Watch In Focus – Bremont Martin-Baker

Bremont watches may not have the long and winding history of some other, better known watch brands, but it does have a pair of enthusiastic engineers dedicated to making innovative and exciting timepieces that push the boundaries of technology and physics.

The strong ties with the aviation industry (and the interest Bremont generates from Air Force squadrons looking to furnish themselves with watches that can withstand the rigours of flight) led them to develop the Martin-Baker watch. The idea was to make a watch that could withstand the same testing a Martin-Baker ejector seat undergoes to prove itself satisfactory for operational use.

Martin-Baker started developing aircraft safety systems after the death of its co-founder Captain Baker, who died in an air crash in 1942. Now, each modern ejector seat system must be serviceable for the thirty year lifespan of the average jet fighter, during which it will undergo temperatures close to boiling and well below freezing, constant vibration, high accelerative forces in all directions and of course, possible ejection. These systems need to be properly tested to prove their air-worthiness, and Martin-Baker simulates all this at its testing facility in Buckinghamshire, making sure that every design is perfect. They leave nothing to chance.

Bremont’s prototype watch went through a voyage of discovery through the trials, bouncing back and forth from the drawing board to eliminate any issues that were unearthed. The hardest test to persevere was the vibration test – a machine that could simulate thirty years of operational vibration in just four hours. The test is so thorough that it even wears the tread down on the test manikin’s boots.

This meticulous procedure revealed that the movement needed shock protection independent of the case, and so traditional case mounts were dropped in favour of a rubber ring mounting system. This absorbed the vibrations satisfactorily, while also providing a secondary benefit: insulating the movement from extreme temperatures.

Bremont’s dedication to the Martin-Baker watch has earned them great respect from the aviation industry, with squadrons all around the world queuing up to get hold of the MBII edition. The MBI — the same watch with a different dial design — is only available to those who have used a Martin-Baker ejection system in active duty. The popularity of the watch was punctuated when an American U2 spy plane pilot sent photos to Bremont of the MBII on the edge of space.

These snapshots led to the limited edition U2 spy plane version of the MBII, built exclusively for U2 pilots. Thanks to that, plus Bremont’s ability to have its watches independently flight tested to suit client’s individual requirements, many other squadrons have ordered custom MBIIs since.

It would be easy to think that the MBII was a gimmick, but understanding the engineering expertise that went into creating it and its use within the aviation industry, it is clear that it is more than just another watch trying to establish an identity.

 KEY FACTS

  • The MBI is only available to people who have used a Martin-Baker ejection seat and experienced the spine-crushing 30g forces they exert.
  • If the barrel colour isn’t to your liking, you can have it swapped by Bremont for a different colour.Bremont subjected design prototypes to the same gruelling tests undertaken by Martin-Baker ejection seats.

[Note: This is an updated post of a Guest Article published earlier on our website by Gary Robery from Watchfinder.co.uk]

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