“Bremont is a business out of passion. Because then life is that much easier going to work every morning,” said Giles English, co-founder of Bremont luxury watches based in Henley who was talking at The Salon breakfast event this week at The Relais Hotel.
Giles founded the business with his brother Nick in 2002 which was built on their love of aviation and engineering passed on from their father who loved to fly and build and restore things in his workshop. Sadly their father and Nick were involved in an air accident in 1995 when their father lost his life and Nick was seriously injured and ended up in hospital for 30 months. Giles commented, “Our lives changed instantly that day. Afterwards our ethos was to live life every day.”
It took five years from founding the company to the first watch going on sale. The two brothers mortgaged their houses to fund the business to start with and told their wives it would only be a couple of years before they sold their first watch! Giles however said, “We knew we were on to something when we started showing journalists our watches and they said they were really nice. We knew that the luxury watch market was massive and even if we only got a small percentage of it we would have a successful business.”
Giles spoke about the fascinating history of measuring longitude out at sea, timekeeping and how accurate timing only became really important when people started to travel by train.
Early sales came through military projects and partnerships were developed with other British institutions including designing a watch for aviation company, Martin-Baker which could withstand fighter ejection. Bremont watches are the only company to survive this rigorous testing.
Giles explained in the early days Bremont was marketed just through PR because there was no real cost and then they started to sponsor events including Henley Royal Regatta and then over the years developed further partnerships including Jaguar cars and Williams Racing, as well as opening their first retail store in Mayfair in 2011.
To continue to expand, the brothers need further investment. Giles commented, “We knew we need to get external equity investment but from the right investors who weren’t looking for short term payback and had a long term vision.”
Bremont watches are the only true British-made watches which are all now made in ‘The Wing’ Manufacturing and Technology Centre on the Reading Road which opened in March 2021. Giles explained, “There are other luxury watches marketed as ‘Made in Britain’ but their parts come from Switzerland.”
Giles’ advice to others is “Running a business is very much a journey. There is a 3x rule – everything takes three times longer, it will be three times harder, and cost three times more. Everyone is out there for themselves – make sure you have people you can trust 100%. Don’t ignore your families and have hobbies. Make sure the market is there. Know what great looks like and make sure others know what great looks like when hiring. Raising equity is a necessary evil and be very careful to find a mentor who has done it before. Know what you’re good at and bring people in who are good at other things to grow the business quicker and be open to ideas.”
Ending the talk Giles said, “I’m incredibly proud to be in Henley and be part of the Henley scene.”
The floor was then opened to questions which included does Bremont manufacture white label products for others? What is behind the name Bremont (click here to find lovely story)? What are the challenges of having American Billionaires as investors and manufacturing in the UK?
The Salon’s next event is on 21 June for a tasting evening with Rathfinny Sparkling Wines to celebrate English Wine Week. For more details go to https://www.therelaisretreats.com/henley/the-relais/the-salon-at-the-relais
The Wing is open for tours and can be booked via https://www.bremont.com/products/the-bremont-tour