Basel? What Basel? Bremont Forges Their Own Path Forward in 2018
2018 marks the second year that Bremont will not be exhibiting at Baselworld. And the brand shows no signs of stopping.
Bremont isn’t known to go with the flow. Last year, the brand made quite the PR splash when they announced they wouldn’t be returning to exhibit at Baselworld 2017. At the time, critics, bloggers, and naysayers predicted the demise of the quirky British brand. Founders Nick and Giles English instead shifted their focus on hosting a unique “Bremont Townhouse” concept in London. By all accounts, the London townhouse was a massive hit and proved that those boys (and gals) at Bremont may be onto something.
The move towards an offsite event rather than a dedicated booth at Baselworld was a simple one. Why get lost in the pack of 1,000+ exhibitors all vying for media and retail attention when you can capture their hearts and minds for a prolonged period of time on your own home turf?
The townhouse concept provided Bremont the opportunity to speak directly to their intended audiences. Just over a year removed from the decision, the folks at Bremont are looking like psychics. The 2018 Baselworld fair is already shaping up to be the third consecutive down year of the show. With more than 40% less exhibitors than 2016 (Bremont’s last appearance).
Bremont on the uptick
While Baselworld is gravitating towards another down year, Bremont’s stock is trending upward. The brand has increased production capacity at their Henley on Thames manufacture in England. Notably, they’ve rapidly diversified into other markets including cruise ship marketing, duty free, and military commissions. In this writer’s opinion, last year’s townhouse collection may have been their strongest yet. Of course, I may be speaking from a point of bias because I picked up the S301 Supermarine.
The one thing Bremont does remarkably well is listen. During last year’s English Tour road trip, I chatted with Nick and Giles English for hours during our meandering drive through the northeast corridor. They were keenly interested in obtaining market intelligence and trends. This is a brand that wants to have its finger on the proverbial pulse while still forging their own path.
For 2018, Bremont pulled off a remarkable feat. Hosting not one, but two townhouse previews on each side of the pond. The first event in Westminster, London brought out stars such as; Tom Hardy, Tom Parker Bowles, Charley Boorman, and many others. The London townhouse was decorated in the very over the top British flair you’ve come to know the brand for. Outside of an actual bunker, Bremont brought props from past James Bond films and the recent British blockbuster The Darkest Hour.
For the New York event, the brand went a bit more SoHo chic, renting out a beautiful five-story townhouse rumored to be formerly owned by Seal and Heidi Klum. The space has been turned into a showroom of sorts for McIntosh speakers, who didn’t seem to mind sharing the spotlight with a bunch of quirky Brits. As the Clash's Paul Simonon DJ’d the night away, a few skinny dippers hopped in the pool while the massive crowed imbibed some fantastic Gin & Tonics. The New York Townhouse was a smash (as the Brits would say)!
Bremont 2018 collection overview
At both townhouse events, the 2018 Bremont collection was on full display. Here’s a rundown.
The centerpiece of this year’s novelties was the hyper-engineered Supermarine Endurance. A limited edition (of 300) made for British explorer Ben Saunder’s solo trans-Antarctic journey. Made to withstand the grueling 1,800-mile solo journey, the new Endurance is a feat of engineering. Capable of reaching depths of 500m and withstanding temperatures exceeding -100 °F. Like all Supermarines, the Endurance features Bremont’s three-part case, except in this novelty, the case is made of titanium. Part of what makes this a perfect Expedition watch is the bi-directional compass Basel with matching orange GMT hand with a large N (for North) on the tip. While future owners of the Endurance may not test this watch to the full rigors of its capabilities, it’s still sure to surprise and endure your next hiking or fishing expedition.
With the success of last year’s S300 and S301 novelties, Bremont has extended the vintage design cues to their S500 line which hasn’t seen an aesthetic refresh in a few years. Introducing the S500 and S501, both 43mm stainless steel watches with an array of color schemes. Bremont opted to change the texture of the dials by introducing a knurled effect which provides a depth not seen in previous models.
The new pieces come in essentially two variants. The S500 comes in Blue or Black (bezels and dials) with matching rubber straps. While the S501 closely resembles the S301 introduced last year. The darkened cream tinted Super-LumiNova indexes and hands and vintage leather strap lend a very vintage look.
You had me at U-2! An evolution of the brand’s P-51 limited edition, this time featuring a stealthy DLC coated case but retaining the P-51’s look. I’ll admit, I was a bit confused by the name of this watch. While I understand that the watch takes its design cues from the P-51 limited edition, the P-51 and U-2 planes themselves could not be more different. As a massive fan of Cold War era spy planes, this watch hits a sweet spot for me. The U-2/51-JET also takes inspiration from the RAF Hawk T1 which is a two-seat fighter used by the Royal Air Force since 1976.
Like many of Bremont’s watches, the U-2/51-JET has been put through a plethora of tests. Including an 80,000ft, 12-hour flight at -50 degrees. Like the spy plane it was named after, this is a watch that will literally fly under the radar yet be there for you when you need it. The jet-black DLC coated case measures 43mm and features a bi-directional inner rotating bezel adjusted by, you guessed it, a DLC coated crown. The smoked gray sapphire case back is a nice added touch.
The ALT1-C was the first watch Bremont designed. Since its launch in 2007, it’s enjoyed an almost cult following. For 2018, Bremont has added applied indexes in-lieu of the traditional Arabic numerals. New dial layouts in white and dark navy blue have also been introduced.
Last but certainly not least, we saw Bremont’s entry-priced AIRCO lineup receive a few updates. The Mach 1 and Mach 2 AIRCOs now feature white and British Navy-Blue dials. Sized at just 40mm, these new models are the perfect size for those of us with smaller wrists (myself included).
Bremont once again reinforces their position as a savvy British upstart with an increasingly impressive lineup of dive, tool, and sports watches. For my money, I’d go with the U-2/51-JET. How apropos would it be to wear that during this summer’s trip to Cuba?
(Photography by Liam O’Donnell)