Bremont watches save lives. The company partners with elite soldiers in the British SAS, the Williams Formula 1 Team, Jaguar and several of the world’s extreme adventurers. We met up with the company on site in the English town of Henley, and can now proudly explain why their watches are worth the price of a used car.
Text: Mikael Vallin
We’re sitting at the Bremont Watch Company in Henley-on-Thames. Elite soldier Jason Fox enters the room with a calm look on his face. Imagine Daniel Craig as James Bond, but for real. Short, slightly straggly hair. A face that looks like it’s carved from stone and upper arms as thick as tree trunks. He speaks slowly and in a measured way about a hostage drama in Afghanistan, during which his team, members of the British Special Air Service (SAS), rescued an American journalist. A situation in which knowing the exact time is the difference between success and failure. Your wristwatch is a tool that is a crucial factor. Let’s take a look back in time now to explain the background to why watches can be so important.
BREMONT - VISIONARIES
The Bremont Watch Company is relatively young in the context of the wider watch industry. Its founders, brothers Nick and Giles English, are both experienced pilots and passionate enthusiasts for anything to do with mechanical engineering. Bremont doesn’t just symbolise their passion, but also a desire to preserve British craftsmanship and reinvigorate a tradition that was slowly dying out in a world increasingly moving towards cheap manufacturing and short-term consumption. In the early 1990s, they decided to revive the tradition of world-leading wristwatches, manufactured in Great Britain. Nick had just been involved in an airplane crash that left him with 30 broken bones and very nearly cost him his life. The brothers agreed that life is too short not to fully focus on the very best in terms of quality and performance.
We arrive at Bremont and are greeted by The Wing, the building that houses both the watch factory and an on-site boutique where customers can examine the range up close and get a rare glimpse into the heart of production. The name of the building says it all. It has the sleek contours of the cross-section of an aircraft wing. Everything within the walls exudes the history of flight and technology, but also the childhood and background of founders Nick and Giles. The tables and chairs have been made from parts of jet engines. The entrance boasts an F1 car from Williams and an E-type Jaguar. Both close partners of the company.
Everyone working at Bremont is passionately committed to the company, and can talk enthusiastically for hours about their own special part of the business. Rob Gough, sales director for the company, greets us when we arrive. He is an inveterate watch collector with no fewer than 2,000 or so watches in his collection, and he gives us a breathtaking tour of the company. Everyone we speak to has an unusual gleam in their eyes when they start telling us about what they are working on in production or the sales chain. Companies usually talk about everyone being a member of the family. That’s not something they say at Bremont. But it shines through so clearly in everything we see and hear during our visit.
BREMONT’S INHOUSE MOVEMENTS
Bremont is one of the few watchmakers in the world to manufacture its own movements. Even many of the biggest and most well-known names in the industry still use movements manufactured by ETA, which is owned by the Swatch group. Developing and manufacturing your own movements is extremely costly and requires a great deal of expertise, which is another factor that determines the price of watches at this level. All of Bremont’s movements are chronometer-certified in accordance with COSC or ISO, and each watch model is manufactured in very limited numbers. The goal is for a watchmaker to assemble two to three watches per day, under the right conditions.
50 MINUTES PER CASE
The company has a mechanical watch manufacturing centre that is quite unique in the UK, and a workforce that manages it with the same passion and interest as the founders of the company. The cases for the watches are cut from a single piece of stainless steel, lugs and all. It takes about 20 minutes to cut out a single case. The watches in the Martin-Baker range, a manufacturer of fighter ejection seat seats, have cases requiring a level of detail that means it takes 50 minutes to cut out each individual case.
GMT - GREENWICH MEAN TIME
Much of the watch industry was born in England, with the need to create precision instruments for nautical navigation. During the 18th century, the British Parliament passed an act, “The Longitude Act”, which offered a financial reward for anyone who could solve the problem of how to determine longitude when navigating at sea. Having the exact time, combined with navigation by the stars, made it possible to triangulate precisely what longitude you were at. The eventual solution saved the lives of over 2,000 sailors a year, allowing them to safely reach their destination. “It’s called Greenwich Mean Time, not Geneva Mean Time,” laughs Rob.
Investing in a timepiece from a brand like Bremont is about so much more than just buying a watch. It’s about a long-term sustainable purchase that will last for generations. It becomes part of your style and wardrobe, as well as your whole personality. It says something about who you are, what you stand for, and how you view the world in terms of quality, aesthetics and values.
BREMONT AND 14 PEAKS
Bremont’s watches for specialist military units and adventurers around the world are mirrored in the brand’s commercial models. As a perfect example, Care of Carl is one of the few retailers that can proudly present the Project Possible Special Edition GMT 43mm Blue Dial. It all started in 2019, when Nirmal “Nims” Purja decided to take on The Bremont Project Possible. His goal was to climb the world’s 14 highest mountains, all over 8,000 metres, in less than seven months. The challenge was documented and can now also be seen in Netflix’s hit documentary 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible
. Purja completed the challenge with time to spare, managing to break six existing records along the way. The watch is a limited edition of 300, with a small number being held by us at Care of Carl. Purja’s historic achievement, and the Project Possible watch as part of it, literally embody Care of Carl’s spirit of Classics of Tomorrow. Sustainable values that will only increase over time.
We sit down with Giles English in one of Bremont’s conference rooms, where the view through the window is like something from a classic English novel: a rolling green field with a flock of geese slowly settling down on a cricket pitch. With a humble smile, Giles settles into the lowest chair in the room and makes a dry English humorous comment about it. His smile and personality immediately fill the room. A serenity and a glow that is palpable. He is casually dressed in an light-blue English-style shirt and blazer, chinos and English-made sneakers. The discussion ranges over everything from how it took Giles and Nick forty attempts before they got the right creamy yellow shade for the numerals on the P51 watches so that they mimic aged tritium luminova, to more industry-relevant topics, such as how Bremont is the first English watchmaker since Smith died about 50 years ago. Certainly if you disregard small-scale independent enthusiasts in the field.
Giles himself wears different watches more or less every day to get a sense of their own products. At the same time, he emphasises, in a very pithy, inspiring summary, how Bremont wants to move away from the wear-and-throw-away society of today: “A watch should last a lifetime, and then be handed down to future generations.” Bremont is a supplier of watches to the British Ministry Of Defence, and works closely with many military units.
During the evening, Bremont receives a visit from former SAS soldier and lecturer Jason Fox. He looks back a on a rescue mission he was involved in during his time with the Special Air Service, one of the world’s leading elite forces. The room is filled with people with obvious links to the military, the aviation and watch industries, and journalists. We take in the atmosphere and all our impressions from the day. Bremont has given us an insight into the watch industry that has given us entirely new impressions and insights into the value of premium watches. We feel a strong desire to wear one of these wonderful wristwatches ourselves one day, and deliberate over the issue of funding over time. On the taxi journey to Reading and the train on to Paddington, we agree that this is the start of a very exciting journey, hand in hand with Bremont.
OUR FAVOURITES FROM BREMONT