“I just focus on what’s next and that ignites my passion for setting challenges – not just in climbing but also in life.” – Jake Meyer
It is no secret that every modern watch brand needs its own tagline, but it’s less common for that slogan to actually reflect the characteristic spirit of the timepieces. In the case of Bremont, “Tested Beyond Endurance”, is less of a clichéd catchphrase and more of a mission statement for the company. Whether flying high with the US Navy’s first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot Carey Lohrenz, fighting the elements in the Antarctic with polar adventurer Ben Saunders, or exploring the depths of the world’s oceans with Dr Timmy Gambin, each new Bremont watch is put through extreme paces by a growing army of ambassadors. One of the latest adventures for an already hard-working MB2 was an attempt to climb K2 by British climber Jake Meyer.
A man instantly at ease in any company, it comes as little surprise that in his job as a development consultant, Meyer works with clients around the world, helping to develop leadership qualities within organisations.
“It’s all about business and individual performance improvement,” he explains. “A lot of consultants work on technology or process, but I focus totally on the staff, which is great as I love spending time with other people.”
Showing surprise that one of the UK’s greatest adventurers craves company, I ask about the potential loneliness involved in Meyer’s expeditions. He shrugs, saying: “I have done a few solo trips – and I love planning them because the total freedom to do exactly what you want, when you want is amazing. But it’s hard when there’s no one there to share incredible moments with. All the highs and lows are personal moments and, to be honest, I’m a big believer in shared moments. When I think back over all the times I’ve climbed with someone, about the people I’ve stood on top of mountains with, or those that I have failed to reach summits with, I realise that we have a bond that will stay with us forever.”
I tell Meyer that I curse the day wi-fi became commonplace on board planes as I have always enjoyed the temporary freedom of being unreachable and I wonder how he copes with modern technology and the demands that it brings. According to Meyer, it is an important part of what he does, with every trip needing as much publicity as possible, something that is most successfully achieved through social media.
“Seven years ago when I first went to K2, I would write a blog every few days on a little PDA – remember those?” he laughs. “It would be linked in to a satellite phone that didn’t work very well and I might get a signal or not. But now, as bizarre as it might sound, I spend most of my time on an expedition on my iPhone bluetoothed to my satellite phone so I can receive texts, take photos and send them back. The way technology works today is amazing so, despite the fact that I can be away from my family for months at a time, I can have the same text banter with my wife as anybody else would have with their partner.”
Now that Meyer has raised the potentially prickly subject of an adventurer’s wife I feel that I can delve deeper. How does the mother of his two children under three feel about the long periods of time Meyer dedicates to climbing and planning climbs? “She is amazing,” he says, beaming with pride. “We actually started dating on a trip we did around America, climbing the highest point in each of the “Lower 48” states. It took 23 days, 19 hours and 31 minutes, so for three-and-a-half weeks we were averaging two states, two points and 500 miles a day plus 4,000 feet of climbing. I was the only one who went to all the high points but there were two support vehicles and Saskia was one of the support team.”
Surprisingly for one so successful, Meyer describes himself as “wildly uncompetitive”, avoiding team sports and preferring to challenge his own limits rather than compare himself to others. That’s one of the reasons he looked to climbing, the irony of his hobby recently becoming an Olympic sport not escaping him.
“I started at about 12,” he says. “A teacher invited a few of us to Swanage for a weekend of climbing and the opportunity to get away from school was too much to turn down. You could say it was my lackadaisical academic attitude that got my into this wild and wonderful sport, but I fell in love instantly thanks to the combination of being outside and the fact that it forces you to travel, becoming a catalyst for seeing the world.”
At the age of 14, Meyer set himself his first challenge: to climb the Seven Summits (the highest mountain peaks in each of the seven continents). Having read about a 28-year-old who had become the youngest climber to conquer all seven peaks, he set out to break the record. “We all have a bucket list,” he says. “We all say ‘one day, I’ll do that’. But ‘one day’ is the ultimate act of procrastination. You have to get off your arse and do it.”
One of Meyer’s first successes was climbing Kilimanjaro with his father – who he describes as “adventurous of spirit but not an adventurer” – reaching the summit to watch the sun rise on 1 January 2000 celebrating “the ultimate bonding experience and the ultimate New Year resolution”. From this point on it was onwards and, quite literally, upwards for Meyer, whose mission statement is, “never look back, never look down”. “I just focus on what’s next and that ignites my passion for setting challenges – not just in climbing but also in life,” he says.
Although Meyer’s recent attempt – his second – at climbing K2 was unsuccessful, he fully intends to go for third time lucky as soon as work, military and family life allow. “Everyone has always been so supportive,” he confides. “I am so lucky that my parents encouraged me to do something that on paper is dangerous and high risk. And when the opportunity came up in 2015 for this year’s K2 expedition, I almost dismissed it, thinking it would never pass muster at home – but that was a near miss lesson for me. We all put off asking for things because we expect the answer to be ‘no’ but when I eventually spoke to my wife, she said: ‘Go for it!” She is amazing – we had one baby already and during the planning stages she fell pregnant again and all the time supporting my dream. I am eternally grateful to her, as well as my family, friends and sponsors.”
The British assault
Where sponsors are concerned, Meyer says they are absolutely key and describes meeting Nick and Giles English as unusually fortuitous. “It was 2005 and I was just back from Everest,” he says, referring to the ascent of the mountain that completed his Seven Summits challenge. “I was 21 and it was still very early days for Bremont. Nick and Giles wanted to work with adventurers that personified their values and their love of British pioneers. There weren’t huge budgets, they just wanted good partners and initially there were three of us – me, Bear Grylls and round-the-world yachtsman Mike Golding. Since then, Bear and Mike have worked with other brands but I have stayed with Bremont and become their longest-serving ambassador.”
Meyer’s first watch was the ALT1-P pilot’s chronometer. It was a pre-production model and Meyer jokes that it is now behind armoured glass at Bremont’s Henley-on-Thames HQ. “It is unique because there are a whole load of things on it or about it that were changed in the production model,” he says. “It went around America with me and up all sorts of mountains. The boys asked if they could have it back as it was so special, but they always say it is my watch even if it now lives with them.”
When his ALT1-P was taken back for posterity, Meyer moved on to the Supermarine S500 – Bremont’s 43mm diving watch that can withstand depths of up to 500m. And, during a tour of Afghanistan as part of his duties as an Army Reservist he was equipped with an ALT1-Z chronograph – again an early version. “Then, when I got married, Saskia gave me an ALT1-C which I love for its classic styling,” he says, finishing the account of his collection with: “I bought a Boeing Model 247, which was inspired by the airliner from the 1930s. I love that the exhibition caseback is slightly larger letting me see more of the movement – OK, it is the same as in the ALT1-C in terms of movement and aesthetic, but it feels so different.” And then for his most recent trip to K2, Meyer wore an MBII.
“Bremont typifies family,” Meyer says of his partnership with the English brothers. “Without Nick and Giles there is no Bremont. You have a story behind every watch and as a dyed-in-the-wool Bremont geek, there’s nothing I love more than someone liking my watch and me telling them the story – the EP21 Spitfire, the Victory… these watches never tend to trade hands because they mean more to people than their monetary value. Everyone buys a watch for different reasons, but at the end of the day it’s all about emotion. At Bremont, every watch comes from Nick and Giles, not a design committee.”
Although no watch has stopped ticking on Meyer during his travels, he admits that have been times where the watches have really taken a battering – especially when he has been ice climbing. The worst he has done, he says, is to crack a sapphire caseback, which on its return to Bremont for repair gave the English brothers some interesting data on the extremes the watches go through.
“There’s a great deal of physical crashing and banging,” Meyer smiles. “But every bump means something to me. Since I first wore a Bremont, I feel naked without one. When I was 21, my father gave me his Rolex GMT-Master from 1972. Since I got involved with Bremont, it has been sitting in a safe but I took it out and looked at it the other day and it felt so small and light. I guess not everyone wants a big chunky watch but I love a bit of substance.
“There are certain things that a climber needs, things like luminescence and being able to read the time at night. Summit day on Everest started at 10pm and we climbed throughout the night when everything is frozen and more secure. Being able to see the time in the middle of the night without a torch is paramount. A stopwatch can be useful, as can an internal bezel so you can keep an eye on when you left a certain camp and judge how long it will take to get to the next camp.
“At the end of the day, it’s just so reassuring when you are in your sleeping bag and your arm is up to your ear and you can year the tick of your watch. I like that, it’s like a regular heartbeat. With my iPhone and all the modern technology, I have to be so careful how I treat everything, but a mechanical watch will just keep on going.”