-outcrops, by displaying the direction to which you must pass the buoy, either North, East, South or West - hence the name Cardinal. The Cardinal dial has these markings at the main cardinal points of 12, 3, 6 and 9. The black, subtly textured dial with bold white and Solent signature yellow markings makes time-telling a joy. The slightly recessed signature colour ring brings an element of complexity with the chamfered upper ring adding depth dynamics and excitement - a real treat for the eyes.
The Solent collection will be available from August 11th and will be priced at £349, if you would like to be notified once available please sign up to our newsletter via the 'Join us on our journey' form in the footer.
Sir Alec Rose and Lively Lady epitomises the spirit of adventure. One man, one boat, one world.
Lively Lady is now back in Port Solent and is currently undergoing a rebuild and renovation by her custodians, Around and Around (Charity Number: 1129797), so she can sail around the world again. We’ll be supporting the Lively Lady Project in bringing her back to life, with a percentage of proceeds from the sale of every Solent timepiece being donated to the restoration project.