Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss 45 Review

by Mar 21, 2021Backes & Strauss, Limited Edition


There are very few watch brands that have been around for over 200 years, but there is only one watch brand that can say they are “the world’s oldest diamond company”.

This is the case for Backes & Strauss and although one might expect a brand with that title to continue on a traditional (and potentially conservative) path, Backes & Strauss are doing quite the opposite, by pushing limits with design, colours and of course, the use of diamonds within their watches.

The release of the Piccadilly Earl of Strauss shows off their modern side, whilst still keeping close to home, by using their signature ideal cut diamonds in abundance.

The brand explains the concept behind the Picadilly Earl of Strauss and how they manage to keep moving with the times, whilst at the same time sticking close to their heritage:

In homage to Max Strauss, the Earl of Strauss pieces reflect the company’s co-founding fathers confidence and engaging nature. Max Strauss set out to become a precursor and a reference within the diamond industry, taking the company across the globe within no time at all. With the Ostrich trademark present on the balance wheel of this playfully sophisticated timepiece, not only do we remember the unique vision Max Strauss had, but it also serves as a reminder of the rich heritage and pioneering essence of Backes & Strauss.  From the enamelling of the colourful dial through the Ideal-cut diamonds delicately set on the bridge, to the Backes & Strauss signature Jewel in the Crown, these new Earl of Strauss timepieces are striking in their pioneering design. Set in titanium, these pieces represent a departure for the Backes & Strauss collection.

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss 45

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss 45

Face & case

At 45mm and with a brushed finish, the case is made from titanium and in a fairly unique design – the bezel is quite wide and the lugs are more of a triangular or tooth shape than how classic lugs usually appear.  

The case and bezel frame a bright blue (also available in a green finish), enamelled dial, which changes colour, depending on how the light hits it.  The dial has a fair bit going on in it; partly skeletonised, the apertures in the dial having chamfered and polished edges, which also catch the light and contrast against the blue.

Immediately inside the rehaut, small white minute markers circle the outside of the dial, with multiples of 5 marked in white numerals and the remaining single minute markers are thin white lines. 

The biggest aperture and feature on the dial, is that of the self winding rotor at 9 o’clock, which takes up more than a third of the area on the left side of the dial.  The rotor weight is in the outline shape of an ostrich, engraved and painted in black and white; and rotates with ease on pretty much any movement of the watch. The words “BACKES & STRAUSS” tightly hug the top edge, and “LONDON” on the bottom edge.

There are 2 other apertures with specific purpose; one situated between 1 and 2 o’clock, for the retrograde date function, the other at 5 o’clock for power reserve.  Both have small, polished, spear shaped hands in the centre to mark their relative function.  Date is read from a semi circular scale of odd numbers and lines for the even dates, power reserve can also be read from a semi-circular scale, this time with markers for empty and then each 25% is marked up to 100%.

Finally, there are 2 other apertures visible between the others, of different shapes, which are purely for aesthetics – a variety of the inner movement parts can be seen within them.

The hour and minute hands are large spear shapes and in polished steel, with super luminova filled centres.  The second hand is a thin, pointy, polished steel hand which is unusually short; in fact only as long as long as the minute hand. 

The crown is also a unique design.  In a conical shape with deep ridges, the crown is wider at the watch end, out to the point which features the brand’s signature “jewel in the crown”, a 0.09 carat ideal cut diamond.

Just above the crown at about 2 o’clock on the side of the case, there is a small push button, which is where the date can be set with a pointer tool.

Turn the watch over and a big surprise awaits – the screw down titanium case back, which features various engravings, including the brand, watch name and piece number; frames an exhibition window that shows off the part skeletonised main bridge, which is covered with 167  ideal cut, snow set diamonds.  Much of the movement beneath is visible around it.  

Various other colours and finishes can be seen in different locations on the movement side, adding to it’s allure.

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss Case Back

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss Case Back


Powered by a Swiss Made automatic mechanical movement by Franck Muller, featuring 34 rubies and micro rotor on the dial side.  Hours, minutes, retrograde date and power reserve functions are all visible on the dial.

Owners should expect a massive 120 hours power reserve, thanks to the double barrels.

As well as the various finishes on the construction of the movement, there are 167 ideal cut white diamonds, totalling 0.75cts that completely cover the main bridge.

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss Jewel in the Crown

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss Jewel in the Crown


The alligator leather strap is in the same tones of blue as the dial, with matching blue stitching.  The lining is a contrasting beige/light brown colour, with the brand logo stamped in it .

Fastened by a substantial stainless steel buckle and pin arrangement, again, brand’s name and ostrich logo are proudly engraved in full view.

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss Strap and Buckle

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss Strap and Buckle

Other stuff

Backes & Strauss have a great deal of history behind the brand and have been around for many more years than most independent watch brands.

Originally founded as Backes & Co in Germany, in 1789, by Georg Carl Backes , this was the year that he first registered as a goldsmith in Hanau; an important jewellery centre at the time.

By the early 1800s Georg Carl Backes was one of Hanau’s most wealthy and successful citizens, so he decided to send his twenty four year old son Johann Franz, to open a new branch of Backes & Co in London.   After Georg Carl’s death in 1819, his son continued trading and manufacturing diamonds and jewellery, separating the London operation from the German one and renaming it J.F. Backes and Co.  By this time, although J.F. Backes continued to trade diamonds, the company’s main business had become jewellery making. 

In 1856 Max Strauss  joined the London office and within fifteen years he was managing J.F. Backes and Co.  2 years later, the company started trading as Backes & Strauss.  It was at this point that the ostrich began to be used as a trademark on all Backes & Strauss pieces.  Strauss is actually the German word for ostrich (hopefully you learned something useful today!?).

Manufacturing started properly in 1877, but in 1892 the company’s activities were pivoted from manufacturing, to focus on the trade of diamonds and precious stones.  Backes & Strauss have since built a global reputation as one of the leading high jewellers and suppliers of the finest polished diamonds; specifically the polishing and cutting of ideal cut diamonds.

Going from master jeweller and diamond dealer to high end watchmaker was a big challenge, so rather than do everything in house, in 2007 Backes & Strauss decided to work with the Franck Muller Group to provide it’s watchmaking and horological expertise, to deliver the movements for Backes & Strauss watches. 

The 2 brands had previously worked on a project together prior and it had been apparent that Franck Muller shared the creative philosophy of combining tradition with modernity – it was a seemingly perfect partnership.

Today, the Backes & Strauss classic collection features three types of movements: manual and automatic mechanical calibres and Quartz movements.  The highest end references within the Backes & Strauss diamond watch ranges feature bespoke hand made movements.  

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss on the Wrist

Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss on the Wrist

Our verdict

When I first set eyes on the Piccadilly Earl of Strauss, I was a bit surprised.  I’m not sure whether that was a positive or negative surprise and not sure what I had really expected; or equally, why that was even the case – maybe it was because I opened it in the evening under bad light, or perhaps I was just in a grumpy mood!

In saying that, I brought it out again the next morning and positivity prevailed – had it somehow magically changed appearance overnight?  Was the lighting better?  Was it that I noticed all the details that I had missed on first opening?  Was it the shimmer of diamonds on the back?  Or….. was I just in a better mood?   

Off the wrist, it looks (and feels) like a big watch.  Bearing in mind it’s case diameter is the same size as a Panerai Luminor, once it’s on the wrist it looks much smaller.  Perhaps the smaller 35mm blue dial, in relation to the unusually wide bezel causes an optical illusion.  Being titanium, it’s actually feels a lot smaller and fairly light too, especially considering the extra weight the diamonds add!

At 15mm thick, it’s quite deep, but fighting with cuffs is not a problem, due to the soft edges and the fact at least 1mm in height is made up of the domed sapphire crystal on top.

The dial and contrasting features appeal to my eccentricities and there is clearly a lot of time gone into the aesthetics, not only with the colour shifting blue enamel, but the ostrich rotor and the other skeletonised areas that reveal just enough of the movement beneath to keep it interesting.  The only one potential negative point I could mention, is that the date is quite difficult to read at a glance of the scale.  The time is however not hard to read; the oversized spear hands make it a dawdle, plus blue lume in their centres help in darker conditions too.

Looking at the back is where it’s really at though.  That carpet of diamonds is just wonderful – it’s the owner’s private little secret and only they get to admire it (and I am certain that they will).  

Priced at £12,500 for international buyers (or £15,000 including UK VAT), it seems good value for money.  For this, owners will purchase a creatively designed watch, with a movement by Franck Muller and almost a carat of high quality ideal cut diamonds thrown in.  In addition, only 25 pieces are being made, so it is highly unlikely anyone else will be wearing one in the room.  

I am of the opinion that the colour and design of the Backes & Strauss Piccadilly Earl of Strauss will split people’s opinions right down the middle, but there is no denying the effort that has gone into making each little detail absolutely stunning.

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