The luxury watch industry is having a moment.
While other high-discretionary, alternative asset markets like art and collector cars are seeing sales decline, luxury watches are seeing sales climb, and, in some cases, scarcity grow. Just look at how Rolex buyers can’t even find any of its popular sports watches in stock. Or the recent successful online auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and this summer’s auction at Monterey Car Week put on by RM Sotheby’s and Bob’s Watches, where all lots were bid above their estimates.
And it’s not just the big Swiss watch houses that are thriving. British brand Bremont, based out of Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, England, makes aviation-inspired watches with in-house movements. It’s quite a feat to have an in-house designed and manufactured movement, especially for a company making around 8,000 to 10,000 pieces a year, all in England.
According to Giles English, co-founder of Bremont, one reason buyers are flocking to luxury watches over an Apple Watch, for example, isn’t just because of their timeless design and high quality construction.
“That watch will work in 200 years time,” he says of the Bremont’s latest creation, the H-4 Hercules Limited Edition Watch. “It’s one of the few things a man can buy, a piece of jewelry, which will last forever. Each watch tells a story, it tells a lot about the owner.”
It turns out Britain used to be THE place where best-in-class, mechanical watches were made. Around 1800, Britain made about half of the world's timepieces — about 200,000 a year. Today Swiss watch houses and syndicates like the Swatch Group (SWGAY) — with brands like Omega and Blancpain — and Richemont (CFRUY). with Cartier and IWC — have the luxury market all to themselves.
Bremont, which began making watches in 2002, wants to bring British watchmaking back. The brand’s watches are inspired by, but not limited to, Britain’s armed forces, famous cars, and legendary airplanes. Bremont’s latest watch is a very limited creation, with some very interesting internal bits.
It salutes what was at the time the largest plane in the world, the Hercules C-4, AKA Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose.” Limited to only 450 pieces across three different versions, the watches contains original birchwood from the fuselage of the Spruce Goose.
Through it only flew for a minute or so, the plane has a special place in the heart of aviation enthusiasts — just the clientele Bremont wants to target. Bremont will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the watches to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon, which preserves the Spruce Goose to this day.
For more on our interview with Bremont’s Giles English, check out the video above.