Simon de Burton
In the world of expensive watches, the first half of 2021 will be remembered as the time of the green dial. Barely a week passed without at least a couple of brands declaring the arrival of a new model inspired by nature’s most prolific colour, thus creating that usually short-lived phenomenon called ‘a trend’.
There were so many watches inspired by the lush and verdant, that it’s refreshing to see Bremont take the sun-bleached route, with this new ‘Savanna’ take on its MBII pilot chronometer.
The ‘MB’ in the title refers to Martin-Baker, the world’s leading manufacturer of ejection seats that are supplied to almost 90 air forces around the world and which (at time of writing) have saved 7,652 lives since test pilot J.O. Lancaster used his MK I seat to escape from a stricken AW52 aircraft in May 1949.
It was partly a desire to achieve wider recognition for what Martin-Baker does that Andrew Martin, the now 44-year-old grandson of the Middlesex-based firm’s founder Sir James Martin, went in search of a watch partner more than a decade ago. And in order to pass muster, the then fledgling Bremont brand had to be willing to put its watches through some decidedly stringent tests.
In addition to having to survive no fewer than nine live ejections at speeds of up to 600 knots and at forces of up to 30G, the main ‘guinea pig’ watch was subjected to sufficient hours on a vibration device to simulate the entire service life of a military helicopter before being housed inside a corrosive fog exposure cabinet that represents spending six months on the deck of an aircraft carrier – after which it was placed inside a heat chamber that creates variances from minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit to plus 120 degrees.
With the prototypes having passed muster, the Bremont MB went into production in two initial forms: the MBII, which was available for anyone to buy, and the rather more special MBI that could only be acquired by those who had survived a live ejection using a Martin-Baker seat. Identifiable by a special redanodised case barrel, these are now highly sought-after by military watch collectors.
The easier to obtain MBII, meanwhile, has become one of Bremont’s bestselling models (among grounded civilians as well as amateur, commercial and military pilots), leading to the range being expanded to include versions with different coloured dials and, in ‘MB-III’ format, with a GMT function.
But the £4,595 Savanna marks the most significant development to date as it features a 43mm case made from Grade 5 titanium, ‘appreciating’ says the spiel ‘that, for a pilot, weight means everything’. For fans of the mil-look, the matt finish combined with the desert camo tones of the rubber strap and dial make for an undeniably cool aesthetic.
The typical MB features such as a knurled barrel and crown remain, along with the distinctive yellow and black loop at the end of the second hand that references the ejection pull handle on a Martin-Baker ejector seat.
‘The ongoing success of the MB collaboration made us want to create a more lightweight model and put it through the full spectrum of MB testing to coincide with the development of the new MB seat,’ Bremont’s co-founder Giles English told Brummell. ‘It ensures that the next generation of the Bremont MB is more robust than ever.’
But perhaps one of the things that is really great about the Savanna is that fact it isn’t green…