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Tuesday, 22 May 2018
NICK ENGLISH and his brother Giles founded Bremont in Henley in 2002. The company is now among the top 10 chronometer manufacturers in the world. He lives in Bix with his wife Catherine and their children, Elodie and twins Capucine and Euan. In March 1995 Nick was seriously injured in a flying accident yet he still flies classic aeroplanes.
Describe your business
We are a manufacturer of luxury mechanical timepieces. Our brand was inspired by our desire to return watchmaking to Britain and our exposure to aviation and the military.
How many people does Bremont employ?
About 130. Most are local and relatively young, split equally between the sexes.
What did you do before you started this business?
I worked in corporate finance in the City but soon realised I didn’t wanted to do that for the rest of my life, so after my accident I resigned and called my brother Giles to tell him. Within a few hours he called me back to say he had done the same!
How did you start the business?
In 2002 Giles and I remortgaged our houses and went to Bienne in Switzerland to set up our business. We thought it would take about 18 months to make our first watches but it actually took five years. The process of bringing the manufacture back to the UK then began.
What was your objective?
Britain has a history going back more than 100 years when it comes to watchmaking and we wanted to bring back those skills.
What or who influenced you to?
Our father was a former RAF pilot with a PhD in aeronautical engineering from Cambridge. Giles and I would spend hours with him in his workshop making things and restoring old cars, planes and clocks. Through him, we learned to love flying Forties historic aircraft and participating in air displays — and our mother always encouraged us. In 1997, two years after the death of our father in an aircraft accident, Giles and I were flying our Thirties biplane over France when we had to make a precautionary landing. We landed in a field owned by a very gracious farmer who loved mechanical things and flying as much as we did. His name was Antoine Bremont.
Looking back, what would you do differently?
We learned early on that it’s paramount to control distribution. Once we had to buy back a significant amount of stock to prevent our brand from being compromised in Asia.
How is your business doing?
I’m happy to say we are about 20 per cent up year on year in a market that hasn’t been the easiest.
How do you market your business?
We advertise, we have a very informative website and we do a huge number of events. We are proud to have become the timing partner for Henley Royal Regatta, which is a nice local tie-up, and we are the first British timing partner for the Americas Cup since 1865.
What’s the best thing about running your business?
Without doubt, making products of which we are immensely proud. I also love wandering around our buildings seeing so many passionate young people who are making their careers with us.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Time. So little time and so much to do.
Where is your business headed?
Investing in our business is critical and we are looking forward to getting it all under the same roof as we are constructing a new manufacturing centre in Henley which is very exciting.
How important are online sales?
We market online but we don’t sell online. However, it’s only really a matter of time before we do.
How has the business changed?
Massively. We have gradually moved most of the manufacturing and assembly processes from Switzerland to Britain.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Having passion for your product. Clearly it needs to be perfect but you need that passion to take it on.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Nothing dramatic but lots of small ones.
What’s the secret of your success?
Passion, being a disciple to our brand and putting everything on the line.
How do you dress for work each day?
I’m lucky that I can dress for comfort.
What can’t you be without at work each day?
My watch and my iPhone.
What do you read?
I love those great tales of adventure from the past. You never get bored with history.
How are you planning for retirement?
There are so many things that I would love to do or make, so I’ll never really retire.
29 January 2018
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