George Bamford interview: the rise and rise of British watchmaking


George Bamford, the former enfant terrible of the watchmaking world has moved from high-end customisations of the world’s biggest watch brands to also producing watches of his own.

In the wake of the launch his latest watch, the Bamford GMT, The Week Portfolio caught up with the designer to talk about customisation, luxury and the impact of Brexit on the growing British watch scene.

What led you to switch from customising Rolexes, primarily, to TAG, Zenith, Bulgari, etc?

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I always have Winston Churchill’s wise words, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”, in my mind as the watch world is always changing and moving closer and closer to personalisation. Of course it was an amazing opportunity to be welcomed by the great brands and to work with them.

Is a customised watch superior to an original?

No, I think both are able to express individuality. When we are looking at our watches I think individuality comes across in colour ways and the limited-run nature of these watches. It is not superior and both have a place in the watch world as you have to remember that the client can get on without any of these pieces and it is the client's decision on what they want. All I keep doing is supply to that demand.

Apart from the ones you work with, which watch brands do you most admire?

Wow - the list is endless, but for me I would say the top three or four on my list are Breitling, of course, as this was the first watch I ever stripped down back in 1996 when I was a boy. IWC because when they brought out the Portugieser it was one of my most desirable watches. I also had the great honour of meeting Gerald Genta and I would love to work with Audemars Piguet.

The first Bamford-made watches were pretty affordable, what made you choose to begin with quartz watches at a relatively low price point?

For me the quartz is one of the movements that scared the watch world so vigorously and made the whole industry change. The quartz is such an iconic movement that really pushed the boundary and changed the landscape of the watch world.

Is the move to mechanical with the GMT a sign of the direction of travel for Bamford London?

The mechanical movement on the GMT is because I have always loved the Date GMT movement and I think the twin time zone is something I have always wanted to get out of a quartz movement. The move to a Sellita SW330-1 twin time movement is really to give that ultimate two timezone watch. I think there is a place for multiple movements within Bamford London and for me I think this is where both the Mayfair and GMT sit in perfect harmony but also watch this space for more developments.

What is the watch you wear most day to day and why?

The watch I tend to wear day to day is actually the Bamford GMT in blue and white. I cannot keep it off my wrist as I just love wearing it.

English watches, historically, were very much admired. Do you think the domestic watch industry could stage a comeback?

I really hope so as I think the British watch companies and British watch industry has got some amazing styles already. I feel there is already a comeback happening over the last 10 years with some of the greatest watch journalists and houses like Bremont and Roger W. Smith. I think we (Britain) are becoming a watch power house.

How will Brexit affect your business?

I think we will probably benefit if Brexit fully happens as we would be looking at a lot more countries becoming VAT exclusive. I do not have a crystal ball so will wait to see what happens.

Where would you like Bamford London to be in twenty years’ time?

Wow where would I want Bamford London to be in 20 years? I think still moving with the same vigour and exciting team we have around us today. I have a family motto: Jamais Content, which means never content. I am always striving for what is next.

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