322 nick english.tif

Giles English and Nick English

The Brothers Behind Bremont

Editors’ Note

Flying historic aircraft has been in Giles and Nick English’s blood from a very early age, as has their love for watches and all things mechanical. In creating the brand, the brothers were looking to produce beautifully made and yet robust timepieces inspired by their history in aviation. The brothers started working together on the watch designs following the death of their father in a vintage-aircraft accident in 1995, in which Nick also broke over 25 bones. It was a few years later that the brothers made an emergency landing in their 60-year-old plane in a pea field in the Champagne area. The field belonged to a former wartime pilot, M. Antoine Bremont, who took them in, and showed them his workshop and shared with them his love of clocks. The brothers set out to make a British watch that would not only last a lifetime, but would be tested beyond the normal limits and could match the best Swiss watches for quality.

Company Brief

Bremont Watch Company (www.bremont.com) offers a range of highly developed aviation-inspired timepieces of exceptional quality and aesthetic value. In addition to going through extensive laboratory testing, each model is rigorously used in the field by professional adventurers and sportsmen. The brand has quickly been adopted by personalities like actors Ewan McGregor and Orlando Bloom and adventurers Bear Grylls and Charley Boorman. Design and case finishing is executed in Britain, with final hand-assembly happening in a dedicated atelier in Biel-Bienne, Switzerland.

Has the luxury watch segment been affected by the global financial crisis?

Giles: Naturally, it will not be an easy year for anyone, but we feel that as a small and growing company we will be less affected than some of the bigger watch groups in the sector. We already see a few interesting opportunities as a result of others in the industry changing their strategy.

How difficult is it to differentiate in the luxury watch segment, and what makes Bremont watches unique?

Nick: Giles and I have always been interested in mechanical things, from the time we used to spend in the workshop with our father making aircraft, restoring cars, and playing with clocks. When Giles and I started Bremont, we had some fairly strong views about what constituted a perfect mechanical watch. This developed over time and was really an expression of us as individuals. The cases, for example, are nine times more scratch resistant than normal stainless steel, and some models have been pushed to the limits in testing for shock, temperature extremes, magnetism, and other external forces. This testing phase for our watches continues to be of much interest for us.

ALT1-P Blue Tom Cruise.tif

the Alt1-P

How do you define the target market for Bremont?

Giles: The people who buy our watches know watches and are often collectors. We like to think that our clients have a spirit of adventure about them – whether it is Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on their motorcycle trips, or Bear Grylls shooting his survival shows.

What are your current distribution channels and how is that evolving?

Nick: We were lucky to have been taken in fairly quickly by some of the finest watch retailers in the U.K., such as Harrods and Selfridges as well as Watch of Switzerland, after the retail launch of the brand in July 2007. We have also dipped our toes in the U.S. and have been picked up by watch retailers like Tourneau and Barneys. We are in about eight stores in the U.S. at the moment, but hope to expand this to more like 30 or 40 by the end of the year. We have also just gone into Singapore and Malaysia with a great local distributor. We want to keep our exclusivity, so the number of retailers needs to reflect the number of watches we produce in any given year. By default, this means we will be in fewer stores than some of the major watch brands out there.

What are the key markets for the brand, and what are your plans for international expansion?

Giles: Naturally, the U.K. is a key market, but over the next few years we see, based on our early successes, the U.S. and Asia being very strong for us. In these markets, we have found some great people to partner with who love Bremont, and that is key to making it work.

What is the dynamic between the two of you as brothers and business partners, and how do you each focus your efforts?

Nick: Giles and I have worked together for 14 years – from the time our father was killed in a vintage-plane crash. It was a real life-changing event for us, and since then we have worked closely together. It is quite a strange relationship because we both do a bit of everything. We are very hands-on. We both design the watches during their initial stages of development, and for most of the other areas of the business – marketing, press, retail, etc. – we are both equally involved. It works well.

What are your key priorities for the coming year in order to continue building the brand?

Giles: Our focus for 2009 will be new product. This year, we will be launching the Supermarine 500 diving watch and Bremont MB watch, which is a joint venture with aircraft ejection seat manufacturer, Martin-Baker. Both have taken a lot of time and money, but we feel that we have got the product right. We are also developing ideas for 2010, which seems quite a while away, but it creeps up on you. The other thing we need to continue to do well is expand our retailer base in the U.S. and in other territories. Feedback from retailers has been very good, which is always encouraging. This year will be quite an interesting one economy-wise, and to come out of the next 12 to 18 months with any growth whatsoever will be an achievement in and of itself.