After sleeping for almost a century, the British watch industry has finally woken up and championing its timely revival are the energetic founders of Bremont. We speak to Giles English about aviation, adventure and his company’s commitment to manufacturing watches on home turf.
They say that the harder you work, the luckier you get, so the English brothers must be the hardest-working duo in town. Lady Luck ensured Nick English survived a major plane crash in 1995, in which his father tragically died, and a couple of years later, because of bad weather, Nick and brother Giles had to make a forced, and successful, landing in the fields of French farmer and aviation enthusiast Monsieur Bremont. From these unusual circumstances their brand was born. The flying-obsessed brothers decided there and then to spend the rest of their lives producing pilot’s watches (and Giles has since survived another crash).
Bremont was founded in 2002 and, after five years of development, the first collection was launched. Despite the fact that, during the 17th and 18th centuries, we Brits were fundamental to time-keeping advancements, by the 21st century, Britain’s once-enviable watch industry had all but fizzled out. This made the English brothers’ goal – to reinvigorate it – all the more ambitious. When we speak to Giles, he admits that “it’s mad for us to be building anything in the UK, really! The investment is far greater. In the short term it hurts.” However, what matters more is the brand still existing in a century. “How do we differentiate Bremont from Swiss watch companies? It was always about being as British as we could be.”
So in 2013, a custom-built HQ opened in Henley-on-Thames, which houses a dozen watchmakers and four apprentices, bringing the process of finishing movements and final watch assembly ‘in-house’. This, Giles says proudly, along with holding the first prototype and selling the first watch, was a “big milestone”. For the first time in five decades, Britain is designing and assembling its own mechanical watches. Bremont’s annual tally of 8,000 pieces may be dwarfed by the phenomenal Swiss output but it’s a significant, and important, start.
The watches are classic, durable, smart and understated and their owners range from people “who’ve been given the watches for their 21st right up to those in their 80s… You can wear a Bremont with a suit to your first job, at weekends or on holiday.” The team cares about quality over quick wins, mindful that “if you’re spending money on a watch, you want something that’s well-made so it will last, and something that will hold its value. We set out not to follow trends but to build something that you will still be proud to wear in 20 years’ time.”
Anyone who has met them will confirm that Nick and Giles are genuinely decent, charismatic and totally passionate about what they do, and this gives Bremont a different feel to a big global brand.
Customers are invited into our family when they buy one of our watches… If you make a brand like ours too corporate it loses its DNA. It needs to have soul
The Bremont ‘family’, headed up by Nick and Giles, includes the skilled watchmakers and craftsmen, and a roster of ridiculously talented, globally renowned ambassadors, such as climber Kenton Cool, sailor Hannah White, polar explorer Ben Saunders and Jake Meyer – the youngest man to have climbed the highest mountain on each continent.
We’re looking forward to seeing what team Bremont, flying the flag for British watchmaking with typically English gusto, does next.