Bulang Loves…Scurfa Watches
Our ‘Bulang Loves’ series is our opportunity to tell you about the things that we love and the people that inspire us.
This time we are taking a look into the world of our friend and passionate Rolex and Tudor collector Paul Scurfield; owner and founder of Scurfa Watches. Paul is a regular over on the Vintage Rolex Forum and has worked as a commercial deepsea diver for over 30 years.
I caught up with Paul recently to discuss his career, love of watches and what led to him starting his own watch brand.
Ross Povey (RP): Paul, you obviously love water and watches. Tell us how it all started.
Paul Scurfield (PS): When I was 12 my uncle took me to the local scuba diving club and I was hooked, going underwater was like visiting another planet and still feels like that today, 30 years later. I developed an interest in watches generally, but especially Rolex diving watches and found out if you worked for a diving company called Comex you could get the watches for free! I then discovered that the Comex diving vessels came to my hometown for maintenance and so I got the chance to see them. I enrolled on a commercial diving course as soon as I was 18.
Paul aged 18 on the commercial diving course
RP: So you loved Rolex watches early on. Tell us about starting to collect them.
PS: As the years rolled on I got to have loads of different diving watches, mainly Rolex and Tudor, that I bought from other divers that I worked with or came into contact with through the diving scene. I remember hearing about an army and navy surplus store with a barrel full of Rolex Mil Subs the owner had bought from military auctions; I’m still waiting for my mate to bring me one for £150!
RP: Tell us more about some of the watches you came across in the diving world.
PS: In 2004/5 any diving vessel in the north sea was predominantly manned by ex-British Navy and Comex divers, some of whom were still diving or were Supervisors or Managers. 80% of these guys had either Comex watches, Rolex Mil Subs, Red writing Subs, Double Reds or Rare Rolex models awarded for diving rescues and watches used in deep water diving trials. As the internet was getting more widely used and bringing together watch collectors and dealers and information about certain models, the watch market went a bit crazy. Vintage Rolex diving watches were hitting record prices at auction and word in the diving industry was speading.
RP: So everybody wanted to sell their watches?
PS: Yes, a lot of the guys wanted to cash in (including me) and I helped them! Most of the watches were in poor condition and kept horrendous time as they were never serviced and I could help with this as I had been restoring vintage Rolex watches for myself and had built up some good contacts worldwide and have a good friend who is a Rolex and Omega Trained watchmaker for servicing and repairs.
RP: So what watches were you all using for work?
PS: Slowly but surely all the lads had sold off their watches and were looking for alternative work watches, at first we all got the watches from Divex the diving equipment/ spare parts company. They started off at £34 and every year got more expensive and then VAT started getting added and before you know it they were £85!
RP: Is that why you began thinking about creating your own watch brand?
PS: Indeed! I started getting ideas about getting some made myself in about 2006/7. I contacted the Hong Kong trade council and they gave me a list of watch manufactures and I started contacting them in my spare time offshore. I got the same reply from all of them; we have diving watches already designed and you can have your company logo printed on and the minimum order is 500! I was told that if I wanted to manufacture my own designs I had to buy in big big orders. Actually, the only company that would let me order 200 was the same company who made the Divex watches we already had!
RP: You obviously persevered though…I’m wearing my Diver 1 today. How did you make it happen?
PS: Well I put my idea on hold until 2012 when I mentioned it to a contact I had in Hong Kong and had been working with since 2002. He was involved in the supply of watch parts to large Swiss manufacturers who would assemble the watches in Switzerland. He told me it could be done and to get some ideas together and send them over to him. I only had to order 100 and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, the watch had to have large visible hands and markers, with superluminova lume if possible, as we like to check the time in our bunks without turning on the lights. I chose the name Scurfa because it was my nickname and my username on ebay and watch forums.
RP: Was this the birth of the Diver 1?
PS: Yes it was. In fact, the Diver One (silicon model) was going to be the only watch and started life at 44mm, but that was too big and the lads at work said they would end up not wearing it just like the Panerai watches they had bought! I tried 43mm and it was still too big so 42mm was the size we settled on. I wanted the crown guards to pretty much cover the crown for protection and I wanted a sapphire crystal for toughness. The shape of the case was my design and had to be manufactured from scratch, as was the case back and bezel. I designed the hands as I wanted them to look like those in the vintage 1019 Rolex Milgauss; large and visible. I went for the 200m depth rating as I had never dived past that. Also, from a nostalgic point of view, a lot of my favourite vintage diving watches were rated to 200m!
RP: So the Diver 1 was born!
PS: Nearly! As the watch parts were being made by different companies and as the order was tiny I waited ages for the assembly shop to finish but I was quite surprised at what I got and asked for more but only smaller at 40mm. I got a sample and that was the Diver One Stainless Steel with yellow hands. I was absolutely delighted by it when I saw the sample and so I ordered the same watch in black PVD but on a nato/zulu strap as I knew a black bracelet would wear in time. On the black watch I also included orange hands and ordered without seeing a sample, as I knew it would look good!
RP: Great story! And so you and the guys started wearing these watches for work?
PS: Yes. I’ve got some good video footage of me diving wearing the original Silicon sample (its on my website). The lads I worked with bought most of the watches and it was a good feeling seeing everyone wearing them both in and out of work.
RP: So was the intention originally to just get some made up for your mates to buy and use?
PS: At first yes. The ship I work on, however, had some planned maintenance at the beginning of 2013 and I had some watches left over that hadn’t been bought by the lads. I have a friend who designs websites and so he created my site, which featured my vidoes of the watches in use and I took some (rubbish) photos of them. I’d been following the OceanicTime Blog for some time, so contacted Lex – the owner – for some help with text for the site. We launched at the end of January 2013 and began selling the watches online.
RP: So what’s next for Scurfa watches?
PS: Well, I have recently launched the new improved Diver 1. The watch has a new bezel to house the thick ceramic insert, a new mid case to accommodate the bigger bezel and an improved case back. I have also taken the opportunity to have the crown engraved with the D1 logo. I decided to keep using with the Ronda 515 Power Tech movement as it ahs proven to be a great time keeper.
RP: Thanks so much Paul it’s been great catching up with you and I look forward to seeing what your passionate love for watches will inspire next in the Scurfa line!
PS: Well all the ideas come to me when I’m in saturation at work as you can have a lot of down time. I have a lot of designs that I’m planning for future watches. My main aim is to keep the business ticking over at a manageable level. I get emails and offers everyday from many shops and retailers wanting to stock Scurfa watches. I don’t want to go down that road just yet though; I only want to sell as many as me and my wife (when I’m away) can handle!
And that is why we love Scurfa watches. Fuelled by his passion for diving and diving watches, Paul has turned this love into a small family business that he is dedicated to – delivering affordable watches that can withstand the pressure of commercial deep sea diving. One thing is for sure, we always pack a Scurfa for the beach or the pool…it might not be as hardcore as the bottom of the north sea, but we know our Scurfa’s won’t let us down!