In little a relatively short time, Bremont has gone from an unheard-of to one of the most popular brands out there. Founded by brothers Nick and Giles English, this thoroughly British company seems to have done everything right to build a brand that is successful at retail, yet appeals to cult watch collectors. Their focus on build quality, over-engineering and authenticity permeates every detail of their watches, speaking to the honest motives of its founders to simply make great timepieces. The story behind Bremont is one worth hearing, as it builds a level of credibility that I think few other brands have. Check out this video, which will also goes over a lot of what makes Bremonts different:
Needless to say, they are a brand whose watches we wanted to spend more time with, especially after their very strong showing this year at Basel. Luckily, Bremont was kind enough to lend us one of their definitive models, the MBII, for review. The MBII exemplifies a lot of what Bremont does right, and is a watch that forced them to really push their engineering, living up to their own slogan “Tested Beyond Endurance”.
The MB series were born out of a collaboration with the Martin-Baker brand, who manufacture ejection seats for jets. The goal being nothing short of making the “definitive aviation chronometer”, the watches have been designed and tested to actually withstand the MB ejection seat test program. As such, they are overbuilt to the nth degree, featuring innovative shock protection amongst a slew of other features. For us tool watch fans who like our watches built to take a lot more than we can dish, the MB series over qualifies.
The MBII… yes, there is an MBI but you can only have it if you have used, and survived, ejecting with an MB ejection seat… is a practical modern pilot’s watch with a lot of cool features inside and out. It has Bremont’s signature and very unique Trip-Tick case design, their patented Roto-Click internal bezel, and a COSC certified chronometer movement for starts. It’s also a restrained and handsome watch that can be worn everyday.
The caveat?..It’s quite expensive, coming in at $5,200 MSRP. This is substantially more than what we typically discuss, but when we come across something, even at a totally aspirational price point, that has qualities we admire, we figure why not. On a personal note, I also simply wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. A lot of brands get endless adoration do to their age and clout, but Bremont is young, so the hype is based on the products themselves. I wanted to see if it was worth it…
Bremont MBII Review
Case: Hardened Steel, Aluminum
Movement: Bremont BE-36AE Chronometer
Water Res.: 100m
Dimensions: 43 x 50mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Crown: 6.9 x 5.2 mm
Weight: 103g (sized for a 7″ wrist)
Warranty: 3 years
To say that Bremont takes their case designs seriously would be a vast understatement of the effort that goes into them, especially with the MB series. Mixing over-engineering, unique material finishing and elegant geometry, the result is something as attractive as it is tough. On the outside, you have super-hardened steel, knurling, and a distinctly colored barrel, while on the inside you have a chronometer movement enclosed in an anti-magnetic faraday cage, then suspended in a flexible anti-shock mount. That’s not even mentioning the patented Roto-Click internal bezel mechanism… Bremont doesn’t screw around.
Measuring 43 x 50 x 14.5mm (to the top of the domed sapphire) the case is large in diameter, but modest in lug-to-lug length, making for a wearable and masculine size. From above, the shape is classic and understated. There is a thick steel bezel, the top surface of which fluidly transitions into the double-domed anti-reflective sapphire crystal. This mounts directly on to a second layer, from which the lugs are milled. This is where things begin to get interesting.
Combined, these pieces make for the bezel section of the Trip-Tick design, the central barrel and case back being the other sections. Both bezel pieces are hardened with a proprietary treatment to reach 2,000 vickers on the surface, making them as hard as the sapphire itself. This immediately places Bremont’s pieces along side of tool watch brand favorites, Sinn and Damasko, who are also known for their hardening technologies. Sinn’s tegimenting (which I imagine is similar to Bremont’s process) gives their cases 1,200 vickers of hardness on the surface, while Damasko’s ice hardening gives them 700 vickers all the way through (the debate as to which is better rages on). At 2k, the Bremont is the hardest of the lot, though all provide vastly more scratch resistance than your average watch. Interestingly, Bremont’s new Boeing model’s use 465 steel, which is harder than anything mentioned here, and hardened all the way through… a champ emerges?
Hardness aside, the geometry of the lugs is quite gorgeous. From the side, one sees how they go from a thick piece of steel to a layer only a couple millimeters tall. The inner edge, where it meets the central barrel, is scalloped away, creating a dramatic concave curve. The machining here is incredibly sharp, for a dramatic effect.
This leads you to perhaps the most eye-catching detail of the case, the knurled, anodized aircraft grade aluminum central barrel. When one typically thinks of case finishes and coatings a few things pop to mind, and bright orange is likely not one of them. This unique treatment adds a large swath of color to the case itself, invigorating an otherwise often under-detailed surface and adding a ton of character to the watch as a whole. The MBII is actually available with a choice of green, anthracite (grey) or orange central barrel as shown. The color itself is remarkably saturated, giving off a warm glow. The knurling further activates the area with a texture that speaks to the rugged intentions of the watch.
The central barrel shows off the brilliance of Bremont’s Trip-Tick design as its modular nature allows for color, finish and material variation with out creating a totally new design. An example of this is comparing the MB’s to their Supermarine’s (perhaps my favorite of their designs). The Supermarine’s have black barrels with horizontal grooves, rather than knurling, for a very different look that speaks to that watch’s more ornate design. They then actually bolt a crown guard directly on to the barrel. The end result are two very different watches born of the same system. The MBII also uses aluminum, for an overall lighter weight.
Off of two and four are the rather large 6.9 x 5.2mm crowns, which also have a knurled texture, providing a great surface to grip. The crown at 2, which is push-pull, is used to adjust the time while the crown at 4 is for operating the internal bezel. On the outside surface of both crowns, Bremont adds a cool detail, communicating that crowns function. The 2 o’clock crown has a gloss black surface with Bremont’s propeller logo in it, while the 4 o’clock has a gloss black bulls-eye on a mostly steel surface…simply nice detailing.
The Roto-Click bezel is an interesting take on the internal bezel mechanism. It essentially adds “clicks” that momentarily pause the motion of the bezel on an marker. That said, it’s really a haptic design that lets your fingers know when you’ve hit the mark, rather than jumping from mark to mark. As such, one can still place the pointer in between markers, as though it were entirely non-ratcheting as most internal bezels are. In use, the feel and action are very good. It has a strong amount of resistance, preventing accidental turning, and the “click” truly ensure exact alignment.
Lastly, the case back of the MBII is pretty straight forward. It’s a solid plate of steel, held on with 6, small flat head screws. In the center of the plate are various expected details and a Martin-Baker ejection seat logo. After the excitement of everything else on the watch, the back is a bit bland.
The dial of the MBII is a clean, function driven take on the modern pilot. The surface is matte black with no discernible texture. The primary index consist of small lumed numerals for the hours, save 3 which is replaced by a day/date window. Outside of each hour is a white rectangle, also lumed, which are heavier at 12, 3, 6 and 9. Between these markers are small, thin white lines for the individual minutes.
Also on the face below 12 is the Bremont logo, under which is a red triangle, which is an aviation. Above 6 there are two lines of text reading “anti-shock” and “automatic”. Above that is a strange symbol of white lines around a red circle, which indicates that the watch utilizes their special anti-shock system. It’s a decent amount of text, but it feels balanced on the dial. At 3 is a classic day/date window with white text on a black surface, matching the dial.
Lastly, is the internal bezel, which is a relatively thin, angled black surface with an index of white lines and numerals at intervals of 5. At 0/60 is a lume triangle with a red outline. When the origin is set to 12, the internal bezel provides a clear minutes/seconds index for the dial.
All in all, the dial is very understated and matter of fact. It’s like dials on military watches. You know the purpose is legibility, so you don’t scoff at the lack of stylized symbols, typefaces or textures. The bluntness of it becomes the aesthetic. And in effect, while it’s not a dial that shouts “$5k watch”, it’s handsome and easy to read. It also keeps it in the vein of watches like the IWC Mark series, which this watch is certainly a competitor of. Also, I imagine when strapped to a Martin-Baker ejection seat, the circular graining of a sub-dial is the last thing on your mind.
The hands of the MBII are a play on the roman swords typically found on a pilot’s watch. The minute is a long slender sword with lume filling though out, while the hour is a broader, shorter sword with only a lumed triangle, the rest being matte black. At first, I found the hour hand to be a bit awkward looking, but I got use it as I wore the watch. The triangular lume filling makes it very easy to distinguish at a glance from the other hands, perhaps more so that typical roman sword hands are. The seconds hand is a thin, matte black stick with a red lollipop tip with lume filling. The counter-weight of the seconds hand is a yellow and black striped loop, referring to an ejector seat’s handle. A nice touch that speaks to the story of the watch, without being too obvious.
The lume on the MBII glows blue, and is a bit weak over all. The dial elements are very thin, thus not having much lume to speak of. The hands are more saturated and glow brighter, so they are really what one looks at in the dark.
Inside of the MBII is the Bremont caliber BE-36AE automatic chronometer. This movement has at its base an ETA 2836-2, which has been highly finished and tuned by Bremont to achieve Chronometer status. A Chronometer is a movement that has been officially tested by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètre (COSC) and achieved 99% accuracy in several positions and in several temperature conditions. This amounts to an accuracy of -4/+6 seconds a day. Bremont’s movements all use the highest grade components available from ETA, such as a glucydur balance, anachron balance spring and Nivaflex 1 mainspring, which aid in both low temperature function and increased anti-magnetism. All of Bremont’s watches are COSC certified, hence why they are referred to as Chronometers in all of their literature, rather than “watches”.
The movement itself is a 25-jewel automatic with hand winding, hacking, day/date, 42 hr power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph. It has been highly finished with perlage and blued screws and has a signature skeletonized rotor, though none of this is viewable. In fact, the movement is not only obscured by the case back, but by the Faraday cage it sits within. As part of the over-engineering of the MBII, they wanted to increase the anti-magnetism by using the known method of placing the movement within a soft iron case.
They also wanted to increase the anti-shock rating tremendously of the watch, so they added a rather clever suspension system that essentially allows for the movement to float within the case. When you imagine the sheer amount of vibration as well as g-forces that must be experienced when ejecting from a jet, standard methods of anti-shock clearly wont cut it. By attaching the Faraday cage, which the movement is within, to a soft neoprene ring (as well as having standard anti-shock) they allow the whole thing to shift around a bit, thus reducing shock. This is the kind of unique, invisible component that just makes things work better.
Straps and Wearability
The MBII comes with a heavily padded calf skin strap and what they refer to as a NATO nylon strap, though it’s not the NATO style you are thinking of. Rather, it’s a very cool, rugged Gas Gas Bones strap…Unfortunately, I did have the chance to test the watch on said strap, but I’m sure that would have looked awesome. Instead, the demo model was fitted with a tapering 22mm black calf strap with orange accent stitching. The construction and comfort of the strap is without reproach. It’s thick, but supple, with dense padding that feels like it would protect your wrist from shock. The tapering design doesn’t over weigh the case or dial, and gives it a classic look. Their buckle is also a beautifully machined thumbnail with their logo screened on in black.
I believe the orange accent strap is not the standard for this watch, rather one with white stitching is. This is a secondary option that costs a mere £155…or about $260, so one hell of a pricy strap. Personally, I would never get a strap with orange accent stitching, though clearly the idea is to emphasize the orange barrel. For me, it’s too much and made it harder to pair with clothing, as it felt like it clashed with everything, or tried to look too “extreme”.
The MBII wears wonderfully. It’s just the right size to feel big and rugged, but not at all uncomfortable to wear. In fact, I’m starting to be convinced that a well-proportioned 43mm is an ideal “large” watch size. The 50mm lug-to-lug keeps in over your wrist, while the offset crowns rarely dig in. The watch also weighs about 103g on the leather strap, so it’s quite light. Given the watch’s super hardened steel surfaces, internal shock absorption, etc… this really is a great everyday watch.
The looks speak to this as well. The dial is very understated and neutral, neither seeming too aggressive or too formal, so it should just fit in where ever. The case is really the more exciting part, adding an athletic personality to the watch and a lot of details to absorb. Every angle you view the watch from is exciting and active, thanks to the Trip-Tick construction. The knurling breaks up the light with its rough, spiked texture, adding something industrial to the look. Meanwhile, the sculpted curves of the lugs add an aerodynamic elegance.
Should you go with the orange or green barrels, which are more unique and bold, you’ll have to consider how those colors work within your personal style and the clothing you wear. Personally, I would find them too dramatic and limiting, so I would opt for the more subtle Anthracite barrel. For example, I tried the MBII on a few NATOs I had laying around and found the color combos a bit unpleasant. Black and orange was too intense, green and orange was too “pumpkin” and festive, while orange and khaki was too autumnal.
It’s easy to understand the hype around the Bremont MBII when you get a chance to wear it. It’s solid as a rock, unique in interesting ways, bold from some angles, restrained from others. It’s secretly just about the toughest watch in the room at any given time, hiding the abundance of over engineered materials and internal elements it harbors. All in all, it’s simply a wonderful watch…errr, chronometer.
Aesthetically, it’s definitely for fans of military and pilot watch designs. The dial is all business, and while it could be considered a touch boring, its simple, clear design grew on me. The case…well, I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m a fan of the design. It manages to be incredibly innovative while not trying too hard to be different. The 2,000 vickers hardened steel is a major plus from a practical, scratch-resistant perspective, while the internal Faraday cage and shock-absorption protect against stronger forces. The colored barrels then add unique character. It’s also easy to forget that there is a COSC certified movement inside that has been finely finished.
Of course, this all comes at a price, and a high one at that. At $5,200 MSRP, the MBII is in a tier we don’t typically talk about on w&w. A tier that for us is aspirational, though shockingly enough is entry level in the luxury watch market. But in the context of the retail watch market the MBII, and most other Bremonts are positioned strategically. Competing with the likes of Breitling, Bell & Ross and IWC, Bremont offers a thoroughly modern, and more rigorously engineered option. As a young and fairly small brand, whose founder’s story is engrained in every piece, and who specialize in collaborating with other English brands, they also have an authenticity that is hard to find at retail.
For us, we’re likely looking at the second hand market if we’re to pick one up. MBII’s seem to trade at around $3k, so significantly less, though still a substantial price. When one compares them to brands like Sinn and Damasko, the value is not as strong, though if either of those brands went retail they would easily cost as much if not more. That said, Bremont does have some unique features that neither of those brands have, and vice versa. In the end, it will likely come down to taste and what one can afford. What’s for sure is that should you go with the MBII, you wont be disappointed.
by Zach Weiss