The sky’s the limit: Bremont

A new limited-edition Bremont timepiece features material from one of history's most famous aircraft, Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose flying boat

Watches & Jewellery 3 Dec 2019

The Bremont H-4 Hercules contains wood veneer from Howard Hughes' Legendary Spruce Goose flying boat

The Bremont H-4 Hercules contains wood veneer from Howard Hughes' Legendary Spruce Goose flying boat

Buying limited-edition watches for investment is something that should be done with the words ‘caveat emptor’ in mind, since many are not so ‘limited’ and few seem to rise in value.

But one maker bucking the trend is Bremont, which introduced its first limited edition in 2008, a year after launching. Called the EP120, it contained parts made with material salvaged from a 1942 Spitfire Mk V and was limited to 120 examples priced at £6,495 apiece.

EP120s now change hands for £15,000-plus, with 2011’s 251-piece, £7,450 P-51 edition incorporating aluminium from the fuselage of a 1944 Mustang fighter showing a similar increase. Other well- performing collector’s pieces include the Victory watch of 2012 (containing oak and copper from HMS Victory), the Codebreaker of 2013 (pine and paper from Bletchley Park and metal from an Enigma machine) and the Wright Flyer (material from the original pioneer aircraft).

So if you want to sink some money into a limited edition that seems unlikely to decrease in value, Bremont’s latest is probably worth considering – not least because of the remarkable story that inspired it.

‘Going large’ might be what it’s all about in today’s world of mega yachts, but back in the 1940s few could match the audacity of that famously eccentric tycoon, the late Howard Hughes, when it came to things that float.

A passionate aviator, Hughes was behind a flying boat nicknamed the Spruce Goose that – at 321ft – boasted the largest wingspan of any aircraft ever built, a record it held for more than seven decades until the first flight of the Scaled Composites Stratolaunch in April 2019.

Officially called the Hughes H-4 Hercules, it was designed by the Hughes Aircraft Corporation (but paid for with government money) as a transport plane with transatlantic capability.

Although originally intended for wartime use, the sole example didn’t fly until 1947, and then for less than a minute when Hughes mischievously allowed it to become airborne off Long Beach, California, during what was officially supposed to be a ‘taxi test’. The aircraft (which was actually made from birch) never flew again.

Four years after Hughes died in 1976, it was put on display in Long Beach before ultimately being donated to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon in 1993, where it remains to this day.

The story of the remarkable 218ft 8in-long plane with its 321ft wingspan has fascinated aviation fans for decades, among them brothers Nick and Giles English, Bremont’s founders.

Both accomplished pilots, it is the pair’s interest in the history of flying that led them to create the aforementioned special-edition watches dedicated to notable aircraft and now there’s a new one inspired by the Spruce Goose.

Called the H-4 Hercules, the chronometer-certified watch is limited to 300 pieces in steel and 75 in rose gold and platinum.

Each one has a tungsten winding rotor inlaid with slivers of original birchwood veneer that ‘took to the air on that famous flight in 1947’, and which have now been cut into the form of tiny propeller blades by Devon-based bespoke furniture maker Silverlining.

Furthermore, each watch will be delivered in a leather presentation box with original aileron fabric from the aircraft sewn inside. Steel versions cost £9,495, rose gold £17,995 and platinum £24,995.

All should hold long-standing appeal to historic aviation fans – and will hopefully give the lie to the aircraft-appropriate saying that ‘what goes up, must come down’.