English luxury watchmaker Bremont takes its 15-year-long partnership with aeroplane ejection seat manufacturer Martin-Baker to new heights… Quite literally.
Bremont probably wouldn’t be the brand it is today without Martin-Baker. Indeed, Bremont’s most famous watch, the MBI, has become part of modern watch folklore. The MBI, if you didn’t know, can only be purchased by Martin-Baker ejectees – that is, you need to have used a Martin-Baker ejection seat to be able to get one. Now that’s pretty cool.
“When Martin-Baker first approached us in Bremont’s very early days, it wasn’t a branding exercise, it was with a vision of creating the definitive aviation watch,” Bremont co-founder Nick English says. “The testing that they could offer was something previously untried or tested in this industry.”
Now, 15 years after the two English firms started collaborating, they’ve unveiled what might be their toughest and most impressive pilot’s watch yet: the MB Viper, which is essentially a military test instrument that civilians can buy.
Bremont explains that in order to test their first manufactured movement series, the ENG300, the luxury British watchmaker created a concept test instrument to put it through the most extreme testing environments – including ejection seat tests with Martin-Baker. The test instrument that they developed, however, looked so cool that they decided to launch it in its own right.
WATCH Martin-Baker testing the Bremont MB Viper below.
The MB Viper’s unconventional, utilitarian design reflects its origins as a testing instrument. Its functional and minimal case houses a shock-isolating mount that could be fixed to the cockpit ‘dashboard’ of a Martin-Baker live ejection simulator. Its lugs were designed to make it easy to attach to an ejection manikin, and those lugs have fillets machined into the rear of them to reduce weight.
The ENG300 test instrument that the MB Viper is based on has been put through some of the toughest tests any mechanical watch has ever had to face, by the way. These have included an ice block freeze for over 21 hours at -5°C to test its seals, a zero/zero ejection test and a brutal salt fog exposure test to simulate the conditions on board an aircraft carrier deck. It’s literally built different.
You might think, then, that it’s an absolute beast to wear; something that’s not really that practical – yet it’s a surprisingly wearable watch, thanks to its 43.5mm case width and 10.8mm case depth. As you might have guessed, it’s shockproof, but it’s also waterproof to 100m and has a 65-hour power reserve. The watch head only weighs 58 grams.
Aesthetically, it’s a ripper. It boasts a matte black DLC-treated titanium case with an orange anodized aluminium top bezel, a trademark white dial and unique chevron-decorated hands whose pattern nods to the signature ejection pull handles seen on fighter plane ejection seats. Turn it over and you’ll find an exhibition caseback that lets you admire the ENG300 movement this watch was designed to test.
In short, the MB Viper can rightfully claim to be one of, if not the, toughest pilot’s watch ever made… And certainly one of the coolest. It’s a testament to the beauty of functional design as well as the innovative spirit of both Bremont and Martin-Baker.
Limited to only 300 pieces, the Bremont MB Viper retails for AU$8,800: not exactly cheap, but compared to other super-tough mechanical pilot’s watches, it represents ripping value. And, unlike an MBI, you don’t need to compress your spine ejecting out of a fighter jet to get one…