For anyone involved in construction engineering, the name Joseph Cyril Bamford is legendary. For anyone outside the industry, his initials – JCB – represent one of the most recognised brands on the planet. Put those letters in situ in black letters against an orangey- yellow background and even a child will know what they are looking at: a piece of machinery made by one of the biggest family-owned companies in the world.
“I come from an engineering family,” says Joseph’s grandson George Bamford. “At the age of eight, I learned how an engine works. I was on the shop floor of my family’s business learning how to weld. I loved engineering, I loved the idea of building, I loved the idea of design. I hope my parents forgive me for sharing this story but, as a child, they used to lock me in my bedroom at night because I was always an early riser – I used to get up at about 5am and go downstairs and if we had a juicer or a television or anything, I used to take it to bits. I used to try and figure out how it worked. And that’s how my brain is, I always ask: ‘Why can’t I do it?’”
And so when Bamford was given a pre-owned Breitling Navitimer for his 16th birthday in 1996, it sparked his imagination. “It enlightened me,” he says. “My father bought me and my brother one each for £270 and I just got obsessed. I used to sit and look and try and line up the numbers. It wasn’t perfect – I knew the hands weren’t right. I remember I thought it was waterproof because I had only had Swatch watches before. I took it swimming and I was like: ‘Shit, it’s full of water.’ I had to take it to bits and dry it out.”