When it comes to watchmaking, Switzerland, or more specifically its capital Geneva, will probably be the first to come to mind. England is almost out of the picture when you think of this craft but prominent British watchmakers like Thomas Tompion, George Graham, and Thomas Mudge are only some of the proof of England’s long-winding history in relation to the craft. The loss of association of British watchmaking is still something that’s being mended today and Bremont is at the forefront of the movement.
The English brothers and the tragic accident
There are no two people more set on the path of the watchmaking business than Nick and Giles English, the brothers behind the brand. They started off young with an interest in aviation and mechanical things. A huge influence was their father, Euan English, a pilot and aeronautical engineer, and their family business which was restoring and maintaining vintage aircrafts. The brothers themselves learned to fly a plane early in their lives.
As much as the brothers got a headstart on things they needed to run a watchmaking business, it was really the tragic loss of their father that served as the catalyst to making it happen. On March 4, 1995, their father was killed from a crash accident while flying the 1942 North Am Harvard, wherein Nick English also broke 30 bones. For a while, the brothers focused on the family business but their father’s interest in restoring vintage pieces, mechanical devices, vehicles and timepieces eventually led them to bring Bremont to existence.
Bremont Watches Alt1-p2. Oracle of Time
Antoine Bremont, the French farmer
Two years after Euan’s death, the two brothers were flying again. They had to force a landing on French soil after they encounter problems in-flight. Fortunately, the farmer whose field they landed in offered them help and hid the plane in his barn so they could avoid French authorities. It wasn’t long before they realized the farmer is heavily into aviation as well and liked all things mechanical, much like their own father. The two promised never to forget the farmer’s kindness. Returning a favor is definitely not ordinary to Nick and Giles. They followed through with their promise generously and named the watch brand to him, Antoine Bremont. It was a common practice to take one’s name and use it for the brand itself. The brothers did that, only not with their own name but someone who’s been a physical reminder of their own father.
Restoration of British watchmaking practice
With Bremont, Nick and Giles wanted to achieve two main goals: to repatriate watchmaking in the UK and to have control of their own supply chain.
Somehow, they have done everything accordingly to attain these two goals. In 2002, they opened two small workshops, one just outside of London and the other in Bienne. All watches were being manufactured in their workshops, where Bremont watchmakers assemble the timepieces. In-house training is also provided and they follow a model of watchmaking that’s based on the early practices used in Greenwich and not Geneva. They’ve also achieved the latter of the two goals, which is to manufacture their own materials. Instead of importing from Switzerland, a parts manufacturing facility is built in Silverstone, Northamptonshire to create their own cases and key movement parts, which is a first in the UK.
Slowly but surely, Bremont has restarted something with the watchmaking business in the country that has the potential to bring back the craft to the British culture. Bremont is the only UK-based watch brand that’s included in the top watch brands in the whole world. New small brands in the UK are also opening up and traversing this industry.
Major innovations in horology and mechanical watchmaking originated in England and way back in time, at least 200 thousand watches were made in British land in a year. The next goal is to bring an “industrial scale” of watchmaking to the UK, meaning hundreds of thousands being made in a year.
Image credit: hodinkee
For Nick and Giles, Bremont couldn’t be just another watch brand that had nothing new to offer. Even though they started the workshops in 2002, it wasn’t until 2007 that the first watches came out. That’s because a thorough testing period and evaluation was done in and out of the workshops. The watches had to pass a 15-day chronometer test, where they’re subjected to seven different temperature changes from the mild to the extremes and while in different positions. With a tagline that says “Tested Beyond Endurance”, it’s only expected to be tested by actual adventurers, explorers, free divers, mountaineers, and pilots.
The cases are hardened seven times more than the average stainless steel for watches while the crystals used are coated nine times with a scratch-resistant and anti-glare coating.
You’ll constantly find influences of the brothers’ aviation interests in the pieces created for and the experimental projects taken on by the brand. It’s most obvious in the 4-year-long testing and development phase with Martin-Baker, the manufacturer of ejection seats in planes that’s saved more than 7,000 lives. Their goal is to create a watch that can survive the harshness that the seats themselves are subjected to. Watches were tested with different factors in check like vibration, electromagnetic tests, and even a live ejection testing.
A limited edition Bremont MB1 is made only for pilots who’ve experienced the ejection from a plane with a Martin-Baker seat. From this, it’s safe to say that Bremont is pushing limitations when it comes to the abilities of watches.
Big-time partnerships and global recognition
Because of Bremont’s reputation for innovating mechanical watches, they’ve attracted partnerships that’s brought them international recognition. The best of them is the long-term partnership with Boeing. Both companies had the same interest to innovate on the research of manufacturing and materials.
Bremont also worked with Jaguar motorcars to create the dashboard clock for the C-X75 Hybrid concept car. Following that are the six chronometers for six e-type sports racing cars. On the topic of sports, it has also been invited to become the official timekeeper for America’s cup, the oldest trophy in international sports.
The most unexpected of all is the collaboration with Ronnie Wood, an artist renowned for also being the Rolling Stones guitarist. The B1 marine clock is a piece of art in itself as the design of the dials and the cases have been handpainted by Ronnie Wood himself. It’s a tribute to past masters of horology.
The English brothers arrived in the watchmaking business having a lot of things already handed down to them but it wasn’t cause for being stuck in the routine of it all. What Bremont has achieved so far is testament to how the brand is pushing boundaries of watchmaking, in terms of the whole business landscape, the artistry, and the functionality.
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