Since our inception we have produced no fewer than 30 individual watch designs, but one has captured the imagination of our customers more than any other - the Coniston Bluebird. So we thought we'd take a closer look at this unique watch, and remind ourselves what inspired the iconic design.
“Courage is not being fearless”
Words spoken whilst pushing the boundaries of physics and speed - Donald Campbell was no stranger to life-endangering challenges of extreme engineering.
Inspiration behind the name for the Coniston came from Coniston Waters in the Lake District, which is famed for the Campbell family’s water speed record attempts. At 5 miles in length it was the perfect lake for Sir Malcolm Campbell to set a new record of 141.74 miles per hour in Bluebird K4 in 1939.
In the late 50’s Sir Malcolm’s son Donald went on to set four successive records on Coniston Waters in Bluebird K7. In 1967, Donald achieved a top speed of over 320 miles per hour on the return leg of a record-breaking attempt - he then lost control of Bluebird, which somersaulted and crashed. Campbell tragically lost his life.
Donald Campbell’s legacy lives on in Coniston to this day. We are truly humbled to take inspiration from this great man, and in doing so, do our part to extend the memory of Campbell and all that he stood for.
Donald wasn't just breaking records on water however, and in 1964 he audaciously went for the land and speed double in the same year. On the 17th July in an unusually overcast Australia, Campbell took advantage of a break in the weather and made two courageous runs along a shortened, and still damp Lake Eyre track, posting a new land speed record of 403 mph. Campbell was bitterly disappointed with the record as the vehicle had been designed for much higher speeds, but the record stood and he was now half-way to achieving his goal. Incredibly, his car, the CN7, covered the final third of the measured mile at an average of 429 mph - this speed remained the highest achieved by a wheel driven car until 2001.
Unfortunately Campbell's land speed record was short-lived as due to some changes in the rules his car became ineligible to set records, as of October 1964.
'The Double' was still up for grabs though, and on the 31st December 1964 Donald and Bluebird K7 set out to do the impossible on Lake Dumbleyung near Perth - unbelievably, with only hours to spare before the New Year came in, Campbell posted a speed of 276mph and with it became the first and only person to set both land and speed records in the same year.
Prior to one of Donald’s record attempts, a journalist asked “Are you ever afraid, Donald?” to which he replied “Of course I’m afraid, every time I get into the Bluebird. Courage is not being fearless. Courage is overcoming and smashing through fear.”
The name Coniston has become synonymous with Donald Campbell’s speed records and his boat, the Bluebird K7. It seemed only fitting that one of our Coniston watches should honour the striking boat itself, and its part in these remarkable endeavours. Thus, the Coniston Bluebird was born. Taking its distinctive blue hue from the K7, the Bluebird’s central plateau and outer rehaut stand in contrast to the inset ring of lume which gives the Bluebird exceptional readability in both daylight and darker hours.
A pop of yellow in the form of the second hand and second markers, inspired by the yellow of the Bluebird’s badge and intake covers, add another element of interest to the already striking face. Polished hour and minute hands and applied indices tie together with the case, while giving another subtle nod to the metallic trim found on the K7. As the boat itself proudly sported the British flag, our logo and the words ‘Designed in Britain’ are unobtrusively featured on the dial in clean white, completing this most unique and distinctive of watches. The overall feel of the Coniston Bluebird evokes that bygone era of engineering prowess; thoughtfully designed, proudly British, and unwaveringly brave.
We believe the rear of a watch should be as spectacular as the front, so the Coniston flaunts its oscillating balance wheel with a large glass aperture. We use a hand-wound mechanical movement in the Coniston - the Miyota 8N33 - which was selected not only for its reliability but also its delicate and eye-catching decorations. Surrounding this visual spectacle are the words of Donald Campbell - a reminder of this great British man and his incredible courage.