This review has been a very long time coming but for once the delay hasn’t been due to my laziness and more due to my lack of knowledge on the subject as a whole. A few years down the line however I’m finally in a place where I feel like I actually know sort of what I’m talking about, and have other frames of reference to draw on to make this review more valuable than simply “I like it so therefore you should too”.
I first became aware of Stirling Timepieces when its founder, (a prior contributor to the blog coincidentally), got in touch to tell me about a project he was starting and his reasoning and passions behind it. From the beginning the parallels between Stirling Timepieces and the likes of Sangin Instruments were clear, with an enthusiasm for watches and a military background colliding at speed and producing the product we’re discussing today.
Editor’s note: After taking the pictures for this review I’ve realised just how little care I’ve given this watch. Please don’t judge me, but I’m still not going to clean it.
As a disclaimer I am a long way from an expert on watches. I own a couple and have a tendency to research a field obsessively so have a great understanding of the facts and figures, but in terms of actually owning and using a wide range of pieces I am rather limited. That being said I think many of the people looking to buy their first “proper watch” will be equally limited, so I’ll do my best to keep it simple.
To begin with the Brunt is an automatic watch, meaning it is a mechanical movement that is powered by a spring and rewound either by turning the crown or by simply wearing the watch and allowing your wrist movement to turn the internal rotor which also “recharges” the movement. The Brunt plays host to a Seiko NH35 movement which contains 24 jewels, vibrates away at 21,600 beats per hour and has a power reserve of ~40 hours. In the interest of keeping things simple this means that the Brunt has a good number of low friction jewels in the movement, and will keep ticking over for just under 2 days without wearing or winding before it stops.
With the innards covered we can look at the outside of the Brunt, which in my case comes in the black PVD variety. This coating gives a matte finish that impregnates the metal which physically can’t chip off unlike paint and gives the watch a distinctive “stealth” feel. Looking at the outside of the piece it’s clear from the off that this is drawing heavily from a dive inspiration, but leaning more into the military tool watch execution.
The 4 o’clock screw down crown is the first evidence of this, offset to reduce drag and screw down to keep water, dirt and dust out. The case back is also screwed down, with the Stirling Timepieces logo engraved at its centre, and the watch’s material and water resistance specifications surrounding it.
DIAL & BEZEL
Moving up from the case the Brunt features a 90 click unidirectional (one-way) bezel which turns counter clockwise and contains an aluminium insert with 5 and 10 second markings, and second indices in-between. At the 0 position there is an inverted triangle that also hosts a lume pip. A rather interesting feature of the Brunt is that all the bezel markings are lumed, which seems to be a theme across a couple of their dive style watches. Inside the bezel there is a sapphire crystal, and it really is sapphire, but there doesn’t seem to be any substantial anti-reflection coating.
Underneath the crystal is the matching black dial which has applied hour markers of a mixed bag of shapes, all bordered by a polished metal edging and filled with lume. The dial also has printed minute indices, Stirling Timepieces logo, Automatic and 200m markings in line with what we’d expect from a watch of this style. Around the dial is a small, reasonably hard to read chapter ring that gives prompts for the 24hr clock on each position. This feature is probably redundant when in the hands of someone in the military, but for someone wanting a military watch, it’s a nice inclusion. The straight hour and minute hands are both filled with lume, the minute hand also painted orange to make it easier to identify, and the hour and second hands are polished. It’s worth noting that this chapter ring in my case seems to be slightly out of alignment, but not in any immediately noticeable way.
Lastly the Brunt sits on 20mm drilled lugs making it an ideal candidate to be mounted on one of the most widely available straps out there, the humble NATO. Simple, effective and cheap, the NATO has been the backbone of dive watches since their inception in the 50’s. The drilled lugs also mean that a variety of aftermarket bracelets could be easily applied to the Brunt, providing you can find one in a matching shade of black.
WEARING THE BRUNT
With the technical specs out of the way it’s time to discuss how the Brunt actually wears, both on the wrist, and in terms of how many knocks it can take.
The Brunt has a 43mm case diameter making it larger than a dress watch, but with a lug to lug of around 50mm it is by no means enormous and fits my 17.5cm wrists perfectly (which are pretty small). I bought this watch to be worn on a NATO meaning I don’t have bags of experience with the included rubber strap, but I can say that I wasn’t overly impressed by it. It’s by no means terrible but has the distinct feel of being indestructible at the cost of comfort. In contrast to this the Brunt feels excellent on a NATO thanks to the relatively low weight of 104g including a strap. Once broken in the fabric NATO straps bend and flex with the wrist and don’t rub or itch.
I’ve worn my Brunt for around 2 years now as a daily driver and have taken the opinion of “fuck it, it’ll be alright”. Worn throughout the top to bottom renovation of my house, in fresh and salt water, hot tubs, out running, airsofting and just about everything else I’ve done for the last couple of years. I’ve yet to find a situation it was uncomfortable in, and even more surprisingly it’s come out kicking every time.
The wear and tear on my watch is there if you look for it, but is by no means obvious. Considering my Brunt has been painted, glued, banged, dropped, submerged, shot and caked in plaster dust the fact that the only real wear is on the aluminium bezel insert is remarkable. The case itself is showing a shadow of bare metal around the lugs and the knurling on the bezel, and I’ve lost a couple of spring bars to direct hits, but in general everything from the sapphire crystal to the forward face of the crown still look as good as new and it breezes through the “squint test”. The only place where this isn’t true is in that bezel insert.
I’ll be honest this is the point that let’s the Brunt down in my opinion, not because it’s damaged (if you shoot soft metal with an airsoft gun it’ll dent, no complaints there) but in the misaligned lume pip in the interval triangle. This is a clear sign that this is a long way from a luxury watch, where such a QC faux pas would be punishable by death on social media. My lume stud also managed to rot away and fall out by itself so now I’m just left with an ugly metal cup on my bezel which I don’t think needed to be there in the first place. The inverted triangle itself would have been enough, and I’m glad to see that this is they style they’ve carried forward into the Campbell and Durrant lines. QC issues aside, my bezel insert is now scratched, dented and chipped all over, but crucially is still in place and legible, providing a nice patina effect and giving the watch a bit of character.
One of the most remarkable things about the Brunt is that for a watch in the same price range as a Seiko 5, you get 200m of water resistance and a genuine sapphire crystal. While the bezel around it looks like I’ve used it as an entry tool, the crystal is still absolutely flawless. It’s taken multiple hits and repeatedly exposed to abrasives that would give your phone screen a brushed steel effect, but still comes out looking as good as the day I bought it. This is important as if anything can make a watch look tired, it’s a fucked crystal getting in the way of actually telling the time. The lack of anti-reflective coating on either side of the crystal is noticeable, but forgivable, as it surely would have raised the cost of the watch by a not insignificant amount.
Internally I don’t think there is any real wear on the movement. I don’t wear it as much as I used to but I’ve not noticed any real losses in accuracy at all over the last few years and since letting it fully wind down and back up again there haven’t been any horrible grinding sounds or stiffness coming from the crown to cause concern. I periodically give it a few turns to keep the lubrication moving around inside, but other than that offer this watch absolutely zero maintenance.
SO SHOULD YOU BUY THIS WATCH?
This is the question I’ve been waiting to be able to answer over the past two years as at the time forking out £300 to replace my trusty G-Shock seemed like a lot of money, and whenever people have asked me what I think about the Stirling I’ve only really been able to say “it tells the time, ask me again in a year”. I’m happy now though to make the recommendation that yes, you should buy a Brunt (and by extension any of the other Stirling Timepieces offerings as long as they’re made to the same standard).
My reasoning behind this blatant recommendation is not because the Brunt is a nice watch, but because it is a good watch. It’s not going to impress a watch snob, and it certainly won’t win prizes for being aesthetically unique, but it is a watch that you can absolutely kick the fuck out of with the confidence that it’ll just keep ticking over.
Considering the Brunt was designed by and for the British Military, the fact that this is a very affordable offering coming in at less than the price of an entry level Seiko, with a bombproof sapphire crystal, a 200m water resistance (that I’m inclined to believe) and a movement that could probably take a nuke and still give you the finger is very compelling.
I’d be very interested to see what the other offerings from Stirling are like as I’ve always kept in mind that mine is one of the first watches they ever put together, and so of course is going to be riddled with teething issues, and for the price point is going to feel noticeably lighter and less “polished” than something that the big Swiss brands are punching out. But if you see the Brunt for what it is, then you can’t be disappointed; a hard wearing, affordable watch available from a UK company with a bit of the British Army laced inside, and a great way to get into “proper” watches.
Quartz watches are cheaper and more accurate, but batteries can quit on you. Super fancy smart watches are all the rage but can also give away your 10 fig grid reference as easily as your personal information. Automatic watches however just want to tell you the time and occasionally have their nipple twizzled as a thankyou. If you’re in a job where you need an absolute beater then the Stirling Timepieces Brunt is a really good option for you and you’ll probably end up where I am now, looking at it lovingly remembering exactly what I’ve put the poor little bastard through.
Thanks for sitting through my ramblings on the Stirling Timepieces Brunt. It’s a product I’m very glad to have bought and comes from a company who’s cause I’m glad to support. The founder of Stirling is a serving bloke who chose to remain in instead of pulling the ejection handles and is still finding time to push his business and the charities it supports. 10% of all Stirling profits are given to military charities, and considering how popular these watches are becoming that 10% is going to start making a difference.
If you’ve got any questions about the Brunt or anything I’ve said in this review, please direct your questions to @thegeardocrow on Instagram.