As explained in our book, there are many industries where craft-based production has almost disappeared, and most goods are made in high volume. However, the watch industry is one example where some operations are still based around an extremely high degree of craftsmanship (as illustrated below). The precision needed to produce a luxury watch requires that components are machined to within 5 microns of specification (a human hair is 50 microns). Each watch has around 220 parts, and takes 40+ hours to assemble. Designing and developing a new watch can take up to five years.
Most precision watch-making is centred in Switzerland, but Bremont Watches is unusual in that it is a British company with production facilities in Oxfordshire. Although the company was founded in 2002, it was 2007 before the first watch was produced. Originally assembly was undertaken in Switzerland, as this was where all the expertise for this kind of watch-making was based. Subsequently this was moved the U.K., where the firm now employs around 30 people. To find employees with the necessary fine motor skills and level of concentration required, Bremont “bench test” applicants. Only about 1 in 50 meet their expectations.
Although some components have to be sourced from Switzerland, Bremont is trying hard to ensure it manufactures as many of its own parts as possible. In 2014, the company opened a parts manufacturing facility near Silverstone, the motor racing circuit in Northamptonshire. This was because Formula 1 motor racing requires precision machine and engineering skills, so this location had a workforce with the right skill base.
Bremont watches are priced at between £3,000 and £20,000. Currently annual production around 9,000 watches. As each watch is hand made, there is a wide range of products. Watches are designed for different markets – military, pilot, motorsport, travel, diving, and sailing. There is a variety of cases – stainless steel, rose gold, titanium and DLC; and five different watch sizes. As well as their ‘standard’ ranges, they also produce a number of ‘limited edition’ watches. For instance, the first such watch released in 2008 was engineered using material from a WWII Spitfire.
Currently Bremont operates four boutique stores to showcase the product. These are located in Mayfair, the City of London, New York and Hong Kong. They also have 178 authorised dealerships worldwide.