Watch Customiser George Bamford Launches Quirky Popeye GMT In A Spinach Can

13 September 2019
Quirky Popeye, Watches, George Bamford, Popeye
From punk agitator of luxury watch brands to accepted collaborator and industry peer, George Bamford continues to forge a unique path in watches

“I have never had a master plan, it’s all lucky happenstance,” says spectacled George Bamford one rainy London morning. Perched on a chair of his own choosing in a client space of his own design on the first floor of his west London terrace that functions as showroom, office and workshop, Bamford looks and sounds at ease. And so he should, he’s celebrating.

“We’re proud to launch our latest timepiece,” he tells me. “The Bamford x Popeye GMT is the latest innovation from the team, a limited edition of 50 watches that offer something fun and unique to our customers.”

As excited about watches today as he was he first dipped his 18th birthday present, a Rolex GMT Daytona, into a diamond-like carbon coating, Bamford seems a long way from the co-working space within which he launched a fledgling customisation operation from. Having successfully built his company Bamford Watch Department from a hobby to a company with a devout customer base and global distribution network, Bamford is proud to now have a place within the famously luxe watch industry.

“We were once called the punks of the watch world,” explains Bamford, who admits that the company’s positon within the market has strengthened and evolved over the years. With official agreements in place between his BWD and the likes of Tag Heuer, Richard Mille, Zenith and Bvlgari, in place, Bamford can source timepieces directly from manufacturers, customise and sell in one seamless process.

The legitimisation of his service by some of the big industry prayers has also brought about recognition, notoriety and authority across the industry. He is a regular face at watch trade shows like Basel and SIHH and is on first name terms with most, if not all, the big brand CEOs. “I love Biver” he says, when a photo of Bamford and Tag Heuer’s bombastic CEO Jean-Claud Biver draw the gaze. “…Such a character,” he laughs.

Bamford says the evolution of the company has been a natural one built on both luck and opportunity. He launched his first Bamford brand watch titled ‘Mayfair’ in 2017 after customers requested to buy his ‘service’ watch; a timepiece made by his team only offered as temporary stand in whilst the customer’s was being given its annual spit and polish.

“We only produced 100 watches and 15 people came in over the course of a few months and started buying them off us.” The interest led Bamford to upgrade the case and movement and release as his own timepiece noting that although personalisation and customisation still accounts for the majority of our business he’s especially “happy with how the Mayfair has been received”.

The success of the Mayfair has spawned a sports version of the model complete with colourful rubber straps alongside the GMT, launched at the end of 2018 with an internal rotating bezel in multiple colourways. Stocked by Watches of Switzerland and Mr Porter and available directly through the brand’s own website, Bamford says the Bamford watches offer an entry point for fans that may not have the budget for a customised option, which starts at $9200.

Bamford says much of his sales come through social media with Instagram touted as the biggest player, but that word of mouth also brings in new customers. "Our customers are people that don't follow the heard. There are Instagrammers, rock stars, tattooed, not tattooed and everything in between. Thirty percent are women and 70 percent men. Instagram is one of our biggest tools at the moment... but it's simply done."

Like any industry, trends often dictate both aesthetics and innovation and watchmaking is no different when it comes to the fancy or craze of the moment. “In the next year there are going to be two trends,” says Bamford knowingly, “…eco” he states assuredly referencing Panerai’s recycled titanium watch from Basel 2019 “…and of course, personalisation."

His latest creation, the Popeye GMT is representative of how Bamford runs his enterprise, forever looking for the next colourway, the next design, the next thing that’ll excite him enough he’ll take off whatever watch he is wearing and put that on instead. The timpieces has all the features of the original Bamford London GMT with a Swiss made automatic Sellita SW330-1 movement and 24-hour GMT hand function and  a 40mm 316L grade stainless steel case.

Limited to just 50 releases and sold in a novel blue spinach can, Bamford says the Popeye x Bamford GMT demonstrates further commitment to keeping things fresh and creative.