Spring is here and a great time to get out and about, so I took the Bremont Martin-Baker II on a couple of outdoor adventures to see how this robust watch holds up in our latest Hands On Review!
What We Love
- Comfortable on the wrist
- Bright, easy to read dial
- Orange colour pops & is fun
What We Don’t
- Crown is hard to pull out and set
- Wears on the larger side
- Strap can be a little finicky to put on
Overall Rating: 8.25/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Wearability: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Build quality: 8/10
For those that aren’t aware off the Martin-Baker story, here’s a quick re-cap. Martin-Baker is a British aviation company responsible for supplying 70% of the world’s Air Forces with fighter ejection seat technology. They first approached Bremont to create the definitive aviation watch in 2007. More than simply putting a logo on an existing model, the watch had to withstand the same rigorous testing programme as the ejection seats themselves. Two years later, the Bremont Martin-Baker I (MBI) was born and limited solely for pilots who have ejected from an aircraft using a Martin-Baker seat – something that is not all that fun and puts a tremendous amount of stress on the body and the watch!
The MBII and MBIII were then produced for the general public, designed to the same strict standards of the MBI, but available in a range of colours and variants, with people able to choose their own colour for the middle case ring, strap and dial if they wish. However, Bremont has a large range of these combinations already, so there’s normally a variant available that will tick the boxes.
For this review, I chose the white dial, orange case with black and orange strap to see how it would wear, and how it would fit in with my lifestyle now the weather is warming up. Being a robust watch, designed to withstand the forces of being ejected out of a fighter jet, including Live Ejection Testing, MFOS Crashworthy Testing, Extreme Temperature Endurance, Vibration Testing, Altitude Testing and Aircraft Carrier Deck Testing, I figured it would be fine to take out in everyday life, to the beach, hiking and just spending time with the family. And it did pretty well.
The MBII is based on the original MBI, but just a little more refined and contemporary for civilian life. It’s kept its utilitarian looks, designed for purpose, but has more flare due to the varying colours and styles. You can see this in the clean dial design and large painted numerals which stand out from the white dial, which makes this piece super easy to read at a glance on the go. The pops of orange and the Anti Shock insignia on the dial are also a nice touch that reminds you of it’s robustness and military roots.
Being a military designed watch, it’s all about the ease of use, as a result the MBII is sized appropriately at 43mm. Whilst this may be on the larger side for everyday use for many people, it’s fit for purpose. Large, easy to read and use. The internal bi-directional bezel helps with timing, and is controlled by the lower of the two crowns on the right side of the watch. Handy when you’re cooking meat, or wanting to know how long it’s taken you walk 400m through the rainforest with 2 kids!
The case is Bremont’s TripTick® case construction, with the top steel section and lugs forming the main section, and the internal case is surrounded by the coloured aluminium ring. This gives the watch a fun look, and with a range of colours on offer, you can customise this to suite your look. One of the reasons I chose the orange was it was fun, bright and perfect for enjoying the warmer weather here in Queensland.
The underside of the watch has a steel case back screwed into the case ensuring the 100m water resistance, and showing the “Tested Beyond Endurance” on the bronze coloured ‘military challenge coin’, historically used to represent membership of a group of people or service on a specific tour of duty. It’s a nice touch that lets you know you have a piece that was and is designed for military use.
Bremont have given this variant a matching strap, in a combination of black and orange rubber backed strap with matching orange stitching. This adds to the cool factor of the piece, and the perforated design of the inside of the strap means that it’s highly breathable in the warmer months, so another thought through design element here. Personally, this colour combination works, and looks right at home on the wrist when taking it on adventures.
How It Wears
The Martin-Baker II was a slightly polarising watch for me. The 43mm case size, with a 50mm lug to lug and 15mm thick isn’t overly large, but I did feel due to the lack of external bezel and large white dial, it looks larger on the wrist. But this is where the polarising part comes into play. It wears very well, and extremely comfortable. To the point where if fitted snugly on the wrist, and you don’t really notice it. Which makes it perfect for outdoors activities.
Part of this is the strap design. It’s light and super flexible with the perforated rubber on the inside. This means it doesn’t get overly sweaty and breathes well, but the perforations allow the strap to mould to the wrist easily. The one slight frustration with this design when doing up the strap. Due to the gaps in the perforations, the pin can go into the gaps between the holes, and you have to re-adjust it. It’s a minor thing, but the pros of the strap do outweigh this small con.
As the MBII has a flat caseback and the domed crystal is set into the watch, giving it more of a flatter appearance on the top, it doesn’t feel too cumbersome at all, and does fit under jackets easily as it sits flush with the wrist. Coming into the warmer months though, this won’t be an issue as it’s a watch I’d wear on the weekends, to the beach, and generally out and about. Would this pair with a more dressed up outfit like a suit or more formal attire? Perhaps not, but that’s ok.
Changing the time and date using the top crown is one aspect where I feel Bremont could improve. Being a pull out crown, not a screw-in means the crown is not as water tight, and with this particular watch, the crown was not easy to pull out – both a good and bad thing. Great as it’s not easily dislodged accidently and jeopardising the water resistance, but you need to take the watch off and get your nail underneath the back of the crown to pop it out, which for me wasn’t all that easy with shorter nails. This won’t be a major issue if the watch doesn’t stop or you don’t need to change the time or date much.
Inside the Martin-Baker II is the Bremont Modified calibre 11 1/2″” BE-36AE automatic chronometer. Like all Bremont movements, the MBII movement is Chronometer Certified to ISO 3159 standard, being accurate to -4/+6s per day. Having this on the wrist on and off for a coupe of weeks, it ran well within those parameters, being accurate to about +4 seconds per day. Whilst only having a 38 hour power reserve, which is on the low side these days, as a daily wearer this will be more than enough. If this is more a weekend watch or a few times a week in rotation with others, I’d suggest leaving it on a winder so you don’t have to reset the time and date too often.
The other benefit to this movement is that is is designed to withstand the forces of a live ejection from a fighter jet. Having spoken to a pilot that has actually been ejected from a fighter, it doesn’t sound pleasant at all, and not like what the movies portray, floating down leisurely from your plane and landing in a field. Most pilots suffer decent injuries like broken backs and neck due to the sudden vertical G-forces, plus a range of other injuries and broken bones depending on the ejection scenario. Talking to Martin-Baker, their seats are designed to save lives, which to date, they’ve saved about 7,674 lives using their seats.
Whilst I have no plans on being the next Tom Cruise (I’ve missed that boat!), it is re-assuring to know that the Martin-Baker II movement is shock tested “Beyond Endurance” and the odd knock to it whilst playing with the kids, or getting dumped in the surf isn’t going to bother the MBII in the slightest. Whilst the model I had was the version with the closed caseback, they can be optioned with a see through caseback with sapphire crystal.
After having the Bremont Martin-Baker II for a few weeks, going with me on outings with the family, lunch with friends and just generally having fun on weekends, it has stood up to all of this. It’s a watch that has grown on me, and one I normally wouldn’t have chosen for me personally. But now, I do get the appeal and understand those that love the Martin-Baker range and why they do.
The MBII wears very well, and even for a larger watch, fits comfortably on the wrist and whilst this particular model looks larger due to a lot of real estate on the white dial and no external bezel, it feels anything but. The fact that you can pick the dial, case ring and strap variants for me is plus, as it allows you the ability to customise the watch to your tastes. The colours are bright and bold, which is a breath of fresh air in the watch world – a serious watch designed for a serious purpose, but can have some fun along the way for us civilians.
With a price point of around AUD $6,800 for the variant I wore, it represents decent value for money in a very saturated mid-level luxury market. What sets the MBII apart for me is it’s looks, it’s military provenance and the fact that it’s not your standard run of the mill divers/pilots/racing watch. It’s unique, and that’s something that is much needed in the watch world. To me, this is where the value lies, and why it’s hard to compare directly to others around the same price when you take into account the watch in its entirety as opposed to just one aspect or another. I like the fact it’s a cool watch to wear, and when you walk into a room, people will notice!
Reference: Bremont MBII – White w/Orange
- Case: 43mm, 15mm thick and 50mm lug to lug
- Case Material: Hardened stainless steel Trip-Tick® case construction with knurled aluminium barrel available in 9 colours and an inner soft iron anti-magnetic Faraday cage to protect the movement
- Dial: White metal dial with Super-LumiNova® coated indexes and hands.
- Crystal: Domed anti-reflective, scratch resistant sapphire crystal with 9 layers of anti-reflective treatment.
- Water Resistance: 100m (10ATM)
- Movement: Bremont Modified calibre 11 1/2″ BE-36AE automatic chronometer, pivoting on 28 jewels and beating at 4Hz / 28,800 VPH.
- Power Reserve: 38 hours
- Strap: Black textured rubber strap with an inner orange perforated rubber lining and orange stitching.