When it comes to European watches, British watch brands are usually not the first thing that comes to mind. Yes, Swiss or German watch brands may be the more popular choice, but other European brands also have so much to offer. You simply need to explore them. British watch brands, for example, have such a distinct authenticity that really captivates the European spirit. These brands have such rich stories to tell and should definitely be on your radar. With that said, let’s now take a look at some of them.
1. Bremont Watch Company
Starting off this list of British watch brands is the Bremont Watch Company. This is the story of two English brothers — literally, that’s their surname — Nick and Giles English, who share a love for well-engineered mechanical devices. This interest stemmed from their father’s influence. Euan English had an Aeronautical Engineering Ph.D. and was a former RAF pilot. At home, Euan had a workshop where he’d spend a lot of time with his two sons, restoring all sorts of mechanical pieces. The brothers would recall their father bringing home old clocks he’d won at auctions, which he would then let the boys fix. His sons also share the same passion for flying that their ex-pilot father had. Euan even built an aircraft with the help of his sons that the latter still fly to this day.
Unfortunately, this lovely story of a father and his two sons met a tragedy one cloudless day in 1995. Nick and his father were preparing for an air display on a 1942 WWII Harvard plane when they got into an accident. Giles, who was still on the ground, was informed about the accident and that his father had sadly passed away while his brother was fighting for dear life. Nick had broken over 30 bones in the accident and was in critical condition. Thankfully, after several months, Nick was able to beat the odds and fully recovered. He even took flight again, doing what he and his father adored.
Bremont’s Beautifully Engineered Chronometers
The loss of their father and Nick’s near-death experience prompted the brothers to pursue something greater as life was too short to sit idly by. And so, they combined the two things that they were most passionate about, flying and well-engineered mechanical devices. In 2002, the English brothers founded one of the best British watch brands today, Bremont Watch Company. Bremont is known for producing incredibly reliable and durable pilot watches. They wanted to create quality timepieces that are not only beautifully engineered but also reflects their passion and appreciation for innovation and master craftsmanship. The watches under the brand’s core range are all chronometer-rated, ensuring immense precision. They are so confident with the quality of their watches that Bremont even offers a three-year warranty for all their watches.
Bremont: What’s in a Name?
But where does the name Bremont come from? Well, here is a tale that sounds like it comes straight out of a children’s book. While flying across France, the two brothers were met with bad weather and had to land. Not wanting to deal with French authorities, the brothers had decided to land on a farmer’s field and stay the night at his house. After moving their plane inside the shelter of the barn, the two brothers decided to get to know their gracious host. And as fate would have it, this farmer was also a gifted engineer and former pilot. This man, named Antoine Bremont, used to fly aircraft during the war and had an assortment of engine parts and half-restored timepieces all over his home. This insane coincidence, coupled with the man’s warm hospitality for two strangers, prompted the brothers to honour Mr. Bremont by naming their company after him.
When professional designer Piers Berry created Pinion, he was guided by the mindset of “doing better rather than just doing more”. There was this belief that complexity didn’t always equate to quality. Instead, there was a focus on clarity when it came to designing the watches. Every aspect of a watch is treated with incredible attention to detail, ensuring the highest quality. And any unnecessary detail is discarded, making sure that every tiny aspect that makes it into the final look contributes to the overall design.
This immense love and appreciation for design started in Berry’s childhood in the ’70s digital revolution. In the early ’90s, he received graphic design training and pursued a specialty in typography. And in the 2000s, Berry made his first venture into the business world by co-founding a digital agency. During this time, he started to pick up a new interest: mechanical watches. And a decade later, he decided to turn this interest in watches into something greater, something more. In 2013, Pinion was born. He wanted to create a watch of his own, and thus, in November of that same year, he launched his trio watch collection, AXIS. It was a massive success, which continued to follow the brand to this day. Currently, Pinion is recognised as one of the best British watch brands, especially in terms of design.
3. Christopher Ward
Despite what you might assume from this British watch brand’s name, the genius behind Christopher Ward is not just one man, but three. Their story began on a boat along the Thames. Three friends — Mike France, Peter Ellis, and Christopher Ward — were discussing their future career plans. France and Ellis, who were former business partners, had just sold their ethical toy company while Ward wasn’t really happy with his current occupation. And so, France made a crazy suggestion. Why not start a business together? Now, a lot of people have probably gotten together with friends and joked about going into business together, but these don’t often go beyond plans. This was not the case, however, for this ambitious trio.
They didn’t go into it with a concrete idea. They knew they wanted to start a business together but they had no idea what the business would be about. And so, they brainstormed. If they were gonna start a business together, it had to surround a shared interest among the three of them. It just so happened that all three men had an interest in watches.
Introducing Affordable Luxury Watches
The trio decided to speak to a friend who had connections in the luxury watch industry, and what they learned was astonishing. They found out that the markups for most Swiss watch brands were insanely high. Some were even marking up as high as 30 times the actual manufacturing cost.
Disgusted by this information, the three men began on their mission. They wanted to give the public affordable luxury watches. The trio believed that it was possible to create high-quality watches at the lowest possible costs by avoiding additional expenses such as third-party retail margins and marketing overheads. On top of that, they also vowed to never exceed a markup that is thrice the manufacturing price.
The men also decided that they would only sell their watches online to cut down the middleman and directly sell to the customers. With this, Christopher Ward became the first online-only watch shop. They even did this from a chicken shed that they converted into their headquarters. So, why did they choose the name Christopher Ward as their brand name? According to the three men, it was the most English-sounding name among the three of them, and they really wanted to establish their company as one of the great British watch brands.
The Rise of Christopher Ward
These humble beginnings were on-brand for the founders’ simple and no-nonsense approach to business. They even decided against any celebrity endorsement since this would just be too costly. So, how did the public know about the brand without any expensive marketing strategy and celebrity endorsement? Well, they had themselves an unexpected savior. Despite putting an ad for their watches in a newspaper, their brand wasn’t gaining that much popularity. Well, not until a Tasmanian lecturer and watch expert saw the ad and decided to buy their watch and review it. Watch expert Dave Malone had every intention to write a very critical and harsh review on the largest watch forum in the world. But to his surprise, the watch exceeded all expectations and garnered his praise. With this positive review, Christopher Ward soon gained popularity and sales began to boom.
Since its simple beginnings in 2005, Christopher Ward has certainly grown as a brand and continued to wow the watchmaking industry. In 2008, they began a partnership with Synergies Horlogères, which is an exclusive Swiss watchmaking company. And a couple of years later, in 2014, Christopher Ward took the watchmaking industry by storm by creating their own in-house movement. This was historic for British watch brands in general since it was the first commercially viable movement from one of the brands in 50 years.
4. Mr. Jones
Mr. Jones is unlike any of the British watch brands out there. And we’re not just saying this to hook you in. Their branding is unique and unusual. When Crispin Jones created the watch company, he believed that their watches should tell a story. In this digital age where smartphones can do everything — including telling the time — he recognised that watches should go beyond mere functionality. He wanted to produce watches that would make people smile or start conversations with pleasant strangers. It wasn’t just about creating something eye-catching, but rather designing timepieces that had their own personality. Their approach to design is definitely on the more playful side and offers something new, interesting, and extraordinary.
Behind Mr. Jones, is a small but devoted team that works tirelessly to maintain this sense of awe and excitement attached to the brand. They aim to create distinctive watches that are unique to Mr. Jones. They stay true to their motto of “always unconventional”, challenging how people think about time through their designs.
5. Roger Smith
When Roger W. Smith established his own watch company in 2001, he had a specific ethos in mind. He wanted to artfully practice the intricate craft of watchmaking and develop timepieces that are held to an extraordinary horological standard. This commitment to the craft is so strong that, on average, the company only makes 12 watches in a year. Each of these watches were carefully handled and well-thought-out at every stage of the process.
Smith was a student of the legendary watchmaker George Daniels. Daniels was the first to sufficiently master 32 out of 34 watchmaking skills and techniques that are required when creating a watch by hand alone. The Daniels Method involves creating a watch entirely by hand without any assistance. This independent style of watchmaking truly showcases the skills, capabilities, and range of a watchmaker. Inspired by his mentor, Smith decided to incorporate the Daniels Method in his work. Through a decades-long mastery of the tradition and exploration of future mechanical watchmaking, Roger Smith was able to carve his own niche among top British watch brands.
Garrick founders, David Brailsford and Simon Michlmayr, had a burning desire to create high-quality timepieces that captured the distinct British personality. There was a catch, though. They had no intention to include mass production techniques in their business model. They envisioned something more personal and small scale. This devotion to hand-craftsmanship was truly remarkable and made no room for compromise in the quality of construction.
With a small yet skilled and reliable team of watchmakers, the company only produces a maximum of 50 timepieces per year. Most of their watch components are created internally, and they’re even able to produce their own in-house movement. Quality is accounted for in every aspect of the watchmaking process. For example, only filtered air is pumped into the workshop’s production areas to ensure that none of the watch components are contaminated with dust. And since the team isn’t that large, the lack of quantity is made up for with quality. Every member of the watchmaking team has had several years of experience in handcrafting timepieces. Even small details on the watch, such as the finishing, is executed flawlessly. This attention to detail and commitment to craftsmanship makes Garrick one of the best British watch brands in today’s market.
7. Loomes & Co.
Although formally established in 2008, the rich watchmaking history of Loomes & Co. dates back all the way to the 1650s with the great clockmaker, Thomas Loomes. At that time, Loomes ran the largest watchmaking firm in London. And it seems that this passion for watchmaking was passed down in the family, as his descendants would later put up one of the best British watch brands of today: Loomes & Co. The brand has such a deep and rich history you could practically feel it through the walls of their headquarters. In fact, its workshop is currently housed in a building that dates back as far as 1588 and was the former Stamford gaol house.
Its founder, Robert Loomes, grew up in a family with a long line of watchmakers. In his childhood, he was told a dozen tales about his famous ancestor, Thomas Loomes. Everywhere he looked, there were all sorts of clocks and watches in his home. With this strong influence from a very young age, it’s no wonder that Robert would also eventually take an interest in the craft. He started with an apprenticeship under the guidance of his own father, Brian Loomes. Brian not only diligently practiced the craft of watchmaking throughout his life, but he also wrote several books on watchmaking.
Loomes & Co.: Creation and Restoration
When Robert decided to establish Loomes & Co., he had a very clear vision in mind. He wanted to assemble a very talented team of watchmakers to work in his workshop, creating proper British-made watches from scratch under one roof. Each member of this highly-skilled team is responsible for one aspect of the process of watchmaking, and each step is carefully planned, designed, and executed. Every single watch component is sketched and designed by hand before proceeding to the next part of the process.
And although Loomes & Co. produces well-designed, high-quality watches, that is not the only thing they’re known for. Loomes & Co. is also widely known for their amazing restoration work. With such a long history in the industry, it is no wonder that Loomes has a knack for repairing and restoring vintage watches and antique clocks. This appreciation for history and the commitment to preserving it truly showcase the rich watchmaking heritage behind Loomes & Co.
With such amazing stories and characters behind each brand, it’s no wonder that they can produce such distinct and high-quality timepieces. The world of British-made watches is definitely something worth exploring. And we’re absolutely excited to see what these British watch brands have to offer in the future.
If you’re interested in other country-based watch brands, check out the article we wrote on the best American-made watches.