BREMONT : the new Wright Flyer, and some thoughts on ‘in-house’

BremontWrightFlyerSS1 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.

BremontWrightFlyermovt

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.



Categories: Bremont, Ephemera, News, Watch movements, watches, Watchmaking

9 replies

  1. Think it was naive of them (their words in their video response to the issue) to think that their ‘inhouse’ claim would go un-noticed. ‘Saboteur’ or ‘sabotage’ aside, I am all for transparency – Snowden, Wikileaks, etc – the fact remains, they tried to pass off something which was not. In Australia, goods not matching their description contravenes the ‘Trade Practices Act’: false advertising and deceptive conduct! Was it an accident that the claim was made? “NO WAY!” – so was it deliberate then? Well, their conduct and reckless approach to announcing this time piece to the world says to me that they don’t care what it presented to the public (their customers and prospective ones) and worst still, it’s a slap in the face of people that believed in them and wanted them to succeed. In my view, omission of ‘detail’ and ‘fact’ is slightly more tolerable than a straight out (false) claim.

    Back to the watch itself – Over priced piece(s) as usual. This one which starts from around $25k to $45k is way more expensive than say, the Romain Jerome Titanic piece.

    Oh, I served up some ‘inhouse’ fried rice today for dinner: added my own touches. Some garnish and served it on a plate – bought from my local takeaway. But served ‘inhouse’. honest. #trueStory.

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  2. It seems like deja vu..I recall the uproar associated with Tag Heuer’s Calibre 1887 being announced as a “new in-house movement”.

    Bremont has had a great run as an emerging horological brand which has attracted its fair share of fans and critics. Of all the models which they have released, THIS was by far my favourite from the aesthetic sense and I had (along with many others I suspect) was quite impressed with the announcement of an “in-house” movement. The ensuing controversy has made me seriously ponder about the brand and its ethos. Was this an intentional deception? Was it a simple “naive” mistake? It may never come to light as too the truth behind the matter. However, the public can see how the brand has reacted…and on that front, it has not been a great PR success.

    I concur with @kewpielovesyou that even if it was a “true” in-house movement, at that price would I have bought a Wright Flyer? No. Never. Not when you could buy a JLC, Lange, and a whole range of other great pieces at that price range.

    The issue of “in-house” or not has sadly become a marketing weapon and is greatly abused. It would be nice to have the industry create its own standard definition as oppose to give creative licence to the various marketing departments of respective brands. What upsets me the most is the complete non-transparency when watch companies describe their movements in the Technical Specifications. The Lotus Exige used Toyota engines, and were widely regarded as a fantastic automobile despite harbouring a “humble” heart. Why does the watch industry feel they have to cover up the “heart” of their pieces??? Most of the buying public may not even care. And for those of us whom do care, I would like to think most of us can appreciate and love an Omega 321, ETA 7750, Unitas 6497 and a PP caliber 240 just as much as each other.

    As for me, “in-house” means Option 4 foremost, but I would also agree with Option 2 as being defined as “in-house”.

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  3. arguments for what is “inhouse” will never end because no one will ever agree. especially in the sense of to what degree does one brand need to do to be inhouse? Does a brand need to also breed its own cows for straps, mine its own gold for the case material, and plant their own trees to make the box? Ridiculousness aside, I’m all for transparency as well. Inhouse isn’t as important as brands think it is. Granted many brands will trade and market the whole “inhouse” thing but for me, it’s better to say something like, “developed in partnership with XXX company, to produce something that is unique and exclusive to brand X” or “powered by ETA2824, highly modified “inhouse” to the brand’s specifications and quality standards”.

    Really. There is absolutely no shame in NOT making everything inhouse. We are in a “outsourcing” world, and if suppliers can do something better, why try doing it yourselves?

    oh right. I forgot. By labelling something “inhouse” you can charge a HECK OF A LOT MORE $$$$$$. This is what it’s all about, isn’t it? the almighty $$$$$

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  4. Thank you for the mention. The Wright Flyer is still at the prototype stage; the Codebreaker and Victory watches took a good few months to produce, during which time, I recall minor changes being made to the final production models. Is it possible that Bremont have been talking as if their “end-state” movement for the Wright Flyer has already been produced, instead of using the future tense to describe what they will make themselves as part of the final production model? If past behaviour is anything to go by, I believe this will spur Brmeont on to ensure that the production version of the BWC/01 includes as many Henley-made components as possible.

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  5. I agree with Danny that in-house is first and foremost option 4 and then 2.

    Personally I am not fussed about in-house vs. external as long as I like the watch but I don’t want to be lied to and deceived where Bremont has failed.

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  6. To me, “in-house” means 2 and 4, and then the middle ground between it. For example, let’s take Habring2’s new A11 movement. They’ve designed the movement, and they will be manufacturing the gears and escapement assembly in-house. They’ll have to go outside to get the rest manufactured, but that’s understandable. In today’s economy, it makes good business sense to outsource certain things. But ultimately, if you’re not the one designing the movement, it’s not in-house.

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    • I absolutely agree. If not “designed” in-house then it already failed to fulfil one of the fundamental criterion of a manufacture d’horlogerie. If I owned a company, I would like to be able to create, develop and maintain a timepiece. Be it as it may, that during the brands’ infancy that some of the technical manufacturing side has to be outsourced for economic viability. But the blueprints to the design of parts, the genesis of the timepiece and it’s constitutive components are derived from within the company, forged by the vision and ethos of the brand.

      Perhaps I am also naive. If I was truly in that position and I know I can purchase a module from another company, modify it here and there for a fraction of the cost of sending custom orders to various external companies to assemble a more “in-house” timepiece. Would I truly hold on to that purist philosophy when there are other stakeholders to please and I was in that position? Perhaps not. But, would I withhold the truth about the origins of the movement? Marketing 101 says yes, my purist super-ego would say no. Plenty of companies have started out using modified movements and have produced great pieces which have stood the test of time (think of Panerai and IWC). They subsequently evolved and began true manufacture processes when they had the means to.

      Bremont made a call…and it appears their id won out…

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  7. Danny brings up a number of good points. I did marketing 101 and that’s pretty much exactly how it would be done. Sadly. BUT, one must keep in mind the flurry of information available at the fingertips these days and marketing 101 isn’t what it used to be. Is there an updated Digital/Social Media Marketing 101 course that many brands could benefit from?? what about Internet Search 101? Consumers aren’t as ignorant as they used to be.

    ok.. Rants aside, for something to be in-house, I feel that at the very least it needs to be designed in-house. Production capabilities aside, the intellectual property must be from within. For example, Nike designs, and R&D in-house then outsources the production…

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  8. I personally think option 4 is the true definition of in-house. Will that stop me from buying in house movement watches if it’s not truly designed and manufactured by the one brand? The answer would be no. Does in house movements mean much when it comes to buying a watch? Personally In-house movements are not a key factor, I just see it as a marketing term.

    It’s just unlucky for Bremont to get caught, and now they’ve admitted to what they’ve done is what I truly admire.

    Lots of other brands use these marketing terminology/tricks and majority of the time they’ll pull it off without getting caught. A good example would be the brand Linde Werdelin, They use to call their watches in-house movement, only recently they’ve changed on their website to ‘LW customised Dubois Dépraz caliber’ And they tell their customers their watches are 100% swiss made. Yet why don’t they print ‘swiss made’ logo on all their watches puzzles me. I think if the Internet caught what LW did, they would’ve been in the same position as Bremont.

    This whole Bremont in-house movement has brought good to the brand name….hey there’s no such thing as bad publicity, people are now talking and researching about this brand call Bremont. The key is how they take this and turn it into good use for their brand.

    I wouldn’t buy the wright flyer, I still prefer the P-51 more. But I think the wright flyer is a beautiful piece, that rotor is just amazing, with the muslin fabric incorporated in the rotor it’s as unique as it gets. Internet is criticizing their prices, well….bremont has never been about being cheap and there’s lots of rich people out there that would pay top dollar for something that is as unique as this.

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