February 26, 2018
by Jason Swire
British watchmaker Bremont are particularly known for aviation-themed timepieces, and in conjunction with the RAF’s 100 Squadron centenary they have released the Bremont U-2/51-JET watch. The 100 Squadron was formed as a night bombing unit in 1917, and to pay homage the Bremont U-2/51-JET watch features an all-black look with a DLC (Diamond-like Carbon) coated steel case, tinted black “smoked” glass for the caseback, and a middle barrel made of black anodized, knurled aluminium. This model also features blued steel hands, which only appeared in this collection recently with the Bremont U-2T Limited Edition (which we reviewed here). The day-date display common to the brand’s U-2 watches has been culled to a date-only for this timepiece, and the “anti-shock automatic” text has been removed from 6 o’clock in favor of a stylized logo. Cumulatively, these changes may make the Bremont U-2/51-JET the brand’s most attractive U-2 model yet.
The rather random-seeming name of the Bremont U-2/51-JET seems to be an amalgamation of several aviation references from the brand’s history. The U-2 collection was designed exclusively for the Spy Plane Squadron based at Beale, California, and named after their Lockheed U-2 ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. “51” refers to the brand’s signature faux-vintage lume, which was first featured on the Bremont Mustang P-51 watch (covered here). Lastly “JET” refers to both the RAF’s Hawk T1 Jet aircraft and is also a nod to the new black color scheme of this watch. Three aircraft references in one watch seems excessive, but Bremont use these designations in a rather clever way to describe the physical attributes of their timepieces. The Bremont U-2/51-JET is thus designed for high altitude and temperature extremes (as are all U-2 watches), features vintage lume (from the P-51) and an all-black case (JET).
The dial of the Bremont U-2/51-JET is clean and legible, with large Arabic numerals and hour markers at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. An upwards-pointing triangle at 12 o’clock allows the wearer to quickly orient the dial at a glance, a desirable feature for pilots during flight. The hour and minute hands are large and sword-shaped, with lume-filled tips which aid legibility even in daylight as they help the blued steel stand out from the black dial. The second hand is likewise highly visible with a red, lume-filled triangle tip, although I can’t help but associate this design with GMT watches. A unique feature of Bremont’s U-2 collection is the bidirectional “Roto-Click” inner bezel, operated by the second crown at 4 o’clock. This offers the same sort of timing functionality as a diver’s bezel, without detracting from the classic aviation design cues of this collection.
Most aviation watches tend to be quite large, often drawing inspiration from the Fliegers of WWII, which could be as big as 55mm. The Bremont U-2/51-JET measures in at a rather restrained 43mm in diameter, making it well suited to the majority of wrist sizes and occasions. The case is further DLC-coated, which offers practical benefits beyond simply turning the steel black. Diamond-Like Carbon provides many of the properties of diamond to the treated surface, including exceptionally high hardness and corrosion resistance. The brand’s three-piece “Trip-Tick” case construction features a rubberized movement mount, providing enhanced shock protection. Water resistance is likewise a very capable 10 Bar (approximately 100m), making this watch suitable for swimming with. That being said, the included leather strap would need to be swapped out prior to any aquatic activities. All told, the Bremont U-2/51-JET is most certainly a tough watch, with three forms of enhanced durability on offer.
Powering the Bremont U-2/51-JET is the automatic calibre BE-36AE, which is a modified ETA 2836-2 with the day complication removed. This caliber oscillates at the very modern frequency of 28,800vph or 4Hz, offers a 38-hour power reserve, and features a Bremont molded and skeletonized rotor. Bremont are using the Chronometer grade of this movement, with the improved Glucydur balance, Anachron balance spring, and Nivaflex 1 mainspring. The movement is individually serial numbered and chronometer tested by COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres), although Bremont have opted not to include the usual chronometer branding on the dial. The power reserve is on the low side for my tastes, but with a bidirectional winding rotor this is unlikely to pose any problems for a prospective wearer unless they leave it on the bedside table all weekend. This should be a reliable, accurate movement, although I would like to see Bremont break away from dependence on ETA in the years to come.
There’s a lot to like with the Bremont U-2/51-JET. The brand seem to be borrowing some winning design cues from the U2T limited edition, while trading off some of the purity of that design for added functionality and consumer appeal via a date complication and display caseback. The black color palette is nicely offset by the vintage lume, blued hands, and touches of red on the dial, offering a modern-yet-classic look that should be a hit with a lot of buyers. I think Bremont are onto a winner here, although final judgement will need to be reserved until we can handle this watch in the metal. Price for the Bremont U-2/51-JET is $5,395. bremont.com