Why not...? Cancer and the Zenith Type 20 Ton Up Distinguished Gentleman's Ride
A tear-jerker of an article written from the heart.
Ohhhh. How can you start an article about a watch, about leisure or fashion with such a horrible word? A lot of readers might just stop right here.
But you should stay with me. It’s a question of life or death…
Cancer spares no one and no watch can protect you from it. I can sense that I now have even fewer readers.
But for those of you still with me, let’s try to look further into it. I’m addressing male readers, because I’m talking about a specific type of cancer – one that kills a lot of men (it’s the third deadliest), that only affects men and that worries men so much that some prefer not to be screened for it. Why? Because the image of this cancer is not linked to a tragic end. And that’s the problem. Prostate cancer affects the most intimate areas of a man. For those who didn’t know, the prostate manufactures sperm (oh yes…) and thus plays a vital role in a man’s sexuality. Furthermore, its proximity to the bladder can also cause nasty side-effects on the latter.
I am basically talking about impotence and incontinence…
I know, it’s tough to be reading this when you thought you would be learning more about a Zenith chronograph.
A number of watch brands like to support good causes. They commit to projects to protect the ocean, the air and the Earth. They take part in highly respectable and charitable events. That’s good. But let’s be clear, it is much easier to talk – or to support – some issues more than others. When it comes to compassion and sponsoring, there is a hierarchy.
I think it’s great to wear a diver’s watch that helps me to support cleaning the oceans. I love the fact that my passion for watches can finance schools, young artists or research into rare diseases. Once again, well done and thank you to all those involved in these projects.
But dare we ask a more disturbing question?
How can a brand use the image of prostate cancer and its devastating effects in a positive way? They would need to have “balls” to dare to do so (and I’m using this image deliberately, so please don’t consider this as machismo).
It was only in 1999 that some courageous Australians started a movement that would upset the world of the prostate. It was the birth of Movember, the solidarity movement that every November talks about the diseases that men don’t want to talk about. Instead of impotence and Viagra, it’s the moustache that becomes trendy.
I remember seeing this movement grow and even being surprised by all the men who started growing a moustache in the office, before shaving it off on 1st December. The idea seemed senseless to me, stupid even.
But we live in a democracy, don’t we? So each to their own.
I ended up reading about Movember, but barely had I started before I was fleeing the subject at the speed of a patient trying to avoid a prostate biopsy (known for being a great moment of pleasure…). Seriously, who wants to talk about a disease that affects old people? I prefer to laugh when people make jokes about people wetting their pants and having “accidents” in bed. It’s funny, isn’t it?
There are, after all, much nicer causes that I could support.
So when watch brands start teaming up with moustachioed males, how do you think I reacted? You can imagine the jokes: “Oh a blue dial, like Viagra!” That’s an easy one, there are much worse. There you go, that’s what I think of the few idiots that grow a moustache and ride on huge motorbikes (I don’t like motorbikes) and try to promote awareness among a few elderly gentlemen. So when I see brands like Maurice Lacroix with their Pontos S Movember, Oris with the 65 Movember and Zenith associate their names with this I think, fine, but that’s not for me.
Julien Tornare (CEO of Zenith) with Mark Hawwa (Founder of the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride) © Zenith
It was November 2014 (don’t laugh) when a doctor told me “you have prostate cancer, and it’s quite advanced”. I was 50 at the time, so quite young for an old man’s disease, especially when the surgeon told me that “it” had been there for at least five years.
So it was a case of fear, surgery, buying nappies, having a catheter running through your body and even those blue pills. Yippee!
Today, all is well, thanks for asking!
But now I know that Movember is genuinely useful, because these guys with their funny moustaches may just save your life one day.
Are you still here?
First of all, a few words about the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR).
It too was born in Australia, in 2012. It soon became a movement for collecting money to combat depression, then prostate cancer. The nice thing about the DGR is that it brings together style, humour, mechanics and a passion for the finer things in life (clothes, motorbikes, watches) and vintage. This all does good and it is a refreshing event, far removed from the – bad – clichés about the diseases it is trying to combat. What is also interesting is that the concept allows brands to use this positive and inclusive image. It is also the great success of the Movember moustache.
Distinguished Gentleman's Ride © Zenith
For the past few years, Zenith has partnered with the event in a very special way, offering five unique piece watches (not available for purchase) to those who raise the most money in Movember on DGR rides organised around the world.
Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith © Zenith
As watch fans, we all know about Zenith. The brand has a great history (it was the watch of Blériot, Gandhi, Roald Amundsen and Maurice Trintignant), a legendary chronograph movement, a brand that everyone loves. It is also a brand that is constantly trying to do more, whether in terms of exceptional technical innovation (the Defy Lab), interesting re-editions (the famous Cronometro Tipo 2 – Cairelli) and inspired and well-targeted collections.
The Heritage Cronometro TIPO CP-2, revival of the Cairelli model from the 1960s © Zenith
The Type 20 Ton Up is one of those watches that appeals thanks as much to its original positioning as its design. It is the foundation for this – very – rare Zenith DGR chronograph.
The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride: you can’t have it…
If you want to strap the Zenith Pilot DGR on your wrist, you need to earn it and be one of the biggest fundraisers in Movember. There will only be a few of these in the world. I sincerely hope you get one. The watch will have a much more significant value than any other.
This particular watch is based on the design of the 2016 Zenith Ton Up.
Pilot Ton Up DGR 2016 © Zenith
It is a pilot’s chronograph with a touch of the Earth and motorbikes. Zenith has succeeded in converting one of its most commercially successful watches. In the Ton Up, the 45mm bicompax chronograph has a case with an aged look, a matching grey dial and a green nubuck strap. Its movement is the venerable and indestructible El Primero.
But where does this Ton Up name come from?
This biker’s pilot’s watch was originally called the “Café Racer”, which referred to the vintage motorbikes of the 1950s and 60s that were modified to reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. The Café name comes from the task of setting off on these customised bikes from outside a cafe, accelerating to 100 miles per hour and returning – alive – to the starting point. Today “Ton Up” means more or less the same thing, in other words riding a motorbike at over 100 miles per hour [Editor’s note: “ton” is a slang word for 100 in British English].
Pilot Ton Up DGR 2017 © Zenith
So much for the “classic” version of this Ton Up DGR.
The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride version is a little different from its older sister from 2016. It has the same bicompax design, 45mm diameter, imposing crown and El Primero. But its colour comes closer to a beautiful aged black, with a matching anthracite dial. The white numerals are imposing and go perfectly with the dark grey and black colour combimnation. The solid hands remain faithful to those of the original Zenith pilot’s watches. And the dial has the DGR logo. Each watch is, of course, numbered (from 1 to 5). The Zenith Type 20 DGR comes with a highly original strap, which has become an identifying signature of these rare watches: it is in gold leather with an embossed DGR logo and a moustachioed biker, in reference to Movember.
Pilot Type 20 Ton Up DGR 2018 © Zenith
So we are dealing with a rare but discreet watch full of meaning. It shows that there is a person with a heart behind the watch. And that’s fantastic.
What does the devil’s advocate think?
The devil loves cancer and hates it when people fight against it. So we could say that he doesn’t like anything at all about this watch, which is precisely why we like it so much.
Coming back to the mortal human point of view, my only niggle is with the gold hands, which would have benefited from a more vintage coating in line with the aged case.
Apart from this small detail, I say “go for it”. Try to win it or instead buy the non-DGR version.
But above all, support Movember. Would you like to make a donation to support me ?
How to wear this Zenith with style?
The easiest way is to adopt the same style as the bikers from the sixties with their refined eccentricity. Nothing is off limits, as long as it is done with taste and with a nod to the past. The moustache and beard are, of course, a plus, and should be added in November.
Who knows, your “life partner” might like it!
So, opt for a chic biker’s jacket (the Locklear by Ralph Lauren Purple Label, or the wiser Randall), a pair of dressy trousers for a contrasting look (why not a cargo version by Daniel Crémieux, but in flannel?), a white shirt and – above all – a waistcoat (I love the ones from Suit Supply, which are both simple and affordable).
Round this off with a pair of Berluti boots from the recent Off the Road collection, or John Lobb Helston in grained dark brown leather.
You’re ready to hit the ton!
But before you do, don’t forget to go for a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test. A blood sample is all that’s needed.
And it saved my life.