Icons of the Exchange: Bremont
Bremont’s MBII timepiece blends mechanical British watchmaking with eye-catching bespoke possibilities
Brothers Nick and Giles English founded Bremont in 2002, with a vision to revive and rebuild the British watchmaking industry. ‘Nick and I were aware of this amazing history of British watchmaking, but two world wars wiped it out and no one really knew about it anymore,’ explained Giles. ‘One hundred years ago, over half of the world’s watches and clocks were being made in England – there’s a reason the world sets its time by Greenwich Mean Time.’
The brothers moved to Switzerland for seven years, to learn the craft and develop the Bremont collection, before returning to England to set-up shop in Henley-on-Thames. Fast forward to 2021 and there are over 130 people working at Bremont’s state-of-the-art watchmaking facility, which includes an apprenticeship scheme to ensure the next generation of young British watchmakers are trained in the skills of the trade.
The aesthetics and functionality of Bremont’s beautifully engineered chronometer timepieces are inspired by a love of flying historic aircraft, of watches and all things mechanical, stemming from the brothers’ links to aviation. Their father was a PhD aeronautical engineer and an ex-RAF pilot, and both Nick and Giles are themselves pilots.
‘The key characteristic of a Bremont watch is that it’s very much an aviation style of watch,’ says Giles. ‘As pilots ourselves, we knew what we wanted out of an aviation style of watch, which is something that is very clear and easy to read. We would often use chronograph functionality to do timings, so to that end we’ve introduced some great chronograph models in the range over the years.’
In 2007, the aviation company Martin-Baker approached Bremont to design a special timepiece for them. Based in Denham, England, Martin-Baker produces fighter ejection seat technology for 70 per cent of the world’s air forces, and wanted to create a special watch as a gift for the rare number of people who have been ejected from an aircraft.
The MBI watch, which Bremont created for Martin-Baker, took two years of development and had to be tested beyond the normal call of duty. ‘They stipulated that the watch had to go through the same rigorous testing procedures as the seats themselves go through,’ explains Giles. ‘This included everything from vibration, crash, magnetic and live ejection testing.’
In order to make a mechanical watch that could withstand such demands, Bremont had to figure out how to make it far more robust. ‘We developed a vibration mount technology inside the watch to withstand shocks, and a Faraday cage that protects against magnets,’ says Giles. And so the iconic MBI watch was born – with a distinctive red barrel that is solely reserved for pilots who have ejected from an aircraft using a Martin-Baker seat.
Every Bremont watch is chronometer-rated, which means the watch is independently tested in Switzerland for 15 days, where it is put through its paces. ‘It’s tested at different temperatures and different positions, and it has to give an average reading of between +6 and -4 seconds a day; that’s around 99.89 per cent accuracy,’ Giles explains. ‘To make something that is worn on your wrist every day, gets bashed around, scratched, dropped etc, and still works, is the result of really beautiful craftsmanship.’
Bremont developed a consumer range of the MB watch, which features the same technologies and has been through all of the same testing procedures. The Bremont MB watch has become a must-have for any serious collector, and while few will ever get their hands on a red-barrelled MBI model, the MBII and MBIII editions are available for purchase.
‘The key characteristic of a Bremont watch is that it’s very much an aviation style of watch, an all-purpose mechanical watch that you could wear in the boardroom, or while climbing Mount Everest or flying your plane,’ says Giles.
Since the Martin-Baker partnership, Bremont has collaborated with military organisations from all over the world to create beautifully crafted, special edition timepieces. And now, they have made the opportunity to create a bespoke Bremont MB watch open to all with a new online configurator.
The intuitive online system allows for over 1,000 possible design combinations, including the choice of a stainless steel or diamond-like carbon (DLC) finished case. Customers can try out different combination of dial, case, case back, barrel and strap choices, while barrel colour options encompass blue, orange, yellow, green and anthracite; as well as military- inspired purple, bronze, jet and titanium. There’s also an option to feature an open case back, which make the MB’s beautiful new movement design visible for the first time .
‘Customers have always expressed a strong interest in being able to customise or ‘bespoke’ their own watch, so we were really excited about launching this new configurator, which allows them this capability,’ says Giles. ‘It’s amazing to see the choices people will make. We’ve seen how fantastic so many squadron MB watches look, so know that this range is perfectly suited for something of this nature. Nick and I have always loved the design process, so we’re looking forward to our customers sharing in this opportunity and the same passion.’
The Royal Exchange celebrates its 450th anniversary this year. Our Icons of the Exchange series pays homage to the exceptional array of retailers that call The Royal Exchange home, with a look at the heritage, design and craftsmanship of products that epitomise the essence and excellence of our celebrated brands.
We look forward to welcoming you to The Royal Exchange during 2021, for a considered shopping and dining experience in spectacular and historic surroundings. Please visit our boutiques page for regular updates on our retailers’ opening information and hours, virtual appointments and click and collect services; including the Fortnum & Mason City store. Menus, information and contact details for The Fortnum’s Bar and Restaurant at The Royal Exchange can be found here.
Visit our heritage page to learn more about the history of The Royal Exchange and keep an eye on our journal and Instagram for more fascinating facts and insights about its past and present as we commemorate this special milestone throughout the year ahead.