What’s ticking? News from the bleeding edge of haute horologie, from Tom Hardy at Bremont to the new Panerai boutique

 
Alex Doak

Breitling drops its wings

The professional pilot’s favourite watchmaker is undergoing a sky-to-ground shake-up right now, at the experienced hands of ex-IWC CEO, Georges Kern.

For a start, he’s shifting the venerable chronograph brand’s main focus away from the air, controversially dropping the wings logo from all dials and ranking ‘land’ and ‘sea’ sectors equally. That’s not to say Breitling’s most iconic pilot collection, Navitimer, is being neglected.

Named after and inspired by the marque’s ‘Huit’ cockpit chronograph department, set up in 1938, this year’s hero collection, Navitimer 8 boasts a smoothed-out and cleaned-up aesthetic, with a wicked touch of retro typography. The one to get is the B01 Chronograph, driven by Breitling’s in-house automatic mechanics. £5,900, breitling.com

Ciao, Panerai

The ribbon has been snipped and the doors are now open to Officine Panerai’s slick new London boutique on Bond Street – the watchmaker’s second largest in Europe after its flagship in Florence, where the brand was founded in 1860.

Back then, before it counted the likes of IWC and Cartier as its siblings at Richemont Group, Giovanni Panerai’s tiny ‘orologeria’ atelier-cum-boutique on Ponte alle Grazie supplied all manner of equipment for the Royal Italian Navy, its instruments illuminated by a radium-based luminescent material pioneered by Panerai in 1916 called ‘Radiomir’.

Come the Thirties, a collaboration with Rolex led to its first diving watches issued to military frogmen, all cased in a cushion-shaped steel housing. It’s this famed design that gleams from every display case at 30 New Bond Street. We urge you to visit, if only for the history.

The Bane of Bremont

British watchmaking doesn’t come much cooler than Bremont – so cool, in fact, that the rock-hard military chronometer brand so beloved of fighter squadrons the world over now eschews the annual Baselworld trade fair in favour of its own, infinitely more civilised ‘London Townhouse’ affair.

It’s an affair that Bremont devotee and fellow cool Brit Tom Hardy couldn’t resist. Bringing selfie opportunities, not to mention PR points galore, the Dark Knight Rises and Inception star popped by and lit up proceedings with his boyish-yet-grizzled charm, later Instagramming to his 1.5m followers an endorsement that doesn’t get more ringing: “British engineering at its finest”. On his wrist? Nothing less than Bremont’s ‘Wright Flyer’ limited edition, containing a piece of the Wright Brothers’ pioneering heavier-than-air flying machine.

Speaks perfect english

After over 15 years of unhurried development, whispered about within only the most nerdy of watch-nerd circles, Charles Frodsham & Co of Bury Street in St James’s is finally marketing its wristwatch, the Double Impulse Chronometer.

Hand-crafted entirely in-house, within striking distance of the M25, it’s an exquisite means of investing in England’s last vestige of chronometry – a nationwide industry that rose and dwindled along with the naval infrastructure it served.

Design-wise, it’s based on a Frodsham pocket watch from the early 1900s, but it’s the movement inside where the true interest lies, regulated by a dual-escape-wheel assembly that acts on a single, shared ‘detent’ lever, the upshot being that no lubrication is required.

Though invented by Breguet in the 1800s, it was two 20th-century Brits, George Daniels and Derek Pratt who made the system viable – and now Frodsham has made it wearable. At long last. Expect to pay £60,000 in steel, £64,000 in 18k rose or white gold, £65,500 in hardened 22k yellow gold. Visit frodsham.com to find out more.

TAG, Aston’s it

Officially announced at March’s Geneva motor show, TAG Heuer is now on board as Aston Martin’s new watch partner – an upshot of shared technological values, motorsport DNA (Heuer singlehandedly coined the tropes of the driver’s watch back in the 60s) and a common F1 partner in the shape of Red Bull Racing.

In fact, all eyes at Geneva’s Palexpo convention centre were on the monster acid-yellow TAG-branded Valkyrie AMR Pro, a mid-engined V12 hybrid whose jaw-dropping Red Bull Racing-penned aerodynamics will create enough downforce for anyone brave enough to drive along the ceiling of a tunnel.

It makes a lot of sense to petrolhead watch fans, who will be immediately sated by the ‘Aston Martin’ Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 (£5,250) complete with front-grille mesh dial, plus the ‘Aston Martin Racing’ Formula 1 Chronograph (£1,250) in racy green accents – and this is just the start of an ongoing series with serious innovation in the pipeline. Much like Warwickshire’s finest carmaker in fact, whose recent profit upswing and product diversification knows no bounds.

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