Timekeeping
By Ed Estlow
on 1.2.14
Photo by Bremont

Bletchley Park has become synonymous with super-secret counter-espionage work done during World War II. Not so much fantastic high-octane James Bond stuff; think John LeCarré, not Ian Fleming. Far from fiction, Bletchley Park was a secret compound full of cryptanalysts just outside London, a real place doing the real work of counter-intelligence. There, the encoded messages that communicated the movements of the Nazi U-boat fleet were decoded using human and mechanical intelligence. The important but largely unsung work done at Bletchley is said to have shortened the war by two years and saved countless lives. It’s this work, and place, that the Bremont Codebreaker ($18,500 in steel, $33,995 in rose gold) seeks to honor. A portion of the profits from each watch will go to help the Bletchley Park Trust preserve the historical site.

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Like most timepieces from Bremont, the design of the Codebreaker is inspired by vintage aviation watches. This one is powered by a heavily modified Valjoux 7750 movement. In this case, “heavily modified” actually means something. Bremont has endowed it not only with a GMT function but also a flyback complication that allows for single-push reset and restart of the timing function. Furthermore, chrono subdials are positioned at 4:30 and 7:30 rather than 3:00 and 9:00, which was more common in vintage chronographs (or the 7750’s standard six, nine, and twelve locations, for that matter).

Going beyond the usual special edition watch touches, Bremont actually got its hands on little bits of Bletchley Park to incorporate into the assembly of the Codebreaker. Numerals from the few remaining code breaking machines’ punch cards are used to form the serial numbers of the limited edition watches (240 in steel, 50 in rose gold). The crown is inlaid with a sliver of wood from the floor of Hut 6, where mathematician hero (where else have you seen those two words in the same sentence?) Alan Turing and others did their daily work.

Perhaps coolest of all, the auto-winding rotor includes material from a wheel of an actual German Enigma machine. The Germans used the Enigma to encrypt their communiques; it was capable of roughly 158 trillion possible settings, each generating a different code. The good men and women of Bletchley had to crack the setting each and every morning because the Germans reset their Enigmas every night at midnight. Fitting then — and a bit of a boastful twist — that its remnants end up in a British watch. We break the code of the Codebreaker above.