A panel session featuring Schofield’s Giles Ellis, Bremont’s Giles English, Accurist’s Jonathan Crocker and Christopher Ward’s Chris Ward sparked debate over the definition of British-made watches, yesterday at the London Watch Show.
The representatives of key British companies agreed that further discussion needs to take place about the use of the Brit-made label and how to boost British watchmaking to help grow a similar infrastructure to that of Switzerland.
According to Ellis, the British watch revival is not just about products but about endeavour. Talking about whether a product has to be completely made in Britain to have a British-made label, Ellis said that for him, efforts towards growing the British watch industry is what matters. "There’s a revival and that revival is not about products but endeavour."
He added: "We are contributing to watchmaking in the UK by educating companies outside of watchmaking, such as lazer engravers."
Ellis said that although mechanics and engineering in Britain are important, for him the Brit label is about every aspect of a brand, including elements such as packaging. "It’s about focussing on all the parts of what we do and having them done in the UK if the integrity is there," he said. "That has to be based not just on the fact that they are British but because the integrity is there and it’s the best."
For Chris Ward of Christopher Ward, which is a British retailer that sells Swiss-made products, a brand can be British and still get its products elsewhere. He added that in Switzerland at the moment, not only are the best movements produced but there is the best watch infrastructure. He said that putting "British made" on the dial of a watch where the timepiece is not completely made in Britiain is a moral issue. "I think you have to ask yourself is that morally right," he said. "If you’re not being totally transparent, are you being honest with the consumer?"
Ward added that he would like to see advances made in terms of British watchmaking but thought it would be a long process.
Ward said: "We decided we would stay in Switzerland but do all of our marketing in the UK. We would jump at the chance of being totally Brit made but in my lifetime, I can’t see that."
At Accurist too, which puts a small number of its watches together in the UK but has most of its products made abroad, Crocker said he would like to see and support more British watch manufacturing.
Giles English from Bremont said that the UK needs to work on building a similar infrastructure to the Switzerland to be able to build multiple things rather than just one offs. "It’s a slow process but we’re doing what we can towards it," said English.
For Ellis too, the British revival is about endeavour. "Watches may not be 100% made in the UK but it’s the fact that companies and owners are doing what they can to get there," he explained. "As separate companies we are all doing what we can within our business models."
The panel agreed that there is need for further collaboration among British companies to help grow and define British watchmaking.