So much of watch design tends to play it safe – the horological equivalent of lukewarm tea and lightly toasted bread. As such, the familiar becomes innocuous, repetitive, and perhaps even a bit boring. And while I’m not here to form an argument against the character of the mild-mannered dive watch, if you’re going to go to the trouble of making a collaboration based upon a known quantity, why not tweak the recipe? Why not make it spicy?
The two British watchmakers – who typically have very different perspectives on watch design – have joined forces to spice up Bremont’s toolish luxe dive watch, the S500 Supermarine. The S500, in its original form, is a watch I know well. Back in 2011, it was my introduction to both Bremont and to the idea of a “higher-end” dive watch. It was big. Made of hardened steel, yet surprisingly elegant. The lume was bright – and on the bezel, too! – and to its credit, it wasn’t trying to look like a Rolex. I loved it then, and I love it now.
Since then, Bremont has matured, their lineup has progressively expanded and they’ve recently moved into a new home (The Wing) outside of London in a bid to take control of more of their manufacturing and produce their own movement (the ENG300). Maturity and diversification have also come for the Supermarine line, including a smaller 40mm S300 range (with my fave S302), the entirely extra S2000, a Supermarine chronograph, the GMT-equipped Descent II and S502 Jet, and – of course – an updated base S500.
This new collaboration joins the myriad Supermarines but does so with a look that is clearly from the house of George Bamford. Limited to 250 pieces, the Bamford S500 Special Edition is the only all-black and time-only S500 on offer. The Bamford-ization continues beyond the no-date execution with a striking cali dial, a black/black bezel, signature bright blue accents, and a unique spear-tip hour and minute hand (and a new seconds hand, as well).
It’s the same size as the current S500 – which is to say, not small. It measures 43mm wide (across the bezel), 16mm thick, and 51mm lug to lug. Many Bremont watches use a three-piece case design that has a caseback, a middle case barrel, and a lug/bezel element that all mounts together – they call it “Trip-Tick” and it’s a more complicated design than usual. The middle case element, which is matched by the caseback, measures a little over 40mm across.
If your preference falls in the 42mm+ range, the S500 remains a nicely proportioned watch that wears well and makes no apologies for its ample dimensions. More than a decade later, it remains one of my favorite larger dive watches after I so thoroughly imprinted upon the first-generation design.
Where this specific S500 becomes make-or-break for my wrist is in the strap selection. The stock strap is a heavily padded black sailcloth with light blue stitching that looks great but, for me, doesn’t wear all that well. Normally, I would say that it should be fine once it’s broken in, but my tester is pretty worn and still doesn’t readily conform to my wrist. To be fair, I have a bony 7-inch wrist, but the S500 was much more wearable and comfortable on one of my own (thinner) 22mm leather straps or on a NATO.
Now, let’s get to the Bamford of it all.
As mentioned above, the Bamford treatment of the S500 is hinged around a specific colorway (black and light blue), a new dial, and a new handset. When I first saw the images in the press pack, I flip-flopped every few minutes. Sometimes liking the radical take, other times lamenting how much of the S500 aesthetic had been over-written by the punchy color, the brash dial, and the entirely incongruous handset. The tension between these two positions is, perhaps, the point of this design.
If you already don’t care for Bremont, this won’t be the watch to convert you. But for those which the brand strikes favor, this Bamford seems meant to ruffle a few feathers. For the S500 Bamford Special Edition, the spice is turned way up, you either like it or you don’t. And, given the 250-piece run, they really only need to find a few folks willing to order from the extra-spicy side of the menu.
Ticking within we find what Bremont calls the BE-36AE movement, which starts out as an ETA 2836 but has been modified for its no-date application (no phantom date position) and then further bolstered for additional shock resistance. With a rate of 4Hz, it offers an ETA-standard 38 hours of power reserve and has been chronometer-certified by Bremont to the ISO 3159 standard.
Internally, the movement is mounted in an antishock movement mount. The bezel insert is matte black ceramic with polished markings. The lume is Super-LumiNova and it glows well enough given the sandwich dial format and the large markers. ISO 6425 nerds – myself included – will note the lack of a luminous bezel pip alongside the 500 meters of water resistance and the integrated HeV.
The S500 is a thick watch, but even with that in mind, there seems to be a lot of space between the dial and the crystal. I suppose this has to do with the black-on-black design and the lack of applied dial furniture. I found the depth was distracting at first, though it does seem to aid in the way light creates shadows for the sandwich markers.
The crown action is solid and the bezel is grippy, light, and very clicky. Legibility can suffer in low light, but the larger hands and oversized markers help to keep you on track. Like the DLC treatment for the case, the bezel and dial are nicely executed, though the edge finishing for the hands – especially the minute hand – is not up to the quality I’ve come to expect from Bremont.
Pricing is directly in line with what you should expect from Bremont, with the Bremont S500 Bamford Special Edition selling for $4,995. For reference, a base S500 costs $4,395 on a rubber strap, and the GMT-equipped S502 Jet costs the same as the Bamford design.
If you’re in it for the movement, the Bremont x Bamford is going to feel woefully overpriced. But if you’re keen on a really nicely made and distinctive dive watch with a case made of hardened steel, the S500 is certainly worth a look. Though sometimes I feel alone on this point, I love a well-made tool watch with a relatively simple and easily-serviceable movement. I understand the appeal of an in-house movement, but I’m also entirely okay with the ETA – aka the Chevy small block of automatic movements. That, and I really like the general Bremont aesthetic, especially for the Supermarine line.
While the Bamford collab presents its own look and feel for the S500, it does so without apology. It’s a fun, unique, brash, and decidedly spicy take on a known design. In other words, it’s a Bremont that is also very much a Bamford.
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The HODINKEE Shop is an authorized retailer of Bremont. To view our collection, click here. For more on the new Bremont S500 Bamford Special Edition, click here.