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In Conversation With Man of The Minute: George Bamford

Victoria Gill has a timely tête à tête with luxury watch connoisseur George Bamford at his Mayfair townhouse.

by 24 November 2016

Is George Bamford actually real? He’s hit Dubai, Qatar, Delhi, Jaipur, Miami, Chicago, Boston and New York in the past two weeks when we touchdown at Bamford Watch Department’s Mayfair HQ.  “Do I enjoy travelling?” Bamford reflects. “I think it has lost its wonderful edge… It has become like jumping on a bus... Yes, it's a luxury bus, but I think I am missing that love affair because I am constantly on it.” He flies around the world continually, loves his wife and children and doesn’t do holidays. “I don't like taking time off… If I do I love hibernating and spending time with my family, that’s the biggest luxury.” He adores New York and is obsessed with Tokyo and Hong Kong.  “The reason why I don’t have jet lag is because every time I land I go for a run.” He’s fast. He’s slick. He’s debonair. And he’s handsome as hell.

BWD Datejust Samurai Steel HeroGeorge Bamford Watches

We are in The Hive, his by-appointment-only, black-façaded, five-storey Georgian townhouse, a kind of Bruce Wayne-esque lair where you suspect the library might slide open with the smoothness of the movements of his remastered designer watches. George Bamford’s thing is customising Rolexes. And Patek Philippes, “Bulgari is on fire at the moment,” he raves. He’s collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, Marc Quinn, Daniel Arsham  and The Rodnik Band. The clientele for his made-to-measure Rolexes counts heads of state, rock stars and businessmen. So who is the Bamford client, is it himself? “My ego wavers between, ‘Yes, it's me!’ and the other side saying, ‘Shut up George no, it's not you.’… It's about the person who has that unique style and taste.”

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He’s a past master of that uniquely British, upper class, paradoxical art of making you feel simultaneously at ease (he likes Honest Burgers and to have “a conversation with a black cab driver”) and totally intimidated. This is, after all, the man for whom the seeds of his eponymous ‘watch department’ were sown aged 21 when he attended a dinner party and, realising everyone present was wearing a Daytona, spent the following summer sailing the Med where he picked up 25 orders for the Rolex he'd subsequently customised, and realised “Shit. There is a business here.” Bamford’s journey of horological exploration really began, he thinks, when he started taking watches apart at the age of 12, then trading them at 13.

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His family, whose motto is “Jamais Content/never content” invented the JCB digger and own the Bamford and Daylesford Organic empires and he’s just launched the Bamford Grooming Department in his beloved aluminium with his adored mother, the formidable Carole, Lady Bamford. I conjecture whether he actually needs to work.

“Go and do it on your own darling,” his father, Lord Bamford, told George after university. “There is always a door open for you if you want to come into the family business but you have got to work. You have got to go and make some money.”

“George really loved the interview!” his PR coos after I pick up a call from an unknown number after walking the streets of Albemarle Street, crippled by new Jimmy Choo stilettos, having pilloried myself over how badly it had gone with the 35-year-old Bamford heir all the way into Scott’s restaurant. “Yes, he really enjoyed it. Because you’re a little bit different, aren’t you? And people like George love people who are a bit different.” The same, it should be said, goes for his taste in watches.