Nestled in the bustling and artistic market town of Ludlow, tucked away in one of its narrow medieval lanes is the wonderful gem of a shop “Black Bough“. Setup by Adam Withington and Alex Barter in March 2011 and taking its name and inspiration from a Ezra Pound poem, the philosophy behind the shop is seeing beauty in everyday things.
Having had a chance to visit Ludlow and the shop I can say that it fulfills this philosophy immeasurably.
The Ezra Pound poem, that inspired both the name and philosophy of the shop
The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough.
The main window watch display of Black Bough
As to be expected I was drawn into this shop by the display of vintage watches in the window, Omega, Tissot and Longines all caught my eye and it would have been rude to not at least give them a glance. But once inside you are greeted with a wonderfully curated collection of art, design, handmade craft pieces, books, clothing, vintage watches and watch accessories. On the face of it you would not necessarily think this eclectic mix would work, especially given the shop’s diminutive size, but here the real skill shines through in the presentation and selection of pieces.
Black Bough inside and out
Be it the beautiful ceramics from Brickett Davda of Brighton to the homemade mosaics of Catherine Parkinson, or maybe the vintage curio of period coloured bottles, they all sit side by side tastefully displayed and catch the eye. This before you have even made your way to the main event of the store, the vintage watches (clearly you could be in the store for a number of reasons but I shall assume that if you are reading this blog your interest is watches).
The main watch display inside the store
Do not expect to be awash in vintage horology, but what you will find has been hand picked and immaculately restored and tested, when I was there approximately 20 watches were on display (and as of writing there are 18 listed on their website). They were all reasonably priced as well with the most expensive being just £1,885 for a Steel Rolex Oyster Precision Ref. 6426 (c.1982). The Rolex in question (and this is not dissimilar to all the other watches) had been serviced (by a Rolex certified watchmaker) wonderfully polished, restored and pressure tested to 100m. Excellent for a vintage watch from any source.
There are also a small but well chosen (a common theme of Black Bough) selection of accessories to accompany your watch purchase, there are high quality swiss watch tools by Bergeon (if you are using any other tool to remove your spring bars stop now and buy a Bergeon one, you will thank me later), winders by Rapport and Barrington, loupes, watch wraps, straps and a small selection of books, to name just a few.
This attention to detail and hand picking of watches may come as little surprise to those who know of Alex Barter. Alex has had a long and experienced career at Sotheby’s auctioneers, starting in the mid 1990’s , culminating in becoming the Deputy Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s watch department. He is now retained as a consultant to both Sotheby’s and various art companies.
It would be unfair to sing the praises of Alex without mentioning Adam, there are two sides to this emporium of art and watches are just one part. Adam Withington makes and sells a range of products for Black Bough and has previously run the Great Western Studios in London, an institution that provided work-space for over 100 artists, designers and craftspeople.
If you are in Ludlow or even passing close by, I implore you to visit, it will be worth a trip and I doubt you will leave empty handed. As for me as much as I wished I had left with the Oyster I was able to settle with a Design Museum book “The Fifty Watches That Changed The World” wrapped in matching tissue paper and sealed with gold circles – a further attention to detail that separates this store from the rest on your high street. If you cannot visit then explore the website, it is as meticulously crafted as the physical store and equally as tempting.
The fruits of my trip and an enjoyable read
If you can forgive the quality of the pictures, these were shot on a phone rather than my dedicated camera.