There was little amazement to the announcement that Bremont was to turn out to be the “official timing partner” for the Henley Royal Regatta, bar Henley being open to having any sort of partner at all.
As guardians of the most determinedly traditional of sporting events on the calendar, Henley’s organisers were never going to sell the event down the river. They have nominated partners with a safely English flavour (the other two being Hackett and Aston Martin). Bremont, whose main workshop is a few hundred yards from the course, could hardly have been an easier choice.
Spectators crease along the bank of the River Thames at the Henley Royal Regatta
An easy choice is not necessarily an interesting one though. Happily, there’s a little more going on with both Bremont and Henley than a care for tradition. The Henley Royal Regatta is, in the public thoughts, unconditionally guaranteed up in custom to the extent that breaches of its fiercely policed dress code are staple fodder for midsummer newspapers.
while such antics are part of the charm, the organisers, naturally enough, are more concerned with the racing, the competitors and the spectacle and therein lies the tension. Tradition and an passionate provision are portion of what makes Henley more than just another regatta – it’s unique in attracting international standard entrants to what remains a local event with its own rules.
Henley Royal Regatta
But if you want to keep traditions alive, you need to be ready to change, so while Henley’s ruling stewards, lead by Sir Steve Redgrave (who won gold at five Olympiads), have embraced the modern world as far as sponsorship is concerned and in terms of organisation, the way the races are run is sacrosanct. In particular, that means the races are run and timed by the umpires who follow the race in launches (and are a tradition in their own right, with rides on the launches much sought after).
They prefer mechanical stop-watches. As Sir Steven says, “Races at Henley Royal Regatta have always been programmed by hand from the umpire launch. This allows timing accurate to the nearest second and means there is no need for communications from the start line to the finish. The system works and is a part of the history and tradition that makes the Regatta such a special event, so we’ve never felt there is any reason to change”.
And this is where Bremont comes in as old-style watchmakers, gripped by keeping the ritual moving forward.