Bremont has marked its return to the Swiss show scene after an eight-year absence by announcing an overhaul of its product line — the first under the direction of the UK watchmaker’s first chief executive, Davide Cerrato. As a result, the pieces taking centre stage at Watches and Wonders in Geneva this week will comprise a family of rugged adventure models called Terra Nova.

The name is apposite, not only because it recalls Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition of 1910 but also because it marks new territory for the brand in what Cerrato, who has been at the helm since last May, describes as “almost a relaunch”.

Bremont was established in 2002 with the aim of bringing back industrial-scale watch manufacturing to the UK after an absence since the early 70s.

Founders Nick and Giles English put it on the horological map by combining a laid-back approach with a determination to achieve what many believed was an overambitious goal.

After launching its first watch in 2007, the brand quickly established a presence in the UK, US and Asia that enabled it to set up workshops in the well-to-do Oxfordshire town of Henley-on-Thames, driving an expansion that led to the opening of an ultra-modern manufacturing and technology facility, known as The Wing, in 2021.

The brothers became the faces of the brand, designing watches, establishing bonds with suitably adventurous ambassadors, and promoting Bremont through their own exploits, from crossing America in classic cars to flying around in a vintage aircraft known as the Bremont Bus.

A 40.5mm green dial model from Bremont’s Terra Nova collection © Bremont
Bremont opened a new manufacturing hub in Henley-on-Thames in 2021 © Bremont

But the company is now under the majority ownership of long-term investor Hellcat Acquisitions and US billionaire Bill Ackman, who between them injected £48.4mn into the lossmaking brand last year.

Since the arrival of Cerrato, the brothers no longer have a significant stake in the business, control its direction, or have input into the design process, though they remain on the board as founders.

Cerrato — who worked at Panerai before moving to Tudor, creating its hit Black Bay watch, and then on to Montblanc, where he served as head of watches — kicked off his tenure by overhauling Bremont’s logo and general design language, aiming to link the brand’s military and outdoor themes with urban fashion.

Previously featuring a two-blade propeller in reference to the brand’s ties with aviation (the English brothers have been pilots since their school days), it now comprises a different typeface and a compass-inspired Wayfinder design.

While it still alludes to aviation through a “hidden” four-blade propeller, it now references adventure more generally by “land, sea and air” — the three pillars on which Cerrato intends to redevelop the maker. “We’re on a real mission to rejuvenate the target market, which is buyers between the ages of 25 and 45,” he says.

“The Wayfinder logo shows we are about more than aviation and, combined with the new, more modern Bremont font, is intended to create a feeling of movement that fits in with our new mantra ‘Higher, Further, Deeper, Faster’ — representing the themes of air, land and sea.

“Nick and Giles embodied a maverick spirit and we definitely want to leverage that. The parts that needed improvement were the operational processes, which were a bit unusual — and that’s what we’re working on.”

Cerrato says one of the keys to getting Bremont on track will be to streamline and simplify its offering, to which end he has slashed 40 per cent of models compared with this time last year and is sidelining watches targeted specifically at women.

“Gender boundaries have completely fallen in recent years, and designing a watch linked specifically to men or women doesn’t even seem appropriate now,” he explains.

The Terra Nova models — which are based on first world war military pocket watches with block glow-in-the-dark markings — also herald the phasing out of Bremont’s long-standing Trip-Tick three-part case.

Made from hardened steel, Trip-Tick is described by Cerrato as having been “more of a design trick” with “no real functionality”. “It also didn’t work in smaller diameters, so we have made the Terra Nova cases slimmer, sharper and more wearable in 38mm, 40.5mm, and 42.5mm sizes, and used more durable steel,” he says. “The 38mm automatic is priced at £2,500, which brings our entry point down from around £3,000 and is intended to show how keen we are that a Bremont can become someone’s first good quality, mechanical watch.”

Cerrato adds that the brand’s offering will also be expanded at the higher end, with a £25,000, limited edition Terra Nova chronograph in pink gold also being unveiled at the show, along with another premium-priced Terra Nova model: the Tourbillon Dual Time, featuring a blackened titanium case.

But, while Terra Nova has been designed at The Wing and the watches will be assembled there, the movements and other components for the main range are being imported from Switzerland, in what appears to be a departure from Bremont’s original plan to produce as much as possible in the UK.

Terra Nova 42mm
Terra Nova 38mm

“We already had a partnership with movement manufacturer Sellita, and those are the movements we’re using for all Terra Nova watches, with the exception of the tourbillon, which has been developed with [Frenchman] Olivier Mori,” says Cerrato.

“We are not leaving behind the idea of bringing watchmaking back to the UK and we want to still be seen as a British challenger — but the Britishness will be expressed much more through exploration, designs, colours and references to the golden days of British watchmaking.”

He says the ENG300 in-house movement, launched in 2021 and containing many parts manufactured in the UK, will now be used only for unspecified niche pieces, whereas it was previously expected to form the foundation of the English brothers’ goal to bring full-scale watch manufacturing back to Britain. What will now happen to the machinery that had been installed in The Wing to increase the level of in-house production was not made clear.

Additionally, a three-year partnership with the Williams Formula One team that began in 2021 has not been renewed, despite being promoted as an opportunity for the two companies to share engineering knowledge and manufacturing roles. “We are a small company and we really need to focus on transforming ourselves into a good business,” says Cerrato.

“While there are clear ties between F1 and watches, it’s a very crowded environment and one we couldn’t really leverage. The Williams partnership . . . seemed to me like one too many stories.”

However, following Cerrato’s visit to the first British Watchmakers’ Day in London last month, it is expected that Bremont will finally join the Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers, putting an end to its conspicuous absence since the organisation was founded in 2020. Cerrato also aims to increase Bremont’s presence in the US, the Middle East and India while helping it gain a foothold in Europe, where it is represented in relatively few countries, such as Holland, Gibraltar, the Czech Republic, and Malta.

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