Flying the Bremont Skies
With the dust settling from Baselworld, we thought now would be the perfect time to jump into the way-back machine, set the clock to early March and take a look at what a brand conspicuous in its absence was up to...
If you were anywhere near social media or the Internet during the week of March 1st, then it's a given that you saw/read about Bremont's new collection for 2017, and, perhaps more importantly, their decision to leave Baseworld in favor of holding their own "Bremont Townhouse" event. All of this is significant, but before we dive into such weighty matters, let's shine the spotlight on the new collections coming out of Henley-On-Thames.
The biggest news at the townhouse was the introduction of two new families of 40mm watches: the Type 300 and the Airco, respectively. They both clock in at a wrist-friendly 40mm and employ more than a few vintage dog whistles to get their points across. First, let's take a look at the Type 300, as it's the most obvious, and simultaneously the most controversial of the new collections. Obvious, because a 40mm variant of the the popular Supermarine 500 and Supermarine 2000 dive watches is overdue; controversial, owing to the perception of some that the dials borrow too heavily from Rolex.
Let's get this out of the way now: on the wrist the Type 300 wears like a Bremont and it looks like a Bremont. Period. As is usually the case, pictures alone do not tell the whole story, and indeed, we were a bit skeptical when the first photos were released. However, after getting some wrist time with the collection, we're believers. There's no mistaking the patented Bremont Trip-Tick profile, which highlights the graceful curve of the lugs as they flow down from the bezel and over the middle-case barrel. Same goes for the "cathedral-lite" hand set, which has been lifted from the S500 and S2000, and lends a retro vibe to the proceedings that, again, is all Bremont. Even the crown constitutes a unique element, standing proud from the case as it does, with an elegant bronze ring denoting its presence.
Our favorite of the three versions is the S301, which is the most shamelessly vintage-inspired of the series with its ecru lume and leather strap. On the wrist it wears like a sepia-tinted dream, and despite the appearance of overlong lugs, the fit is perfect on both larger and smaller wrists. As is the case with most Bremonts, we'd pass on the bracelet and stick to the OEM straps, but this is just our opinion. Same goes for the S300/BK and S300/BL -- black dial and blue dial, respectively -- which forego the aged lume in favor of more contemporary white C1 SuperLuminova and feature explorer-type dials with 12/6/9 arabics front and center. In addition to the aforementioned bracelet, Bremont has also created a robust NATO/Zulu hybrid strap, which looks the business. (Please note that the blue ceramic bezel on the S300/BL prototype isn't final, and that the production version will match the color of the sunburst dial.)
Under the hood is the BE-92AE, which is a COSC-certified, Bremont-spec'd ETA 2892. Yes, it has a customized rotor and Bremont-specific decoration; no, it doesn't have the trick patented anti-shock mounts developed for the Martin Bakers (and employed in the S500 and S2000). Basically, something had to give to slim the cases down to 13mm, which keeps the proportions in check. In practice it's doubtful that this will be an issue, as its unlikely that the desk divers who purchase the the Type 300 will find themselves ejecting from a fighter jet over hostile territory, but we will miss it all the same. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the stainless steel case, which undergoes Bremont's B-EBE2000 treatment to achieve a hardness of 2000 Vickers (7x harder than untreated stainless steel). This is a feature shared by ALL Bremont watches.
The Airco Mach 1 and Mach 2 constitute a whole new family of Bremonts, and remind us most of field watches in their simplicity. In the case of the Mach 1, the supremely legible matte dial is printed with generously lumed arabics, while in a novel twist, the tip of the minute hand is highlighted in orange. Some might not like this flourish, and indeed, it seemed odd to us in photos, but in person it works. As with the Type 300 series, the Aircos use the BE-92AE, and due to their smaller size, they also lack the extra shock-resistance and anti-magnetic qualities of the MB series.
The Airco Mach 2 is another beast entirely. Unlike the Mach 1, its case is polished, and the dial is rendered in a shimmering gray with applied breguet numerals. Bremont refers to this piece an "officer's watch" and we'd have to agree that the guy calling the shots is the one who's got this on his wrist; the Mach 1 wearer is in the trenches taking grenades. (Or is he in the air taking flack?) In many ways, this is the "Spanish Inquisition" piece in the new collection – remember, according to Monty Python, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition – and we don't mind admitting that it took us by surprise, not simply because it's dressier than expected, but also because it's one of our favorites. Whereas the Type 300s were a natural progression for the Supermarine series, the Airco Mach 2 is something new, and yet still completely and utterly Bremont.
Bremont being Bremont, they weren't content to stop here. The venerable ALT1-P, which henceforth is called the ALT-P2, received its first major makeover, which sees the model dropping the Roto-Click inner bezel and adding a "cream" dial to the existing black and blue dial options. Aside from the missing inner bezel, the biggest change is the handset, which adopts a traditional sword shape for the hour hand and subdial hands. Case size remains the same, as does the ETA-derived BE-53A COSC-cerfited chronometer movement. While there are some who lament the loss of the inner timing bezel, its omission does clean up the dial somewhat. What's more, it's still available on the ALT1-ZT and ALT1-WT, so all is not lost.
Oh, and don't worry, Bremont didn't forget the ladies. Their Solo series, which we happen to love, is now available in red gold with either a black or white dial. Why do we love the Solo 32? Easy – how many brands do you know that make 32mm watches for women which aren't dripping with diamonds and hide quartz movements under their mother of pearl dials? Exactly. As with their steel counterparts, these new additions to the Solo line do not condescend to their intended market, and the sooner the rest of the industry gets on board with this, the better.
Other releases – yes, there's more – include a white-dialed Jaguar MkII chronograph, two new America's Cup LEs, and a new Norton Motorcycles LE, the V4.
With all that said and done, what good would we be if we didn't take the opportunity to throw a proper RedBar bash while we were in merry old Londontown? Not much good at all, which is precisely why we invited the entire RedBar London chapter to the Townhouse for an evening of watches, music, and, of course, booze:
A toast to Bremont and a toast to RedBar London!
Doing what we do best
The two most important people there
This guy was an encyclopedia of musical goodness. And possibly a robot. (He went for two nights straight and never missed a beat.)
So, with the new collection launched and many, many drinks drunk, what of the elephant sitting in the living room? Honestly, it's hard to underscore just how big a deal it is that Bremont decided to back out of the largest watch event on the planet. When the announcement was made official, there were pundits who attributed the move to a lack of marketing funds on Bremont's part, but the fact of the matter is that their "Basel-on-the-Thames" event cost them a fair bit more. Did the gamble pay off? In our humble estimation, yes. No, make that YES (capitalization is warranted here). When a brand like Bremont shows at Basel, they may get a couple of minutes of fame when they officially drop their collection, but as soon as the next brand follows suit, they're all but forgotten. Frankly speaking, unless you're Rolex, Patek, and possibly Omega, it's all but impossible to stand out from the crowd. With Bremont's move, they pretty much ensured that they were the breaking story for the entire week they held court from a converted townhouse on Fitzroy Square in London. True, there was some fatigue online – Lord knows we caught flak from IG's resident keyboard ninjas for our on-going live coverage of the event – but regardless of what one's opinion was, good or bad, they were still forced to have one. We do believe that a price can put on this sort of coverage, and in our opinion it more than makes up for Bremont's lack of a booth at Basel.
So, what does this mean for Basel, and to a lesser extent, SIHH, going forward? While we highly doubt that the success of Bremont's move will engender an en masse defection of brands from these shows, it does throw into stark relief their waning importance in the industry. True, when these shows began (Basel's precursor dates to 1917), they were necessary evils to the extent that retailers and media required a single, all-inclusive industry event in order to gain firsthand knowledge of the myriad of products being introduced to the marketplace. Nowadays, however, thanks to modern technology, a comprehensive press kit is little more than a click away. That said, there's always going to be value in being able to handle the goods in person, so to speak – indeed, we here at RedBar try to refrain from posting PR pics, in favor of our own images – but when you're a retailer or media entity in an industry that's in flux and you're looking at your bottom line, the notion of spending your hard-earned cash to visit one of the most expensive countries in the world doesn't quite have the luster that it once did. (Yes, contrary to popular belief, most retailers and media outlets pay their own way at these shows). Bremont's solution addresses all of these issues.
In the coming years we think that it's safe to assume that more brands will follow Bremont's lead. Perhaps not many at first, but as technology becomes more firmly entrenched in our lives, and brands look for more effective ways to market their products, standalone events like the Bremont Townhouse will become increasingly commonplace.