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Clive Girven reviews the Bremont Solo, a watch which appeals to this professional pilot.
If you have ever trodden the path to becoming a pilot you will know that it can be a long, demanding and tortuous one. Whether it is becoming a military fast jet pilot or achieving your private pilot's licence they all have memorable milestones, however, the one milestone all paths have in common is going solo for the very first time.
Home Of The Titanic
My flying training began at Queen's University Air Squadron as a Royal Air Force Volunteer Reservist operating out of, what is now, George Best Belfast City Airport, next to Belfast docks.
At that time it was used by Short Brothers, famous for a variety of significant aircraft. These include the Second World War Shorts Sunderland Flying Boat, the Shorts SD330/360 passenger aircraft and the English Electric Canberra. Shorts also carried out pioneering work in the development of VTOL (vertical take off and landing) later used in the Harrier jump jet. It was a historic location to say the least.
The Belfast skyline is still dominated by the two 230ft twin gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath, of Harland and Wolff ship builders, famous for the building of the SS Titanic. This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of its ill fated maiden voyage. The dry dock, where it was manufactured, lies a short distance from the runway.
At one stage the airfield was also a military maintenance unit, responsible for maintaining a variety of aircraft including the Canberra and F4 Phantom. This posed a slight problem in that the Phantom was, so the story goes, sensitive to cross winds during take off. So, to alleviate the problem, a cross runway was built with an east west orientation. This was fine for a while until a super tanker came into dry dock and blocked the end of the new runway. Consequently a third runway was built, its orientation 10 degrees off from the second. The problem was solved.
The Solo has occasionally been described in the media as Bremont's entry level watch. This, in my opinion, is a completely unjustified view.
The Solo reminds me of the watch I was first issued with when I started my flying training in the Royal Air Force. It had a purpose. Digital watches were banned for fear that their use would be detrimental to our ability to accurately interpret analogue instrumentation crucial for safe flight.
Yes, the Solo is a simple watch, but that is its beauty. Plain, uncomplicated, clearly legible, white or off white numerals and hands, coated with Bremont's SuperLumiNova coating set against a black face.
Its 1940s pilot's watch inspiration is obvious to any aviation watch collector with its triangular 12 o’clock pointer with dots either side of the triangle tip.
It is still engineered with the same precision and technical excellence that one has come to expect from Bremont. The Solo embodies many of the features and detailing also seen in their more complicated timepieces. For example, the case is the classic Bremont 43mm three-piece patented Trip-Tick construction. This is hardened to over 2000 Vickers making it seven times more scratch resistant than normal watch grade steel.
With its domed sapphire crystal coated with 9 layers of anti-reflective material, the Bremont stamp of quality and attention to detail is clearly evident.
1st July 1982
A rather insignificant date historically, and despite numerous searches on the internet I can find very little that marks this day out as one for all to remember. However, for me, it was a very significant day in my flying career.
A Bulldog TMk1 registration XX613 in RAF colours and markings was probably not the best of aircrafts to be flying above the streets of Belfast in 1982, and for that matter Belfast City Airport was far from the ideal location from which to go solo.
A Simple Circuit
Runway 22 points out over the city, Samson and Goliath slightly to the right of the runway extended centre line, and a small park straight ahead give very little in the way of options should the engine fail.
Below 500 ft you were committed to landing in the park. Above this height and it was a turn back, a complicated manoeuvre for someone with very limited experience. Even more demanding, it was flown on instruments. You had to lower the nose to maintain 75 Kts and roll to 45 degrees while completing your forced landing drills. Time was too tight to attempt a restart. The turn was maintained until a 180 degrees had been completed and when you looked up hopefully the airfield would be in front of you. Invariably you would end up pointing directly at the control tower.
Looking back now after 30 years and over 10,000 hours of flying, a circuit is a simple task, one that I now do regularly with very little thought. However, when broken down into all its constituent parts it is actually a complex procedure.
Like the Bremont Solo watch, on the face of it simple; second, minute and hour hands with a date window at the 3 o’clock position. However, beneath the surface it has many facets to its construction. The stainless steel with integrated crystal back assists in revealing many of these. Taking centre stage is Bremont's skeletonized signature rotor powering the modified calibre 13 1/4” BE-36AE automatic chronometer with blued screws and jewels clearly visible.
Other detailing that attracts me to this watch is how the strap joins the case. Bremont have curved the strap so that it forms a fluid line around the face. Simple, but it helps to enrich the design.
The Solo comes in two variants the WH and CR, identical in every aspect apart from the latter having an off white/cream coloured numerals and hands. This colour is very reminiscent of military aircraft flight instruments of 20 years ago. Once again its designation also gives a clue to its military aspirations, CR or “Combat Ready”, a status that all military aviators strive to achieve.
Achieving Combat Ready is a significant point in your military flying career celebrated with copious quantities of beer from the “CR” barrel. A barrel that you paid for but everyone drank, the pinnacle of the previous year's training. It was paradoxically, however, a sobering moment because it did truly mean that you were “Ready for Combat”.
Flight Deck Enhancer
A lot of land and water has passed underneath my wings since that day in July. I now find myself flying a more complex modern passenger jet with all the demands which that entails. However the skills and techniques that I employed on that day are as valid with my present aircraft as they were with a simple, small single engined trainer. The basics never change. Keeping it simple works. Simplicity is uncomplicated, less demanding, but above all effective. The same could be said of the Solo. It would not be out of place on, and would enhance any flight deck. It is a timepiece that I would be proud to wear.
- Model: Bremont Solo/WH and Solo/CR
- Reference: SOLO/WH (white hands) and SOLO/CR
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 43.00 mm; height 16.00 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and back.
- Functions: Hours; minuntes; seconds; date.
- Movement: BE-36AE calibre; self-winding; Frequency 28,800 vph; 25 jewels; Power reserve 38 hours.
- Strap: Embossed leather (various colours) with stainless steel pin buckle or titanium bracelet with engraved security clasp.
About the author
Clive Girven is an experienced commercial pilot, with a flying career which commenced in the British Royal Air Force, flying helicopters.
Clive flies an Embraer for a well-known airline but sometimes waxes lyrical about his other passion in life, collecting wristwatches with an aeronautical theme.