In a recent article I produced for Revolution about manufacture status, I concluded with the following: “manufacture status is no guaranteed measure of quality nor prestige, while non-manufacture status doesn’t diminish the worth of a top-quality timepiece.” It’s the watch as a whole, not just the pedigree.
I also pointed out was the FACT that the majority of the world’s most coveted vintage watches use bought-in movements, which were modified by the end-users. Thus, if your brand is not in possession of manufacture status, you are in great company. Rolex’s legendary Paul Newman, the astonishing Patek Philippe 1463 chronograph, the original Breguet Type XX, every Panerai made before 2000 – do you get my drift? And those are just the highly-visible, auction-worthy collectibles. But look at the classic, iconic watches which feature in any Hot Hundred:
All Cartier Tanks before the 21st Century
Every Rolex Daytona before 2000
Original Omega Speedmaster Professionals
Early Audemars Piguet chronographs
Doxa’s 300, responsible for popularizing the orange dial on diving watches
I could go on like this for days. Fact is, I find the watch community’s obsession with manufacture status to be as misguided, arrogant and unproductive as the obsession with useless complications. Instead of worrying about such effete pursuits, this industry should be fixating on the need for more watchmakers, less painful servicing costs, spare parts, and other real-world matters. Life is not a Hermann Hesse novel.
Which brings us to the current fracas about Bremont’s latest, a watch promoted as containing an in-house movement. When the on-line watch community saw that it wasn’t, Bremont was raked over the coals. Immediately forgotten were some magnificent creations like the original MB models and the Supermarine diving watch, the Marine Chronometer table clock, the achievement of calling attention to British watchmaking, and rounding up super-cool ambassadors like Ronnie Wood, Charley Boorman and Bear Grylls.
By no means am I an apologist for Bremont. That’s not my job. I am as dismayed as any watch aficionado by the gaffe the company committed, primarily by being too eager to acquire the manufacture soubriquet. But Bremont isn’t alone in this, and the “crime” is hardly worthy of such venom. Watch enthusiasts are behaving as emotionally and unjustifiably as those who cried, wailed and rent their garments because their team lost the World Cup. It’s watches, not Gaza nor Ebola.
Industry “insiders” are privy to information about a lot of brands that will never see print. We known that no brand is perfect. All of them screw up, even if in a minor or silly way (like the possibly apocryphal occasion when one brand sent an Audi to collect a writer from the airport, one who only rests his tush on the seats of Bentleys or Rolls-Royces).
This was Bremont’s blunder, Nick and Giles English being, on occasion, naughty boys. They do have tendency to behave like eager puppies. They are not good at taking advice. Despite this, they have created a watch brand that has – at the very least – shaken up the watch industry.
In their haste to acquire the ultimate in horological credibility, they goofed. But they are being treated like they’ve been drowning kittens or stealing from old ladies. And it must be said, if you bought an watch believing that it was manufacture or made entirely in Britain, only to find out that it wasn’t, you would be rightly peeved.
I just spoke with a major web watch guru and I detected absolutely no rancor whatsoever in his reaction to Bremont’s boo-boo, no axe to grind; he was merely responding to overwhelming correspondence from his site’s visitors, allowing them to hammer it out among themselves. He avoided libelous posts, I’m sure, but he reported facts, the obvious ones being that 1) the movement is a Joux Perret modified for Bremont, and 2) that Bremont was economical with the truth.
This is merely a screw-up. It is not the end of the world, nor the end of Bremont. But I sure wish it was the end of manufacture mania, because I’d take a 1950s Breguet Type XX chronograph over just about any manufacture chronograph on the market. Oops … did somebody just say “Longines 30CH”?