October 27, 2020 9 min read
Spring 2019 found me sitting in the coffee area in Geckota’s offices while some of my watches were being used for a ZULUDIVER Sailcloth photoshoot. Those wonderful images of my Explorer II still grace the WatchGecko website. I was chatting with Jon Quinn, Ben Adams, and Tim Vaux about the most popular watches for Special Forces use which prompted an obvious question; what watch did I feel best represented the world of secret work in the shadows and Special Operations?
I presented them with a few options ranging in extremes from a Casio to a Rolex but heavily caveated the response by admitting that I had yet to find what I would regard as the perfect Operational watch. Ben thought for a moment and said: “why don’t we design one?” It was a light bulb moment and there followed days of intense conversation. A new Geckota project was born, to create a watch that perfectly reflected the subdued tones inspired by undercover work and could equally be strapped to the wrist of a Navy SEAL. We were clear from the onset that the watch could not be a gimmick, it had to be a robust watch with a reduced signature, hostile environment finish and with real operational viability but most important it also had to appeal to a wide demographic of civilian buyers with a lean towards the outdoor life and adventure.
Fast forward and the team have been through a year of painstaking design changes and production prototypes, all juggled around Covid-19. Now in October 2020, we find ourselves proudly looking at the first 100 production units of the new Sierra Zero One Phalanx watch by Geckota. 50 in Satin silver and 50 in PVD Black.
The watch name begins with a nod to the model it evolved from. The original S-01, now referred to in the NATO phonetic alphabet as Sierra Zero One. And the new model name is synonymous with an ancient military manoeuvre. Historically a Phalanx was an impenetrable block of spears deployed by legendary Greek Hoplite warriors and this formation survived into the gunpowder era with a wall of muskets serving the same function. Both manoeuvres representing strength, unity and an ability to face all adverse situations.
It was very important to retain key Geckota DNA in the new watch and we made a conscious choice to base the model on the S-01 300m Diver. This was a sound platform to begin a design and it is always easier to start with a proven template rather than a blank screen. Key to the use of the S-01 concept was the offset crown, at the number 4 on the dial. This is a huge asset to watches where the user needs to wear gloves or is being subjected to tough physical activity.
Be it climbing a mountain or holding a rifle the principle is the same. Traditional watch design arrangement means that the crown can press hard into the top of your left hand. It can be uncomfortable, but the offset crown eliminates this problem. As the design evolved exciting technical specifications emerged and were skilfully integrated into the new watch. Each represented something the team felt was key to the ethos of the new platform. The Phalanx became a watch designed without compromise and the creative process did not stop until we could all sit back at a mutually moment and say – this could be the perfect operational watch!
Design specifications included a suppressed signature to the dial and case with subdued finish and non-reflective accents. A decimal time ring for unparalleled accuracy and an extra-long second hand to read this dial. Physical vapour deposition (PVD) hostile environment coating mirroring the finish of modern military equipment. Double anti-reflective scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass. 300m water resistance.
A unique bezel with a 20-minute timer. Vintage lume sword hands paying homage to great British military watches of the past. Dual green and blue luminescence colours for accurate bezel use at night and finally a newly engraved case back and logo with individual serial numbers prefixed by ‘SF’.
Behind the scenes on filming day for the Phalanx video - Image Credit: Geckota
Although Phalanx is a divergence for Geckota as a watch manufacturer there are strong links in the sister brand ZULUDIVER with their James Bond-inspired NATO straps. Naturally one of these NATOs will be available as an option with both Phalanx watches for anyone wanting to create that perfect spy craft look.
For the team, a major factor with both Phalanx designs was the versatility of these contemporary watches. Depending on strap choice they can be worn smartly for an evening and then instantly be redeployed as your next dependable partner in adventure as you explore the world. It is a watch for all seasons, all events, all conditions and with the inspiration of the world of Special Operations, it is a watch that will inspire confidence in any scenario.
It is September 2020 and the first one hundred models of Geckota’s new Phalanx watch are complete. Part of the marketing strategy for the new creation was to make two high-quality movies in support of the launch campaign. Many weeks before cameras began rolling considerable preparation went into location scouting, character development and outfits and storyboarding of the films, right down to individual scenes and camera angles.
The subdued tones of the Phalanx have been inspired by equipment requirements of Special Operations units, with the final design balancing contemporary styling and the demands of a watch which will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts. As a visual representation of these concepts the Phalanx Team created a film theme which would maximise the potential of the watch and deliver a message in less than two minutes of footage. The principle conduit of the story was a single character, named the Walker, a confident outdoor explorer, who undertakes a hike through dramatic rocks to reach a peaceful forest clearing where he could reflect on a previous life in an unnamed Special Forces unit. Our aim was to capture a sense of journey in the film, with a destination goal, suggesting that the walker is always accompanied by a reliable partner, his Geckota Phalanx watch.
On the 28th September, the Geckota film and photography team arrived in the Derbyshire Dales where ideal locations had been found thanks to local knowledge. The amount of preparation undertaken meant that work could begin immediately on what was planned to be a tight two-day shooting schedule. Day one began with a 1-hour whistle-stop tour of all the pre-selected locations. This was essential prior to filming as the visiting team had not seen the area first-hand. The dramatic height of the rocks, the River Derwent and the beautiful forests of the Dales exceeded expectations and proved to be perfect locations. A decision was made that due to fluctuating light and clouds, and based on our critical scene list, the film should be shot out of sequence and re-edited later. What we could not risk was imagination running riot and at the end of day two realising we had missed a key scene, so the shot-list was important.
The filming itself was a smooth, collaborative, process as shots were systematically rehearsed and completed in minimal takes. Some locations previously thought suitable were dropped and others received more film time due to the variety of colours and textures they offered. There were a few precarious moments, undertaken in the name of art, on 300-million-year-old crags as the principle camera operator bravely filmed close to sheer cliff edges while looking through a viewfinder at an equally nervous walker.
By the end of day one, as light was fading, we had successfully shot hours of dramatic footage and taken hundreds of professional still images. The wide vista landscape scenes were in the bag as was the interview section for a second non-cinematic film, but work was certainly not over for the day. We had always planned a night shoot for the Special Forces element of the film, and this was scheduled to begin at 2000hrs after a much-needed visit to the village pub for dinner and discussion. Fortified by local cuisine and ale the cameras once again rolled in a private location where fires could be safely lit, outfits changed, and deactivated weapons deployed. The walker became the Operator, introducing a wholly new side to his character. Here we could begin to capture the past life he would reflect on while in the peace of the forest.
On cue, the British weather decided that the night scenes would look far more dramatic in rain, but the Phalanx Team were a stoic bunch and shrugged it off. Thankfully our 4K capable SONY camera and RØDE microphone were waterproof. In the following three hours of filming a flint fire-flash was used to start a birch bark fire in a classic bushcraft scene, large flames were lit in a fire pit to provide dynamic flickering orange light and the green and blue luminescence of the Phalanx shone brilliantly. We wrapped at 2300hrs and after equipment was checked and batteries hooked up for charging the team retired for much-needed rest.
An 0800hrs breakfast on day two was a valuable planning session and the excitement with the first day’s results was palpable. One member of the team confessed to not sleeping till 4am – so excited was he to review footage and images. By 0900hrs we were again on the road, car packed with equipment ready to shoot the second batch of walker shots. These were the woodland scenes. The area selected proved to have all the right qualities and reflected how beautiful British woodland can be with a myriad of colours and dappled light giving an ethereal atmosphere. By midday, we realised that we had completed the important shot list which was a good feeling so with time on our hands, and before the team had to travel back to Geckota HQ, we filmed a large number of stills, woodland B-roll shots and sound effects which would be essential for later editing into the primary footage.
When the Tewkesbury element of the Phalanx Team finally headed for home there was a real sense of satisfaction at the results of 48 hours of hard work. Of course, for the Geckota editing team the work was just beginning. In the days that followed hours were spent painstakingly splicing shots together for perfect timing, slowing footage down for dramatic effect and selecting the vital music soundtrack. Throughout all this process behind-the-scenes shots were taken, and some are included here as a record of the work. The filming of this video was a wonderfully creative process, worthy of the time spent creating the watch itself, and the final cut does so much to enhance the lore of the Phalanx.
Behind the scenes on filming day for the Phalanx video - Image Credit: Geckota
Sierra Zero One Phalanx, only by Geckota.
About the Author: Richard Brown
About the Author: Richard Brown
I truly believe one of the best partners in exploration and adventure is a fine watch. Over 30 years of collecting, my fascination with the technical capabilities of both vintage and modern timepieces has never abated and it is a privilege to be able to share this passion through writing.More Articles by Richard Brown