Editor’s Note: We’ve done over 1400 posts at Time+Tide, but I reckon I could count on one hand the number of stories that have featured employees whose title doesn’t start with Chief, Head, President or Vice. After speaking to Paul Gray, Boutique Manager of Bremont’s flagship store in Royal Exchange London, for a lazy afternoon at our HQ, I realised what we’ve been missing all this time. It’s the view of a company from within. The comments on culture, internal leadership and founder mythology that actually make for very interesting listening.
When Paul Gray first picked up a Bremont watch in 2009, he was not struck by a lightning bolt. He did not quit his job at Jura – where he worked with brands like Sinn, Nomos, Bell & Ross among others – and beg to join the then fledgling brand. Jura were, in fact, keen on working with Bremont, but Paul was straight up perplexed. “They kept saying, check out that Martin Baker watch. I looked at it. It was a nice watch, a tough little watch, but I wasn’t getting it. What is it about it?”
“But then, you put it on your wrist, you feel it, you look at it, and you start to notice lots of tiny details. You see the yellow and black pull handle for the ejector is used as the counterweight on the seconds hand. You look at the knurling on the crown and learn that it matches the knurling on the ends of the bolts on the seat. The red triangle on the GMT hand matches the triangle that says ‘danger’ on the instrument panel. It’s those subtleties that made me think…I’m starting to get this.”
This process of discovery continued for Paul beyond the cosmetic to the materials, which, to use their hardened steel as an example, is among the toughest in the business (sources suggest it’s 200 Vickers harder than Rolex’s 904L steel). And sure enough, circumstances changed and he joined the company shortly after. He says that the attitude and atmosphere on the inside of the British watchmaker is one of infectious enthusiasm. This energy radiates from brothers Nick and Giles English (who are among the most English people on earth – you really can’t make this stuff up), who are in it for love and the legacy, but not for money.
“I’ve worked for a lot of watch companies. I’m not going to say their names, but basically, I learned that most are in it for the next five to ten years; they’re going to make as much money as they can and then they’re going to try to sell it off to one of the large groups. It’s not just thinking about designing a watch, slapping a badge on it and seeing how much money we’re going to make. They’re not doing that. Nick and Giles are trying to create a legacy. It’s all of that passion. And it rubs off on the staff too.”
The approach Nick and Giles took to building a brand that might compete in a saturated market was unerringly simple. “They listed everything that the watch industry does wrong in their view and fixed it. They listed all the ways watches could be constructed, packaged and serviced better, and they’ve gone and done it.”
“They’ve gone out there, looked at watches and picked the things that need to be improved. Like the bezel ring and the lug arms which are a key part of the ‘Trip-Tick’ case. They scratch easily, they mark easily. So they said, we’ll have to do that as a separate part. Can we get that hardened?
Paul continues to list key attributes of Bremont watches: “The anti-shock mechanism, the Roto-click bezel — getting that developed. I even talk about the leather cases, the flight wallet that comes with the watch. The instruction manual pocket is also designed to fit a passport. The zippered pocket for the watch is also perfect for coins and money. It’s designed for travel. The reason the brothers developed it is that when the brothers bought quality they got these beautiful boxes — but what do you do with them? You put them on top of a wardrobe or at the back of a cupboard, but they don’t see the light of day until you go and trade them in. And for any bracelet watch or the Supermarines, you get a watch roll made in the U.K. and the roll part that you put your three watches on pops open and you can put your straps and your tool in there.”
Sure, Paul is a salesperson, but it’s all in his delivery. He loves Bremont; the brand, the watches and the people behind it. I’m sure if you visit the London boutique and meet him, you’ll understand. Please feel free to share your experiences or stories on the Facebook post.