The Bremont ALT1-C/PB is a gorgeous old-school chronograph and easily one of the dressiest Bremonts ever. Despite the classic looks and polished case, it gives up none of the robust construction of an ordinary Bremont, making it one of the toughest, yet most refined, chronographs in the world.
Bremont is not a static company. They've been growing, expanding and changing in more ways than one, from leaving the British Isles for the Wright Flyer, to leaving aviation entirely for Jaguar or the HMS Victory.
In my opinion, their gradual adoption of dressy watches is best represented by two pieces: the AC I, which I reviewed here, and this ALT-1/PB that we're looking at today.
Of course, the ALT1-C/PB isn't a dress watch per se, it's a dressy chronograph. If I really had to classify the style of the watch, it'd actually be an early American railroad design. Those watches weren't chronographs, but the overall look and feel of the watch is certainly reminiscent of it. That may not be surprising, given that Bremont has already made a watch in that style, the Wright Flyer. While defining the watch may be difficult, admiring it is anything but. It just looks terrific.
The good looks continue onto the back with the BE-50AE automatic. This is clearly a very well decorated, chronometer-grade Valjoux 7750, undoubtedly the most popular and battle tested chronograph movement in the world. It's really at home in this 43mm case and, while Bremont is yet to develop a proprietary chronograph, its robust character certainly fits Bremont's overall super-tough reputation.
The star of the show is certainly the dial. Bremont has really stuck to classic design elements that have weathered the test of time.
Taking a closer look at the dial, we can really see a number of different elements at work, none of them being over-utilized. There are the gorgeous applied numerals, the simple feuille hands, and a very reserved amount of text on the dial.
These numerals are absolutely my favorite part of the watch. They've got so much character to them, and the polishing is executed so perfectly. This is a look that can only be achieved without using lume here, which would break up the mirror-polished surface.
Then there are the simple feuille hands. I actually prefer these to the very similar ALT1-C/PW model, essentially the white version of this watch. The hands on that watch are black, for legibility reasons, but more importantly they have no lume. The amount of lume on the ALT1-C/PB is very limited, but the white-on-black increases legibility in the day and, obviously, the luminous paint does the same at night.
Making sure the dial remains clean, Bremont has used a bi-compax layout. Within the subdials, there are no bright colors used, just a simple guilloche pattern to separate it from the rest of the dial.
The hands and numerals really shine brightly when you don't have a giant black camera reflected in them.
The date is placed where the 6:00 marker would be. It too is quite subtle, with a white-on-black date ring that fades into the dial nicely.
Given the character of the watch, we're lucky to get any lume at all. Although sparing, it's sufficient to be useful, and it does look great. As I mentioned earlier, the white paint also increases legibility against the black dial in the day too.
The case is almost as interesting as the dial in the ALT1-C/PB.
It's fully polished, rare among hardened steel cases. Frankly, I never understood why companies don't do this more often because scratches are more likely to be seen on a polished surface anyway.
Like most Bremonts, it's 43mm. This is a pretty good, versatile modern size, and it does make a really nice snug fit with the 7750 in the back. Still, this would make a good 39mm or 40mm watch, given its toned down appearance.
The case is a bit on the thick side, but that's largely due to the combination of a very nice domed crystal and the 7750 inside.
The crown doesn't screw down, which is a bit counterintuitive given Bremont's tough as nails nature, but it sure does make the watch a lot more convenient to wind and set.
It still looks great, thanks to the fact that it's signed nicely by a high-contrast Bremont propeller logo.
The barrel of the ALT1-C/PB is simple and black, a fitting and understated choice for a watch that errs on the side of simplicity and elegance.
It really is a lovely concept: combine the innate toughness of Bremont's hardened steel with the dressy looks of non-hardened competitors. You almost never see this from other brands as you're usually forced to choose between satin finished or bead blasted hardened cases if you want super tough steel, but Bremont has threaded the needle with their growing variety of polished options.
The movement is somewhat awkwardly named the Calibre 13 ¼''' BE-50AE automatic. Beneath the fancy name resides one of the most revered movements in the business, the Valjoux 7750. It may not be in-house, but its reputation as one of the most reliable and tough chronographs in the business is well-deserved.
It's really the best of the 7750s though, as not only is this a chronometer grade movement, ensuring accuracy rivaling some of their best competitors, but it's very well finished.
It really is quite attractive. Thanks to the fact that this is an integrated chronograph, instead of the more common (outside of the 7750, anyway) modular chronographs that are used today, you can actually see most of the chronograph mechanisms from the back of the watch, at least when not covered by the well-finished Bremont rotor. I also like that the 7750 fills the case back nicely. If they'd used a smaller movement it would look somewhat awkward, so it fits in nicely here.
So there you have it, the Bremont ALT1-C/PB. This is arguably Bremont's dressiest chronograph ever, but that really demands an answer to the question: which is better, the ALT1-C/PW (white version) or this ALT1-C/PB?
I really liked the ALT1-C/PW, but for me, this one is easy: it's the ALT1-C/PB all day. I think the polished accents look better against the black dial than black accents against a white dial, and I like having the lume.
I just really enjoy the fine polishing used here. When you don't fill your markers or hands with lume, at least not too much lume, you really get to enjoy the broad, polished surfaces. Take the Grand Seiko Snowflake for a great example of how that's done. The ALT1-C/PB does have lume on the hands, so that's the compromise you make to be able to see the watch at night, but it's still rather sparing and the Arabic numerals don't have any lume.
Either way, you're given a front row seat to their rather beautiful interpretation of the 7750. This does require that an anti-magnetic cage isn't used, unlike some other Bremonts, but really, the ALT1-C/PB never pretends to be some sort of engineer's watch and the movement is worth the visibility.
The combination of these great old-school, almost railroad watch looks with their newly discovered love of polished cases is a perfect fit.
With releases like this and the AC I, people are beginning to get an image of Bremont that's something akin to "tough but refined". This was always my view of Bremont, however. You can get wonderfully tough watches from Damasko or Sinn, for instance, but Bremont was always aiming very high when it came to universal adoption of chronometer-grade movements and less austere styling. Bremonts have always been tool watches that don't look like tool watches. The ALT1-C/PB and other new models aren't some sort of revolution for the brand, they're more of an evolutionary step continuing on a path that, from day 1, separated them from many rivals. It's a step in the right direction, I think.