London-based Bamford Watch Department (BWD) are specialists in watch customisation and they’re famed for creating any one-of-a-kind timepiece that you can dream up. Now the appointed authorised customizer of LVMH’s TAG Heuer, Zenith and Bulgari, founder George Bamford speaks to us about his latest watch collaboration with Japanese cult street outfit, fragment design (the watch is available exclusively at Dover Street Market), and being officially embraced by the horology industry.
How would you describe BWD and what it does?
George Bamford (GB): If Bentley’s Mulliner division and Nike I-D had a lovechild, they would basically spit out Bamford Watch Department. It’s all about personalisation. Fourteen years ago, personalisation was like a buzzword: Everyone sort of did customisations but you only really went to a tailor to do bespoke.
What was the moment you decided that this was what you wanted to do?
GB: There wasn’t one. I never set it up as a business. I was on holiday with a customised Bamford on my wrist and someone said: “I really like that; I’d buy one,” and that’s how the business started. It just snowballed and, you know, you sold to someone who spoke to someone else… This was before Instagram; people were emailing me on my Hotmail account. Then, last year, we signed a contract with LVMH for Tag Heur, Bulgari and Zenith.
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Yes, I read about that; congratulations!
GB: It’s been really good; being embraced [by the watch community] is really bloody amazing. And what’s happened is that I’ve seen the compass turn for personalisation. I was on Orchard Road and all these shops offer bespoke [services]. Not watch shops, but high-end luxury brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton… So it’s not a buzzword, now it’s kind of reality; and the watch world is probably a few years behind. So it’s so cool that we’ve been embraced by Jean Claude [Biver; President of LVMH’s Watch Division]. And now we’ve collaborated with fragment design [on this] beautiful limited edition watch that’s exclusive for Dover Street Market; so only sold through Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Tokyo.
Tell us more about this collaboration.
GB: Hiroshi Fujiwara [founder of fragment design] has been a friend of mine for about 10 or 11 years. He’s looked after me and he’s always been kind of like a mentor to me. [For the watch] we went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth… [the watch] looks so simple but it’s not. I mean, you look at the layers of the dial; everything has been thought through, from how the two sub dials appear bigger and the bottom sub dial almost seems to disappear but doesn’t, they all almost play in perfect harmony.
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Is there any kind of customisation that you will not do?
GB: I don’t like diamond setting. It’s something that I don’t do because it’s not my expertise and, also, I’m not a bling-bling person. There’re others who do it and they do it very well, so why would I ever go into that? There is also, I’m sure, taste levels, but I haven’t come across any of those yet. Having said that, there is a dial that’s just being done right now that’s absolutely stunning and I kept on saying to the client before, “please don’t do that in that colour way.” It’s something like pink and blue and I kept saying to the client, “please don’t, it won’t look good; I know best.” I was being real egotistical but the client insisted and, oh my god, it’s stunning. I emailed the client to say “I’m really sorry, you are totally right, I am an absolutely dick.” I literally went grovelling. I thought it was a taste level issue and now when I see this watch, I’m just like, wow.
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To enquire more about the BWD x Fragment Zenith El Primero timepiece, contact Dover Street Market Singapore.