The cofounder of Bremont tells us about the watch he wants but can never have.
INTERVIEW JOSEPH L. GARCIA
With control of a successful watch company, a charming English lilt, and a slight resemblance to Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, Giles English seems to have most everything in the world. Mr. English, an ex-Royal Air Force pilot, established the watch brand Bremont with his brother Nick, who was severely injured in a 1995 plane crash that also took the life of their father. This loss led him to more closely examine the value of time. “Life was too short to waste,” as Bremont’s brand story goes. “The two brothers decided to pursue what they enjoyed most: a life crafting beautifully engineered mechanical devices.” High Life sat down with Mr. English to talk about chronometers and the inevitable sweep of their hands.
Is there a watch that you want but can’t have?
I do but as soon as I started building my own watches, I haven’t been buying any other watches. The ultimate watch for me is the John Harrison H4 clock, a marine chronometer that he built. That marine chronometer was the most accurate clock at sea, that then enabled Cook and all those explorers to go discover the world. That really is a museum piece, and I think, to me, that’s the ultimate clock to own. I don’t have one, sadly.
How many watches do you bring on a trip?
I will never travel anywhere with fewer than three watches with me. I love to change my watch, and I think you must have a watch for every possible occasion: an evening watch, a daytime watch, a watch you’ll go wear on the beach. Someone coined the expression “watch wardrobing,” which means having a watch for different outfits, different events. I think it’s a lovely thing. I love feeling watches. I love the different styles — the whole thing.
Tell us about the watch you’re wearing.
This is Bremont’s U-2 watch, which we’ve developed for the U-2 Spy Plane Squadron — not the band. I love it because it’s the right size to wear. And actually, this particular watch, I was wearing it in a plane crash I had three years ago, where I broke my back. It has worked ever since, and it’s still working. Much better than my back. Personally, it means a lot to me, and most watches I own have a story around it.
What do you look for in a watch?
I look for a watch that won’t go out of fashion. A watch can have modern styling — like our cases are very modern — but still have something that will look great in 10 years time, in 20 years time. So it’s a timeless design. Many watches look great now, but in 40 years time, they’ll look odd.
How does a watch complete an outfit?
The watch you’re wearing should suit what you’re wearing at the time. When I’m with someone, I will automatically look at their watch, because you can tell so much about that person from the watch they’re wearing. It’s the ultimate differentiator, I think.
What could you tell from a person based on their watches?
I don’t want to mention brands, but some brands are far more… you buy because you want an aspirational brand, or you want to follow a crowd to say, ‘I’ve made it; I’m now doing well at my job.’ A different person may have made it, but for him, it’s about buying something that’s not a headline brand. It’s about being subtle. He wants someone to say, ‘What’s that you’re wearing? It’s interesting,’ as opposed to saying, ‘I know how much you make because I can see that watch.’ You’ll have guys who are more stylish, more effeminate, who want something slightly smaller, thinner, and that’s a different style again. You’ll have someone in a suit who will wear that big diving watch because it says a lot about what they do.
Other than keeping time, what else are watches for?
We have an explorer’s club once a month in all our boutiques, where we’ll get a different adventurer to come in and talk. What I’ve taken from these explorers and adventurers is that life is a journey and you really have to go and live it. If you’re doing something in life you’re really not enjoying, you’ve got to change, because life is too damn short. It’s very easy just to tick on through life.
How does a watch change the way you spend your time?
Time, not watches, is the most incredible commodity. You can’t buy it, and it ticks away. I think you really have to appreciate time. And if a watch helps you appreciate time, then I think it can make your life better. If you waste your time, then you’ll never get that back.