Bremont H-4 Hercules: Inspired By Howard Hughes’ ‘Spruce Goose’
by Nancy Olson
I’ve lived near Humble, Texas – about 20 miles north of Houston – for around three decades, and I’ve always been fascinated by the history of this small city that most of the world has never heard of.
Humble was an early oil boomtown, and by 1905 it was the largest producing oilfield in Texas. It was also home to the Humble Oil and Refining Company, founded in 1911, which later became part of Exxon.
But what I only recently learned is that Humble is the birthplace of Howard Hughes (1905–1976.)
Howard Hughes and Bremont’s English brothers
Hughes, known for his vast wealth, had a variety of interests, among them aviation. He was a lifelong plane enthusiast, and his career included founding the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932.
Hughes’s firm was responsible for building the H-4 Hercules, among many other craft, and this is where the UK-based watch brand Bremont and the Hughes stories converge, resulting in a brand-new limited edition watch counting Houston as one of the places where it made its debut.
“[My brother] Giles and I have been fascinated by the story of the H-4 Hercules since childhood,” said Nick English.
So the Bremont co-founding brothers, pilots themselves, created a watch inspired by its namesake. And I must agree that the plane – if not entirely sky worthy – is indeed inspirational, not only for its humongous size and unique composition but also for contributing knowledge to the world of aviation.
Nicknamed the Spruce Goose, it missed the mark as a transatlantic transport plane for use during World War II and didn’t take its one and only flight – lasting just around a minute – until November 2, 1947, after the war was over.
Wood was chosen for the plane’s construction rather than metal, since the latter had been engaged for the war effort and was unavailable to produce the craft. And though the nickname, given by the press at that time, is part of an aviation legacy as big as the plane itself it was a misnomer.
Five stories tall and with a football-field-sized wingspan, the Hercules was actually made of birch.
“Hughes’ obsession with detail and striving for perfection is evident everywhere in this aircraft,” says Giles English, who was present at the Houston launch held at the Lone Star Aviation Museum. “The H-4 wasn’t so much built as crafted.”
And craftsmanship is not a bad place to begin when conceiving a special watch like the Bremont H-4 Hercules.
The Bremont H-4 Hercules’ rotor incorporates original birchwood veneer that flew on that historic trip off the coast of California in 1947. Shaped into four propeller blades, the wood was made available through preservation work on the H-4 and was shipped to the UK from the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, where the plane resides today.
Award-winning UK furniture maker Silverlining was engaged for cutting the timber.
Limited to 300 pieces in stainless steel, 75 in pink gold, and 75 platinum pieces, the 43 mm watch is powered by the Bremont BWC/02 automatic movement by La Joux-Perret with 50 hours of power reserve.
The case back has an integrated flat sapphire crystal and four screws, framing the movement wound by its four-bladed propeller-style rotor.
Each dial offers its own attractively subtle combination of features to complement the case metal, including a guilloche subdial for seconds at 9 o’clock that adds a perfect amount of textural oomph. The watches come on leather straps.
The Hercules is not the first time Bremont has included a significant relic in one of its limited edition watches: the EP120 is an early example that incorporated material from the famous 1942 Spitfire Mk V aircraft.
Much more recently, and in a nod to modernity, the Boeing 100 collection includes carbon-fiber composite from the Boeing Dreamliner testbed aircraft, ZA004, in the crown of each timepiece.
Other examples include 2016’s DH-88 with a piece of the de Havilland DH-88 Comet; 2013’s Codebreaker with Enigma machine mementos built in; 2014’s Wright Flyer including a piece of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s famous plane; and 2018’s Supersonic, which included parts from the Concorde.
For more information, please visit www.bremont.com/collections/bremont-h-4-hercules.
Quick Facts Bremont H-4 Hercules
Case: 43 x 14.4 mm, stainless steel, pink gold, or platinum
Movement: automatic Caliber BWC/02 (La Joux-Perret), 50-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, 24-hour GMT
Limitation: 300 (stainless steel); 75 (pink gold): 75 (platinum)
Price: $11,895/£9,495 (stainless steel); $22,495/£17,995 (pink gold); $30,995/£24,995 (platinum)