February 27, 2019
While I’ll mostly avoid climbing onto my soapbox about it, the S500 case also sports an automatic helium-release valve at the 9 o’clock position. This is an “essential” feature for commercial divers decompressing in saturation systems. For the rest of us, it’s just a talking point and marketing play. While some high-speed British commercial diver and Bremont fan in the North Sea has likely used the HRV for its intended purpose, it’s unlikely anyone else, including me, ever has or will.
Another diving-focused convenience in the case design is crown location, with a seldom-seen 2 o’clock spot for the large, screw-down crown, of course, signed with Bremont’s propeller motif. This is to protect the back of the diver’s hand from catching a crown-shaped ass-whooping and let me tell you, it works. While likely an aesthetically polarizing design element, I like the crown in this spot, and it does add comfort points to a fairly large watch in the 43mm S500, especially on my admittedly spindly (though incredibly strong and manly) wrist.
Also carried over from the previous version are the excellent, slightly domed sapphire crystal and well-done sapphire unidirectional rotating bezel, fully inlaid with Super-LumiNova to add to the light show I mentioned earlier. These elements add a luxurious look and feel to the S500, which is important when you consider the somewhat expensive five-grand-ish package. A lumed bezel also has real utility if you dive in the dark, helping a diver to track dive time with less squinting than usual. Bremont has retained its original screw-down caseback, with an engraved Supermarine seaplane at its center.
Actual time-telling is carried out with the COSC-tested BE-36AE automatic chronometer caliber, equipped with twenty-five jewels, a glucydur balance, Anachron balance spring, Nivaflex 1 mainspring, 28,800 bph, 38-hour power reserve, and a Bremont-molded and -decorated rotor. This modified ETA 2836-2 is the same movement as in the original Supermarine, and while not in-house, the highly modified and regulated nature of the Bremont version adds some value over a totally stock movement. My watch kept COSC time during the testing period, whether cold or hot, worn or not, and above and below the water’s surface.
While available either on a rubber strap or with a very Omega-like bracelet, the Bremont S500 I reviewed came on a fitted 22mm rubber strap with a stainless-steel, signed buckle, which made more sense for the diving I was about to do, anyway. I really like this rubber strap. It’s tightly fitted and molded with a curve in it such that it wraps the wrist really well and keeps the watch in the correct position even when not worn especially tightly. The strap also felt very secure at the lugs, where many will tell you the spring bars can fail and the watch can be lost. On this fitted strap, the lug area is pretty stiff, and I think you’d have to trip over a subsea spring-bar tool to knock the thing loose (it could happen). Cheers to Bremont for making the strap in natural rubber, which unequivocally should be used for every diving watch strap that isn’t a nato, zulu, or stainless-steel bracelet.
Natural rubber is flexible, durable, looks the part, and doesn’t sweep up all nearby lint like ol’ linty silicone does. Over a 7mm wetsuit and coveralls, I had just enough strap to make the trip, but then I have pretty small wrists. I can imagine a larger-wristed person needing something longer in order to wear the S500 over a wetsuit. I don’t think I could have fitted the watch over a drysuit in its current configuration, but there are always nato straps for such moments.
Diving with the S500
Though I wore it for commercial diving, the S500 didn’t necessarily “add” anything to my diving situation, other than telling me what time it was during a five-hour dive without my having to the bother the supervisors via radio, something they don’t like. In commercial diving, tracking of bottom time and decompression schedule is always handled by the diving supervisor in the dry, making a watch simply a time-teller for the anxious-to-have-a-beer diver. However, I expected to really kick the shit out of the Bremont while diving, and I simply did not, despite paying the watch no extra mind.
With an almost entirely sapphire front-facing surface, the S500 was defended against the variety of knocks and probably scratches it could have suffered on the bottom. While I’m not likely to dive regularly (and wouldn’t recommend it) with a watch costing five grand, I have, and you really, actually could if you wanted to — a fact not without significance in a world of dive watches making all kinds of claims. Despite my doubts and generally cynical nature, the S500 didn’t suffer any noticeable damage during the testing period.
We have no choice but to, at some point, discuss the S500’s not inexpensive price point. At $4495 as reviewed, the S500 is an expensive watch, some would say too expensive for what you get. There are multiple ways of looking at it. In its diver’s watches, Bremont has developed a proprietary case construction, distinctive aesthetic, and included a decorated and modified movement for less than five grand. Consider that this watch does and has everything a lot of storied name-brand Swiss watches do, and while some cost less, a lot of them cost more. Like a lot of watches, the “worth” of the S500 comes from the person looking at it. If you like the look, and what Bremont is about, and don’t shrink from the price tag, you won’t be disappointed by the watch in the least.
While I entered the testing period somewhat unsure, Bremont’s S500 proved itself a totally capable and different-looking diving watch set amidst a brand backdrop of aviation-oriented pieces. While that lineage complicates things a bit, it shouldn’t take away from what Bremont has done in the Supermarine, especially in its newly updated design. This is a real diver’s watch, albeit in a luxurious trim. While I’m not personally the type to take my own $5000 watch diving, especially for work, there are a select few people who will and do, and Bremont has built a watch that is a solid choice for just that. For the rest of us, the Bremont S500 is a distinct diving tool watch design with a lot more capability than it needs, with an interesting tie-in to the aviation community. While it’s easy to argue about value, if you like the S500 and have the coin, you’ll find it a stylish and worthy companion for adventures above and below the water. The Bremont S500 retails for $4495 on a rubber strap or $5095 on a stainless-steel bracelet. You can learn more at bremont.com
>Price: $4495 on rubber; $5095 on bracelet
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: The aviation watch guy who also loves a good diving watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: The understated, yet effective, dial.
>Worst characteristic of watch: While an interesting idea, I still have some doubts about the long term durability of a three-piece case intended for underwater use.