‘We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special’ – Stephen Hawking, speaking to Der Spiegel newspaper in 1988
n the first day of April, for the last few years, British watch company Bremont has placed an advert in the Financial Times promoting its latest timepiece. Recent models have included a dive watch with built-in ‘shark recognition technology’, a ‘mechanical’ smart-watch that will print out the weather forecast at the push of a button, and a timepiece for sailors equipped with mini windshield wipers.
You could, therefore, be forgiven for chalking up Bremont’s newest creation – a watch that contains pieces of Stephen Hawking’s desk – as another, albeit uncharacteristically crass, April Fools' gag (stunts that, says the brand, provoke genuine enquiries each year). Except, of course, it’s November. And you’d be forgetting the fact that Bremont has form in this sort of thing.
In 2008, the brand teamed up with Imperial War Museum Duxford to launch a watch that contained parts of a Spitfire. The success of that partnership kick-started a series of collaborations with other historical British institutions that have seen the patriot watchmaker embed fragments of significant artefacts in a range of classically-styled chronometers.
So far, we’ve had the Wright Flyer, a watch comprising a piece of the wing of the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft; the HMS Victory, a model containing wood from Lord Nelson’s flagship gunship; and a timepiece made using pieces of the Enigma machine – aptly named the Codebreaker.
Stephen Hawking famously dedicated his life to studying the relationship between time and space, yet the collaboration between his family and Bremont has heightened credence.
“The story has added personal significance for myself and Nick,” explains Giles English, who co-founded Bremont with his brother in 2007. “Our father knew of Stephen Hawking, having been to St Albans School together, a couple of years apart, and following the same path to Cambridge University.”
Adds Nick English: “Professor Stephen Hawking was arguably one of the most preeminent scientists of the last hundred years. We wanted to celebrate this incredible man’s life and his fascinating relationship with time.”
And so, working with the late cosmologist’s estate, Bremont has taken wood from the drawer of the desk Hawking worked at for more than 40 years and used it to create four planets on the case-back of its new watch. The planets, along with star constellations and a moon made of meteorite, recreate how the sky above Oxford would have looked on 8 January 1942 – the date Hawking was born.
“My father’s paternal grandmother received the desk as a gift upon her retirement as headmistress from a school she had founded for girls in Boroughbridge, Yorkshire,” explains Hawking’s son, Tim. “It was given to my father in 1975 upon his return to the UK after his year’s visiting fellowship to Caltech, Pasadena [California], and would remain with him until his death in 2018.”
The Bremont Hawking Limited Edition collection consists of three, 41mm self-winding watches for men – 388 pieces in stainless steel, 88 pieces in rose gold and 88 in white gold (each run a nod to 1988, the year in which Hawking’s A Brief History of Time was published) – and a 34mm automatic for women, which features a whitened full meteorite dial.
Below an oversized date window on the men’s watches, a 30-seconds retrograde seconds hand sits at six o’clock, while at 12 o’clock an eight-minute track represents the time it takes light to travel from the Sun to Earth.
As with each of Bremont’s historic limited editions, the Hawking collection has a philanthropic dimension. Part of the proceeds from the watches will be donated to the ‘Stephen Hawking Foundation’, which facilitates cosmological research as well as support for those who live with Motor Neurone Disease.
The Bremont Hawking Limited Edition watch is available in steel (£7,995), rose gold (£17,995) and white gold (£18,995). The Hawking Quantum ladies watch comes in steel and is set with diamonds (£7,995) bremont.com