Fred B. Amos and The Bernhardt Watch Company
A little over over 20 years ago, a good friend of mine showed me his Rolex. In 1990 I purchased my first one and for 15 years I bought, sold and refurbished Rolexes. The more I learned about different watches and manufacturers the more my passion grew. I call it “Watch Fever”. Looking for like-minded collectors, and being the start of The Internet Age, I quickly found camaraderie in the online watch forums, such as www.WatchUSeek.com and TimeZone.com. These forums became my office, for buying and selling watches, creating relationships and friendships and now, collaborating directly with my customers.
During these years I had been working as a supplier to the furniture industry but in 2005 that ended as I was laid off. My wife, Jamie, and I began tossing around ideas of how to make a living out of my passion for watches. One night, sitting at a basketball game at our local University, she asked “Why don’t you make watches for this school?”. I put together a design, walked in and pitched it to the school. The Bernhardt Watch Company was born. Before we knew it, we had made watches for High Point University, Wake Forest University and North Carolina State University.
I continued to become more and more involved in the online forums. It occured to me that I had an opportunity to make watches for people like me, to treat customers the way I wanted to be treated and even colaborate on designs. What can be more fun than discussing watches all day? It turns out, actually making them. A few years ago, we made our first “private line” watch, The Binnacle.
The Bernhardt line has grown to include six designs, including many pieces that were designed directly with customers’ comments in mind. With that said, I would never design a piece that I would not wear myself. I think of a customers’ desire to make a difference, to feel as if they matter, because that is what I want to feel. We make limited editions, sometimes too few, to ensure a personal touch. I make my personal phone number accessible to my customers and take every service and warranty on a case-by-case scenario. Because of our relationships with the online forums, our business is word-of-mouth, saving costs on advertising and marketing that many other companies force the customer to pay. We simply don’t do that.
Along with our private line, our contract business has grown, and they go hand-in-hand. When we produced the Binnacle, a Captain with the Johnston County, N.C. Sheriff’s Office bought two. He asked if we could do a contracted piece for his department. We have now produced watches for about 50 law-enforcement agencies, military personnel, fraternities, and private retail designers. We proudly take the best of our private line and our contract business and share the design and technology.
Best of all, we still remain a family business. I design the watches, do the selling and have one-on-one contact with our customers. Jamie handles shipping and research on accessories. Phillip, our son, does the boxing and helps design. In fact, one of our flagship pieces, the Sea Shark, was designed by Phillip when he was 12! It took him over a year to convince me of his design and now it is our best-seller! We are also joined by our European-trained watch specialist Frank Lazimi, who has over thirty years experience in the watchmaking field. Frank is a third generation watchmaker who attended some of the finest European training programs where he explored the engineering, design and craftsmanship principles of watch movements. He ran a successful watch making business in Europe for many years before moving to North Carolina with his wife Bukra and their two children. We consider them an extension to our family.
My passion for watches has afforded us the opportunity to meet and work with wonderful people all over the country, many whom have become friends. I believe the relationship and goodwill between Bernhardt and our customers is the most important aspect of what we do. The customer is right, their expectations should be high, and they should expect to make a friend in the process. Everyone deserves a high-quality timepiece and the experience of buying it. It’s an old-fashioned, traditional philosophy that continues to serve me well, even as we enjoy our online business and relationships.
We appreciate your interest in The Bernhardt Watch Company, our family, and hope to consider you as a friend before a customer.