Today, I'm going outside of my $1000 price cap to review the Bremont Solo-37, which sells for about $3995. Can I still call myself The Time Bum and write about a watch four times costlier than my than my usual self-imposed limit? Of course I can. After all, it's my blog, and I can do whatever I want (remember that JLC Reverso?). Also, I write because I love watches, not because I love a particular price point, so when I get my hands on a watch as cool as this one, you better believe I'm going to tell you about it. Finally, I stayed true to my moniker by bumming it off of its owner, the generous Paul Hubbard of WatchOtaku.com.
Bremont is an independent watchmaker based in Henley on Thames, England. Founded by brothers Nick and Giles English in 2002, the company creates hand-built timepieces with modified Swiss movements, and many parts are now made in their manufacturing facility in Silverstone. The watches are COSC-certified chronometers, which means they must maintain accuracy within -4 to +6 seconds per day. They carry a 3-year warranty.
The Solo line comes in three sizes: 43mm, 37mm, and a diminutive 32mm. I am not a big guy, so I find I am increasingly drawn to mid-size watches so the 37mm hit the spot. Bremont offers it in black or white dials with silver or rose gold accents, and a brushed or rose gold bezel. This one is a Solo-30/SI-RG with a brushed stainless case and bezel, rose gold hands and markers, and a red circle on the second hand. The Solo-37 may be a modest size, but it is by no means delicate. It has sapphire crystals (slightly domed and anti-reflective coated up front, flat in the rear) and water resistance up to 100m. Even more impressive, the brushed stainless steel is hardened by a three-part process of carbon, heat, electrons, and presumably magic, to yield a claimed 2000Hv or about nine times the hardness of untreated stainless steel.
Like most of the Bremont line, the Solo is aviation-inspired. Its navigator's triangle, sword hands, and luminous squares behind the Arabic numerals recall the post-war RAF-issued W10 and 6B watches made by Smiths and IWC, among others. Even so, one would hardly call the Solo an homage piece as it brims with its own distinctive elements and a level of finish those earlier, more utilitarian pieces often lacked. The metal dial is silvery white with just a hint of warmth that complements the rose gold hands and the applied, brushed markers. Interestingly, the navigator's "umlaut" and SuperLuminova markers reside on the angled chapter index, freeing space on the dial. Long markers at 6 and 9 o'clock balance the date window.
Lovely as the dial may be, I think the case steals the show. Measuring 37mm wide, 43mm long, and 12.5mm thick, with 20mm lugs, it fits neatly on my 6.5" wrist but still conveys the stout, purposeful presence of a tool watch. Bremont calls the case construction "Trip-Tick," a 3-part design consisting of (1) an upper section from lug-to-lug encompassing (2) a separate central barrel fitted with (3) a display case back secured by five screws. You can best appreciate the case in profile. The upper part is a bridge, chamfered along the inside edge to form a dramatic arch terminating in tall, rounded lugs. Inside the arch is the barrel with two narrow channels cut across the sides to form three distinct bands. A coin-edged crown bears the Bremont propeller logo on its enameled head.
Inside the Solo-37 beats a modified Calibre 11 1/2" BE-36AE (ETA 2836) automatic chronometer, with 25 jewels, 28.8k bph, and 38hr power reserve. It is nicely decorated and features a very pretty sculpted and molded and skeletonized rotor. It also features a Glucydur (beryllium and copper) balance, Anachron (cobalt, nickel, and chromium) balance spring, and Nivaflex 1 (iron, nickel, chrome, cobalt, and beryllium.) mainspring. They offer the advantages of high strength and stability for improved accuracy, and they also make it sound as if your watch was made in Middle Earth. I'll leave it to your judgment as to whether that latter point is a positive or negative, but high accuracy is always welcome, and ETA only uses these exotic alloys in their top-shelf movements.
Bremont offers an optional bracelet, but this watch arrived on a padded black leather strap and a signed buckle. It has curved ends to match the contours of the head, and beige stitching that complements the rose gold on the dial. The only downside is that it is short, just 110/70mm, which is about 10mm shorter than most. I wore it on the second to last adjustment hole, leaving just a nub of a tail. This is not a common experience for me. I would think anyone with a larger wrist would want to swap a different strap right away, and that is a real shame given its quality and appearance.
Examining all the elements, I was struck by how many Depression-era influences are apparent in this design. The case is straight up streamline moderne. The dial may be a military layout, but the applied gold numerals would be right at home on a vintage dress watch. Even its deceptively simple typeface and stylized propeller have a hint of Art Deco flair (notice the small lobes of the B and R, and the short bar on the E). Still, with all these retro cues, you would never mistake it for a vintage watch. It looks thoroughly contemporary but rooted in tradition, which is a quite a feat for a relatively young company to pull off.
So the Solo-37 is a nice watch, but is it a good value? Absolutely. The Bremont gives you a COSC-certified movement, hardened steel case, and dashing good looks in a compact package. Now, how long can I convince Paul to let me keep it...
Pro: Top quality, gorgeous case.
Con: Short strap.
Sum: An absolute gem in a sensible size. I love it.