This weekend at JCK I had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael Pearson and Nick English of Bremont watch fame to discuss upcoming watches, in house movements, and the future of English watchmaking. They were, as always, a joy to work with and their passion for watches and their brand was remarkable. All the questions used were submitted by users on the forums. Bremont Interview
What is the status of the Bremont in house movement? What will make the movement special? What will the price be and when will it be available?
The Holy Grail for us is to produce in house movements. Two ways to do it. A limited run of movements which you’re putting a lot of work into. The other version is producing a workhorse movement.
The new movement is totally designed in the UK, a lot is made in Britain, but some parts are still Swiss sourced. The goal is to do everything in the UK. We should get to that stage three years from now. That’s the goal. Later this year we’ll have the first in house movement which will be very Bremont. This is the first step. The limited editions edition gets us closer to in house watches and to being more British.
Wait till July 23rd. It’s a three hander.
What challenges did Bremont face in establishing watch manufacturing in England?
It was very difficult. It’s not a walk in the park. Two things: You have to have the right people--which we have. We have several guys with decades of experience. Having their input was essential. We have some incredible British movement designers returning from work in Switzerland. Without that enthusiasm for British watchmaking we wouldn’t be able to do this. Machinery is the second thing. How much do you want to spend on tooling. A lot of the [Bremont’s] money is being reinvested into machinery.
What are the plans for ETA movements within Bremont going forward?
The initial step is the in house movement, possibly a GMT, and a workhorse movement. Of course ETA movements will exist alongside our in house movements, but the goal in the long term is to become 100% British made.
Your fans love the new Terra Nova, but several people have asked if Bremont plans on making GMT watches in the future with an independent hour hand?
I think that it’s just a different way of doing it. Look at what’s available out there. From our perspective it is a very robust movement. These are for the military and these are very reliable, tested movements. We’re giving a watch at a particular price point that’s not silly. The movements are as good as we can get, and what we do is protect them as well as possible. We’re very proud of that. We want to produce a watch that’s the best it can be for the price it is. I can say hand in heart that it’s worth the money. Very robust, time tested. It’s also very easy to operate.
How hard was it to get people in Hong Kong, a place notorious for brand consciousness, to notice you and what was the drive to establish a boutique there?
I think that the markets are changing quite a lot in Asia. In the past it was all about two or three brands that they all wanted. They’ve become far more informed, they do a lot of research, they figure out what they like. A lot of the Bremont brand is grown on the internet and is very global. Hong Kong also has a huge expat community with a British influence. The British influence over HK is huge. Brits are away from home and they want the British aspect. We’ve got a boutique that takes explorers, Bremont ambassadors, to talk to the locals. The locals love it because it brings English culture.
Hong Kong and Chinese consumers in general are very savvy and they very quickly knew the essence of the brand. When they get it the word spread that it’s genuine and special. We put it in there for the right reason, so they could see it for themselves.
People know what they like and they see that we’re genuine and they want something special and unique. 100 military guys are coming to Bremont tonight. They come from all over the world. These guys are very particular and they know what they like. They love airplanes, they have a passion for aviation. You talk to these guys and they’re all driving 65’ mustangs and they have the same passion for the cars. They know we have the same passion for watches. We’re not just here to sell watches.
The military guys have something unique and it can go where they want to go, where some watches can’t. People feel special and feel like part of the brand. And all of our customers are basically ambassadors.
The other thing is that we’re offering something now that’s very different than other brands. We’re making mechanical chronometers for land/air/sea and special forces people wanting something different. Now people want something unique and people are informed. People are much more informed and they’re less influenced by brand name. For military guys it’s almost impossible to get a better investment. We bespoke them with a lot input from them and us and the design team. What they end up with is a watch that they can get passionate about.
We’re imitating the planes for these pilots and it integrates with the machines they love.
If you look at the [Bremont] watch on someone’s wrist it’s still going to look good in 60 or 70 years. If you see classic cars, bikes and planes they still look good today. We use a classic design.
Where do you see Bremont and English watchmaking in 50 years? What does Bremont plan to do to make its place in watchmaking history?
One: I think the company produces the first scalable and mass production beautifully finished movement in the UK. And we’re quite a long way down that line. I think that if you look at British watchmaking, the industry has a few great guys around like Roger Smith hand making watches. We wanted to reinvigorate the watch industry in terms of mass produced beautiful watches and movements. So from our perspective all Giles and I could ever hope for is to leave a bit of a legacy and to reinvigorate and restart the industry [in Britain]. And by having our own apprentice schemes, by having our own training and investing in the equipment like CNC machining tools that don’t exist in the UK outside of us, we are building that. We’re the only ones in Britain that can machine a lot of these parts now.
Two: We want to reinvigorate English watchmaking.
British luxury has never gone away but we lost a lot of confidence in our country to make it. But the essence of luxury has always been there in Britain. The Swiss watch industry just has to be bloody good. If you look at the German watch industry they’re bloody good and we can do the same. We are already showing that we can do this for the UK.
We loved to see London on the dial because it meant that more than half the work was done at home.
We’re bringing it back home.
As Bremont has just opened an NYC office, are there plans for a US service center?
Yes, later this year. Setting up a boutique in NY and there will be a service center within that.
It’s very important to me that the best thing we do is customer service. I believe that more than anything else. You get a person [as opposed to a machine] when you call us and that needs to go hand in hand with a good service center. The UK office is bigger and bigger so we have to have the best customer service.
But also we’re control freaks. You don’t want to let someone else have a go at your watches. And when we do it in North America it’ll be a Bremont employee trained in the UK who understands Bremont back to front.
With regard to the new Boeing models, were there any challenges in applying aviation grade materials in watch design and development?
It was a lot more than a branding exercise. And it was a close collaboration. It’s very hard to see if it’s a Boeing model [just by looking at it] because it’s not about brand. It’s just on the case back. We collaborated closely with Boeing, both our people and their people, to produce something uniquely Bremont and Boeing. It’s been overdone with two company’s synergy.
They didn’t just want to produce a watch with a Boeing logo. And neither did we. We wanted to come up with a whole Boeing range which will come out later this year.
Are there any plans for a more affordable Bremont model in the future?
We think that if you look at what we’re trying to produce with any given price point we are very, very competitive. If you take the Supermarine, this is the finish it has, this is the hardened case, this is the sapphire crystal, this is the anti-shock mount, this is the Faraday cage, this has been tested to 1500 meters or even more, then you compare it to the competition. It’s immensely affordable for what it is. So it’s all about competition. We have the Solo which is an immense value for money. It’s a chronometer and it’s finished perfectly. It’s all incredibly affordable for what it is. Moving forward it’s unrealistic to bring the price down. We will not cut any corners. That wouldn’t be a Bremont.
Other than perhaps the Victory, Bremont’s vehicular inspiration has been almost uniformly based on aviation, even the Supermarine watch. Does Bremont have any future plans to make models honoring the UK’s maritime history?
We’re doing limited editions. We don’t do limiteds just for numbers. We make them special, bloody special. The new watch coming out will be so special it’ll blow your mind.
You’ll wonder how the hell did they do this. It’ll put it all together. You will compare it to an LE by any other brand.