LONDON — Two London-based accessories experts have joined forces to transform the budding English watch company Bremont into a luxury brand.
Robert Bensoussan, a shareholder and board member of Jimmy Choo, and John Ayton, who co-founded the jewelry company Links of London with his wife Annoushka Ducas, have taken a 15 percent stake in Bremont. < The two have invested about $1.2 million, and plan to be active rather than silent partners in the company founded by brothers Nick and Giles English. Bensoussan will be chairman of Bremont, which specializes in large, aviator-style watches, while Ayton will serve on the board. “We want to act almost as seed investors – and we won’t be silent,” said Bensoussan in a telephone interview Monday. “We will be offering mentoring and investment in this company which has the makings of a English luxury brand, specialized in watches.” Ayton was on holiday at press time, and could not be reached for comment. As reported, he and Ducas, who sold their company in July, 2006, will officially step down as chairman and creative director, respectively, of Links at the end of this month. Bensoussan and Ayton came across Bremont through their involvement with Walpole, the organization that promotes Britain’s luxury brands. “I was struck by their coherent business plan and their intense passion,” said Bensoussan. “What they need is development capital and help opening doors.” Bremont watches are Swiss-made mechanical pilots’ watches that retail at stores including Harrods, Selfridges, and Kenjo Jewelers in Manhattan. The brothers are aviation aficionados, and their father served as a pilot during World War Two. Bensoussan said the Bremont investment was personal and independent of TowerBrook Capital Partners LLP, which purchased Jimmy Choo in February. As reported in February, Bensoussan had plans to build up a portfolio of luxury brands in conjunction with TowerBrook. He said that could well happen in the future, although he and TowerBrook have no formal agreement or obligations, and their relationship is "flexible." In the meantime, Bensoussan has also personally invested in a small swimwear brand called Tooshie, which sells at retailers including Net-a-porter.com. Earlier this month, Ayton told DNR he and his wife had already begun investing in smaller brands, and would not be disappearing from the business or jewelry scene.