First, let me start by saying that Brellum make some of the best value for money watches in the sub-£3,000 price range. That’s not hyperbole. I’d stack things like the Pandial LE.3 Full Black against watches a couple of grand more expensive and I have no doubt it’ll come off very, very well. The problem is, they’re also about as under-the-radar as you can get for one reason and one reason alone: they only make around 300 watches a year.
It’s an odd approach. On the one hand, they’re in one of the most competitive price brackets in the industry, facing off against brands producing tens of thousands of watches per year. And yet their production makes some rarefied independents seem fast and loose with their release slates. It’s hard to equate those two very different levels, accessibility paired with rarity if it weren’t for one thing. Without it, it’s unlikely Brellum would be able to offer watches like the Pilot LE.3 GMT Chronometer.
Scale brings compromise and there’s none of that in the latest edition of Brellum’s pilots’ watch. Except, perhaps, that it reads like a shopping list of things we love to see in an aviation-flavoured timepiece.
Aesthetically, the Pilot LE.3 fits nicely into the pantheon of cockpit inspired instruments, not quite as authentically (perhaps to a fault) as something like Bell & Ross, but up there with some of the more military-slanted options from IWC – though with a lot more going on. That’s because rather than ‘just’ housing a tricompax chronograph using a 12-hour subdial at six o’clock, a 30-minute counter at 12, and running seconds at nine o’clock that cut into the indexes, this is also a GMT.
A GMT is fast becoming one of the most common complications, largely because it’s one of the few that’s actually useful. Having a dual timezone display’s great for travelling or just keeping track of other timezones, while a chronograph’s good for… a track day maybe? Timing how long to brew a cup of tea? A chronograph is still cool of course, but I’d prefer it attached to something that has a bit more of an everyday function, as is the case here.
The second time zone is smartly integrated, too. It’s just a fourth central hand in a completely different style, with a red arrow tip to stand out. Its colours match the chronograph seconds, but its shape means there’s no confusing the two and they don’t cover each other in the rare event you stop the clock and they line up.
There’s still a lot of information on display thanks to the sheer amount of numbers – the 24-hour ring rather than a classic minute track on the periphery, 12-hour applied numerals further in and then the bare minimum of numerals on the subdials – but it works in a more technical feeling pilots’ watch. It’s all readable, well thought out and incredibly handsome.
Obviously, that’s helped along by the gorgeous green dial, one that’s generally not quite as green as it seems in images. In certain lights it looks black, or more accurately, dark grey. It’s not overly shiny like you’d expect from a dress watch with no comparisons to emeralds. It’s a nice colour that’s an asset without defining the watch. It means that the white readings stand out with the high contrast a pilot needs.
The dial though, no matter how much of a deserved focal point it is, is only half the story. The build quality and finishing make up the rest. On the wrist, the 41.8mm stainless steel case is as solid as they come, though the long lugs make it feel larger than it is. It’s not uncomfortable – the lugs curve nicely around the wrist and the almost-integrated strap fits flush against the watch – but like most watches this size of 40mm, I would prefer it a touch smaller.
Still, it has 100m water resistance so it doesn’t just feel solid, it’s actually a robust, everyday watch. Honestly, these days there’s no reason a watch like this can’t have 100m water resistance, so it’s good to see that it’s not been neglected. But then it’s pretty obvious nothing in the Brellum Pilot LE.3 has been ignored – especially when it comes to the movement.
The final point worth mentioning here is something all Brellum watches have in common: it’s Chronometer certified. That’s something you don’t often see at this price point, given it costs brands a chunk of change to get their watches certified. But it’s definitely appreciated in the BR-754, a modified take on the Valjoux 7754. Even more appreciated is the decoration, with Geneva stripes and Perlage aplenty. The screws are blued and the rotor is a cool, cut-out job that suits the personality of the watch. It’s a lot to be lavished on the movement, so it’s fitting that it can all be seen through the sapphire caseback.
Brellum’s value-for-money is second-to-none, and that means in this case you’re getting an impeccably built, handsomely designed, chronometer certified GMT Chronograph for £2,850. That’s almost too good to be true and in some ways it is, as only 27 people will ever be able to make that deal. Good luck being one of them.
Price and Specs:
More details at Brellum.