While it would be timely to discuss the watch industry’s longstanding relationship with Formula 1 – what with the iconic Monaco Grand Prix fast approaching – there is another automotive activity that has a sufficiently softer (whilst still fascinating) relationship with timepieces. Imagine you’re riding on a Triumph TR5 Trophy through the American outback (with the Easy Rider soundtrack playing in your head) with a cutting-edge Swiss timepiece sitting comfortably on your wrist.
It’s the kind of adventure that wouldn’t feel at odds for David Beckham, Ewan McGregor or (obviously) Steve McQueen – all of whom are (or were) keen motorcyclists with an appreciation for a luxury watch. This is not an uncommon trait; in fact the watch and the motorbike share much in common. Not only are they two devices that are brought to life through precise craftsmanship and mechanical engineering, they are also intimate devices that are very personal to the owner. Although still a niche trend within the industry, a number of brands are becoming more open about their desire to integrate themselves within the motorcycle lifestyle and culture.
This aim to create timepieces that embrace a rebellious do-or-die is gaining a greater presence and significance in watch design.
Inspiration from the motorcycle life
Presented at this year’s Baselworld was the new Zenith Heritage Pilot Café Racer. Taking its rightful place in an iconic range, this timepiece has been directly inspired by the British Café Racer motorcycles – these were lightweight bikes optimised for speed and precision handling, which became highly popular with the Rocker and Ton-Up Boys subculture in the swinging 60s.
Vintage in style, this 44mm watch features bold, beige Arabic numerals and faceted hands that stand out against the textured slate dial which appears to shift in colour – between a solid grey to an olive green, depending on the lighting conditions. Finished off with an oily green nubuck strap with a slightly rugged and distressed look, this watch certainly embraces the spirit of motorcycle culture, looking edgier than your standard F1-inspired model. With the skull motif also growing in trend within watchmaking, this aim to create timepieces that embrace a rebellious do-or-die, antagonistic aesthetic (that is central to motorcycle culture) is gaining a greater presence and significance in watch design.
On the tracks with Jaeger-LeCoultre
When it comes to integrating yourself within the culture of motorcycling, it’s not all about embracing the rebellious Easy Rider-meets The Wild One lifestyle. An icon in Swiss watchmaking, Jaeger-LeCoultre has previously worked with the prince of Moto GP Valentino Rossi – showcasing their shared commitment to quality, excellence and perfection – to launch a range of Limited Edition Master Compressors. The most renowned of these watches is the Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm – a very rare model with a dial that looks like it’s been taken straight from Rossi’s own bike, and a generous use of bright yellow with its rubber strap, illustrating the captivating life of extreme motorsports. As Rossi says “Extreme means the limit everyone attempts to reach when they have to give the most of themselves or of their machine”: a concept that doesn’t seem too at odds with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s own mindset.
When watchmakers team-up with Motorcycle brands
Much like motorsports or car brands, watchmakers occasionally look to team up with the best in motorbikes. In 2011 the partnership between Tudor and Ducati was founded, with the release of the Fastrider Chronograph coming soon after – Tudor reignited this line in 2015 with the release of the matt black-and-white Fastrider Black Shield, which was directly influenced by the new sporty-yet-elegant Ducati XDival. A bold watch with just the right level of attitude, the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield is just asking to be worn as part of a black leather-clad look – possibly with a few tattoos showing on the wrist.
This style would similarly be suited for the 2014 Romain Jerome H9C – DNA. Created in collaboration with HardNine Chopper – and only possible when bought alongside a custom motorbike by Danny Schneider – the H9C-DNA is simply striking, with a red gold bezel and bright purple skull (which has been hand-painted with a unique purple metal flake colour) sitting central on the dial.
In the past we’ve also seen Bremont – which honours ethos, heritage and passion above all else – work with the iconic British motorcycle brand Norton to develop a limited-edition watch that embraced the aesthetics and design of Norton’s Commando 981. Meanwhile, JeanRichard partnered with MV Augusta for two limited-edition Chronoscope Brutale Chronographs and a limited edition JeanRichard Brutale naked sports bike.
The many facets of motorcycling give ample opportunity for watchmakers to showcase their creative spirit and embrace the words of Hunter S. Thompson: “Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death”.