To say that it was quite an ambitious undertaking would be an understatement. In the early 2000s, brothers Nick and Giles English sought to bring the construction of luxury timepieces back to Great Britain. In 1800, half of the world’s watches, about 200,000 pieces, were built by British watchmakers. A century later, Switzerland and the United States had reduced that number significantly as they began to mass-manufacture timepieces. Then came the World Wars when several British watchmakers put their time and talents into making armaments for the war effort.
The Original Dirty Dozen
At the start of World War II, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) realized their troops required reliable, practical timepieces to help them accomplish their mission of defeating Nazi Germany. The MoD ordered what they considered to be “the perfect soldier’s watch.” They were required to have the following characteristics:
- Black dial with Arabic numerals
- Luminous hour and minute hands, as well as indices
- Small second hand at the 6 o’clock position
- Hand-wound movement with 15 jewels
- Precision movements (regulated to chronometer standards, if possible)
- Shatterproof plexiglass crystal and shock-resistant case
- Water-resistant crown of a large size
- Waterproof to the standards of the era
The military code for these watches was W.W.W., which meant “Watch, Wristlet, Waterproof,” and each timepiece was to be engraved with those letters on the case back. The MoD also required that all of these military watches be engraved in three places with a Broad Arrow. This denotes that the piece is the property of the British Crown.
Although they were termed “General Service,” each soldier was not issued a watch. Instead, these were reserved for distribution to special units or those with particular tasks, such as artillery, staff members, or the Communications Corps. As noted above, British watchmakers were busy making weaponry and equipment for the war effort, so requisition officers farmed the watchmaking duties to the neutral Swiss. Twelve companies, as illustrated above, were chosen (Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex.)
As prominently noted on their website, Bremont’s Broadsword is their “contemporary take on the Dirty Dozen watch.” I have to admit; it’s a rough and tough piece, faithful in looks to its predecessors, that can handle the rigors of day-to-day wear. I’ve worn mine everywhere for the past couple of weeks, admittedly doing a few things one would not consider doing while wearing a $3,400 timepiece. No worries, though; it’s held up just fine. This is not a watch to be babied; its hardened stainless steel case and domed, anti-reflective sapphire crystal give it a rock-solid feel.
Part of my testing of the Broadsword involved traveling, with our friends at Margaritaville at Sea, to the shark-infested waters off of Grand Bahama Island. Fully realizing that this is not a dive watch (although it does boast a respectable waterproof rating of 100 meters), I limited the testing to waist-high wading in the cobalt blue waters.
The sun on Grand Bahama that day was quite intense, but the anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal made telling the time at a glance a breeze.
You’ll note that instead of “Swiss Made,” you see the word “London” written at the bottom of the second hand dial. The folks at Bremont are quite justifiably proud of that and the fact they have brought luxury watchmaking back to England in a big way.
They are also quite proud that they have an exclusive partnership with the Ministry of Defence and are, therefore, the only luxury watch producer allowed to use the signs of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
When the island sun went to bed for the night, I had no trouble telling the time due to the multiple coats of the custom mint-colored Super-LumiNova paint on all three hands and the pips beside each of the hour markers. Beneath those glowing hands beats the heart of the watch, a chronometer-rated BE-95-2AV automatic movement flaunting 31 jewels and 28,800 beats per hour (bph) frequency. That is about eight ticks per second.
Bremont guarantees accuracy to within -4 and +6 seconds per day. The Broadsword features a 38-hour power reserve, so you can let it rest for a day or so and strap it on again without having to reset the time. If something goes wrong with the piece, it is covered by a three-year warranty.
We’re a SOF-oriented company (obviously), and this is how I found out about Bremont. Their Special Projects Division makes small numbers of watches for Special Operations Forces (and other exclusive units) all over the world. Which SOF units, I’m not at liberty to say, but those watches are not available to the general public. The Military Watches and Special Projects section of their website offers us a sneak peek of some of their custom pieces. It is there you will see the watch they created exclusively for US Navy F-14 pilots to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Tomcat’s last flight. The GMT watch offers a unique “tailhook” second hand with stripes and an ejection seat pull handle.
As mentioned above, the retail price for the Broadsword is roughly $3,400. I realize that may price some people out of the market, but in the world of luxury timepieces, the cost is quite reasonable, especially considering that Bremont offers a 15% discount for eligible serving military serving members and veterans. That effectively lops a little over $500 off the retail price.
If you do decide to own one, you’ll be rewarded with a solid piece, full of history, that you can proudly pass on from generation to generation.