Implausible stories pepper the history of watches, but how rare and joyous must it be for a watch enthusiast to discover that his family founded an admired British watch brand? And that it contributed a model to the Dirty Dozen? Street cred doesn’t come any better than that, and Don Cochrane is making up for not being more inquisitive in his youth about what also had an air of a family secret.
“I’ve always liked watches, even before I knew that much about our family connections,” says Cochrane. “My great-grandfather, Claude Lyons, started Vertex and then my grandfather and my uncle John joined the company in 1961. The factory closed in the 1970s, two months after I was born. There was always an undercurrent about it…
“My great-grandfather’s first watch company, which he started in 1912, was Dreadnought. Vertex Watches was founded in about 1916. I grew up with stories about him, but not particularly positive ones,” Cochrane says, noting that most of the memories of his relatives were of the period of the company winding down.
Given the timing, one’s first reaction is to guess that the quartz crisis was to blame. “It was a bit of that but it was also down to poor marketing, not spending any money on advertising, other brands coming in with more pro-active approaches to the market and that sort of thing.” As Cochrane’s background includes journalism, advertising, brand-creation, marketing and related matters and, having worked with Aston Martin and Tesla, he’s understandably a bit disappointed not just on a family level, but a professional one, too.