Nothing reminds you that the Bamford Watch Department is a family-run business like visiting The Hive, a quirky nickname given to Bamford’s Mayfair headquarters in London. Set in an unassuming property near Hyde Park, the building also serves as the company’s in-house watch service department and showroom – although the term ‘showroom’ doesn’t quite cut it. This isn’t like visiting your local boutique, it’s more like stopping by to see an uncle who happens to live in a secure, beautiful and tastefully appointed house, who also has a crazy passion for watches. The Hive was the brainchild of owner George Bamford, who himself isn’t perhaps what you’d expect. The son of Lord and Lady Bamford, he’s charming, professional, and surprisingly funny, with that charisma usually reserved for those in public life. And he knows exactly what he wants.
With a background in photography, George brought an eye for detail into his business that’s evident both in the Mayfair decor of his HQ and his latest watch, the Bamford GMT. The fact his first mechanical watch is a GMT is itself no coincidence; as a frequent traveller, husband and father, George wanted to keep track of home time for video chats with his family while away on business, hence the Bamford GMT. Listening to him explain why the watch uses an internal rotating time zone (rather than external), or how long it took to get the chamfer on the bezel just right, you can sense the passion and investment he personally put into creating this model.
Bamford is no stranger to watch design, as the first company to create the now familiar black-coated Rolex, for well over a decade it’s been (unofficially) customising watches for a discerning and exacting clientele. With that much experience, Bamford Watch Department knows a thing or two about what its consumer wants and has now evolved, or more correctly, matured, into not only manufacturing its own line but also creating bespoke “build your own” watches with official approval from Swiss manufacturers including Bulgari and Zenith. That’s actually rather a big deal and a world-first on this scale. If you love watches and haven’t yet tried the “build-your-own” function on the Bamford Watch Department website, go try it now. It’s addictive.
The Bamford GMT is designed in London, uses a Swiss self-winding movement with 42-hour power reserve and is built in Asia. This use of global economics means the GMT can be manufactured to a quality that will surpass expectations for a timepiece that comes in at a very reasonable £1,100. With a classic 1960s-inspired design, 40mm diameter case, numerous potential colour combinations and inevitable future limited editions (only 20 were made in the Selfridges black and yellow edition that sold out instantly), the GMT is currently available online for pre-order in five colour variations.
With an attractive price level for its own line and factory-approved personalisation of famous Swiss brands available online, at temporary pop-up collaborations within existing retail environments and at its Mayfair location, it might well be this multi-level approach is the future of luxury retail. As with the infamous blacked-out Rolex, Bamford seems once again to be leading the way.
Bamford GMT, £1,100; bamfordwatchdepartment.com