3 years ago

Onelife 27

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Shenzhen by Range Rover Sport PHEV | A first drive in the new Range Rover Evoque | Mid-century modernist architecture in Germany | George Bamford on what makes true luxury | Meet moon-walker Charlie Duke | Carnival subculture in Brazil



CRAFTSMANSHIP Left: George Bamford with some of his horological creations, and out in his lovingly restored Land Rover 110 tow truck at his estate in the Cotswolds To say that George Bamford likes Land Rover vehicles would be something of an understatement. He really likes Land Rover vehicles. In garages scattered across his Cotswolds estate, he has 14, among them a Defender, several ex-military Wolf models, a vertiginous off-road creation nicknamed ‘The Beast’ and his latest restoration, a 1972 110 tow truck. So it’s little surprise that we’re here, on Bamford’s very own soggy off-road course, talking about his custom-made watch business, rather than in the somewhat plusher confines of ‘The Hive’, Bamford Watch Department’s headquarters in Mayfair, London. The epicenter of a business that Bamford started 16 years ago, after deciding not join the family firm – JCB, of bright yellow digger fame and one of Britain’s wealthiest dynasties – The Hive’s consulting room is where customers can create their very own personalized watch, poring over the smallest details, choosing colors, hands, and dial options. Bamford thrives on these details, his obsession with watches going back to his childhood. “I come from an engineering family,” he explains as we slither down a slippery incline in the tow truck. “It’s in my blood. When I was small I’d take the TV or the juicer to bits, which my parents found quite annoying,” he smiles. “When I was 16 they gave me a Breitling ® Navitimer and I took that to bits as well, which annoyed them further.” But that Navitimer was to be Bamford’s lightning bolt with watches. He spent the following years, while studying photography at the Parsons School of Design in New York, visiting flea markets buying up cheap old timepieces, disassembling and re-assembling their movements, learning what made them tick. While the inner workings fascinated Bamford, many watch designs left him cold. “I realized that so many mass-market luxury products were the same – the same black dial, the same steel case,” he says. “So, in 2003, I decided to personalize a Tag Heuer ® Monaco I’d been given. I had the whole watch black-coated – the dial, case, everything. That was my first customized watch.” Once he started wearing the black Monaco, friends started to notice, and wanted one too, so Bamford had more produced. Bamford Watch Department (BWD) was born. Early signature projects from BWD were heavily customized Rolex ® watches – most notably the all-black Cosmograph Daytona. But Rolex took a dim view of Bamford’s interpretations of its classic designs. Indeed, Bamford’s unique take on these famous timepieces – black-coating them, adding different colorways to the dials and hands – was invalidating their warranties, a major problem when it came to after-sales servicing. Nevertheless, the personalization business continued to grow, so Bamford kept going, even creating his own in-house service department on the top floor of The Hive. BWD soon became known as the world’s premier customizer of Rolex watches. Everything changed in 2016, however, when multinational luxury goods group LVMH threw its full weight behind BWD. “That deal put us in a very good place,” he says, as we negotiate a near-impossible incline in the Land Rover. “Getting approval was one of the best things ever because we could now offer a manufacturer warranty with our products.” Abandoning Rolex, BWD focused its efforts on LVMH’s three premium watch brands – Tag Heuer, Zenith and Bulgari. Bamford’s huge range of customization options was now fully legitimate, allowing customers to spec a watch to their own personal taste, choosing from a total combination of over a billion options. BWD also started producing its own range of watches at the same time, the Bamford London Mayfair and GMT Auto, offering a way into the brand at a more affordable price point. “The Mayfair comes in 49 colors,” he enthuses. “And we can customize it further for a small fee. But luxury isn’t all about the price. It has to be bespoke, it has to have personalization. They go hand in hand. As with my cars, my focus is on individuality. Purists may not approve, but I love it. I want people to have what they want.” It’s a philosophy that is paying dividends. With boutiques and dealers worldwide and a demanding market for his wares in Asia and the US, Bamford has created his own mini empire to go alongside the family dynasty. There’s also a line of grooming products and accessories to add to the portfolio. So, where next for the Bamford brand? Custommade cars? Bespoke private jets? Bamford smiles wryly as he pulls the Land Rover into his graveled driveway. “Well, short term we’re launching a new watch just before the summer, and we have new collaborations happening – totally apart from LVMH,” he explains. “But if you’d asked me ten years ago, I don’t think I would have envisaged this business where it is today. I still constantly think is it going to die tomorrow?” he laughs. “But now, being embraced by the brands I’m working with, I have the sun beating down on me. I can safely say I love where I’m sitting.” And you can bet that applies to the now mud-caked Land Rover as well. Visit for more information on BWD 61


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Land Rover Magazine 39


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