In the absence of review watches I recently dedicated a little time to watch podcasts. Many of these tend to be american which despite often promising interesting content end up irritating me, so it was pleasantly surprised when I came across an interview with Mike Pearson, who recently returned to Bremont in the US.
The podcast in question is “Keeping Time” by Oster Watches, an independent jeweller from Denver, Colorado. I briefly met Mike at the first Bremont Townhouse event and enjoyed a short chat about the merits of bronze watches, so I understood he is an enthusiastic talker. During the podcast he gives a little of the insider’s view of Bremont and the enthusiasm of the founders Nick and Giles.
I really enjoyed the chatty style of this interview and it helped counter some of my Bremont cynicism.
You might have noticed that Bremont’s latest trio of watches developed together with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, The Broadsword, Arrow and Argonaut are chronometers, certified to ISO 3159 standard, not C.O.S.C. . Which I found very refreshing.
To my mind this has been a subtle way for the Swiss to maintain the perception of the superiority of their watch industry. Several British brands using Swiss movements are highlighting this certification, which I have always thought detracts a little from their British-ness, not in a negative way only in the way that we acknowledge the Swiss as the watch “authority”.
The term “chronometer” means that a watch has been certified to have a certain accuracy per day and is tested in a few different positions at a few different temperatures. While individual corporate and national chronometry certifications differ in details, the ISO 3159 is the baseline recognized by the 163 international members of the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization. ISO 3159:2009, the latest version, last was reviewed in 2015, and is described as follows:
The C.O.S.C. standard as you might have suspected is slightly more rigorous. Current standards for the COSC certificate entail passing the above evaluations while deviating by no more than -4/+6 seconds per 24 hours; achieving a mean variation in rates of two seconds; a maximum variation in rates not exceeding five seconds, a greatest variation (i.e. greatest individual positional deviation from the mean) in rates not exceeding 10 seconds, and thermally-induced deviation not to exceed +/-(.6) seconds. Additional conditions apply, but these are the principle guiding measures that underpin COSC certification.
Historically though there was a more rigorous standard, and it was from Britain., Kew “A” Certification. Watches tested at the Kew Observatory were given more strenuous testing and held to a higher standard than at the others as the Kew Observatory (a subsidiary of the Greenwich Observatory) was responsible for certifying marine chronometers before they were issued to the Royal Navy. While a standard Swiss chronometer test would last 15 days, the Kew test lasted 44 days. Any watch certified as an “A” chronometer from the Kew Observatory was known to be extremely accurate and robust in all positions in a wide range of temperatures.
So well done Bremont for not falling back on C.O.S.C. But, how cool would a British watch with Kew “A” certification be ?
The “big” horological event in London last week was probably the Bremont Townhouse; during which Bremont present their range, especially the new models to the public. This event, their third I think, has taken the place of a very expensive presence at BaselWorld.
This years event took place in a lovely Georgian building in Clerkenwell. The watches central to this year’s event was the three new military models. Bremont has always made much of their military connections but the three new watches are particular as they are the first presented as a collaboration between Bremont and the three arms of the British Armed Forces.
The core of the collaboration between Bremont and the military was the signing of an Armed Forces Covenant. The signing took place at Bremont’s Headquarters in Henley-on-Thames and is the first time an Armed Forces Covenant has been signed by any watch brand. Air Commodore John Wariner, Air Officer A6/A6 Force Commander based at High Wycombe signed on behalf of Defence to signify the start of a mutual relationship in support of Defence which will be further developed over time.
The collection ids made up of three watches, one for each service. The obviously “military” being the Broadsword (£2595) the “army” watch.
This watch is styled after the famous “Dirty Dozen” military watches of World War Two, which houses the chronometer rated BE-95-2AV automatic movement inside its two-piece 40mm hardened steel case as well as a sub-seconds hand at 6 o’clock. Multiple layers of luminous paint on the hands and dial complete the original specification for the British Army.
The “air force” watch is the Arrow.
The Bremont Arrow ( £3595) is a 42mm cased mono-pusher chronograph. The pusher at 2 o’clock on the two-piece hardened steel case will start, stop and reset the stopwatch on the chronometer rated BE-51AE automatic movement. The Arrow is aimed at the airman with its chronograph functionality, a necessity for any timed mission. The sub-dial at 9 o’clock is a running seconds, and the chronograph has elapsed minutes on the 3 o’clock counter.
Finally, the model for the navy is the Argonaut (£ 2795 ), a name inspired by Greek mythology and synonymous with Navy history having appeared on Commissioned ships for nearly 250 years. This e 42mm hardened steel-cased military dive watch, houses a three-handed chronometer rated BE-92AV automatic movement. The internal rotating bezel is operated by a crown at 4 o’clock.
Each of these watches feature a solid caseback featuring Her Majesty’s Armed Forces Heraldic Badges.
One design element strangely missing from these watches is the British MOD arrow sign, this being explained by the fact these watches are not issue watches but developed together with the armed forces. One other feature the watches in this collection miss, that has been integral to most Bremont until now, is the “Trip-Tik”; case construction, this was apparently to keep the cost reasonable.
Personally, I found these watches a little disappointing, especially that they have been produced to a price point. I would have liked something developed with the military to show a little of that over-engineering that military watches are known for. However, I applaud the English brothers for wanting to give something back to the world to which they owe much of their products marketing and design.