Unless you’ve been off-grid internet-wise for the past few week, you will know about the announcement by Bremont of their new limited edition the ‘Wright Flyer’, which will incorporate original material from the 1903 Wright brothers’ flyer, and the still-ongoing fracas that has resulted regarding its movement.
Before its launch at the Science Museum in London, the embargo on the Wright Flyer was breached on a U.K. watch forum, where a poster queried whether the movement was in fact ‘in-house’ (I shall raise the thorny issue of the definition of ‘in-house’ later in this piece) or not. What was meant to be the announcement of a new piece with an interesting link-up with the Wright brothers has turned out quite differently for Bremont. There has been a lot of rampant speculation about this, and I would like to point to a post by my friend and fellow blogger The Watchnerd, who attended the Wright Flyer launch and who provides some thoughtful analysis and a first-hand account of what was said at the launch.
The situation is perhaps somewhat more clear now, with the admission that as variously noted online, Bremont’s in-house movement is based on a La Joux-Perret calibre, but I fear that it is not yet fully resolved. However, as I write the press release on the Bremont website still reads as follows :
“Bremont is honoured to announce the unveiling of the Limited Edition Bremont Wright Flyer on the 23rd July 2014 at the Science Museum in London. The new timepiece will feature some of the original fabric used on the 1903 Wright Flyer aircraft. Just as significantly, it showcases Bremont’s first ever in-house movement, the BWC/01, designed and developed in Britain. Many of its constituent parts have also been crafted at the company’s workshops in Henley-on-Thames.” …versus the audio in the accompanying promotional video which contains the phrase “a world first for Bremont. The first in-house movement, designed and built in the U.K.” at 3:20 approximately (below).
…and “Bremont is honoured to announce the unveiling of the Limited Edition Bremont Wright Flyer on the 23rd July 2014 at the Science Museum in London. The new timepiece will feature some of the original fabric used on the 1903 Wright Flyer aircraft. Just as significantly, it showcases Bremont’s first ever unique movement, the BWC/01, part-developed and designed in Britain with our Swiss partners. A number of the key constituent movement parts are also planned to be manufactured at the company’s workshops in Henley-on-Thames, which is the first step for Bremont towards manufacturing movements in their entirety in the UK” on the introductory Wright Flyer page.
Whatever happened to lead to this course of events is something that only those involved know, but given what has ensued, I hope that these differences/ contradictions in the official material are straightened out, so that those going to the website will have accurate information. As for the watch that has generated such controversy, each Bremont Wright Flyer Limited Edition rotor will feature some of the original muslin material used to cover the 1903 Wright Flyer aircraft. The muslin will be layered between the period decorated rotor plate and a sapphire crystal window. Funds raised from the sales of this watch, which will be in three variants – stainless steel (300 pieces), rose gold (100 pieces) and white gold (50 pieces), will go towards the restoration of the Wright family home in Dayton, Ohio, which is to be opened as a museum. It has been Bremont’s commendable practice in its limited editions to partner with something historically important and to donate a portion of the watch’s proceeds to maintenance.
Although this story has not yet done its dash, what does seem to be apparent is that there has been a lot of confusion, and the text and audio cited above, with its inconsistencies, has added fuel to the discussions and debates. In the end what is important is for there to be clarity and openness to consumers, whether this is for watches or for anything else. Of course, as an overlapping issue to this is the tricky discussion of what constitutes ‘in-house’ when it comes to watchmaking.
If I ask say a dozen people, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get disagreements about what qualifies, and what does not. Whether ‘in-house’ matters or not is also debatable, and will there ever be a generally accepted definition…? It is easy to say that an in-house movement is one that a brand produces itself. But what is ‘produces’? Or ‘makes’, if you like? It is par for the course that some constituent parts of movements are provided by outside suppliers, and people are happy to accept this.
Is the modern fixation on ‘in-house’ something that is important to the average watch buyer? I’d wager not, but for many who are engaged in this crazy world of watches, it matters. In the discussions I’ve had over the past week about the definition of ‘in-house’, there has not been any consensus, and so I throw this out for people to think about and to discuss. There seems to be varying shades of grey, and a majority believe that a lot is to do with what is in these grey areas.
Has ‘in-house’ ever meant that something fully made by one brand in the single location? Well if it has, of the large brands, who other than Rolex and Seiko can lay claim to being a completely in-house Manufacture?
With thanks to those with whom I’ve been having these animated discussions this past week for their input, here are the core ‘in-house’ scenarios that the discussions have revolved around :
1. Something (e.g. a movement) that is fully made ‘in-house’ but which was commissioned/ designed from a third party and purchased from them (i.e. a ‘bought design’).
2. Something developed ‘in-house’ but manufactured by an independent third party exclusively for that brand.
3. Something such as a movement that has been developed and made exclusively for a brand by a third party.
4. Something designed, developed and manufactured, from the beginning until the end, within the one brand/ factory.
So – which of these would qualify as ‘in-house’ to you? All? Only the fourth option? Some? Food for thought.