A piece of history being made and every watch a piece of history.
There’s not much middle ground with Bremont. It’s either ‘Bremont? I’ve got three already!’ or ‘Bremont? I’d rather wear a Casio.” This is a good thing. When a watchmaker polarises opinion, it generally means they’re doing something new, interesting and different. And that’s just what Bremont have done. They’ve created a new English watchmaking business from scratch. Starting in 2002, it’s grown in the twelve subsequent years from a tiny operation to a significant brand.
Make a success of something and you’ll attract your share of detractors and, historically, the watchbuying public have been split on Bremont. One side has talked about the quality of the watches, the warmth of the team (Bremont’s always been a hands-on business), and attention to detail. The other has accused them of being contrived, too focused on image and too dependent on branding. And there’s always been that ‘accusation’ of using ébauche movements, despite it being common practice in almost every watch company.
It’s easy to see how those negatives could be true but for Bremont’s founders, Nick and Giles English. Meet them and you realise very quickly indeed that they’re making watches because they love watches, not to boost a corporate balance sheet. The brand’s ‘Boy’s Own hero’ style is theirs, not the focus-grouped contrivance of a slick Soho agency (although they did use London-based Abbott Mead Vickers to put together a series of press ads). The link to vintage aircraft is because the brothers restore and fly vintage aircraft. In short, Bremont is real, not front.
To prove it, Bremont have got a bit of a name for featuring exotic, flight-connected things inside their watch cases. So far, they’ve put Spitfire metal in the rotor of the EP120 and the P51 features aluminium from a P51 Mustang. If you’re going to go down the historical aviation track, these take some beating. But with their new watch, Bremont might just have aced the Spit’ and the ‘Stang .
This evening, they unveiled their new aviation watch, the Bremont Wright Flyer, at London’s Science Museum. The watch is named for the Wright Brothers’ first ‘plane and the link with Orville and Wilbur Wright is very real indeed. The Flyer incorporates fragments of muslin fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer – the landmark aircraft responsible for the world’s first heavier than air human flight.
You can sense Nick’s very genuine enthusiasm when he talks about the watch. “Giles and I still cannot believe that it’s happened. Holding the original and invaluable muslin used to cover the 1903 Wright Flyer is incredibly emotive. Does the creation of a special aviation-inspired watch really get any better than this?”
Bremont’s Henley-based watchmakers have layered the fabric inside the watch between the movement’s decorated rotor plate and a sapphire crystal display window. There’s a tiny fragment of it in each of the 450 watches they’re producing, but that’s hardly the point. Bremont weren’t about to cut-up the world’s most historically important aircraft to make the watchstraps. Family member Amanda Wright Lane says, “The wing cloth from the 1903 Wright Flyer is considered almost priceless by some, but we felt Bremont’s passion for aviation heritage made them a suitable choice for this rare use of the cloth.”
The Wright connection on its own is quite something. But not only does the new Flyer contain a bit of aviation history, it makes a bit of watchmaking history too. The 43mm Trip-tick (that always raises a smile) case carries Bremont’s first in-house movement, laying the ébauche argument very firmly to rest. It’s all rather eclipsed by the Wright brothers historic angle, but this is a brand new Bremont movement with many elements made at Henley.
It underscores the English brothers’ enthusiasm for historic aviation that they decided to put their new movement in a watch that was going to hit the headlines anyway. In fact, the announcement of the new watch almost plays the new movement down: “Bremont unveils the ultimate aviation watch, incorporating original material from the 1903 Wright Flyer, plus its first in-house movement”. Oh yeah, we’ve just designed and made a whole new English watch movement but don’t worry about that – just look at what we’ve put in the case with it! It’s like Aston Martin announcing a new car with a dashboard made from David Brown’s old desk and casually mentioning it’s got a completely new engine that turns out 800bhp and runs on water.
The new BWC/01 25 jewel movement deserves some space to itself. It’s an automatic that takes power on both the clockwise and anti-clockwise turn of the rotor. The crown itself is thoroughly period, with knurling and a taper towards the case. With a Nivarox balance spring beating at 28,800bph, Bremont claims a 50+ hour power reserve. The balance itself is cut from Glucydur; tough and thermally stable – so the Flyer should certainly be accurate (and the entire Bremont range are COSC rated in any case). Decoration-wise, you get Geneva stripes and an exhibition back to see them through. Mind you, perhaps we should be calling them ‘Henley Stripes’ now.
The metal dial gives you a choice of black or white with applied gold numerals. There’s a subsidiary seconds dial marked with ‘1903’ (the year of the first flight) and railtrack ten minute intervals. And, perhaps most significantly, it carries the word “London”. Looks like English watchmaking has taken another step forward.
You can have your Wright Flyer in a choice of stainless steel, rose gold or white gold. Bremont will be making 300, 100 and 50 pieces of each, respectively.
One wonders what the English brothers will try next. We’ve had The Victory with its nautical theme, incorporating copper from HMS Victory in its case. The Codebreaker has fragments of Bletchley Park history in the form of part of an Enigma coding machine, pine from a hut and fragments of computer punchcard. The P51 and EP120 have clear aviation links through original aircraft metal. If I were running NASA’s museum I’d be keeping a careful eye for a couple of suspicious-looking Englishmen with tinsnips hanging around the Saturn V rocket and the Lunar Module.
Nick English has described the aim of Bremont as “To make a watch that, on its own merits, is a bloody good watch.” He, Giles and their team have gone rather further than that with the Flyer. It will be interesting to see how many detractors it carries cross the fence to the Bremont side. One suspects it’ll be more than a few.
$25,950 in stainless steel
$39,995 in rose gold
$44,995 in white gold
by Mark McArthur Christie