Even as Bremont grows as a watch manufacturer, with facilities divided between Henley, where watch assembly is carried out, and Silverstone, where components, and in particular, watch cases are made, its links to aviation continue to be at the heart of its timepieces. The brand was borne, after all, through Nick and Giles English’s passion for flying historic planes, gleaned through their late father, Euan, and the technical knowledge required to operate and maintain these airborne machines.
Early on, the English brothers thought of creating a tangible connection with the aircraft that have inspired them through the years by not only taking design cues, but original parts obtained from those planes and crafting them into a watch component. These limited editions have become highly prized by Bremont collectors, and each new version is eagerly awaited.
This time ‘round, Bremont turns its attention to the de Havilland DH-88 Comet, which was built for a very specific purpose, the MacRoberston Air Race, from England to Australia, which took place in 1934. Today, we think nothing of boarding a jet and arriving on the other side of the planet in less than a day. Rewind some 80 years though, and such journeys were measured in days, if not weeks. In fact, the record at the time for the England to Australia flight was just over seven days.
The race was the brainchild of Australian entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Macpherson Robertson, who made his fortune in confectionery. He offered a prize of £10,000, with no limits imposed on the aircraft themselves, the only conditions being that they had to fly safely, and to make five compulsory stops after starting in England: Baghdad, Allahabad, Singapore, Darwin and Charleville, before arriving in Melbourne, an 11,300 mile journey in total. As no British plane was considered competitive enough, the legendary Sir Geoffrey de Havilland proposed to design and build a plane specifically for the race. The result was the DH-88 Comet, three of which took off with 17 other aircraft at the start of the race at 6:30am on October 20th, 1934, but it’s the bright red Comet named “Grosvenor House” which crossed the finishing line first, just two days and 23 hours later.
DH-88 Grosvenor House set other speed records before being retired after the war, and it was given to the Shuttleworth Collection, a prestigious museum in England, which restored it to its former glory and made it airworthy again in 1987. It was determined though that the undercarriage, which was made of plywood and not designed for sustained usage, would need to be strengthened after it failed following a demonstration flight in 2002. It’s plywood that was retained from the original aircraft following this modification that Bremont has sourced, and embedded in the rotor of their latest limited edition.
The DH-88 Comet follows the tried and true formula that has proven so successful for Bremont, powered by its BE-54AE automatic caliber and featuring a chronograph with a 24-hour GMT function. The styling is reminiscent of the 1930s, the origins of the DH-88 Comet, with vintage crowns, lettering, and Superluminova applied to the hands and Arabic numerals. The DH-88 Grosvenor House’s plywood is embedded in the bright red winding rotor, visible through the sapphire case back. Part of the watch’s sales go back to the Shuttleworth Trust, to support their charitable endeavors and to ensure that the DH-88 Comet Grosvenor House can be maintained and remain airworthy for generations to come.
This article was originally published in Revolution Issue 39