Bremont Hawking & Hawking Quantum: Commemorating The Life And Times Of Stephen Hawking
Black holes are a thing. A big thing. Now I can hear you saying, “Of course black holes are a thing, we’ve known that for a long time.” And technically you would be right, as the existence of black holes has been proven in a variety of ways. But even though Einstein first proposed the mathematical foundation for black holes back in 1916, we have never actually seen one.
The existence of black holes has been measured with things such as gravitational lensing, but actually capturing an image of one was believed to be extremely difficult, and rather improbable.
Until it wasn’t.
The first image ever captured of a black hole was announced on April 10, 2019, two years after a series of eight telescopes around the world spent five days imaging the massive M87 galaxy 54 million light years away from earth. This was the culmination of two decades of hard work and planning for the Event Horizon Telescope (the collaboration’s moniker). For many science buffs it was possibly the most important image ever seen in their lives. For everyone else, it was just a blurry ring that left them underwhelmed.
But make no mistake, that blurry image was spectacularly difficult to obtain as the black hole took up only 0.0000000138 degrees of the sky (the equivalent of spotting a donut on the moon). It required syncing data from all eight telescopes to within a billionth of a second and took two years to crunch the data to produce the image we see here. And, boy, was it worth it!
The image shows a 25-billion-mile-wide shadow of the black hole as it swallows gas from nearby stars. It is the first visual glimpse of the literal end of spacetime, the event horizon. There is no escape from a black hole once across the event horizon for any matter besides the slow evaporation from Hawking radiation over trillions of years.
Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), who proposed the idea of radiating black holes in 1974, was one of the twentieth century’s most well-known minds when it came to black holes and he greatly contributed to humanity’s understanding of the universe.
Hawking was a supporter of the Event Horizon Telescope project and hoped it would be successful in its quest to image a black hole, but, sadly, one year after M87 was imaged – but still a year before the results were published – Hawking passed away at the age of 76. A prominent figure both in pop culture and the scientific community, Hawking just missed witnessing the first image of something he focused on his entire career.
But Hawking was part of more than 50 years’ worth of major discoveries, and as science progressed ever forward he saw more incredible things than Albert Einstein could have ever dreamed.
For this reason, Stephen Hawking, a scientific titan of the twentieth century, was interred in Westminster Abbey right between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, two other English scientists who helped revolutionize our view of the world.
To commemorate Stephen Hawking, English watch company Bremont has created a set of limited-edition watches honoring the late theoretical physicist with the Bremont Hawking and Hawking Quantum models. As the brand’s tenth limited edition, the Hawking watches pay homage to some of the greatest accomplishments of an Englishman in the last century.
Stephen Hawking: the man
Hawking was a leading theoretical physicist who contributed significantly to a variety of areas, most popularly the subject of black holes, but he spent years on big bang cosmology, quantum theory, and other related areas of theoretical physics.
To dive into the breadth of his work would take hours, but it is safe to say that with most aspects of the cutting edge of astronomical science and math, Hawking asked deep questions and sought and found many answers. The impact he had cannot be understated, and his contributions will be relevant for decades and likely centuries. As with Einstein, as technology progresses we will find new ways to test the viability of Hawking’s many theories.
More broadly, Hawking had a wide-ranging impact on science communication, beginning with his book A Brief History Of Time, published in 1988. Like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Hawking helped make science and advanced theoretical topics accessible for less initiated audiences, though Hawking focused more on research and education with science communication taking a backseat to academic work.
Regardless, his popularity and recognition made him a household name and a perfect person to commemorate for a watch brand intent on making English watchmaking an industry leader once again.
There are certain things you can easily connect with Hawking, some main concepts regarding light and time. Our understanding of time, and especially its relation to space, is fundamentally linked with black holes and how they operate, and the math related to this is made possible by measurements of light near black holes.
This is a tidy relationship, which Hawking relied upon to develop his theories, and they provide a good basis for thematic additions to a limited-edition watch. When you mix that with details from Hawking’s life, the result is a timepiece that hopefully inspires everyone to look up and wonder.
Unsurprisingly, the men’s watch in this new edition received more attention and details in the design process than the ladies’ Hawking Quantum, so let’s dig through the choices made.
The Bremont Hawking’s dial is centered by a large spiraling engraved disk emulating the way light and matter fall into a black hole. This disk is punctuated by a 120-degree opening at 6 o’clock with a 30-second retrograde seconds function that also features the name “Hawking” arcing across the opening, pad-printed onto finely engraved circular ribbing.
This provides a distinctive look without cramming the dial full of text, a common issue with limited editions. Opposite the opening is a dual-window, large-date display balancing the retrograde seconds below and gently curved to follow the outside of the central dial disk. The background of the date disks match the color of the retrograde seconds cutout, ensuring that many WIS wouldn’t get upset that it didn’t match the color of the dial (there are three model variations) and providing consistency across the different versions.
The applied markers are filled with white Super-LumiNova as are the hour and minute hands, giving the Hawking a shot of light in the darkness. Around the outside of the dial, beyond the hour and minute markers, is a 360-degree chapter ring marked around the entire periphery.
At 12 o’clock there is a red triangle marker and a small minute marker in red, just barely visible above the 12 o’clock hour marker, and another small, quite unobtrusive red marker at the eight-minute mark, both together straddling the words “Sunlight Travel.” This is to indicate the amount of time it takes for sunlight to reach the earth, approximately eight minutes and twenty seconds (499 seconds). Just before 10 o’clock (270 degrees), we also find the words “x10 = SEC.”
This relates to how the dial has been designed to emphasize the relationship between space and time, rather fitting for a watch commemorating Stephen Hawking. You can see how this plays out in relation to the degrees on the chapter ring, which are the results of multiplying the angle by ten to get the time in seconds. For example, at the 15-minute mark it indicates 90 degrees. If you take 90 x 10, this equals 900 seconds, which is the same as 15 minutes. The relation is a fun mathematical way to visualize space and time and also provides an interesting party trick that we WIS can do with any watch. The emphasis will be extra meaningful on the Bremont Hawking, though.
The chapter ring with degree markings looks good, no aesthetic qualms from me, and this mathematical exercise is a fun addition that makes some sense.
Now we come to the crown, which is a large domed piece with both the Bremont propeller logo and what may be an observatory dome or could represent the curvature of spacetime around a black hole. Either way, the crown is a small but obvious addition to the astronomical aesthetic, while also being a large and tactile touchpoint with the movement and sure to be appreciated.
Commemorating Stephen Hawking
The rear of the watch is where a majority of the aesthetic is driven by details of Hawking himself. Instead of a transparent display case back we find a solid insert, though still under a sapphire crystal. The stainless-steel disk insert features a spiraling design engraved with constellations in the sky as they were over Oxford on the day Stephen Hawking was born.
Among the constellations are four disks of wood taken from Hawking’s personal desk and inlaid into the design. The layout also incorporates a mathematical formula, the same one that Hawking requested be put on his headstone.
The equation is the foundation of the proof developed for Hawking radiation, one of Hawking’s greatest contributions to how we understand black holes. Additionally, inlaid into this disk is a small piece of paper laser etched with the appropriate limited-edition number.
This paper is from the original copies of the manuscript that strove to demonstrate Hawking radiation in the first place, bringing the idea full circle. Speaking of circles, all of this is laid out to encircle a central black enamel inlay representing the void of a black hole. At the center of it, we don’t find the singularity but rather a slice of meteorite, rounding out the interplanetary and interstellar references.
While this rounds out the Bremont Hawking, how does the ladies Hawking Quantum compare?
Bremont Hawking Quantum
Since this smaller model is based off an entirely different watch, the details are only superficially similar in places, though there are some strong overlaps.
The Hawking Quantum features a full meteorite dial set with diamonds as eleven of the hour markers, with the date at 6 o’clock in place of the marker. There are no other aesthetic additions on the front save one: the chapter ring around the edge of the dial drops the 60-second markings and marks just the hours and minutes.
The minute markers are still around the perimeter along with the words “Sunlight Travel,” but gone is the complicated edge of the dial seen on the men’s model. No matter, though, as the bezel is set completely with small diamonds. Since this watch actually does have a center seconds hand, unlike the men’s model, it might have made more sense to have the smaller separations of 360 degrees matching up with the running second hand.
But let’s also be real: the Hawking Quantum is less about horological or mechanical features and more about capturing beauty. On the rear of the watch we find some Hawking commemoration, though much sparser. The two features are a full movement-spanning tungsten rotor machined to emulate the spirals of the men’s models standing in as the black hole and a solitary wooden inlay from Hawking’s desk.
With the amount of small diamonds on the Hawking Quantum – 60 around the bezel and 33 on the dial – there may be no reason for it to be chock full of other details. Though that also is selling women short, imagining that they may not want something a bit more high-minded and focused on the theory or math, but only something dazzling.
On the brighter side, it ties with the stainless steel-cased Bremont Hawking in price, coming in at just a hair under £8,000/$10,000. But more importantly, a portion of the proceeds of every watch will be going to the Stephen Hawking Foundation, which does double duty supporting cosmological research and those living with Motor Neuron Disease, which Hawking also suffered from for 55 years.
Overall, these Stephen Hawking watches provide a way to connect with one of the most famous theoretical physicists of the twentieth century and own a piece of history. Unlike simply partnering with a car company and slapping on a logo, it was clear there was care and appreciation for the subject matter, a titan of cosmology. I think these watches are a nice departure from Bremont’s more tool-inspired pieces without losing the style and demeanor that makes up a Bremont watch such as the three-part Trip-Tick case. The limited edition numbers play off the year that Hawking published his most famous book, 1988.
Hopefully once we are all allowed to travel again, I can get some hands-on time with the Bremont Hawking. Until then I’ll just have to settle for a screening of the movie adaptation of that book, A Brief History Of Time.
Technically I could wait until a black hole swallows all the matter in our galaxy, but I should probably break this down on my own!
- Wowza Factor * 8.88 A trip to the cosmos and back on your wrist: yes, please!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 88.8» 870.831m/s2 There isn’t a lot that can keep you up more than pondering the deepest mysteries of the universe!
- M.G.R. * 48.5 Good, solid movements, and one has the addition of a large date and retrograde – can’t go too wrong here!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild Date functions are always useful (at least in my mind) so they are a nice addition to watches that could be daily wear pieces, maybe a bit less likely for the ladies’ watch. But still I’d recommend some children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the cosmic inflation!
- Ouch Outline * 10.2 Getting a fingernail caught and ripped just a bit too deep! Working with your hands can be dangerous, and sometimes the simplest thing can make for a tough time. And even though my hands are my livelihood, I’d gladly risk damage to my digits if it meant my other digits could grasp one of these pieces!
- Mermaid Moment * 30 seconds! I have a hard time saying no to retrograde mechanisms, so when I saw one on the Bremont Hawking I knew I should start writing my vows!
- Awesome Total * 752 First take the number of pieces in each limited edition and add them together (388 + 88 + 88 + 88) and then add on top of those the water resistance for the men’s Hawking in meters (100) for an interstellar awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.bremont.com/collections/the-bremont-hawking-collection.
Quick Facts Bremont Hawking Quantum
Case: 34 x 10.5 mm, stainless steel, bezel set with 60 brilliant-cut diamonds (0.7 ct)
Dial: meteorite set with 33 brilliant-cut diamonds
Movement: automatic Caliber BE-92AV (modified ETA 2892-A2), 38-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, chronometer rated ISO 3159
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; large date
Limitation: 88 pieces
Quick Facts Bremont Hawking
Case: 41 x 14.2 mm, stainless steel, pink gold, white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber BE-33-AE (La Joux-Perret, modified and assembled in UK), 42 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, retrograde seconds
Limitation: 388 pieces in steel; 88 pieces in pink gold; 88 pieces in white gold
Price: £7,995/$9,995 (steel); £17,995/$22,495 (pink gold); £18,995/$23,495 (white gold)