Watch firm decides it's time to pay homage to the region

A new luxury watch brand has launched its first model, inspired by Cragside founder William Armstrong.

Friday, 12th October 2018, 2:00 pm
Lee Smith

Northwind, based in North Shields, is the brainchild of Gateshead-born businessman Lee Smith, a watch-aficionado who wanted to create a watch brand that celebrates the North East’s rich academic and industrial heritage.

After years of running a specialist watch business importing exclusive brands from Russia, USA, Switzerland and Germany, Lee spotted a gap in the market for something that celebrated his own region.

The Armstrong Automatic watch.

He said: “I found it fascinating that lots of countries and cultures tell their stories through their timepieces.

“After importing watches like the Sturmanskie Gagarin (worn by the first man in space) or the Vostok Komandirskie (issued to Russian servicemen and women), I thought that I could do something that would show off the North East to the rest of the world.

“I wanted to show what we’ve achieved through our hard work. I want to pay homage to the people who were at the forefront of industry, invention and academic study instead of the populist view of a hedonistic North East.

“From the first train and first electric light bulb to the Venerable Bede or the scholarly monks of Lindisfarne – industry, innovation and the constant pursuit of knowledge have defined this area.

“I want Northwind to illustrate that and be a brand for North East men who align themselves with these values. I hope that my brand brings something to the creative tapestry of this region. Something that people can wear, be proud of and enjoy.”

Northwind’s first limited-edition piece, the Armstrong Automatic (priced £295), is inspired by William Armstrong, the renowned Victorian inventor, industrialist and philanthropist who built Rothbury’s Cragside, the world’s first house to be lit by hydroelectricity.

Lee’s watch design references the North’s industrial heritage with a heavy duty and rugged aesthetic, powered by a mechanical movement. The stainless steel is complemented by a leather strap and carry case, suggestive of the role the beautiful and harsh landscape has played in the North’s history.

For details and to buy the Armstrong Automatic, visit