As new-wave watch brands go, “Bamford” is on a roll. George Bamford is a well-known collector who – like so many enthusiasts – wanted to participate in the industry and not just patronise it. As if possessing a pair the size of watermelons, he braved the wrath of the rarely-forgiving Rolex by creating a cult for customised, mainly black-coated Submariners, GMTs and other watches from the Geneva maison. His Bamford Watch Department (BWD) Rolexes may not have been the first, but many connoisseurs deem them the best.
Because of his impeccable taste and an impish sense of humour, Bamford went beyond merely adding a black DLC finish. Among his more collectible pieces are Daytonas with “Paul Newman” dials in blue, and his unforgettable “Yellow Submarine” that paid homage to the Beatles’ animated classic.
Earlier this year, Bamford decided to go legit, teaming up with Jean-Claude Biver who now supplies the customising king with “blank canvases” in the form of Zenith and TAG Heuer models from LVMH’s watch division. But such timepieces are the stuff of the deep-pocketed. Now, those with limited disposable income but a desire to sport a Bamford can join the club.
Just announced by BWD is a new range of watches called the Bamford Mayfair. A precedent for the business model can be found in the “city” watches of Bulgari, which were loaned to customers while their timepieces were being serviced. As with Bulgari clients, Bamford’s were given temporary watches when their BWD pieces were submitted to the in-house service centre. Also repeating the Bulgari experience, Bamford’s customers “have become besotted and fallen in love with their temporary ‘service watch’ and have asked to purchase it.”
Bamford immediately saw the opportunity this presented. “The Bamford Mayfair has evolved quite literally on my wrist. About two or three years ago, I decided to have what I called ‘a service watch’ to give to people while their watches were in our workshops. It wasn’t expensive but it was a benefit. I only gave out a couple and then everyone wanted them to keep, they didn’t want to give them back.
“When I handed my own watch in for a service and put on the ‘service watch’, I learnt very quickly how much I loved it and I did not want to take it off. I knew we had to create a watch which developed and improved the original design and it is really exciting to offer this new range of watch.”
He set out to create a watch that was fun, “a beater” but one that would enjoy its own cachet and a level of personalisation. Selling for only £425, the 40mm Bamford Mayfair is water-resistant to 100m and powered by the Miyota 2035 quartz movement. The case material is stainless steel, and the dial is protected by mineral curved glass. Indices and hands are treated with Super-LumiNova. It is rendered individualistic thanks to a list of options that includes 12 dials, 52 strap options, strap materials including rubber, nylon and handmade leather, steel or ceramic bezels and black or grey cases. “We will upload a new colour-way every two months,” says Bamford. Additionally, customers can have the caseback of the watch engraved with text up to 20 characters.
With such a wide range of options, the possible combinations run into many thousands. What this ensures is that – despite the affordability – an element of “cool” is retained. Yet interestingly, Bamford himself recently told Revolution’s UK Editor-in-Chief: “The thing is I am NOT cool. But because I am true to my passion, people find that cool. I do things because I want to. I’ve told you before, our family motto is ‘Never Content’ and that has been my bugbear my entire life. I could sit back and take it easy but I want to keep moving. Everything has been happenstance. If I like it, I do it and if others like it too then that’s great. I hope I’ve got it right.”
Right? The stampede starts now.