Nick and Giles English on creating their own Bremont brand of highly desirable watches
PUBLISHED: 11:22 19 November 2010 | UPDATED: 17:06 20 February 2013
How time flies...growing up in Norfolk, Nick and Giles English developed a fascination in how things work. It's a passion they have turned into creating their own brand of highly desirable watches, as they told Angi Kennedy.
But it was this love of aviation that led to a life-changing tragedy for the English family. In March 1995, 49-year-old Euan died and Nick was seriously injured when their practice session for a summer air show went horribly wrong.
Euan was killed instantly as their second world war Harvard trainer crashed into a field near Maldon, in Essex. Nick, then 23, broke many bones in the crash and only survived because a passing helicopter carrying an anaesthetist and trauma surgeon went to the scene, where the doctor was able to give life-saving help.
The sad loss of their father hit the family tremendously hard, and caused Nick and Giles who have two sisters, Hannah and Sophie to reassess their own lives. Giles and I were working in the City at the time, recalls Nick. We both thought to ourselves What are wedoing? We dont enjoy this at all; why spend our lives doing it?
And so they threw themselves into aircraft restoration one of their late fathers great loves. We learned a huge amount about business plus, of course, it was very important to us to have that connection with our father; it felt like we were closing the chapter.
How time flies...
Growing up in Norfolk, Nick and Giles English developed a fascination in how things work. Its a passion they have turned into creating their own Bremont brand of highly desirable watches, as they told Angi Kennedy.
Nick and Giles English had the sort of childhood many a boy and probably quite a few girls too would envy. Any free time would be spent either building tree houses or tinkering with vintage aircraft and old cars at the mid-Norfolk farmhouse they moved to as teenagers with their family. The boys grew up with oil on their hands and mechanical engineering in their blood.
Giles, who went to Norwich School, and I have had a love of all things mechanical since we were children, explains Nick. We used to spend all the time in our fathers workshop. He wasan extraordinary man and we were very fond of him.
He came out of Cambridge with a First a PhD in aeronautical science and he was a wonderful engineer, who restored old cars and planes that we still fly.
Their father, farmer Euan English, was passionate about flight; he was an award-winning aerobatics pilot and a founder member of both the Harvard Display Team and The Squadron group of aviation enthusiasts. So, it was natural that young Nick and Giles who would sit in the back of their fathers planes while he flew in displays (before health and safety was such a big deal, laughs Nick) would also fly, learning at Swanton Morley.
But the brothers knew too that much as they enjoyed aircraft restoration, it would not be a full-time business for them. And so they set up a small workshop where they could indulge their other passion... watch-making.
One of the things our father used to do when we were young was to give us an old wall clock that he had bought at an auction for a tenner and say Take it apart and put it together again, says Nick.
He was a watch collector, and we would love to take the back off wrist watches and watch all those moving parts. It is fascinating that there are 86,000 seconds in a day and a good watch can be perhaps just one or two seconds out its a minor miracle of engineering.
We had a few watches that our father gave to us, such as one he won in an RAF flying competition, and we both had this passion for watches too, so when the opportunity came up we started our little workshop thinking it would take us a couple of years to launch. Five years later we had still not sold a single watch!
Our problem was we wanted to make sure we could launch with a perfect product. We wanted to create a watch for interesting people who appreciate mechanical things and who are into things like motorbikes and aeroplanes. We wanted to make a classic that could be equally at home halfway up a mountain and in the office.
The English brothers were determined to create the very best watches they could even if it meant years of design, testing and improvement. But what to call their watches when they were finally pleased enough with them to launch the brand in 2007?
The answer came, strangely enough through a link with aviation, as Giles explains. We went on a trip in an old German biplane and we were flying downthrough mid-France in an appalling storm one of the scariest experiences of our lives when we realised there was nothing for it, we had to land in a French farmers field.
Usually if you land like that in France you are in rather a spot of bother, because the French authorities might impound your aircraft, but this farmer helped us push the aircraft into his hay barn because he had also been a pilot and loved old aircraft.
We stayed with him for a couple of days while the weather cleared. By coincidence, he was a horologist too and collected time-pieces. He was also a wonderful engineer and had been a pilot in the second world war in many ways he reminded us of our father.
His name was Antoine Bremont and we thought that it was a great name... so we chose Bremont for our brand name. And since the launch of Bremont watches, the English brothers have been building up an enviable reputation for beautiful designs and high quality workmanship.
Among the people who have our watches we now have Charley Boorman, Ewan MacGregor, Jeremy Clarkson, Orlando Bloom, Sir Matthew Pinsett, and the Minister of Trade Lord Melvyn Davison, who has bought three.
With the watches priced between around 2,500 and 6,500, they are proving very desirable as well as investment pieces. If you look after your Bremont watch, there is no reason why your grandson cannot have it in years to come, says Nick. A lot of this is based around the principles we learned from our father. You have to be very creative and also very determined to create a watch like this and we love it to bits if you are into machines, this really is the life.
Their enthusiasm comes from the chance it gives them to indulge their fascination with all elements of design and mechanics. They have recently developed a watch for the Norton motorcycle company, another for
Martin-Baker, manufacturers of the ejection seats, a diving watch and one for the U2 spy plane squadron in the USA, as well as using the metal of an old wing of a famous aircraft, a Spitfire which had shot down a dozen or more enemy aircraft, to create another special edition.
And whenever their busy schedules and family life allow both are married with three children apiece they make a welcome return to Norfolk to visit their mother, Karen, who lives in the county on her farm at Elsing. Norfolk is a wonderful place to fly, said Nick. Its a great place, like stepping back in time.
Bremont watches are available at Winsor Bishop in Norwich.