Inside & Out: Bremont Airco Mach 2
The Bremont Airco Mach 2 is a glorious watch at high altitude or in high society.
Five months into the year and it's already been very eventful for Bremont, the young(ish) English brand in its 15th year of production. Bremont started their year by withdrawing from the Baselworld Watch & Jewellery fair. Quite the statement but it paid dividends because their own townhouse event in London didn't have to compete for column inches (column pixels?) with Basel releases. I was fortunate enough to see a selection of the new releases in March during a flying visit to New York, and while most of the watch press focused on the new S300 and S301, I couldn't stop looking at the Airco Mach 2. My time with the watch was brief and I was so distracted reminiscing about ol' Blighty with Nick English that I completely forgot to take any photographs of the event or the watch. Luckily I remembered to take photographs this time around
The Airco is a new line for Bremont but the history of the watch goes back to the early 20th Century
Airco is the abbreviated name of the Aircraft Manufacturing Company Limited, a British aircraft supplier created by George Holt Thomas in 1912. Thomas started his career in the newspaper business but by 1906 he realized the civil and military potential aviation had. Thomas even persuaded the owners of Brooklands, the famous British motor racing circuit and automotive museum, to build an aerodrome within the center of the racing circuit. Thomas started two companies, the Aeroplane Supply Company and Airships Ltd., which later merged to become Airco in 1912. Airco produced 30% of all training planes, fighters and bombers used by Great Britain and the United States during the First World War. The wave of peace that swept over Europe in 1918 was a welcome to relief to the war torn continent, but it ended pulling Airco under as military supply orders dried up. Soon the company was bankrupt and in 1920 Birmingham Small Arms bought Thomas out.
The lead designer at Airco was Geoffrey de Havilland, one of the most influential aviation designers in history. His first designs were for propellor biplanes in the 1910s but by the end of his career he had designed the first commercial jetliner, the DH106. Giles and Nick English are avid pilots and have flown Airco made, de Havilland designed biplanes for years and naming a watch after the company seemed like a fitting tribute.
There are two variants in the Airco range, the Mach 1 and Mach 2.
The Mach 1's black dial, bold arabic numerals and bright orange second hand is a modern interpretation of classic pilot's watches, Yet I was drawn to the Mach 2 from the moment I saw it. The polished case, the elegant hands and the applied Arabic numerals is exactly my kind of watch. Bremont describe the Mach 2 as an officer's dress watch, a very apt description which separates the watch from an ordinary pilot's design. The Mach 1 and Mach 2 might be cut from the same cloth, it's just that the Mach 2 has a better tailor. The smaller case and lower profile makes the Mach 2 an elegant timepiece to wear despite the use of Bremont's trip tick case design. Whilst I like to use of the three part case, I do wonder if we'll ever see a variation on case construction from Bremont for their dressier watches. Bremont want all their watch cases to be on an equal footing in durability and strength, but it would be interesting to see a more specialized case variation for their dress range.
Like gluing a uniform onto a prop engine, you'd think these small changes wouldn't make a difference, but they do.
The 40mm case is one of the smallest men's watches Bremont have made and the effect is made greater by the shallower profile. Most Bremont watches are 16mm but the Mach 2 is 12.5mm. The 4mm difference might not sound like a lot but it goes a long way in making the Mach 2 feel fantastic on the wrist. A traditional dress watch may be slimmer, but a traditional dress watch case won't stand up to half of what the Bremont's can. The polished lugs and case might seem more refined but the watch is Tested beyond endurance like every other Bremont. Yet despite the knowledge of how rigorous the testing is on the Mach 2, I'd still pick the MBII-WH for a hike in the mountains. I'm sure it could take it but the elegant hands and applied numerals feel out of place covered in mud and dirt. Dropped in a bowl of Eton Mess feels more this watch's speed.
For those that don't know, Bremont's watch cases are made up of three parts; the bezel, the main body and the case back.
This 'Triptick' case design is only becomes visible when you view the watch from the side and the DLC treated main barrel becomes visible. On other watches, like the MBII-WH, this barrel is brightly colored, though Bremont chose to use the more reserved black color for the Mach 2. There is nothing quite like a Bremont when viewed from the side; the lugs slope over the barrel beautifully and the ribbed barrel catches the light in a unique way that a flat steel case can't.
The stepped bezel starts the flow of metal down to the lugs which slope down onto the wrist, from polished facet to facet. It's an elegant look that shouldn't work for a case this robust, especially with the black DLC barrel, but somehow it works. The anthracite dial (the watch industry's word for grey) compliments the polished steel case and allows the polished nickel hands and markers to stand out. There is no lume on the markers or the dial with only a thin strip on the hour and minute hand. Yet this small strip is more than enough to allow reading in low light conditions and is more than usually seen on dress watches.
The Arabic numerals are one of my favorite parts of this watch as they bring so much character to the dial. As the light plays off the numbers, they can either appear bright silver, muted grey or even black. The serif flicks on the end of each numeral evoke the feeling of a much older design without the need of faux patina. The Mach 2 is adept at balancing the seemingly contradictory design brief of being a modern watch with vintage elements. Bremont is only 15 years old and doesn't have a wealth of past designs to emulate so it's impressive that they've done this better than much older brands. Designs like the Airco Mach 2 are a breath of fresh air compared to the stale watches we're seeing from more established brands that should know better.
The angled internal bezel has a painted white railroad minute track with applied polished nickel markers at 5 minute intervals. A small red triangle at 12 o'clock is the only touch of color across the entire watch. I like the monochromatic look of the Mach 2 but if you're looking for more than a dash of color then the Mach 1 might be more your style.
Flipping the Mach 2 over reveal the Caliber BE-92AE, a modified version of the ETA 2892.
The BE-92AE beats at 28,000bph, is rated chronometer (like all Bremont watches) and has a minimum of 38 hour power. Like the MBII-WH and the Boeing GMT before it, the Mach 2 kept perfect time during my two weeks with the watch but the short power reserve disappointed me. I never needed to use the power reserve but the knowledge that is shorter than the industry irked me. If you're a one watch gal or guy who will wear the Mach 2 on a daily basis then you needn't worry as it will last the night and then some; those who cycle between watches best get used to winding. This short power reserve is the only mechanical disappointment that I've had with the Mach 2. It's damn accurate and winding/setting felt good through the crown.
The movement is decorated nicely although a lot of the visible movement is often hidden behind the larger customized Bremont rotor. The rotor has the usual vertical striped finish with the main plates and bridges of the movement finished in a circular guilloche. Bremont uses an Anachron balance spring atop their Glycydur balance wheel. Anachron is an alloy of cobalt, nickel and chromium which is more resistance to temperature than standard balance springs.
The watch comes with the standard style Bremont strap, a slightly thick two piece with light brown stitching and thick polished steel buckle. The strap is comfortable, feels durable and works well with the Bremont design ethos but I would have preferred to see a more sophisticated offering for the more refined Mach 2. Bremont do offer a black alligator strap with two other watches and such a strap would have looked excellent on the Mach 2. I do appreciate that the addition of alligator would have increased the price and the Mach 2 on leather is a very competitive $3895.
As always, complaining about a strap is a meaningless exercise as it can be swapped in the blink of an eye. There are countless online retailers that offer straps that would look great on the Mach 2, I just wish that Bremont would have gone that one step further into making the watch something unique in their collection.
The Mach 2 is an excellent addition to Bremont's collection. The refined design is unique amongst the burly divers and grizzled adventure watches, yet beneath it's sophisticated dress uniform, it's still just as rugged and ready for action as the regular fly boys. At $3895, it is one of the most affordable Bremont's to date and luckily for us, it's also one of the best.