Watch brands have long sought to associate themselves with the field of human endeavour. And why not? Everyone, let’s face it, likes the idea of connecting themselves – however tenuously – with a daring, courageous or exciting pursuit. Omega has traded marvellously well off the back of its Speedmaster conquering the heavens strapped to a space suit. Rolex has sold a sea of Submariners thanks to its Deepsea diving to the lowest depths of the ocean on the Trieste.
But these are extreme achievements, beyond the reach of most people. Perhaps for this reason, the activity that most watch brands seem most keen to lay their claim to is flying. Flying, after all, is something we’ll all get to do at some point. Oh sure, we won’t necessarily be at the controls – let alone be involved in any heroics – but most of us can at least fire up a web browser and book a couple of British Airways tickets. Hell, it’s not out of the realms of possibility to think that at some point in our lives we could get ourselves down to our local air field and take some flying lessons.
Which is why so many heavy-hitters in the watch world want to draw a connection between their brands and this activity that so many of us aspire to and yet can also relate to: a dream within reach.
This year at SIHH, we spent an inordinate amount of time marvelling at the sight of the IWC stand. So keen were the guys and girls from Schaffhausen to remind us all that they were the de facto pilot’s watch brand that they declared 2012 the Year of the Pilot’s Watch and built a damn near perfect replica of an aircraft carrier in lieu of a stand. It came complete with a flight simulator. A line of immaculately turned out watch industry executives – in their Brioni suits and Hermès ties – queuing up to spend 10 mins inside the fake cockpit of a fake F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is quite a sight to behold.
Meanwhile, Breitling continues to throw millions each year at slick global ad campaigns, trying to remind as all that they are purveyors of “instruments for professionals.” That’s professional pilots, you understand, not prostitutes.
Of course, IWC and Breitling are just the easiest examples to pick on. There are countless other brands trying to lay claim to some – any – aviation pedigree. And, don’t misunderstand us, we’re not criticising them for it. We understand the crucial role of marketing in the magic of the luxury watch world and there’s nothing wrong with it. IWC in particular produces – across print, digital and physical channels – some of the most stylish and well-judged marketing collateral you’re likely to see in this sector.
But there’s a difference between talking about it and, you know, actually doing it.
What’s that old saying? “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.” In the rarefied world of luxury watches, it’s more like “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, better get on the phone to a great frigging marketing agency.” Or at least that’s what we were thinking as we came away having spent a day at Flying Legends, hanging out with laid-back, British brand Bremont.
You see, brothers Giles and Nick English – the founders of the brand – don’t just talk about their backgrounds in aviation, they live it. And as we walked around the famous air show with Giles we were struck by three things:
Firstly, he has an overwhelming, genuine enthusiasm for anything that’s capable of flight. We’ve seen him wax lyrical about the Bremont watch collection but that’s nothing compared to the animated way in which he throws himself into a discussion about planes. This is passion you can’t fake.
Secondly, he’s got an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject matter. Not only could the man identify every plane, every part, every sodding livery, but he also revelled in telling us anecdotes about each one: little bits of history or interesting facts that only a true air head would retain.
Thirdly – and perhaps most impressively – he’s a pilot who is known, connected and respected in the aviation world. We lost count of the number of times that people came up to him while we were with him to shake his hand and talk planes. Despite the very obvious Bremont branding on show, somehow we have the feeling that a lot of them didn’t even know that he also runs a small watch company.
Bremont spends money on advertising too, of course. And when it does, there are inevitably pictures of planes involved and copy centred on the idea of man and machine pushing themselves in unison to achieve greatness – just like IWC, Breitling and the countless others pretenders.
But unlike all those other brands, the men in charge at Bremont actually do fly and they did so long before they founded a watch company.
Bremont walks the talk.
Please scroll down for more photos from the Flying Legends air show at Duxford.
Walking the talk: Bremont at Flying Legends
“Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.” In the rarefied world of luxury watches, it’s more like “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, better get on the phone to a great frigging marketing agency.” Or at least that’s what we were thinking as we came away having spent a laid-back day at Flying Legends, hanging out with upstart British brand Bremont.
Our editor-in-chief, the self-proclaimed "greatest wit, raconteur and bon vivant of our age", borders on delusional. Over the years, the fool has squandered more money on fast cars, Swiss watches and electronic gadgetry of all kinds than he – or Mrs Fool – cares to remember. Come nightfall, he can invariably be found stumbling out of Dukes mumbling “just one more Martini; I could have handled just one mmmmm… [thud!]”
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