Excited voices and the cacophony of piston engines roaring to life shattered the brisk October dawn at Mildenhall – a usually peaceful English airfield where 20 pilots from six nations would soon take flight on a grueling 18,000-kilometer journey to Melbourne…
It wouldn’t be a Bremont release without the English brand’s usual penchant for storytelling – a signature that fans and collectors have come to expect whenever the brand announces its most limited, and usually most coveted offerings. This invitation to own a small slice of history in every commemorative edition has created a continually rising bar for Bremont who’ve already managed to give collectors a piece of muslin from the 1903 Wright Flyer, punch card clippings from the Bletchley Park enigma machine, wood and metal bits salvaged from the HMS Victory, and even aluminum from the fuselage of a P-51 back in 2011. This time around, they are celebrating the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race (aka: “the greatest air race of all time”) with the Bremont Comet DH-88.
The watch not only pays homage to, but contains actual pieces of the race-winning de Havilland aircraft that completed the arduous 11,000-mile journey from Mildenhall, England, to Melbourne, Australia, in a record-breaking 70 hours, 55 minutes – a record that, impressively, stood until as recently as 2010. The brand has also pledged a portion of the proceeds of every Bremont DH-88 sold to be donated to the Shuttleworth Trust – a unique museum dedicated to the preservation of dozens of historically significant aircraft – and a cause near and dear to Bremont founders and pilots Nick and Giles English.
And my navy suit particularly misses its presence at cocktail parties. The watch — which I procured with this review by the friendly and knowledgeable staff at the recently opened Bremont flagship boutique on 501 Madison Avenue in New York — carries a retail price of $6,695. It is always an exciting time when Bremont start to unveil their next limited edition timepiece and we have not managed to stop thinking about what might be following since last year’s Bremont DH-88. But today we finally have the solution! For 2017, the brand have published a trio of beauties in the form of this Bremont 1918 Limited Edition watch collection.Named in tribute to the RAF’s founding year and celebrating 100 years since date, the Bremont 1918 Limited Edition watches come from stainless steel, rose gold and white gold. The date appears in an oddly shaped window — seemingly echoing a display from a C17 plane — at 3 o’clock. An especially aviation-inspired city ring — more about which later — surrounds the dial, representing the 24 big time zones. And don’t be so transfixed by the stunning, thoroughly completed dial which you fail sneaking a glance or three at the motion — and its crowning feature, the Bremont-customized, skeletonized rotor — through the clear sapphire caseback. The solid caseback has been decorated with an engraved profile of the Supermarine S6.B, the fastest plane in the world in 1931 and also deemed to have played a very important role in the development of the legendary Spitfire.
The cherry red, twin-engine de Havilland Comet “Grosvenor House” was purpose-built for the MacRobertson race using mostly wood for the body and supports, and a pair of six-cylinder, 230 horsepower engines for propulsion. Things are scaled back a bit for the Bremont Comet DH-88, which is powered by Bremont’s BE-54AE movement – a COSC-certified automatic caliber based on the ETA 7750 that exhibits some neat modifications like red screws, a Glucydur balance, Anachron balance spring, and Nivaflex 1 mainspring. Granted, Bremont has deployed a more pared-down version of this movement in other parts of its collection, like in the eerily similar (albeit fully modern) ALT1-ZT/51 GMT Chronograph. But unlike the ALT1, the Bremont Comet DH-88’s bright red rotor has been fitted with a small sampling of spruce plywood sourced from the undercarriage of the original race-winning aircraft.
Sure, it’s tough to deny that the overall execution of the Bremont Comet DH-88 has a bit of a sleek, ALT1-ZT throwback undertone to it, though that could simply be because both exhibit a similar color palette and mirror each other’s functionality with GMT/date complications and 6-9-12 register layout. All things considered, there’s still enough for the Bremont Comet DH-88 to fully stand on its own – first as a vintage-inspired pilot watch replete with a classic serif numeral dial and oversized onion crown, but more importantly, as a fully capable instrument, modernized in Bremont’s high-tech Trip Tick case whose generous 43mm x 16mm dimensions should leave no doubt about the era in which it was designed.
The Bremont Comet DH-88 will be produced in two limited runs – the stainless steel cased-editions in 282 pieces with a price of £7,995, and the rose gold in 82 pieces with a price of £14,995 – and if the past is any indicator, neither will be easy to come by once word gets out they’re available. bremont.com