BWD Autavia
BWD Tag Heuer Autavia

Bamford Watch Department  isn’t the easiest company to do a review on. I mean, how do you review the watches of a company that doesn’t technically make watches? It’s a bit of an awkward proposition. Yet for our recent bespoke issue (click here to view), we didn’t really have a choice, did we? The watch world isn’t exactly saturated with customisation options.

This brings up a second problem. Sure, BWD have watches to show off; they need to have something to illustrate what they can do. It’s just that unless someone takes a shine to something they’ve seen (not beyond the realms of possibility of course) every watch will be different.

So, I’m taking a slightly different tract. There’s little point delving into the mechanics of the two watches I borrowed from Mr George Bamford. Instead, it’s all about aesthetics. The first watch I tried was a take on the Zenith El Primero. It’s a legendary watch and was a big deal for BWD when they became the official customisation partner of Zenith.

BWD Zenith El Primero
BWD Zenith El Primero

It finally legitimised what was otherwise the black sheep of watchmaking. In that case you’d expect something a little more interesting than what I had. It was cooler and calmer than the usual El Primero. It was nice… but nice isn’t what you go to Bamford for. I wanted something punchier, something a little more extraordinary.

BWD Zenith
BWD Zenith El Primero

Instead the blue subdials looked almost plasticky and the rest of the watch didn’t stand out. For a sample watch though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I quickly found myself thinking ‘what if?’ about everything. In short, despite (or perhaps because of) it not standing out, I was caught. Once I started looking at the staggering number of options on their website, I couldn’t stop playing around, superimposing each altered design onto the watch on my wrist.

BWD Autavia
BWD Tag Heuer Autavia

And, after far longer screwing around than I’d care to admit, what I finally came up with – something black with plenty of bright contrast – is exactly what BWD came up with for my second piece, TAG Heuer’s latest Autavia. The entire piece was coated in Bamford’s take on DLC, an even-more-extreme coating of military-grade titanium. That’s probably a good thing given that the bezel broke and stopped clicking for no apparent reason. Still, that’s TAG’s fault rather than Bamford.

BWD Autavia
BWD Tag Heuer Autavia

The pitch black was lightened up with subdials in Bamford’s signature pale blue that couldn’t help but catch the eye. It might not have been my favourite of Bamford’s example TAGs, but it’s more along the lines of what I expect from George Bamford’s ongoing, newly legitimised passion project. As I said, reviewing something with an unlimited number of options isn’t the easiest task. All I’ll say is that, if you think neither of these designs is for you, just spend five minutes playing around online. I promise it’ll turn into 10, 15, 30 minutes. There’s a Bamford for everyone… you just need to make it yourself. More at: bamfordwatchdepartment.com.

What to wear: Modern tailors like Ozwald Boateng are perfect, and you get bonus points if you match the lining with your watch. And your car.

Where to wear it: Any time there’s a design festival, you should be there. Creating your own watch makes you a designer too, right?

Price: The Autavia is £7,000 while the El Primero is £8,500

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