Charles Owen: Three Generations of Making Helmets for a Safer World

World famous for raising the bar in safety, Charles Owen is celebrating its 100 year birthday as a leading British manufacturer of riding helmets. When Charles Owen himself founded the company in 1911, his mission was to make products for a safer world. Now under the direction of Charles Owen’s grandson, Roy Burek, the mission has remained the same, but has extended its reach to all parts of the globe.

It was in 1924 that Charles Owen was granted a patent that improved ventilation and dramatically improved the fit for all shapes of heads for military helmets used in the tropics. Fit has become a theme for the company throughout its history. The introduction of custom fit motorcycle helmets and today’s 3D sculptured equestrian helmets have the microfit system that creates a fit and comfort for which the company is renowned around the world.

It didn’t take long before Charles Owen started becoming involved in the revolution that has become the modern look of helmets of today. In 1928, the first Charles Owen motorcycle helmet was born and just ten years later, the Charles Owen jockey racing helmet was worn by the winning jockey of the famous Grand National steeplechase. These early helmets have a shadow of the modern technology in today’s helmets, but their introduction had an immediate impact on the racing industry by, for example, reducing rider skull fractures by 50%. Staying at the center of helmet development was very much at the heart of the company’s success, such as being involved in the very first helmet standard. Today, Roy Burek is regarded as a global expert in head protection and is passionate about educating the community to create a safer world.

Charles Owen Factory
1956 in London, UK

In short time, the company began to understand that fashion played a huge part in the popular adoption of helmets. The 1960’s saw many flavors of the 1956 motorcycle helmet standard designed to enhance the wearer’s identity. It was in 1972 that fashion had a major impact on safety with the introduction by Charles Owen of the first full facial motorcycle helmet that met the then current British Standard. Following in the wake, equestrian helmets started to develop. Charles Owen saw the first dual standard riding helmet in 1983 in response to the demand
by Pony Club for safer helmets. Today’s triple standard
helmets are seen by many as the “Gold Standard”.

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“Using one’s life to make a real difference in others’ lives is what drives me, like it did my father and grandfather” said Roy Burek, Managing Director of Charles Owen. In our Centennial year, it has been an amazing opportunity to reflect on the fact that the values that my grandfather had are well established in my DNA. The challenges that made the company flourish in his time are still very much here today: Fashion, Fit and Function. Staying true to one’s traditional values has been the secret of the company’s longevity, along with a bit hard work.”

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