27th October 2014

The very origins of the wristwatch stem from the needs of those magnificent men in their flying machines – and even in the age of the drone, says Alex Doak, pilot’s watches have never lost their appeal, or cool factor.

Bremont The Need For Speed

For Bremont to hold a glitzy launch party for its latest limited edition in the Flight Gallery of London’s Science Museum, something special was definitely afoot. For this decidedly British watchmaker, more likely to serve you a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat than champagne during an appointment, this really was pushing the boat out. Or, rather, the aeroplane. Aeroplanes such as Amy Johnson’s London-to-Australia Gypsy Moth, for example, or Alcock and Brown’s transatlantic Vickers Vimy, or every schoolboy’s favourite, the Schneider Cup-winning Supermarine S6B – all present and correct among the hundreds of black-tie guests.

As it transpired, the new watch was linked to something even more visceral to Bremont’s aviation DNA than these, and all of its previous limited editions containing fragments of Spitfire, HMS Victory and Bletchley Park Enigma machines. It turned out that all 450 examples of the new ‘Wright Flyer’ would contain a tiny scrap of fabric from the lower-left wing of a plane that hung in the Flight Gallery until being returned to the States in 1948: the Wright brother’s Flyer I from 1903. The one that flew at Kitty Hawk. The first aeroplane in the world, in other words.

Goosebumps duly raised gallery-wide, a second curveball was thrown at us: Bremont had developed its very own movement with Swiss company La Joux-Perret, and was already making some of the bits at its Henley-on-Thames atelier. This impressive new manufacturing capability is partly down to a newly forged alliance with Boeing – in terms of the Wright brothers, positioned at the diametrically opposite end of the spectrum, with an appropriately high-tech wrist instrument to go with it.

Bremont The Need For Speed

Aviation, it seems, is just the right cocktail of sepia-toned, Biggles-esque romance mixed with high-octane, Maverick coolness for pilot watches to remain, arguably, the most popular genre in watchmaking. Indeed, just one year after Wilbur Wright’s tentative efforts in North Carolina, the flamboyant aviator pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont asked his friend, the French watchmaker Louis Cartier, to design him a timepiece that he could read quickly without fishing awkwardly for his pocket watch – making pilot watches instrumental to the wristwatch in the first place.

The advance in flight pushed the advancement of aviation watches throughout most of Switzerland’s top brands, with the cardinal rules of crystal-clear legibility, easy fiddlability wearing flying gloves and robust construction all establishing themselves quickly. But, as with so many other technologies, it was the advent and onset of war that really drove the modernisation of the military wristwatch. Indie watch manufacturer Oris has been producing specialist aviation watches since the launch of its first ‘Big Crown’ in 1938, born to satisfy the demands of fighter pilots in Normandy. This noble heritage has informed a whole new collection of sky-bound watches for 2014, in the shape of the Big Crown collection’s super-smart, great-value ProPilot range.

Bremont The Need For Speed

All 450 examples of the new ‘Wright Flyer’ contains a tiny scrap of fabric from the lower-left wing of the Wright brother’s Flyer I from 1903, the first aeroplane in the world.

Bremont The Need For Speed

Designed in the 1950s for the French naval air army, the chunky ‘Aéronavale’ Type XX was a stark departure from Breguet’s delicate dress watch style, but, being Breguet, it introduced some clever mechanics to the skies, with a flyback chronograph function. This allowed pilots to restart their chrono’ instantly as soon as they’d turned to go home, giving far more accurate distance and fuel consumption estimates. Luckily for civilians, the Type XX and XXI remain in the collection. And, admittedly for the most part, on the ground.

Elsewhere in ROX’s horological roster, you can’t forget Bell & Ross of course, whose stock in trade is professional watches and little else. Not only has this relatively youthful Parisian brand (owned by Chanel, for what it’s worth) wooed the likes of bomb-disposal experts, modern Aéronavale pilots and Parisian SWAT teams, but the design is just so spot-on ice-cool that you’ll find as many BR 01s on the wrist of architects and hipsters as pilots.

So why doesn’t everyone else get in on the act, if pilot’s watches are so cool? Well, to answer your question, just grab a pen and paper and design your own pared-down ‘12, 3, 6, 9’ three-hander in black and white.

As you’ll find out to your frustration, it’s the simplest things that are the hardest to get right.

Bremont Wright Flyer
60866 | £17,950
Also available in Rose Gold

Gray Brothers Bremont Amassadors


Bremont is thrilled to be strengthening its ties with rugby and to be working with International Rugby playing brothers Richie & Jonny Gray. Remarkably the Gray brothers are the 47th set of Scottish brothers to represent their country in rugby and are both tipped be in the Lion squad in 2017. With Bremont’s maxim of being ‘tested beyond endurance’ there is a natural synergy with the physical and mental endurance that these Rugby stars go through for each match.

Tech Revolution


The arrival of smart technology is providing the watch industry its biggest shakeup since the 1970s Quartz revolution. But what role does heritage and craftsmanship have in this new era? Jaguar’s newest additions show how technology and tradition can live cheek by jowl. Words by Chris Chilton.

Bremont Adventurers Club


Our guests enjoyed a wonderful evening as we showcased the beautifully engineered chronometers from Bremont. We celebrated Bremonts partnership with Jaguar by showcasing the new F-PACE at our event! Co-founder Giles English took to the stage with Polar Explorer Ben Saunders as he shared an insight into his wonderful expeditions and life as a Bremont Ambassador.