They represent probably the widest and most visible customisation process offered by any modern watch brand, and have been a cornerstone of the company’s strategy practically since day one. Yet for the majority of the past decade, Bremont has kept quiet about this side of its existence. Times are changing, and at its recent open-house press day, the brand brought out dozens of its military watches, so we took as many pictures as we could, and peppered them with questions.
Whether you’re an interested customer looking for a substantial and personalised piece of memorabilia (just back from a tour of duty? Close to retirement?) or just curious about something that makes up a sizeable chunk of Bremont’s business, here is your one-stop guide to Bremont’s Military and Special Projects watches.
There have been a lot of them. Bremont is cagey about giving out exact figures but the number of different military editions produced is now in the low hundreds. Just over 100 are currently listed on the website as being available to order, and the military side of Bremont’s business accounts for more than a quarter of the brand’s production.
You can’t bluff your way in. Bremont’s Military projects division is rigorous about checking that you genuinely have served where you say you have. Bremont will “pre-authorise” your military status before accepting any deposits by contacting the regiments concerned.
You don’t have to be serving in the military now. Former servicemen and women are equally eligible; you’ll still have to prove it though.
In fact, you don’t have to have been in the military at all. The “and Special Projects” half of the division isn’t just verbiage – Bremont also produces bespoke watch designs for “specialised communities, private organisations and corporations.” Commercial pilots are also catered for, with watches made for Boeing 747 or United Airlines pilots.
You can’t have anything you want (pt.1). Bremont is only able – for pretty obvious reasons – to modify watches on an aesthetic level for limited runs of a couple of dozen or so. So you can’t add a chronograph to your MBII, for example. Bremont points out that most of the complications that military types desire exist somewhere in the range already so it’s very rare that would-be buyers can’t find what they’re looking for.
You can’t have anything you want (pt.2). Bremont will work willingly on a great range of dial designs, as you can see. But some things won’t be permitted: graphic or “inappropriate” imagery (explosions, or nudity, for example). The brand name must always remain, as well as “London” at the base of the dial.
That said, you will get what you ask for. Every military or special project is designed as a collaboration between Bremont and the commissioning group, and the design as it ends up is normally very close to what was requested. But importantly, there is no Bremont designer paid to imagine what a watch for 22 Regiment might look like; everything that goes on the watch is there because those who are wearing it asked for it.
You’ll need a few friends. The entire business model is based on making small-batch editions but there is a practical limit to how small. Currently, Bremont requires at least 15 would-be-customers to sign up before producing a new military edition. If the design is going to involve greater levels of customisation – new hands, for instance – then more buyers would be needed.
The whole world is welcome. You don't have to be serving in the UK or US military although those are by far the most heavily-represented in the Bremont canon. Members of any armed forces (or other group, as covered above) can apply.
It will come with the highest seal of approval. Every Bremont Military design is signed off by Nick and Giles English, no matter how many they end up producing.
They come at a good price. Servicemen and women buying Bremont Military watches are customarily entitled to a hefty discount over the retail prices of the unmodified watches – and some get an even better deal. Military divers, for example, are given an annual allowance of £1,000 to spend on watches.
It’ll be big. There have been two models produced as modified versions of Bremont’s smaller-sized watches, but the overwhelming majority of the military pieces are the full-sized 43mm job.
You will need to be patient. Once your design is signed-off and your deposits taken, you’ll be looking at a waiting time of about eight months before your watches are delivered. If you're buying a pre-existing design, the order time goes down to about 8-10 weeks.
People take them seriously. Despite the discount on offer, you’ll see very few of these pop up on eBay. Bremont strongly discourages customers from “flipping” their watches (stating in the small print that the three-year warranty is voided if the watch is sold on within that period), but remains powerless to really stop re-sales. Having to go through the vetting and interact with the design does a lot to make sure the customer isn’t interested in a quick profit.