Introducing the DH-88 Comet–Bremont’s Latest LE Honoring the Golden Age of Aviation

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They’ve covered their tracks well, but I know exactly what Nick and Giles English, the brothers behind Bremont, are up to. They’re fans of pretty much anything historic, especially if it has an engine. Cars, planes, code machines—even Britain’s flagship, HMS Victory. Under the guise of Bremont ‘special edition’ watches they’re methodically stockpiling enough parts to build a small but respectable seaplane with an on-board Enigma machine. Now, with the DH-88, they’re planning to fly air races with it, too. Thus far, we’ve had fragments of wing fabric in the Wright Flyer, Enigma machine punchcards in the Codebreaker, carbon fibre yacht sails (the Regatta OTUSA), copper and oak from the HMS Victory. You get the idea.

BremontDH-88_Steel1The new DH-88 carries a fragment of plywood from the undercarriage of the 1934 de Havilland Comet ‘Grosvenor House,’ quite possibly one of the most beautiful aircrafts ever built. And quick too—71 hours to cover the 11,000 miles from Mildenhall in England to Melbourne.The plane is now at The Shuttleworth Collection (if you’re in the UK and have petrol or avgas in your veins, it’s a must) alongside a WWII Lysander, and the sole surviving Battle of Britain Hurricane.

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BremontDH-88_CometNewspaperIt would be unfair to dis Bremont for this desire to add aircraft/car/ship parts to their watches. After all, they give some very valuable publicity to historic causes as well as practical financial support. The Shuttleworth Trust will benefit from each DH-88 Bremont sells. But enough of the aircraft, lovely as it is. What about the watch?

The DH-88 shares a lot with Bremont’s ALT1-WT GMT watch. At the heart of both watches is the BE-54AE automatic chronometer movement. This is La Joux-Perret’s reworking of ETA’s cal. 7754; that’s the GMT version of the venerable and bulletproof Valjoux/ETA 7750. So it’s a solid, reliable coulisse lever movement—Edmond Capt got it right way back in 1973. You get a COSC-rated, highly-finished, self-winding, 28,800-bph motor running with 25 jewels. The Nivaflex mainspring is good for a 42 hour power reserve, so should be fine on the nightstand.

The 7750-layout dial has sub-dials for measuring seconds (at 6 o’clock), 30 mins (12 o’clock), and 12 hours (9 o’clock) with a date window at 6. Start and stop buttons are at 2 and 4, respectively, with an antique-style crown at 3. There’s a GMT hand too, linking to the continent-crossing MacRobertson Air Race in which the DH featured.

BremontDH-88_SteelGold
Rather like a GMTII, you can use your DH to tell the time in three timezones. Set the 24-hour GMT hand to home time, use the hour hand for local time, and then move the roto-click bezel around using the crown at 8 o’clock for a third timezone. If you’ve not tried a roto-click bezel, you should. It snicks into place with the precision of the gearbox on a MkII Ford RS2000.

Turn your DH-88 over and the display back, attached with five screws, makes sense of the name. The Comet DH-88 is bright, cherry red. The movement picks up the theme with red screws (the display models at launch were blued). And then there’s that rotor. It’s not often that even the the nerdiest watchie can get excited about a self-winding rotor, but this is different. Oh yes.

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Take a proper look. You’ll see the rotor comes in two parts: underneath is the motive weight, on top is the surround for the wood insert from the DH-88’s undercarriage.

BremontDH-88_MovementBremont laser cuts the motive weight from a disc, sand-blasts it to create a keyed surface, then builds up multiple layers of paint and finishes the job with coats of lacquer. Motive weights are all about balance; just enough weight to impart winding power but not so much as to stress the rotor bearing. So just whacking on a bit of wood in a metal frame—posh as the wood is—is no good.

Instead, Bremont makes the surround for the wood fragment from lighter titanium, then uses two screws to attach it to the motive weight. They plane the fragment, laser cut it to fit the surround, lacquer it and glue it in place. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see on the dash of a Bensport La Sarthe (if you haven’t, you should).

Bremont’s case quality is hard to argue with. Peter Roberts’ three part design for the MB series cases is still hugely innovative (sorry chaps, I just can’t say ‘trip-tick’ with a straight face). The top part of the case holds the bezel ring and sweeps down to form the lugs. There’s a centre barrel, usually cut from a different metal. And the back is fastened through the barrel to the top case with five or six screws. The DH-88’s case carries this three-part case concept on.

The stainless DH-88 has a hardened, mirror-polished top case with a scratch-resistant DLC barrel and a stainless display back. The 18ct gold models replace the stainless steel but keep the DLC barrel. Bremont are making 282 stainless steel cases and 82 in rose gold.

BremontDH-88_GoldBremont’s special editions divide opinion. Nip over to the ALT1tude forum and you’ll find a queue of hardcore Bremontians who’ve already put their money down. Look elsewhere and you’ll find questions like, “What’s next? A bit of the Turin Shroud?”

Perhaps an analogy is useful. Take away the bezel from a Sub, and you diminish the watch. Take the fragment of wood out of a Bremont DH-88, and nothing changes. That’s because the Sub is entirely about form and function; its beauty comes from a design that was intended to do a job. The DH-88 isn’t about form and function, it’s about a link to a great event in the past. And it raises money for a damn fine cause too.

In other words, if that historical link works for you, go and take a look for yourself and make up your own mind.

£7,995 (approx. $10,300) for steel and £14,995 (approx. $19,400) for rose gold.

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Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
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  • chenpofu

    Are there Bremont watches that aren’t LE? I quite like these watches but wish they would do away with the gimmicky marketing stuff and just present them as what they are – good looking and well made watches. But then there is also the 10k price tag ….

    • Никита

      You are right: Bremont has tons of collaborations, LEs, “car” watches, “yacht” watches with tags from 6k to 15k $$ and more. It heavily reminds me of Hublot. After all, these are just simple robust watches on stock ETA movements and heavily overpriced. In 10k – 15k range we may find extremely well executed JLC with coolest inhouse calibers on market and without cheesy collaborations, LEs, etc.

    • somethingnottaken

      They do indeed have non limited production models, which use the same case design and similar dial designs, while costing about half what the LE’s do.

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