Monday, July 30, 2012

HMS Victory hosts Bremont Watch Launch

The caseback of the Bremont Victory watch

HMS Victory is the only surviving warship that fought in the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic wars. In the latter she served as Lord Nelson's flagship at the decisive Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and she continues to be flagship of the Second Sea Lord. That she should play host to the launch of a watch that not only shares her name, but also original parts of her superstructure, was something more than a little special. So when I received an invite to this event from Giles and Nick English at Bremont, I jumped at the chance. Travelling down from London with numerous proper watch journalists (including representatives from #watchnerd favourites QP Magazine and 00/24 Watchworld), I must admit to feeling more than a little inadequate. But back to the watches...

The copper mid-barrel 

The Victory Watch stems from Bremont's close association with the Navy, through working previously with the Fly Navy Heritage Trust and the Royal Navy Historic Flight. However, from the sounds of it, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, GCB, DL, Chairman of the Trustees of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, wasn't going to let just anyone waltz off with original parts of the oldest naval ship still in commission. Luckily for Bremont, they passed muster, and were granted unprecedented access to parts of the wooden superstructure and even a copper nail. These parts have been used in both the trademark Bremont mid-barrel (see right) and the caseback of the Victory watch (above). 

The Bremont Victory/LE/RG
The watch itself marks something of a departure for the guys from Henley-on-Thames: not only does it use the most complicated mechanical movement within any Bremont watch to date, but it is also their first foray into the world of precious metals. For the Victory is available in both a Limited Edition of 200 stainless steel pieces, as well as 40 in 18 carat rose gold (at left). As you can see from the photos, the watch shares many of the features that have become associated with Bremont watches: the TripTick three-piece construction, showing off the beautiful curved lugs; an easy-to-read, textured dial that seems both modern and reminiscent of marine chronometers; a railway-style track above the minutes; and even a red triangle on the rehaut at twelve o'clock. It's a very Bremont watch, combining the best of the new with a great deal of the old.

The highly-decorated caseback (C) Bremont
The caseback contains some of the most wonderful details that I've seen in a long while. Bremont were able to borrow Nelson's seal - the seal he wore on the Victory - and produce a cast from it. From there, they found one of the last places in the UK that is still engraving glass, and commissioned them to etch the seal, in reverse, onto the sapphire display back.  The rotor is also highly-decorated. The photo to the right is from Bremont, and I'm just sorry that I haven't been able to get a closer view of it. 

The movement is very interesting: it's a chronograph with double retrograde running seconds and date, known as the Bremont BE-83AR. A little bit of #watchnerd-fu shows few other movements that fit this description: the cal. 831 used by Chronoswiss in their well-received Balance Chronograph (based on the La Joux-Perret 8310) being the only other one I could find. It's a fascinating movement to watch, and I'm sorry I haven't managed to get a video of it. The running seconds run up the left-hand side of the dial, flicking back to zero when they hit the 30 second mark. The retrograde scale on the right of the dial shows the date. As mentioned previously, there are relatively few people using this movement at present, so it remains a bit of an oddity. La Joux-Perret (formerly known as Jaquet), and part of the wider Prothor Group) have recently been purchased by Citizen. The hands are rather good too, with a very fine chronograph seconds hand and a set of well-balanced hours and minutes. I don't believe that there is any lume on the dial at all. All in all, it's a remarkable watch: bold, beautiful, brilliant. And all that, while wearing a piece of history on your wrist. I'm not sure it gets much better than that.

The Bremont Victory will be available in the Autumn, at a little under £12,000 for the stainless steel model, and a shade under £20,000 for the rose gold version, although I think you'd better get your pre-orders in quickly. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ben Saunders - Scott2012

Last night I attended a talk by Ben Saunders, Bremont Ambassador and polar explorer, at the new Bremont Boutique. It was the first of a series of regular (monthly-ish) talks by Bremont Ambassadors, explorers, adventurers, designers, etc as part of Bremont's Explorers Club (not sure that's the name, but I'll use it until corrected). The event was well-attended by Ben's other sponsors - Land Rover, Drum Cussac, etc - and the champagne was supplied by Mumm. Good friends were also present, in the shape of Nick and Giles English, as well as Tim from Fly Navy Heritage Trust (sporting a rather nice P-51). Tim mentioned that they have just received a Supermarine Seafire - but that's another story. If you haven't heard of the Trust, please do follow this link to learn more.

In October Ben Saunders leads a three-man team setting out to make the first return journey to the South Pole on foot. At 1,800 miles and four months, Scott 2012 will be the longest unsupported polar journey in history and the first completion of Captain Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova expedition -
Scott2012. Ben is planning an attempt to reach the South Pole, following Scott's epic 1,800 mile route - a route on which Scott and his team famously perished in 1912. The route remains the longest trans-polar trek ever attempted, and crosses the Ross Ice Shelf, before heading up the Beardmore Glacier (c10,000ft above sea level). At the start of the expedition, Ben and his two teammates will be dragging sleds weighing 200kg, and will set up depots / drops on the way out to ensure a relatively smooth ski home, and arrival back in Blighty in February 2013. Ben, Al and Martin will be carrying all their own food (freeze-dried, of course), fuel and, by the looks of the video from the recent Greenland training exercise, a lot of Nikon camera batteries! The team will have limited access to the Internet via satellite and therefore hope to 'blog, Tweet and generally keep in touch during their mammoth trek.

Ben was wearing his tried and tested Bremont Supermarine 500 - a watch that's been used on many of Ben's recent polar attempts and training expeditions, where the watch (and Ben) have been subject to -48C temperatures. Ben announced that he would be wearing a Bremont during Scott2012 - but that he couldn't reveal which one. A super-secret new model, perhaps? The new 45mm Supermarine? A weather-sealed and rubber-mounted chrono? Answers on a postcard please - or perhaps a Tweet? As part of the Adventurers' Club, Ben also signed the new "soapbox", the occasional speaking platform in the corner of the Boutique.

The #watchnerd wishes Ben, Al and Martin all the best for their trip.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting the jump on Bell & Ross

Bell & Ross showed their two Heure Sautante (Jumping Hour) WW1 watches at Kronometry 1999 on London's Bond Street last week. Two new models (first shown at BaselWorld 2012) were on display: a rose gold piece (at left), with jump hour displayed within a small circular window at twelve, regulateur minutes and power reserve at six; and a platinum version with a two-tone dial and slightly different power reserve window (below right). The movement was designed for Bell & Ross by AHCI member Vincent Calabrese, who set up NHC and is now, I believe, working with Blancpain.The jump hour complication is still relatively unusual in modern watches, and it's nice to see a brand like B&R trying something a little bit different At first glance, these watches seem slightly out of character for Bell & Ross, a design-led brand that was originally supplied by Helmut Sinn, created the trend for large, square aviation watches, and has recently launched a range of aircraft instrument-inspired pieces (see more photos here).

However, some of you may remember that a similar watch was debuted at Basel almost a decade ago, using a the same movement, but in the BR 123 case and a limited edition of 99. At the time of their launch in 2003, I believe these watches were the first jumping hour movements to include a power reserve. These new watches are part of Bell & Ross' "new" Vintage WW1 range, a family of pieces that now includes a Monopoussoir. The rose gold version of the Heure Sautante is available at £17,000 and is limited to 50 pieces; the platinum version is limited to a mere 25 pieces and is available at £26,000.

Many thanks to Michel at Bell & Ross, and all at Kronometry1999 for their kindness and hospitality.

the #watchnerd

Friday, July 06, 2012

Bremont's new boutique

Nick English's BSA

The #watchnerd popped in to see the newly opened Bremont Boutique in Mayfair, central London last night. The grand opening had occurred the day before, and from all accounts, appears to have been well-attended. I just missed seeing Giles and Nick but did get to meet David and Irena, who are running the store. Nick English has kindly loaned them his bike for a bit - so the first thing to greet visitors is a WWII-era BSA, which looks rather good against the dark wood of the walls. I also noted that Giles had donated his EP120 to the window display. I guess this is the price of success for Bremont: none of the sold out EP120 or P-51 watches are available. A blue-dialled version of the new World Timer was also in the window, and the store is stocked with the majority of the other non-LE models. I understand from David that there will be a great deal more watches in store (including some prototypes) in due course.

The 37mm SOLO with gold bezel

One unusual watch that is on display is the gold-bezel version of the recently announced 37mm SOLO watch. To be honest, I'd read quite a bit about the white-dialled 43mm and 37mm SOLO watches, and was beginning to wonder whether these were slightly (dare I say it) over-hyped. Everyone else seems to have got their hands on them and I was probably the last to see these watches. I must admit to feeling just a little bit sceptical, but as soon as I saw them, I realised that Bremont had done it once again. The watch is superb.  I didn't expect that the bezel and applied gold indices would work so well on what is effectively a simple three-handed aviation-inspired piece. We've always associated Bremont with a simple elegance, but also a certain gritty toughness. This piece is beautifully proportioned, with a lovely balance between the more feminine qualitites of the gold and the sturdiness of the stainless steel sections. The gold hands appear to be highly legible, but also give a bit more interest to the white dial.

I hadn't realised that the watch would not have the treated mid-section but the version I saw had a stainless steel barrel that looks (and feels) quite different to the ALT1 or even BC-S2 watches. The gold crown also contrasts well with the steel. Irena was also wearing a stainless version with applied gold indices. This looked stunning on its (prototype) leather strap - a soft, lighter brown version of the strap on the gold SOLO. It would look fantastic in 22mm, and I hope Bremont move it into production. The 20mm straps feel far softer and more forgiving that the "vintage" leather straps released with the P-51 watch.

Bremont's Boutique
At the back of the boutique is a bar and a seating area. The former is well-stocked, and it was especially pleasing to see one of my favourite (English) gins on the backbar - SipsmithIt looks as though Bremont have raided their Henley offices for furniture and fittings: the well-loved armchairs are there along with a rather comfy sofa. It'd be nice to be able to pop in and take a load off one's feet, and perhaps enjoy the books on the shelves (mostly aviation-related). Bremont have a massive display of accessories too - straps, cufflinks, even leather folders. A great place to take your watch(es) and try out new ideas for bracelets, leather and canvas. There are Bremont details everywhere: aircraft gauges, books, propellors, photos and the most amazing display of dials (but you may need to ask to see that, as it's unfortunately hidden from view!). The whole store is *very* Bremont.

More photos here - including some rather groovy kit from Elvis & Kresse - a UK company recycling fire hoses and coffee bags to turn into messenger bags and laptop cases.