John McGonigle Debuts with the Oileán H-B1

Powered by a finely-decorated Valjoux 88.

Hailing from Ireland’s most famous watchmaking family, John McGonigle is best known for being one half of the two brothers behind McGonigle Watches (and another brother is the chief instructor at the world-class watch school in Cambodia).

Having decided to strike out on his own last year – an amicable parting resulting from logistical challenges of working with his brother who is based in Switzerland – Mr McGonigle has just launched his own brand, Oileán, Gaelic for “island”, a nod to his home of Ireland. Pronounced “ill-awn”, the brand is making its debut with the Oileán H-B1, a triple-calendar chronograph powered by a new-old-stock Valjoux 88 movement.

John McGonigle

Initial thoughts

Well regarded by collectors and peers, Mr McGonigle’s first watch under his new brand has a vintage movement inside a titanium case. It’s a manageable 40 mm in diameter, but slightly thick at 14.2 mm high, an inevitable consequence of the Valjoux 88.

While the Valjoux 88 is not novel – it was widely used in the past – the calibre has been reworked a high standard. That includes several bridges and steel parts made from scratch, as well as hand finishing of all components. Because it is a triple-calendar chronograph

“I’ve tried to apply the same rigour to this watch as I used to for the high complications I worked on in the past,” says Mr McGonigle. Going by Mr McGonigle’s past work it is no doubt done very well.

The look is modern – the dial is smoked sapphire for instance – but also slightly generic. That said, it has enough details and quality to keep it interesting.

The price is equivalent to about US$25,000, which is fair relative to the quality of the reworking and finishing of the movement. Mr McGonigle is likely to develop a proprietary calibre for his next creation, so stayed tuned.

Valjoux remade

From the same family of movements as the more-common Valjoux 22 and 72, the Valjoux 88 was used by a variety of brands, including Heuer, Breitling, and Minerva. In the past, the Valjoux was typically plainly finished and largely functional.

Mr McGonigle has dressed it up in haute horlogerie fashion. “All components are bevelled and polished by hand, the steelwork is flat grained on a shellac stone,” says Mr McGonigle, “While the screws are slotted, bevelled and flat polished on a tin block with diamond paste.”

The chronograph bridge is one of the part produced by Mr McGonigle, and it’s been open-worked to show off the high level of finishing – it has six bevelled, sharp inward corners on its inner edge. Similarly, all of the chronograph levels are straight grained on top, with mirror-polished bevels on their edges.

The only bit that looks out of place is the stock Trivois regulator; a slightly fancier regulator would have been more visually coherent, even if it didn’t offer any functional advantages.

Notice the polished, bevelled edges on the barrel bridge below the chronograph bridge

The mirror-polished reset cam for the chronograph



Key facts and price

Oileán H-B1

Case diameter: 40 mm
Height: 14.2 mm
Material: Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance:
 30 m

Movement: Valjoux 88
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, and triple calendar with moon phase
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wound
Power reserve: 40 hours

Strap: Leather with titanium pin buckle

Limited edition: Eight pieces produced a year
 Direct from Oileán
Price: €23,500 before taxes

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