All images by Allen Farmelo.
- 40mm x 11.1mm
- Stainless Steel with integrated bracelet
- 100m water resistance
- Colors: Midnight Blue, Pitch (black), Albus (white)
- Bremont ENG375 in-house automatic movement with big date and power reserve gauge (in-house Chronometer certification)
- Date of release – October 2022
- Price upon release – $8995 USD
When I first put the Supernova on my wrist, I was immediately taken with the watch. It suited me. It was comfortable, well sized, and handsome. As I scrutinized the all-important integrated bracelet – and especially the way it attaches to Bremont’s unique Trip-Tick case – I was thoroughly impressed. Any concern I had that the Supernova might stray from Bremont’s now well established house style was immediately relieved.
The Supernova is very much a Bremont. But it also lands squarely within the integrated bracelet watch genre. How Bremont was able to create a natural-seeming integrated bracelet watch while still maintaining the brand’s core aesthetic will be the question I set out to answer in this review.
Playing in the Integrated Genre
Genre is the best term I have for what a watch company does when entering into what most blandly call a “market sector.” I’ve never liked that conceptual framework, because it focuses on the competition and economics of watchmaking, rather than on the creativity. Genre is the better word.
A quick deviation to establish my point: The detective novel as a literary genre requires a detective, a crime, an incremental gathering of clues, and eventually a bust. Drop any of these essential formal features, and you get the categorical boot straight out of the detective novel genre. Genres obey a set of norms and requirements – rules, really- that one agrees to obey as one creates within the genre. One distinguishes themselves not by breaking the rules of the genre, but by following the rules with a signature style.
The integrated bracelet watch is an horological genre. The norms are, more or less: stainless steel construction, lugs that serve as the first bracelet link, a well-crafted bracelet that will be a focal point of the design while echoing the overall aesthetic, and usually the genre calls for sporting durability and waterproofness. These are the basic rules of the integrated bracelet watch genre.
Bremont obediently followed the genre’s rules. Thus, there was no way for Bremont to have avoided some degree of imitation of Gerald Genta’s Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet – the 1970s watch that most folks agree birthed the genre. Bremont’s Giles English said as much when we met at The Wing. “When you attach a bracelet in this way, you are immediately referring back to Gerald Genta’s work. The watch will take on a form that’s familiar, and there’s no way around that.” Giles was, in effect, talking about the constraints of working in a genre.
The questions we ask when evaluating genre work are not about bold originality and outright invention so much as about whether the creator has obeyed the genre’s rules while maintaining their signature style. I’ve concluded that Bremont has thoroughly succeeded in meeting this challenge with the Supernova. Let’s consider why I think so.
The Integration Itself
By deploying its signature and patented Trip-Tick three-piece case, Bremont has assured that the Supernova is in essence a Bremont watch.
The way this three-piece case works with the integrated bracelet is far more interesting than just about any other integrated bracelet watch I’ve can think of. The top piece of the case sends the lugs swooping dramatically downward over the mid-case, which has always made viewing a Bremont Trip-Tick watch a visual treat. With the integrated bracelet attached seamlessly into the newly designed lug section, the downward swoop continues indefinitely around the circle of the bracelet for a rather dramatic effect.
As with all of Bremont’s Trip-Tick cases, the Supernova appears relatively traditional when viewed from the top. It is the view from the side that reveals the special architecture.
The bracelet of the Supernova is a complicated thing, with unique t-links and a screw securing every link. I can’t think of another watch that uses screws all the way to the case, and this creates an aesthetic that I can’t help but associate with the rivets on the side of the vintage airplanes that Bremont’s Nick English still regularly flies. Bremont is, after all, an aviation-oriented brand, and authentically so, being a family full of pilots.
The tolerances of the Supernova bracelet are a key measure of Bremont’s performance within the integrated bracelet watch genre, and I am delighted to report that this is one of the tightest bracelets I’ve ever handled (which includes all the top dogs). The butterfly clasp is similarly tight, and it closes seamlessly, securely, and with ease.
In short, Bremont got everything right here, and went an extra mile or two in providing such tight tolerances and a fully screwed-in construction with unique t-links. This is more than half the battle of succeeding in this finicky genre, but there’s more.
In-House Movement & In-House Chronometer Testing
Bremont, like all watch companies, is still up against the production slow-downs that the Covid 19 pandemic created. This has forced (inspired may be the better word) Bremont to bring more of their manufacturing into The Wing in England. Slow downs in Switzerland also saw Bremont create its own chronometer testing lab, as COSC certification wait times are exorbitant. The testing lab is in The Wing, and it executes a 15-day testing regime with all the temperature, positional, and shock variations a watch goes through in a COSC lab.
What distinguishes Bremont’s test – and I think this is interesting – is that Bremont tests the movements when mounted in the watch, whereas COSC tests uncased movements. Not only can shipping and assembly change the regulation after COSC tests, but the Bremont test is a more realistic scenario because movements will always be mounted inside cases. Bremont tests the H1 movements with the shock absorption system hard mounted, for example. We can also assume that temperature changes effect the whole watch, and not just the movement, so Bremont’s testing regime makes more sense in this regard, as well.
As for the often confusing phrase “in-house,” Bremont acquired the intellectual property to a pre-existing proprietary movement. Every part is unique to this movement, and many parts are manufactured in various facilities across Switzerland. Bremont has opened an office in Switzerland specifically for employees who oversee Swiss production. Anyone who has worked in manufacturing knows that having boots on the ground is the only way to assure the highest quality from suppliers.
A surprising amount of movement manufacturing happens at The Wing in England. Walking through the factory, I saw multi-million dollar machines working within tolerances of just 3 microns. I saw an engineer’s digital mock up of a new autowinder bridge cutting machine that will quadruple production by using four cutting heads instead of one (to be installed soon). I saw the hand polishing of the Supernova case, the laser engraving of the case back, the scrap steel to be recycled, watchmakers hunched over their work, and more.
Whatever aspersions I’ve heard cast about Bremont’s in-house production ought to be subjected to the Martin Baker ejection seat. I’ve walked through a share of Swiss factories, and I can say that Bremont is just like them – only Bremont is younger and still building out its capabilities for producing more of the parts that go into their watches.
This is the price Bremont pays for England fighting the Nazis while The Swiss remained neutral and took on most of the wartime watch contracts. I ask you, dear reader, which industrial legacy feels more noble? Which more deserving of our respect?
We must couch the phrase “in-house” in this context. And we should probably be couching all uses of “in-house” in a similar context, especially when it comes to Swiss watchmaking, which is shrouded in oddly favorable laws about what legally constitutes “Swiss Made.” I can tentatively share that more than a few reliable sources (who prefer to remain anonymous) have reported to me that much of what passes for Swiss in-house watchmaking is done in remote facilities, some in Switzerland and some in China. Economics alone suggest the veracity of these reports.
Bremont is under special scrutiny (not to mention a different legal system), not because they do things differently, but because they’re doing it in England. Picture a hundred people hoeing a field, and now picture one person hoeing an adjacent field alone; it’s a fair analogy. Geographical and historical context as much as anything have brought greater scrutiny onto Bremont, and in my estimation the resulting transparency about how they operate only strengthens the brand.
This is a long-winded way of saying that I was, upon visiting The Wing, especially taken with the reality of what Bremont has accomplished in just 20 years. And it is this accomplishment which sets the stage for the Supernova and the whole H1 line of serially produced watches.
In-House Serial Production on English Soil
The entire H1 collection, which includes a number of 40mm models with the in-house movement, is an arrival for Bremont atop a plateau they’ve long worked to summit. The English brothers set out to return industrial-scale watchmaking to England, which in hindsight even they will admit was a rather absurd undertaking.
But seemingly absurd undertakings are Nick and Giles wont, and they have – despite what Giles called “many dark moments” – just now presented the first serially produced line of watches with the brand’s in-house movement, proudly bearing the phrase “Made in England.” This is a hugely significant milestone, punctuated with a break from limited edition releases for 2022 and a focus on increasing in-house serial production capacity (see new bridge cutting machine above, e.g.).
No, the ENG375 movement is not entirely “Made in England,” but enough of it is to call this H1 line of watches a hell of an accomplishment. The Wing is a gorgeous and high-tech factory making cases in full and movements in part on British soil, and I personally find this massively impressive – especially when I consider the ETA-equipped Bremont models of yesteryear and that The Wing is just a couple years old.
I think it’s fair to finally say: They’re really doing it!
And so the Supernova of 2022 stands as what I believe will eventually be a highly collectable watch. This model may come to stand as a symbol not only of Bremont’s accomplishment but also for the return of watchmaking to British soil. And by playing in the integrated bracelet watch genre, Bremont has boldly entered a hotly contested fray, one in which success or failure can define a brand for decades to come. The Supernova is a very bold move among many bold moves.
Supernova Aesthetics – A Fine Balance
Wearing the Supernova should feel more or less like wearing any integrated bracelet watch, as it plays by the rules of the genre. It is masculine, handsome, and it exudes the confidence-inspiring vibe that integrated bracelet watches are known to exude.
However, there are enough unique features – the Trip-tick case, the ENG375 movement, the unique t-links and screwed bracelet construction, the signature dials, the big date – to make the Supernova also unlike most integrated bracelet watches. It is very much a Bremont and very much an integrated bracelet watch. That’s a fine balance to strike, and it is why I consider the Supernova such a successful design.
One of the aesthetic accomplishments I’d like to point out is the overall architecture of the watch as seen from the top. It is easy to focus on the side, as it is so compellingly unique, but the top is also a study in careful aesthetic balances.
Most importantly, hats off to Bremont for not using exposed screws to secure the bezel, a move which would have been a lazy reference to the Royal Oak and its countless imitators. The bezel of the Supernova is made from Bremont’s hardened steel (a treatment done off site after being fabricated and hand-polished at The Wing). The bezel is secured to the top piece of the Trip-Tick case with screws from below, lending the Supernova a more original and sleek visage.
Unlike most of Bremont’s steel Trip-tick cases, the top section to which the bracelet attaches is not made of hardened steel. This is because the hardening treatment darkens the steel, and applying the coating to the bracelet links would have upset the ultra-tight tolerances. Therefore, the top section of the case remains unhardened to match the color of the bracelet – a choice that favors the genre, as it should.
The shapes around the crown guard are curvaceous, forming a clean swoop from the right-hand corners of the case out to the puckered lips that protect the crown. There is a structural dynamism in the interplay of the bezel shape with that crown-side protrusion which I find especially compelling. I submit that this interplay of shapes does much to distinguish the Supernova from other watches in the genre, much the way the protrusions of the Genta-design Patek Philippe Nautilus distinguish that watch. I like that Bremont didn’t succumb to superfluous decoration to distinguish the Supernova, but instead built its uniqueness from the ground up – architecturally and with subtlety.
I’ll let my images do the rest of the taking for me, and will end with this: the price is not only excellent value for what’s on offer here, but also slots into a relatively empty space in the integrated watch market – or, I should say, genre.
Learn more at Bremont’s website.