British brand Bremont has made the ultimate aviation timepiece with a new mechanism and pieces of the original Wright Flyer.
Nick and Giles English, who founded the extremely English watch brand Bremont in 2002, have a knack for sourcing materials. Yes, their chronometers incorporate the sapphire crystal, Super-LumiNova photoluminescents, and jeweled mechanisms collectors have come to expect and sport gold cases with alligator straps, but all that is – relatively speaking – the cheap stuff. What sets Bremont limited edition timepieces apart are the relics they contain. Each one of the hundred new Wright Flyer Limited Editions holds a small piece of muslin taken from the wings of Orville and Wilbur’s 1903 Flyer 1, the first powered aircraft ever built. Now that’s a pilot watch.
The cloth, which is visible through the back of the case, was supplied by Amanda Wright Lane, the inventors’ great-grandniece and head of the Wright Family Foundation. Wright Lane, who initially rebuffed the English brothers, decided to work with Bremont largely because the aviation-centric brand has a history of incorporating both planes and historical artifacts in its timepieces. Prior to releasing the Wright Flyer, Bremont created the P-51 with parts taken from a 1944 Mustang P-51K-10 that flew WWII combat missions over the Philippines. The plane belonged to Lieutenant Bert Lee and, subsequently, the Swedish Air Force and was discovered by a collector in Israel.
Bremont built pieces of the P-51 into their chronometer in much the same way they incorporated parts from one of the legendary Nazi Enigma machines into their Codebreaker limited edition. That watch, a tribute to the intelligence officers at Bletchley Park who broke the Nazi’s seemingly indecipherable code, also contained paper from punch cards used to analyze coded data and wood from Hut 6, where chess champion Stuart Milner-Barry unscrambled messages, wrongfooting the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe.
Bremont’s reverence for history makes its watches singular artifacts. They’re beautifully made, but their value isn’t derived from that workmanship or precious metal. The cost of the workmanship and materiel is dwarfed by the greater value of the relics, which are themselves (at least in the case of the Wright Flyer) effectively priceless. The watch is interesting, but not as interesting as the story it encapsulates.
The English brothers have created something memorable, but their achievement comes with perspective included.
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