Incredible sports watches – Part 2

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July 2011

Sports watches are a huge part of the watch industry. Versatile, rugged and great looking, sports watches are a natural choice for watch buyers – sometimes in addition to other watches (e.g. dress watches, classical timepieces, etc.) and sometimes as a primary timepiece.

Bremont was born from a passion for aviation, so every watch has a pilot’s touch to it, including the MB I and MB II, which are associated with the Martin Baker ejection seat company. The MB I is a limited edition that is only available for purchase by survivors of a Martin Baker ejection, while the MB II is the commercial version. All MB watches are actually subjected to the same tests as the seats themselves.
“This all started a number of years ago when Martin-Baker approached us to design a watch for those who have survived an ejection from a MB seat - over 7,300 to date,” says Nick English, co-owner of Bremont with his brother Nigel. “They wanted to be able to give the ejectees a chance to obtain a watch that had been through the same testing as the seats themselves. These seats can never afford to fail, obviously, and they have to go through a series of tests to ensure they still can operate after many years worth of vibration (40 years worth of testing), shock, salt-fog, altitude and climatic tests.”
As a result, the watches have therefore been through the following tests: **They are the only watches to have gone through the ejection testing program and multiple live ejections at up to 700 mph and over 30 G.
**Vibration tests - the watches were attached to mannequins and seats and put through 40 years worth of vibration testing on a large vibrating rig, over multiple tests
**Shock - the watches were put through crash tests attached to mannequins (similar to high speed car crash tests)
**Salt/fog tests - the ejection seats have to be able to sit on an aircraft carrier for years on end while being exposed to sea spray, sulphur dioxide gases from exhausts etc, and they cannot afford to corrode. The same anti-corrosion treatment had to be applied to the Trip-Tick aluminum middle barrel of the watches. The watches were submersed in a salt-fog chamber for several weeks which mimics the corrosive effect of the salt-fog spray over a protracted period of time.
**Temperature. The seats may find themselves sitting in aircraft in Alaska or Nevada. This ’freeze-thaw’ and temperature variation can have a structural affect on metal as it expands and contracts. The watches had to be tested in MB’s climatic chambers from -50 degrees C to +70 degrees C over a period of weeks.
**The watches had to work at altitude - up to 100,000 ft (pressure issues) - so this was tested in Martin Baker’s climatic chamber and in active service with the U2 Squadrons.
Bremont faced a host of issues as the watches went through the testing. “Watch movements were destroying themselves, so the movements had to be suspended in a rubberized movement mount which absorbed up to 85% of the vibrations,” English says. “This rubber took a long time to get the right consistency and flexibility. The case had to be modified to be able to house such a mount, and it meant that the movement is never directly in contact with the case, but instead has this rubber suspension mechanism protecting it.
“In addition, the case and crystal design had to be altered to ensure crystals did not ’pop-out’ at altitude,” English continues. The movement is encased in a soft iron Faraday cage to protect it from all electrostatic and magnetic forces. Also, the case has been hardened to make it six times more scratch resistant than normal watch grade steel.”
Bremont works with a number of Air Force, Army and Navy squadrons around the world (C-17, U2, Apache, US Navy Test Pilot School, Eurofighter, etc.). “Many of these have chosen to wear the MBII,” English says. “We have sold many watches to ejectees from MB seats who are entitled to wear a red barreled MB. These guys form part of a very exclusive club (traditionally called the ’Red Tie Club’). More commonly now, those people interested in over engineered, beautifully finished mechanics have a definite interest in what we are doing with the MB and our other watch lines. It is a real compliment to be attracting this type of client base to Bremont.”
This year at BaselWorld, Bremont introduced the P-51, which is a limited edition watch that incorporates actual material from a real World War II fighter plane, the P-51-10 Mustang, a Pacific War veteran known by the moniker ‘Fragile but Agile’.

Incredible sports watches – Part 2 MB II and P-51 by Bremont

Helmed by watch industry veteran Thomas Morf, Hanhart has chosen instrument watches as its target. “Many brands build some instrument watches out of nothing just because it’s trendy, but Hanhart has the history and the legit-imacy of making these kind of watches,” Morf explains. “We follow clearly the route of form follows function. Purpose built watches need to withstand and work under the toughest conditions. I give you an example: a pilot once said: ‘Where our spit froze in flight, the Hanhart never failed.’ Purpose built = simplicity in design, rugged, reliable, easy to operate, every detail has a function. This is purpose built.”
Under Morf, Hanhart is making key changes to bring the brand in line with its stated goals. The customer Hanhart wants to attract is those “who can differentiate the real instrument watch maker from the wannabes,” he adds. “Hanhart is for those who like air, land and sea activities. Hanhart is for those who like instrument watches. Hanhart is for those who like it cool, not chic.”
Hanhart has a legitimate history in pilot’s watches. “All our pilot’s watches are offsprings of our legendary pilots chronograph caliber 40 and caliber 41 in the 1930’s,” Morf explains. “These watches belonged to the first pilots chronographs ever and were specially made for pilot’s needs. Hanhart is a reference when it comes to these kind of watches. Who came up with the fluted bezel, the red push button, the bi-compax indication, the asymmetric push buttons and more? Hanhart!”
As part of Morf’s effort, Hanhart introduced the Pioneer collection, which is based on vintage models with modern features. For this collection, Hanhart moved its signature red push button back to its original place, on the reset button to prevent accidental reset of the chronograph totalizer.


Graham has been involved with sports for quite some time, aligning its uniquely designed oversize watches with rugged, manly pursuits. Perhaps the most manly is the world’s most dangerous motorcycle race, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT). As the official timekeeper and official watch of the Isle of Man TT, Graham has introduced a great new watch to commemorate this activity.
“There is no doubt that the Tourist Trophy is a mad race,” admits Olivier Degen, International Marketing Director. “It’s about going very fast on very narrow lanes flanked by stone walls and through small Manx villages. The race transforms the sleepy little island into a petrol head nirvana. Unlike other racetracks which feel a bit manicured, this one is the real thing, held on public roads of the Isle of Man. We wanted to be part of this, the most exciting British motorsport race.
“Spontaneity, passion for racing and definitely daring are common values that we share with the race,” he adds. “Genius TT riders, Guy Martin and Ian Hutchinson, embody the spirit of our watches. Talk to one of those mad riders and they will tell you about the stresses on the bike, the shaking and near wipe-outs on the 37 ¾ miles (60.7 km) and its 200 bends, going from sea level to 1,300 ft (396m) and back. Again, it is the real thing and that’s why we like it.”
The new TT watch is in the Silverstone range, which has always been designed for racing and racers. “We have dreamed about a watch that could represent the spirit of this amazing race,” Degen says. “We wanted people to feel the thrill of the race. When you are on the track behind the fences, you can feel the tension, the riders’ concentration. You can smell the tyres’ rubber and the smoke when they take off like a shot. These are the kind of emotions the Silverstone TT is full of. It was a hard work, selecting high-technical material such as carbon fibre for the dial, leather sewed with red thread for the strap, and also decoration, with Clous de Paris for the bezel, the TT Isle of Man coat of arms included in the seconds’ counter and the 100 years inscription on the dial which celebrates the anniversary of the Mountain course.
“The result is a watch about speed and daring,” Degen continues. “It also pays tribute to the Isle of Man which is an incredible site to run the race. Our partnership is an ongoing project which is fully integrated into our daily operations. We live the race like if we were on a bike, we feel part of it. And we would like our customers and fans who have a Silverstone TT to feel part of it as well.
As official timekeeper, Graham also offers a watch to all the winners of the Tourist Trophy races. Besides the winners’ watches, this watch is available as a very limited edition that’s hugely popular with the fans around the world.”

Incredible sports watches – Part 2 SILVERSTONE TT by Graham

These are just some of the great sports watches introduced during BaselWorld 2011. For more, see the following gallery.

Source: Europa Star June - July 2011 Magazine Issue