The 1700s really were the halcyon days of horological innovation and most of it was happening in the British Isles. In 1800, some reports say that Britain made half the world’s watches, around 200,000 a year. By 1900 however, production numbers had fallen to roughly 100,000, though worldwide consumption was by then in the millions. So what happened? And where does British timekeeping stand today?
Showdown at High Tea
The modern pilot’s watch resembles those of the 1940s and ’50s as little as an F22 Raptor resembles a P-51 Mustang. Nowadays, it’s all about materials, ruggedness and functionality. Modern pilot’s watches are also getting as stealthy as the planes they’re modeled after, all blacked out for night maneuvers and flying under the radar. Today we look at two stealth fighters from England, both high flyers, but one that won’t dive bomb your budget.
The Battle of Britain
The three watch companies at the vanguard of the British timekeeping renaissance — Bremont, Christopher Ward and Schofield — represent very different approaches, price points and designs. Yet they share one thing: a distinctively British take on the wristwatch. We spent some time with each to establish a solid cross section of timepieces from across the pond. Put the kettle on and settle in for our impressions.
To Russia We Fly
Packing for a trip to Russia for the Sochi Olympics is no small feat. There’s weather, international travel, technology and a desire to stay light on our feet to consider. Gear needs to be tough, functional, lightweight and understated. Here’s a sampling of what we’re packing to use on a normal day in Sochi.
Bletchley Park — sound vaguely familiar? During WWII it was a secret compound full of cryptanalysts just outside London where 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 seeks to honor. We break down this unique and historically rooted timepiece.
Nothing short of impervious
In recent years, watchmaking materials have improved to the point where many Swiss-made mechanical watches meet minimum anti-magnetic standards. But that’s not good enough for us; we’re bringing you six of the most badass anti-magnetic watches on the market. Each has the same magnetic field resistance, 80,000 A/m (well above the minimum standard), except for Omega’s offering, which…well, it puts the other timepieces’ resistances to shame. Now, go forth and fear no refrigerator magnets.
An Enigma -- no, seriously
The boys at Bremont have done it again, this time with their limited edition Codebreaker ($18,700 in steel), honoring the UK’s Government Code and Cipher School (GC & CS) at Bletchley Park. As with their previous limited edition pieces (like the HMS Victory and the P-51), Bremont co-founders Giles and Nick English weren’t content to merely limit production and slap a number on the case back.
Even if your aquatic adventures never go beyond a beach snorkel, summer is still a great excuse to strap on a dive watch. Timepieces designed for wet work also happen to be perfect companions for backyard barbecues, weekend cabin trips and afternoon doubleheaders. It’s no wonder the dive watch remains one of the most popular timepiece categories, thanks to a decidedly sporty and casual vibe that wears well with board shorts and t-shirts, and an overbuilt ruggedness that can stand up to the inevitable scrapes of summer shenanigans and those impromptu night swims. But while there are a fleet of watches that try to capture the adventurous spirit of the diver, a select few go a little deeper. We round up seven of the best new ones for you here.
When Bremont offered to send their newest dive watch, the Supermarine 2000 ($5,900), for a review, I wanted to give this timepiece a fittingly rigorous program. After all, the company’s tagline is “Tested Beyond Endurance”, and some of its watches had accompanied adventurers on polar expeditions and round-the-world motorcycle journeys.
The Supermarine 2000 is arguably Bremont’s most rugged and capable watch to date. Its chronometer-certified movement is surrounded with a patented floating carrier, making it highly resistant to the effects of shock and vibration, a technology proven out in the company’s Martin-Baker watches, which have been tested on equipment used to test fighter jet ejection seat components. The movement is also encased inside an anti-magnetic Faraday cage which protects it against harmful magnetic influence. And while Bremont’s Supermarine 500 already boasted an impressive water resistance of 500 meters, the newest diver is rated to four times as deep. Of course, for a dive watch, all these features, while impressive on paper, are worthless if the watch doesn’t perform well underwater. So it was time to take it diving.
To say that the HMS Victory is a ship with history is akin to saying that the Dali Lama is a man with faith. Launched in 1765, she is the only remaining 18th Century ship left in the world, as well as the oldest commissioned warship. The Victory’s record at sea is the stuff of…
The right stuff
Reaching down to deploy the cupholder, you glance through your aviators at the chunky pilot’s watch on your wrist. You’re good for an on-time arrival. Suddenly, you spy a minivan bearing down on you at four o’clock so you quickly disable cruise control and switch into manual mode as you approach your exit. This is…
Lighting the Way
When we think of fine watches, our minds automatically shift to thoughts of the quaint villages and alpine vistas of Switzerland, or, increasingly, to Germany’s Glashütte region, where brands like A. Lange & Söhne and Glashütte Original hail. But what of merry old England? Given that some of the most renowned figures in horology have…
Bringing Back the Brit
Britain has a wealth of history. With the exception of being responsible for Greenwich Mean Time, most of that history has little to do with the watch world. Bremont, from our account, seems ready and poised to change that by bringing a British timepiece to the table and producing some awe-inspiring timepieces. GP got to…