From the best af­ford­able watches to the horo­log­i­cal trends worth know­ing; also, what are tour­bil­lons and why do they mat­ter?


GQ (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Ge­orge Bam­ford is dif­fer­ent to most CEOS in the watch­mak­ing in­dus­try. For starters, he’s a “sneaker freak”, his uni­form made up of white de­signer kicks, jeans, a blazer, shirt and tie. More sig­nif­i­cantly, un­til re­cently, he’d never made two of the same watch. In 2004, af­ter he and a some friends found them­selves at a din­ner party sport­ing the same watch, he de­cided to launch Bam­ford Watch De­part­ment (BWD) – a com­pany whose sole aim was to per­son­alise qual­ity watches into one-of-a-kind pieces. The im­pact of his in­cep­tion had BWD im­me­di­ately ruf­fling lux­ury feath­ers and rais­ing me­chan­i­cal alarm bells within the horo­log­i­cal world. His trade­mark treat­ment is to blacken cases and add a lu­mi­nes­cent colour to the di­als. Though many were en­ticed by this new way of see­ing watches, watch purists loathed such ‘Franken­watches’, call­ing them sac­ri­lege, to the point where any Bam­fordaf­fected piece vi­o­lated the orig­i­nal war­ranty and lost the right to be ser­viced. Four­teen years on, Bam­ford hasn’t changed a bit – but the in­dus­try has. “I said, ‘God damn, this guy has some­thing spe­cial,’” gushes TAG Heuer’s CEO Jean-claude Biver to GQ. “I’ve al­ways ad­mired him. He can make a bor­ing watch sexy with­out chang­ing it too much. I said we should also do that. We also make bor­ing watches so we should try to col­lab­o­rate. I said, ‘Let’s call him’. So I called him and he was sur­prised.” Two days later, Biver and Bam­ford met in Lon­don. This re­sulted in an of­fi­cial part­ner­ship with LVMH in 2017, BWD as the approved per­son­al­i­sa­tion part­ner for Bul­gari, Zenith and TAG Heuer. Now it’s March 2018 and we are stood in the TAG Heuer Basel­world booth (more aptly, man­sion) to wit­ness his­tory. Every­one who’s any­one in the watch me­dia is here. The un­likely duo of Messieurs Biver and Bam­ford are up on stage sec­onds away from be­ing live-streamed around the world to un­veil the an­nounce­ment of the TAG Heuer x Bam­ford ‘Monaco’. This col­lab­o­ra­tion and how it came to be would be­come the talk of Basel­world. “The first watch you buy doesn’t need to be in­di­vid­u­alised. It’s al­ready such an achieve­ment to buy your first Rolex or Hublot or Patek,” says Biver. “But it’s once you buy your sec­ond or third one you say, ‘Can I not have some­thing spe­cial?’ We’d seen it in the lux­ury fash­ion in­dus­try and it’s hap­pen­ing in the watch world too. Con­sumers aged be­tween 35 and 50 are ready to buy some­thing spe­cial. “So de­spite the cost of pro­duc­ing 10 pieces or 50 pieces or 20 pieces we wanted to re­spond to this wish from the cus­tomers,” con­tin­ues Biver. “We pro­duce about 700,000 watches [a year], so we thought Ge­orge can do it for us. He said he wanted to do a spe­cial ‘Monaco’. Be­cause he loves the ‘Monaco’, Many peo­ple think it’s the face of the brand. And that was also his opin­ion.” It speaks vol­umes about Biver as well as the hi­er­ar­chy within TAG Heuer, and ex­em­pli­fies why TAG is ar­guably the most in­no­va­tive and pop­u­lar watch player in the world right now. Within 15 min­utes of the spe­cial an­nounce­ment, we have the plea­sure of sit­ting down with Bam­ford. Un­sur­pris­ingly the 37-year-old Brit is buzzing with ex­cite­ment. And with good rea­son.

As we are in­tro­duced, the Lara Stoneesque gap in his teeth beams to­wards us, eyes smil­ing through his trade­mark thick black-rimmed spec­ta­cles. He is ex­citable in a way that’s re­fresh­ing, not puppy-dog-like, his voice sim­i­lar to Prince Wil­liam’s. And any­one whose ex­pe­ri­enced four days straight of Basel­world will ap­pre­ci­ate quite how wel­come ‘re­fresh­ing’ can be. Here’s what the man of the mo­ment had to say about his shiny new TAG Heuer part­ner­ship among other things, in­clud­ing that one time he was in such a hurry to pur­chase a watch to per­son­alise, that he fell down a flight of stairs. GQ: Why the ‘Monaco’ to launch this spe­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion? Ge­orge Bam­ford: I love the ‘Monaco’. As a child I used to sit with my fa­ther on the week­end and watch For­mula 1 in the crux of his arm. Then when I was at school, the poster I had on my wall was Steve Mc­queen wear­ing a ‘Monaco’. I thought he was the King of Cool. GQ: Was it your choice or TAG Heuer’s?

GB: They said be­fore­hand, ‘What watch do you want to do?’ I had ‘Monaco’ in car­bon fi­bre and aqua blue as op­tion A with op­tions down to Z. Lit­er­ally we had doc­u­ments and doc­u­ments on how we’d want this. And they just went, ‘Yeah, let’s do a ‘Monaco’.’ GQ: Talk us through your de­sign for this piece?

GB: I love the colour black but I also love the colour blue and our sig­na­ture colour is what we call a ‘Bam­ford aqua blue’. I al­ways wanted to use it to cre­ate a blue-dial ‘Monaco’ and re­ally play with dif­fer­ent shades on the dial to rep­re­sent my love of this colour. And I love how it all bal­ances out on the iconic square dial. This lit­tle step here was the orig­i­nal steel and I said to my­self I want the edg­ing to be ex­actly the same. Even the nod back to ‘The Dark Lord’, with the steel and the black – these are the things that I loved. GQ: We’ve talked about the new col­lab­o­ra­tion, but what about per­son­al­is­ing vin­tage pieces? GB: Look, I am a mas­sive vin­tage watch col­lec­tor. I’m a mag­pie when I col­lect things. I go in for very weird watches, be it TAG Heuer, Patek or Bre­itling from the ’60s, ’70s, early ’80s. It’s when they were kind of crazy with the war on quartz. I just bought a ‘Ken­tucky’ which is the weird­est, ugli­est­look­ing Heuer. But it’s also beau­ti­ful, be­cause of the quartz move­ment and how it’s shaped, how the case feels and even how the pin works on the brace.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT Ge­orge Bam­ford dis­play­ing his cus­tomised TAG Heuer x Bam­ford ‘Monaco’; el­e­ments of the time­piece fea­ture Bam­ford’s sig­na­ture aqua blue colour; the iconic square watch face; Steve Mc­queen wear­ing his ‘Monaco’ at Le Mans in 1971.

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