Fossil hunter Mary Anning has watch named in her honour by new Yorkshire company

SHE’s the 19th century fossil hunter whose life story inspired a blockbuster movie starring Kate Winslet.

The Winton Watch Company has been founded by  Simon Hebb and Chris Holder
The Winton Watch Company has been founded by Simon Hebb and Chris Holder

Now self-taught palaeontologist Mary Anning has an unlikely claim to fame. A watch has been named in her honour by a Yorkshire company which is shining the spotlight on innovators who have been ignored for too long.

The founders of The Winton Watch Company used the extra time lockdown has afforded them to bring their idea of a British watch company to life.

The fact that neither Simon Hebb and Chris Holder had to travel during the pandemic gave them the time to develop their idea, which originated from a chance meeting on a train 10 years ago and was refined over the many hours of a regular commute from North Yorkshire to London.

Kate Winslet

The pair were inspired by British pioneers and adventurers who have changed the world without getting the recognition they deserve, including Alexander Winton, a British engineer who was a pioneer in the automotive industry in the US. In addition, the village of Winton, North Yorkshire, is near their homes.

The first two Winton models – the Anning and Swan – are also named after unsung British pioneers. Mary Anning’s critical role in the study of palaeontology in the early nineteenth century has only become clear in recent years, and Sunderland-born Joseph Swan was an early developer of lightbulbs and owner of the first home in the world to be illuminated by electricity.

Apart from its watchmaking partner in Switzerland, Winton has chosen to work with local companies in order to get its watches to market.

These included Happyleaves – a Yarm- based design agency, which has worked closely with the founders to develop the brand and collateral – and specialist printer Beyond Digital, based in Ripon.

“We’re both massive watch fans,” said Simon Hebb, co-founder of The Winton Watch Company. “We spotted a gap in the market for a British brand that could deliver high quality handmade watches at a reasonable price, and the extra time we’ve had as a result of the pandemic has given us the time to do exactly that.

"At the core of the Winton brand is doing things differently – and defying convention,” said Mr Holder, “As a result, the company is entirely self-funded, and, aside from our watchmakers in Switzerland, we’re keeping things local wherever possible.”

Kate Winslet starred in the recently released drama Ammonite, which is about the life and times of Mary Anning.

The Winton Watch Company, which is a business customer of Starling Bank, was founded by Mr Hebb and Mr Holder when Britain was in lockdown.

Mr Hebb said: “The idea for the Mary Anning model was partly inspired by Chris’s daughter who studied her at school."

He added: “Selling 1000 units a year is not an unreasonable aim and at these volumes we would have to recruit. Our ultimate aim is to be selling multiple thousands of units globally but it will take time to get there as we want this to be sustainable.”

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