Guest Post: Tested Beyond Endurance - Bremont MBII ¶
This week on the Baily Blog we are welcoming the first contribution from guest columnist Dr. Jeff Buchanan-Dorrance:
Like all of you, I have a passion for fine timepieces. I an active family man and busy CEO living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I value astute advice on my purchases and place a premium on personal service, so buy all my watches through Matt Baily in Montreal.
Always on the prowl for interesting and significant timepieces, Matt Baily brought in a Bremont ALT-1C two-register chronograph early in the Summer and it was suggested to me as an unusual alternative to the "usual (Swiss) suspects". They were considering taking the brand on so--liking what I'd heard about Bremont--I had them order a couple of watches for me.
"Tested Beyond Endurance" is the working motto for Bremont, an English watch company with its' roots in aviation. The company was formed by two brothers who shared a passion with their father for timepieces and piloting vintage planes. Their father died in a plane crash and both brothers have also been seriously injured pursuing their aviation passions.
Nick and Giles English wanted to produce durable watches that could withstand the rigours of flight and even the possibility of pilot ejection at supersonic speeds. And they wanted these watches to be built in England and to reflect their English heritage.
To explore the limits of endurance, they entered a development relationship with another English firm, Martin-Baker. Martin-Baker is an aerospace engineering company that has developed and produced the pilot ejection systems used in over seventy percent of the military jets in service today.
With their MB (Martin-Baker) project, Bremont tested and developed a watch that could withstand the extreme vibration, g-forces, temperatures, and potential impacts that occur during pilot ejection from damaged aircraft. These watches were tested on live ejections at speed, which can generate forces up to 20 g in freezing temperatures over a wide range of altitudes. MBIs are not available at any price, unless you have successfully ejected in-flight using the Martin-Baker system. MBIIs are the civilian variant.
Movements for both start out life as top-quality ETA calibres, with critical parts chosen or suitably modified for durability and shock-resistance. As well, each movement is submitted to COSC for chronometer certification to ensure the highest standard of accuracy. These movements are accurate, durable, and easy to service in the long-term--traits that are indispensible in any tool watch.
The movements in the MBI and MBII are suspended in a shock-resistant housing within their precision-made, 3-part, hardened cases. The cases themselves are made of a special tool steel that is hardened, through a proprietary process, to a rating of 2,000 Vickers, approaching the 2,500 of high-quality sapphire crystal. Consider that 316L stainless has a rating of around 200-300... (Take that, Rolex!)
The sapphire crystals are gently-domed and well-designed to be distortion-free. The anti-reflection coatings are on both sides and are state-of-the-art with 9 layers and a hardened scratch-resistant outer coat.
So, technically, the MB series of watches present an impressive and attractive package of innovations. Already, those of you who demand durability and scratch-resistance are going to be feeling the same warm feelings that I did when I first delved into Bremont's claims.
And as much as I was sold on the concept of their MB Series, I was nicely rewarded with their function and pretty much overwhelmed with the aesthetic, which I would describe as "simplicity, immaculately rendered".
The MBII is of a manageable size at 42mm. The case is round with very fine and regular brushed surfaces. I understand that this hardened steel is ridiculously hard to polish well so the finish achieved is impressive. The lugs are formed with the top/bezel piece and curve gently downwards into a unique shape, shared with other Bremont designs. The sides of the lugs sweep back up towards the top of the case, exposing the centre barrel. This middle layer of the 3-part case is a knurled, anodized aluminum barrel, which is available in orange, green, or anthracite (grey). (The MBI uses red.) The caseback is screwed-down and is simple and round with the Martin-Baker logo and unique serial engraved.
There are two crowns on the right side. The crown at 2 o'clock is the standard functional winding and setting crown. The crown at 4 o'clock controls the bidirectional, rotating inner bezel. This bezel operates using a proprietary ball bearing system and clicks positively and cleanly in one-minute intervals; it is a joy to use. Both crowns are knurled on their sides and feature black enamel Bremont and bullseye logos, respectively.The face is matte black and featureless, save for tasteful arabic numerals in white, unframed day and date windows, and their name, logo, and a nod to their anti-shock properties, both as text above the 6, and as an inverted red triangle (aviation symbol for ejection system) below their logo. Instead of the "Swiss made" you are used to seeing below the 6, you see "London".
The hour and minute hands are simple and black, with a large and well-lumed triangle at the tip of the hour and a longer, more conventional "sword" for the minutes. The second hand has a red tip and a round lume plot, which makes it easy to follow. The counterweight of the seconds hand is a black and yellow-striped loop, made to mimic the handle of the MB ejection system--a nice little detail. The overall effect of the dial is simple and legible with just the right amount of colour for interest. I, for one, appreciate that each coloured element has some kind of meaning or symbolism beyond just style. My only beef with the face of the MBII is that it doesn't have the MB logo or the yellow second hand, like the MBI. If I could find a military pilot that I could wrestle an MBI from, I would do so. If this is you, watch out. I am not kidding; watch your back.
All MBIIs are presented in a very fine and fragrant English leather wallet, housing watch, straps, papers, and a strap tool. A good quality contrast-stitched leather strap with scratch-resistant custom Bremont tang buckle is included, as well as a well-made and nicely-lined NATO strap. I really like the look of the NATO strap with its inverted triangles of colour-matched stitching; it speaks to the purposeful military grade hardware strapped to your wrist.
The Bremont MBII is a handsome and innovative timepiece that is as durable and scratch-resistant as you could ever want. One would never wish to test it to its limits at work or play or on the daily commute but--if your "bad day" involves 20 g acceleration or vibrations equivalent to that of a combat-damaged airframe at supersonic speeds--at least you won't be fretting about your choice of timepiece.