Hands-On: The Bremont U-2/51-Jet

By Jason Heaton

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In his classic book The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe writes that a telltale way of identifying a military test pilot back in the early days of the Cold War was by looking at his wrist. “The wristwatches had about two thousand calibrations on them and dials for recording everything short of the sound of enemy guns. These terrific wristwatches were practically fraternal insignia among the pilots.”

Wolfe had it right. There’s no denying that a big tool watch has long been a symbol of adventure and rugged readiness, whether it’s a Navy diver’s Sea-Dweller or a hotshot fighter jock’s Navitimer. And these days, Instagram has afforded the expression of one’s “most righteous stuff” to adoring legions of followers. While some of us (guilty as charged) are known to flaunt our own timepieces in situ, there are few wrist-shots that can compete with those taken by a pilot in the cockpit of a spy plane flying at 80,000 feet. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go peruse the feed of @bremontmilitary, the account maintained by the military projects division of Bremont, which teems with photo evidence of extreme distracted driving.

Distracted driving at 80,000 feet.

Bremont does a brisk business creating bespoke (dials, hands, rotors, etc.) versions of its watches for various international military regiments, squadrons, and special operations units. Perhaps most famously was the original U-2 Squadron watch, which was a black DLC version of Bremont’s well known MBII that, in addition to the rigorous ejection seat testing the company does, was also confirmed to perform flawlessly at the extreme altitudes at which the U-2 spy plane flies. The watch proved so intriguing to civilians that Bremont produced a series of standard versions of it and it’s become one of their most popular watches. This spring, the company introduced a new edition, the U-2/51-Jet with some further tweaks that bring in some design cues from other Bremonts, resulting in an appealing twist on an already handsome watch. I had a chance to spend some time with the new U-2 last week during Bremont’s Townhouse event in New York City.

The guts of the U-2/51-Jet remain essentially the same as the MBII upon which it is based and it’s a watch that didn’t really need further technical refinement. Everyone knows that the …read more      

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