Not passengers but drivers: Exclusive Interview with David Brailsford, co-founder of Garrick
Editor’s note: This interview with Garrick co-founder David Brailsford is our latest interview with industry leaders for our segment of talking about everything from upcoming 2020 novelties to COVID-19’s impact on the Swiss watch industry. For our introductory ones please head to our dedicated interviews page here.
In the 18th century, British inventors like Thomas Mudge and John Harrison helped shape modern watchmaking. London had been very much the center of the watchmaking industry from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and many of the most important horological innovations came from British watchmakers. But over time the prowess of British watchmaking declined.
Now, the British watchmaking industry is in the midst of a boom. BBC calls it the rebirth of British watchmaking. Gear Patrol says that there are not only more British-based watch companies, but a healthy variety of them and that UK is one of the notable places where watchmaking is growing at a healthy rate. The MBS Group reports that this reflects the trajectory of growth seen in the British watch industry in the past few years as a small collection of local watchmakers have revived the trade.
David Cameron once said, “I know the British people, they are not passengers, they are drivers.“
It is safe to state that in the recent past, the British watchmaking industry has had a resurgence with brands like Garrick, Bremont and Christopher Ward.
The Horses For Courses Part
Now while lots of brands use Swiss, German, Japanese or Chinese components in their mechanisms, Garrick is doing things differently.
Of-course upscaling British watchmaking to a point where it could compete with established markets in Switzerland and Germany can take years and huge investment.
Yet, Garrick is marching on. The brand intends to be — and is — uniquely British, in the terms that they don’t carry the ‘Swiss Made’ tag. No, doing things differently, not working for someone else, they are doing their thing their own way.
This it seems is also important to the British people. A report by the site Fabrik Brands says that studies have found that around 73% of British people think that it’s important to buy products that have been made at home. Those people associate the brands that manufacture within the UK with quality, cultural pride, and reliability.
From producing components in-house or sourcing them from British suppliers to ensuring all their products are hand assembled and finished, Garrick is shaking the horology world with the Made in Britain stamp.
And this is what sets the brand apart.
The Gobsmacked Part
What’s amazing is that David Brailsford , co-founder of the brand, is flying the flag for great British brands. The Made in Britain label is finding its home in Garrick watches.
Going against the grain, Brailsford seems to be of the mindset of his namesake, David Mallet. The quote “Rule Britannia, rule the waves: Britons never will be slaves” seems to define this young and pioneering brand.
Creating masterpieces where bespoke meets high horology, Garrick watches are an excellent example of hand craftsmanship executed to perfection.
It is this almost unique mix of British legacy and the desire to create distinctive timepieces is what defines Garrick.
Walter Bagehot, the British journalist, businessman, and essayist from the 19th century, once said: “The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do”.
Enter David Brailsford, co-founder of Garrick.
“We make small numbers of timepieces for discerning collectors, upholding traditional craftsmanship and infused with a distinctive British character,” says Brailsford.
The brand has essentially carved out a niche for its itself by having a collector base that’s loyal and appreciative of their style of watches.
“Our clients are discerning and knowledgeable collectors who appreciate what we are doing. We don’t mass produce watches and every single watch is built to order. We go back and forth with customers for days and it can take up to 2 weeks before a client pulls the trigger. Modern collectors are very savvy and many are looking for unique pieces which are only available from independents,” tells Brailsford about his clients.
The Inspirations Part
You would think that since he currently works with a niche collector group, this might influence his creative design process. But more than that, the brand works with it own set of deciding principles that have come to be endeared by its client base.
“I am the co-founder of Garrick and The Watchmakers Club and I also work as an industry consultant. I speak to collectors on a daily basis and frankly this makes no difference to our design process,” begins Brailsford.
“What does affect the design process is how much we are able to build in-house. We usually look at classic designs and interpret them in our own unique way and then spend many months engineering parts and refining the build process. Our dials and hands are made in our Norwich workshop and, to be honest, making them proves very time-consuming. The S2 and Regulator dials take a few days to finish and assemble because of the various processes involved in construction,” he explains.
The Chuffed To Bits Part
Garrick watches should be pleased and proud of themselves. And why not?
Designing in-house for a relatively smaller brand is a big win. And the band has managed to translate this into success despite the challenges of the ongoing tussle with Covid-19.
“To be honest, I was a little worried, along with many other brands, but to my surprise, people are still buying watches. We only produce a small number of watches each year and liaise directly with our clients, delivering a personal service. Because of this, we never work with retailers. Of course, people are wary about spending money on luxury items but right now we seem to be in a good position,” says Brailsford.
They have recently released the new Garrick S3, the striking mirror-polished & brushed 42mm diameter watch with a traditional round case that features a mirror-polished bezel, a hand-wound open-worked movement endowed with a Trinity free-sprung balance made of Sircumet at 6’o clock.
Given they only make a few watches every year, the new S3 is very important to the brand.
Talking about what models are they looking at specifically promoting this year, Brailsford says that “we will be focusing on the S3 and S4 models”.
And this leads us on to the news on the brand’s upcoming release, the Garrick S4.
“The S4 will be our next launch,” says Brailsford.
“This watch will be similar to the S2 but will feature a Breguet-inspired dial. We have been working on it for some time and I think it is going to appeal to our followers.”
The Fighting the Covid-19 part
Garrick has been chugging along despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The brand, like everyone else, does feel it’s implications will not just be limited to the individual brands such as his but will have a more overarching impact on the industry.
“Certainly, while we live through COVID-19, both independent brands and large watch companies will suffer a decline in sales. After all, a watch is a luxury and not a necessity. At present, most people are more concerned about their health and their future prosperity, justifiably so. However, once this situation comes to an end, there will be opportunities for marketing-savvy brands to re-engage with consumers. And, in terms of consumers, they will have more power and choice than they have ever had, which is no bad thing,” says Brailsford.
And besides how the independents may deal with this crisis, the power of balance between big and smaller brands is bound to change as well.
“I think the power of balance has already changed. I work with many independent brands and most have witnessed a reversal of fortunes over the past two years. Many smaller brands have enjoyed impressive growth as consumers become better informed about watchmaking and the merits of independent brands,” begins Brailsford.
“Take a look at Baselworld and SIHH over the years and you will see that many of the large brands release similar watches year after year. One year it’s a tourbillon and the next a GMT. This is not the case with independent brands who are constantly evolving and creating unique and innovative pieces. Of course, the pandemic will affect some brands but many independents have small overheads and loyal followers. I am sure most independents have experienced a sales downturn, but I think the best will recover. Many brands are rethinking their strategy and most are realising that life goes on without retailers and large exhibitions,” Brailsford explains further.
The Keep Moving Forward Part
Walt Disney once said: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”.
According to the Great British Watch Company website there still remains a lack of a British watch company mass-producing any watches that are 100% made in Britain. And while this certainly is true in the case of Garrick as they only produce limited numbers of watches every year, the brand nonetheless has come a long way in a short span of time.
The brand burst on the British watchmaking scene some six years ago. What started with models such as the Shaftesbury and Hoxton quickly evolved into a brand now known for its engine turned dials, use of thermally blued screws instead of chemically treated screws, collaborations with UhrTeil AG and Andreas Strehler, and the use of emblematic anchor-like (Maritime) hour and minute hands on dials.
They haven’t looked back.
“We are always evolving and part of our plan for world domination involves
developing a smaller movement. We sell a number of watches to Asian clients but our current models are 42mm and Asian collectors prefer smaller cases so, funds permitting, we are hoping to have something new by the end of the year,” wraps up Brailsford.
The Bobs’s Your Uncle Part
World domination seems to be the order of the day with British watchmakers. This is our second interview where this has come up. Mike France first mentioned it in our interview about Christopher Ward watches last week. And now, David Brailsford says the same thing.
There is some truth in their statement. In terms of watchmaking, the British brands are really upping the ante and making a dent in the world of global horology.
Like we quoted in the beginning, “British people, they are not passengers, they are drivers.“
One step at a time, David Brailsford is piloting the British watchmaking resurgence with the likes of Garrick and the Watchmakers Club.
We wish to thank David Brailsford for this interview. To find out more about the new S3 and other Garrick watches, visit their website here.