- Modified ETA 2826 movement
- $4095 MSRP
Dispensing With Objectivity
I’m a huge fan of Bremont, and if you want to know why you can read my counterpoint to the negativity the British brand gets from the indie watch scene. I’m also a many-year owner of the black version of the 40mm Supermarine, have included it in various best-of lists, and consider it to be a life-long companion. I refuse to hide my adoration of the brand and of this specific model, because doing so would make writing this review much harder and, ultimately, the review would be insincere.
I’ll go one step further: I don’t quite know how to sum up with any eloquence why my Supermarine Black sings to my heart so sweetly. All I can tell you is that it sings to me on a very personal level, as if it were made with me in mind. A good friend once told me that my black Supermarine 40mm was “quintessentially Allen,” and while I understood and totally agreed, I can’t tell you why that is. I could go on and on about my life partner’s best qualities, but I’d still not be getting to the ineffable quality that keeps me in love with her. Same with my Supermarine 40mm Black.
What I can tell you about my love affair with the Bremont 40mm Supermarine (both black and white) is that when I look at this watch, I’m drawn into its tiny world. I’ve come to call that a “concave experience,” as opposed to a “convex experience” in which the watch enters my world, or a “flat experience” where the watch does nothing for me either way. I think the reason that the 40mm Supermarine draws me into its world is that Bremont has created an horological language so rich with historical narrative and design acumen that some of their watches – and certainly this model – beg me to explore them physically and semantically. These watches are both inspiring and fascinating.
Why Is This Watch Inspiring?
Supermarine is the name of the British aeuronautics firm that built the Spitfire aircraft that was key in defeating Hilter’s fascist regime. The Spitfire airplane has become an aeronautical symbol of The Good Fight. The watch’s caseback holds a lovely engraving of a Supermarine plane with pontoons attached, the same plane that would become the Spitfire, thus making no small use of that aeronautical symbol.
Right now, in 2020, I’m especially interested in Anti-Fascism, and I’m completely befuddled and disgusted that the American President has named Anti-Fascists domestic terrorists. The clear-cut Good v. Evil spirit of WWII hasn’t existed since that war ended, and this watch reminds me that there was a time when one’s political standing wasn’t so heavy with uncertainty, doubt, and dismay. This watch also reminds me to keep it simple stupid, to recognize what’s Evil and Wrong and what’s Right and Just, and to stop over-thinking my way through the maze of modern politics. In the end, like most nostalgic things, the Bremont Supermarine is caught up in imagining simpler times, and there’s comfort – even guidance – to be found in that nostalgia.
I find that the Bremont brand is, at its core, nostalgic for simpler times when airplanes were analog, political positions were more clear-cut, discovery via exploration was still imminent, and the British people were united in a thrust toward a more just, less racist, post-colonial position in the world. The endeavor of building British industrial watchmaking back up from the ground on British soil completely blows my mind, and that effort represents to me the spirit of how the British responded to the Nazis under Churchill: it may look impossible, but we’re going to do it because it’s the right thing to do.
When I strap on the Supermarine, I don’t see a luxury item, or a tool watch, or even a time-telling device; I see the spirit behind the British standing up to the Nazis, the ingenuity and get-it-done perseverance that helped secure the freedoms I enjoy every day, and I thrive on that very important reminder that sometimes you have to fight for your rights. That is inspiring, and no Swiss or Japanese watch will ever carry that inspiring message as boldly, for obvious reasons.
Why Is This Watch Fascinating?
The design of this watch is fascinating because it takes risks that – despite their relative oddness – result in a luxurious tool watch that’s quite traditional at first glance and which wears comfortably on all sorts of straps.
That uniqueness begins with the 3-piece Trip-Tick case, a sandwich design that has allowed Bremont to insert colorful or understated mid-case bodies, all sorts of casebacks, and one of the most unexpectedly avant garde top-mounted lug arrangements in the industry. That top piece is hardened to 2000Hv, which is nearly seven times as hard as the ubiquitous 316L stainless steel. The beloved Tudor Black Bays – so often offered up as alternatives to Bremont’s divers – is boringly slab-sided by comparison, and, alas, is the same old 316L. One of the things I love about the Trip-Tick case is that you can see how it’s all put together, not unlike the Pompidou Center in Paris, a building which also exposes its infrastructure to inspire compelling contemplation of the intersection of form and function. The Tudor Black Bay case, by comparison, is like a boringly skinned bureaucratic building (the local Department of Motor Vehicles comes to mind).
The steepness of the rehaut is another fascinating element, because it creates an alluring depth between the crystal and the dial. An analogy with music would be that this watch has a lot of reverb on it, an effect I used as a producer to create depth and dimension in a mix. The trick is to make sure elements don’t occupy the same plane of distance from the listener / viewer. Psychoacoustically, reverb tricks the mind into perceiving distance between elements that draw the listener into a world; psychovisually, the Supermarine’s depth also draws the beholder into its little world. Would it be too far to draw an analogy between this watch’s narrative depth and its visual depth? I don’t think so. For me, those two elements work hand-in-hand to create a deep horological experience.
The Unexpected Depth of a Matte White Dial
As an owner of the matte dark gray version of this watch, I was surprised to see that the matte white dial actually presents much more depth than my black dial. That’s really the opposite of most uses of black and white dials, in my experience, and as I ponder why that is, I’ve come to realize that this white dial is nothing like a paint job, but a completely reworked design that draws on contrast and multiple surfaces to achieve its depth.
Matte white isn’t all that common in watches, and this matte dial is contrasted by the shining navy blue ceramic bezel insert. The contrast between the bezel and the dial allows the eye to fall into the watch face and explore the details there. Those details include a raised center section with fine waffle etching set at a 45-degree angle onto which all text is set. Around that we have navy blue markers and numerals outlined in silver and a discrete date window at 3-o’clock. There are just enough red touches to send any reasonable person into an irrational tizzy without invoking the Stars and Stripes, the Union Jack, or France’s Tricolore.
A Watch For All Seasons
At first, I thought of this white version of the 40mm Supermarine as a summer-time watch, but I was reminded of my time skiing Vail Colorado with the 42mm Rolex Explorer II and how beautifully a white dial suits a snowy winter. I’m not sure how much I’d personally wear this watch in Fall, because I typically turn away from white in a predictable move toward autumnal woolen goods, denims, and work boots that make up my cooler weather garb, but there’s absolutely nothing objective about this personal predilection from a guy who almost never dresses up for work.
Nonetheless, there’s something decidedly sporty and lighthearted about the white version, its uniquely tasteful use of red, white and blue, and its inherent ruggedness. Perhaps it’s the quiet turning inward of Fall that makes me think this watch would be less suited to autumnal colorways.
Celebrating Righteous Victories
Another way to frame up the vibe of this watch is to note that where my black version feels like a military unit one might find on the wrist of an actual solider or pilot, the white version feels like a celebration of the victories those warriors have wrought on our behalf. In this assessment, I’d say the white is less pretentious for a civilian to wear because it is devoid of the somewhat problematic and provocative infusion of military style into civilian garb. Indeed, the white version dispenses with the pretense that the watch is somehow a relevant tool today and, instead, puts its celebratory spirit front and center. That spirit of celebrating The Good Fight of Britain’s WWII efforts may make this watch the quintessential Bremont model.