Rethinking Bremont: How The Indie Watch Community Got It All Wrong About This Unique British Brand

My very own S301 Supermarine 40mm. (For the record: bought with my own money from an Authorized Dealer).

For years now I have attempted to understand the negativity that watch nerds unthinkingly hurl at the British watch brand Bremont. The negativity centers on two complaints: 1) there are too many brand ambassadors to feel genuine; 2) the prices are too high for watches with ETA-based movements. I hope to disarm these repetitive criticisms by showing that the logic behind them is really flimsy.

Group-Think Dominates The Indie Watch Scene

My evidence of these negative comments comes from years of hearing and reading them first hand. It’s gotten to the point where, upon hearing these complaints, I literally roll my eyes with the thought, “Ok, here we go again.” I’m often shocked at the group-think of the watch community, the way individuals pick up certain ideas (often from us journalists) and repeat them ad nauseam. A community’s lack of original and opposing ideas doesn’t constitute consensus; it constitutes group-think.

Diving with this Bremont Super Marine proved what a badass watch the British company makes.

I’ve concluded that this horological group-think grows out of not having anything original to say and yet feeling compelled to offer strong opinions within the conversations around our beloved hobby. But blurting out something you’ve read on a blog or in a forum is hardly worth the breath that propels those non-ideas. I’m not saying one shouldn’t criticize Bremont (or any brand), but couldn’t the naysayers try just a little harder so that we can enjoy meaningful conversations rather than merely rehashing flimsy ideas one randomly netted while trolling the interwebs for watch info?

I’m often shocked at the group-think of the watch community, the way individuals pick up certain ideas and repeat them ad nauseam. A community’s lack of original and opposing ideas doesn’t constitute consensus; it constitutes group-think.

Further, when I do engage with these naysayers, it shocks me to learn that these folks typically haven’t actually tried on a Bremont. And most people who try on my 40mm Bremont S301 Supermarine Black are swiftly swayed by the watch’s core appeals: durability, precision, totally original designs, great fit, and super-compelling narratives. If I get that far in the conversation (and I typically do if I have the watch on me), I remind these folks that Bremont is not trying to compete with the one-man mini-indie brands, but that Bremont is moving toward reviving British industrial watchmaking entirely. Comparing Bremont to a weekend-warrior mini-brand requires a categorical leap that defies logic. Ok Millenial: put that in your scrimshaw pipe and smoke it. 

The new Bremont factory under construction in England.

Comparing Bremont to a weekend-warrior mini-brand requires a categorical leap that defies logic.

Bremont’s Badass Brand Ambassadors

Bremont has backed many amazing adventures in the air, land and sea, and they’ve all been genuine attempts to top previous records of human exploration. Some of these endeavors simply didn’t find support at any other company, which puts Bremont in a unique position to sponsor real endeavors, to spread the word about otherwise unknown explorers and athletes.

Why does Tudor get a pass with ambassadors like Lady Gaga and David Beckham? Those superstars are doing what exactly with their ambassadorships? Funding a fifth home or a NetJet subscription? I know who I’d want to bump into at a watch event, and that person doesn’t formerly play soccer or sing snarly hooks about the the paparazzi.

Why does Tudor get a pass with ambassadors like Lady Gaga and David Beckham? Those people are doing what exactly with their ambassadorships? Funding a fifth home or a NetJet subscription?

Again, if you’re going to make the mistake of comparing Bremont to a mini-indie, then you’re going to make the mistake of thinking their ambassadorships are somehow insincere. You’ve got to broaden your field of comparison, becuase Bremont isn’t trying to be like your buddy’s hobby brand; they’re trying to become a successful global brand, Mad Ave boutiques and all. But walk into any Mad Ave boutique other than Bremont and find me one single down-and-dirty ambassador. Two blocks away you’ll find Cate Blanchett wearing an IWC and Roger Federer (the highest paid athlete of 2020 according to Forbes) rocking a Rolex. 

I find it both exciting and comforting to walk into the Bremont boutique to find old altimeters, an ejection seat, perhaps a Norton motorcycle tank or some such. I find it thrilling to listen to a Formula E driver telling us journalists about how different racing electric cars is from racing with combustion engines. And to see part of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose inside a Bremont rotor is simply awesome. What’s your mini-indie been up to lately?

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose provided the wood in this rotor.

The Movement Isn’t What You’re Buying

It’s easy to argue that because the ETA 2428 in your mini-indie watch is more or less the same as that in my Bremont S301, for example, that I got ripped off by paying much more for my watch than you did for yours. Right, but let’s put the movement aside for a moment and compare at all the rest.

  • Does your watch have a hardened steel case that simply doesn’t show scratches – like ever?
  • Does your watch have COSC certification?
  • Does your watch have a gazillion layers of hardening on the crystal?
  • Does your watch have a nearly-indestructible ceramic bezel?
  • Does your watch have a unique and totally cool Trip-Tick case?
  • Does your watch come with a truly compelling story that ties back to the company’s founders’ personal lives and passions, let alone the spirit of aviation that put Hilter in his grave?
  • Most importantly, does your watch look as good as my S301?
40mm S301

I’m the last to argue that my Bremont is objectively better than whatever watch we’re comparing it to, because I carefully subscribe to a deeply subjective idealistic take on aesthetics. But let’s acknowledge that the initial comparison of the movements is an attempt to be objective about specs, and when we do an objective assessment of specs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better spec sheet at Bremont’s prices.

I don’t buy or wear dresses, but I can appreciate the thought, talent, experience, and craftsmanship that went into a beautiful dress. And I can understand why a great dress costs much more than the price of the fabric.

But that last question – Does your watch look as good as my S301? – is where our craws are gonna do some sticking. People don’t seem to realize that design is a huge part of the cost of producing a great watch. It takes years to develop a truly unique design, and in Bremont’s case it takes setting up machinery and a labor force to execute those cases in-house. I mean, if you’ve never had one on your wrist, it’s easy to under-appreciate the thing.

Vintage Boeing styling on this thoughtful GMT.

You don’t have to like Bremont’s designs one bit to appreciate the amount of originality and hard work that went into those designs any more than you have to like a Frank Ghehry building to recognize that the guy is designing class-leading edifices. I don’t buy or wear dresses, but I can appreciate the thought, talent, experience, and craftsmanship that went into a beautiful dress. And I can understand why a great dress costs much more than the price of the fabric.

So Bremont has an ETA in it, and so does your mini-indie watch; but, as my father would often ask rhetorically, “What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?” If you were a little dumbfounded by Dad’s question, you’d often get, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” And if you were still dumbfounded, he’d say, “How about them red bananas?,” often followed by high-pitched and vibrato-rich whistling of some 1940s pop song. I wish my father were around to perform that for us, because it’s exactly how I feel about this argument that using an ETA movement somehow downgrades all the other technology and design that goes into a Bremont.

Took some Bremonts to the Paris Air Show in 2018.

So Bremont has an ETA in it, and so does your mini-indie watch; but, as my father would often ask rhetorically, “What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?”

The Confusion Arises Because Bremont Is Unique

Find me another brand that is trying to revive its country’s industrial watchmaking legacy – for real, on their own soil, and with the goal of occupying the global watch markets. Can you? There’s Semper & Adhuc in Bordeaux France, doing it all French without become haute, but that’s just one (very sweet and talented) guy. There’s Weiss in California, making watches that are supposedly 100% American Made, though convincing evidence of that claim remains foggy. And then there’s all the haute horology houses that are in another league all together – hardly industrial-scale watchmaking.

Inside the Bremont facilities.

Find me another independent industrial watch brand that’s making ultra-tough watches that balance so well on the fence separating luxury and tool watches? Oris? I’ll give you Oris. And let’s remember whose movements Oris uses: with a couple of exceptions, the typical Swiss third-party ones. Admittedly, Oris doesn’t cost as much as Bremont on average, but Oris is going strong since 1904, while Bremont has only been around since 2002. That’s a 98-year head start on independent manufacturing, and remember that Bremont is offering hardened cases, COSC certification, and a refreshingly unique design language built from scratch rather than from over a century’s worth of back-catalog ideas. Scale and longevity matter when evaluating brands.

Indeed, I think much of the dismay over Bremont is that they are truly without obvious peers. We can compare Bremont to your local dude running his mini-indie, or we can compare them to Tudor, but in both cases we are forging false equivalencies.

Gettin Meta with my S301.

Open Hearts And Minds

Dear reader, I don’t expect to have turned you into a Bremont collector, or even a fan, but I do expect that as a community of impassioned hobbyists we can be a little more rigorous and polymorphous in our thinking. Let’s look around the corners and try to see what Bremont is doing as a unique enterprise, and let’s see their watches with uncolored lenses so that we can grok them on their own terms, no matter how you feel about those terms. Ultimately, I see the problem with Bremont as nothing more than a strange bias toward a brand to which we watch nerds have a hard time making easy comparisons. Open your heart and your mind to Bremont’s uniqueness first, and then tell me what’s wrong with Bremont. Then we can have a meaningful conversation.