Watches and motorbikes US and British brands cruise into the future
Recent partnerships between watchmakers and motorcycle manufacturers make the most of a cool and authentic biker style.
The watch industry has always been drawn to motor sports and their ultra-powerful racing machines. The sporting performance of Formula 1 cars and their cutting-edge technology are reflected in countless timepieces. Roger Dubuis and Lamborghini, Richard Mille and McLaren, Bell & Ross and Renault, to cite just a few: there are many examples where watches mirror some of the features of their associated racing cars.
The relationship between the watch industry and motorbikes is quite different. You will spot very few watch ads at motor racing circuits or on their drivers’ leathers. The exceptions are TAG Heuer, official sponsor of the FIM World Endurance Championship; Anonimo, partner of Leopard Racing on the Moto3 circuit; and Tissot, official timekeeper of the Moto GP, which counts as ambassadors Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and a solitary Swiss driver, Tom Lüthi.
And yet, watches and motorcycles do make a compelling couple, as several partnerships concluded in recent months testify. But they’re not with the industry-leading Japanese and Italian motorcycle manufacturers. The focus is not on high performance and elite achievement, but on a lifestyle and driving experience that can be brought into everyday life; a taste for escape and freedom, and the values of the gentleman biker. That’s why the motorcycle brands involved are those with a heritage, a history, a culture and a style; those that value craftsmanship, those that speak to watchmakers who pride themselves on championing those very same values. And it’s not by chance that these brands are British and North American.
Indian Motorcycle, Harley-Davidson and Norton
Zenith got the ball rolling in 2016 with its partnership with the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. This charity ride sponsored by Triumph (the 2018 edition will be held on September 30th), which features motorcyclists kitted out in tweeds, bow ties, silk waistcoats and vintage leather pilots’ helmets, celebrates the art of being elegant on a (preferably) customised, retro motorbike. In the same spirit of vintage elegance, Zenith brought out its Heritage Pilot Café Racer model, named after the British motorcycle movement.
Distinguished Gentlemen Ride © Zenith
Baume & Mercier chose Indian Motorcycle, a legendary brand synonymous with style and sporting achievement. Although not so well known as Harley Davidson, Indian shares with the Milwaukee firm a history that dates back to the 1900s (with a slight advantage to Indian, considered the first American motorcycle), the “cruiser” style, and a fiercely competitive urge to be considered the epitome of the rebellious American biker. But Indian Motorcycle also means Burt Munro, who smashed the world speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967, riding his Indian Scout that he had modified himself over the years. Baume & Mercier paid homage to this ideal of passion, courage and determination at the end of 2017 with the Clifton Club Burt Munro Tribute Limited Edition chronograph, a series of 1967 watches inscribed with Munro’s lucky number, 35, and the famous Indian headdress, the emblem of the Indian Motorcycle Company, engraved on the caseback. The Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Limited Edition Scout and the Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Limited Edition Chief, launched this spring and designed in association with Indian’s industrial design team in the United States, are a distillation of Indian’s DNA, and a tribute to Indian’s most famous models.
© Baume & Mercier
Harley Davidson has inspired at least two watchmakers to create two very different motorcycles, which nevertheless share a built-in watch. In 2011, a matt black Harley Davidson Nascafe Racer Bell & Ross, its minimalist design echoing that of Bell & Ross’s watches, was revealed with a BR01 Carbon installed in its central console. This spring, Carl F. Bucherer unveiled the Harley Davidson Blue Edition, which spent 2,500 hours in the hands of a variety of craftsmen, who made and hand-polished its various metallic elements, applied the blue paint and gold plating, and made the calf leather saddle. The jewellery and watchmaking savoir-faire of Bucherer and Carl F. Bucherer can be found in the rings inserted in the handlebars, forks and tank, and a one-of-a-kind Patravi TravelTec II nestled inside a watch safe built into the fuel tank.
Harley-Davidson Nascafe Racer Bell & Ross © Bell & Ross
Harley-Davidson Blue Edition © Carl F. Bucherer
“When you buy a Honda, it’s all about the numbers. How many kilometres between services? How much does it cost? What’s its top speed? But when you buy a Norton, it’s all about the brand, the lifestyle, the pleasure and the driving experience. We are authentic.” Stuart Gardner, owner of Norton since 2008, knows that whoever chooses a Norton is buying into the company’s history, which dates back to 1898, its victories in the Tourist Trophy, and its contribution to the war effort through the thousands of motorcycles supplied to the British army. When Breitling signed a partnership with Norton, it wanted to underline the historical and entrepreneurial values that the two brands share, and the heritage that defines their trajectory towards the future. And, of course, their “cool factor”.
Georges Kern, CEO de Breitling © Breitling
Motorcycling is trendy and cool; it will always be synonymous with independence and freedom. Bikers don’t hesitate to venture off the beaten track, push limits and meet challenges. A cliché? Perhaps, but that’s the message conveyed by IWC in its latest ad featuring Bradley Cooper astride his Triumph – which is not a partner of IWC.
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