Nick English is the co-founder of Bremont watches. After a tragic plane crash that would change their lives forever, Nick and brother Giles set up Bremont. They are part of a handful of new watch companies trying to revive the UK watch industry.
1. Describe briefly your childhood.
It was a rather special childhood my brother and I were given an incredible amount of responsibility by our parents. It was different back then, I suppose, but we were allowed a huge degree of freedom. I remember many times borrowing our fathers old 1940’s aircraft and when Giles was around 16, and myself 18, we would head off around Europe together and have a real adventure. I can’t imagine doing that with my kids! We also spent a lot of time in the workshop with him where we developed our passion for beautiful engineering. Our father was an aeronautical engineer from Cambridge, by background, and had a love of all things mechanical from a very early age. Old planes, cars, motorbikes, clocks – it didn’t really matter as long as it had moving parts!
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
Very early on I dreamed of being a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
Being taken away from school and sailing for months to various exciting places in a boat our father had made. It was an incredible way to bond as a family.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
Do you know, having been involved with a company for the last 17 years actually making something – often seeing it come directly from a bar of metal – it is immensely rewarding to physically be manufacturing something material. If I were not making watches I am sure Giles and I would be making something else just as interesting. Manufacturing on British shores has the possibility to really see a resurgence. We have the know-how and skill-set, we have the technology and now we have the economics to really be competitive.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
I don’t think there is ever one thing, I think in most people’s lives a particular route one takes is the accumulation of so many environmental factors. We lost our father when he was young, we knew therefore from a very early age that life was short – often too short, and sometimes you can over-think a hurdle and it is also possible to think of multiple reasons why not to do something. The reasons to do something are often harder to quantify but the reasons come from your heart. Sometimes in life you need to listen to your heart and your passion. This is precisely what Giles and I did in 2002 when we set up Bremont.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
We have all had to do a few less than perfect jobs over the years, but the most soul destroying for me was getting some work experience when I was around 17 years old. I had a summer job in an accounts office to try and earn some money. They money was good and it something for the resume. I turned up promptly at 8.30am to be given boxes and boxes of invoices to add-up and check - for hours and hours a day. I had to wear a suit (which nearly killed me) and I would come into work and see that look of resignation on everyone’s faces. I guess it is horses for courses, but for me it was a quick, sharp shock and a taste of reality of doing something you were not passionate about could do to your soul. In that respect it was the worst and best work experience I could have done.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
It was an horrific plane crash in 1995. Whilst practising for an air-display in an 1942 aircraft (whilst in formation with others) there was an accident and we ended up crashing. My father, was killed and I ended up breaking around 30 bones and being in hospital and intensive care for a long time. Giles, who was waiting to take-off in the next sortie heard the whole thing happen over the radio. In an instant Giles and I felt we had lost our guiding light in respect of our father, and we had to find a new path forward. We found this path in each other. Giles was a huge support , and I think it worked both ways. Together we were in the same boat. We shared the same passions, we had experienced the same loss and together we were going to find a new way forward.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
I don’t think I can pin-point one individual. Giles and I were both extremely luck with our parents – a gifted and passionate father, a mother who gave us incredible freedom, and then my wife Catherine who I respect so very much. The way I see my life is that my parents gave me the most incredible foundation and incubated the passions we have today, and then Giles and Catherine have helped me build on it over the last 20 or so years.
9. What are you most proud of?
Employing 120 + people in the watch industry on British soil, the majority of which we have trained up. To have an apprentice watch-maker scheme, to be training machinists on making case and movement parts who were in different industries before, is all deeply rewarding. If in 20 years, Giles and I can look back and see that Bremont played a role – no matter how small – in the reinvigoration of the watch industry on British shores, we will be happy people!
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
We were told multiple times that it would be a difficult, if not impossible, journey in building watches in the UK. Whilst it hasn’t been easy, it has been possible, and that’s the point – if you don’t try, you will never know.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
Sail around the world with my wife (and kids if they are around!), the Peking-Paris rally in a 1930’s car, see the British Bremont movement (when it is finally finished) being made in their thousands!
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years time.
I genuinely think there will be a trend moving away from this disposable culture of ours. The planet just simply cannot carrying on sustaining this consumerism in the same way. When you see the wastage and damage done by billions of smart phones being replaced annually around the globe, it would be hard not to have a conscience here. Watches are no different. People will want to invest in product for life – a product based on quality, craftsmanship and backstory. A mechanical watch does just this – if maintained properly it will last forever.
To learn more about Nick English Bremont