Speed is a natural ally of watches. And the favourite toys of many grown-up boys come in the form of fast motorbikes, cars and aeroplanes, which is a constant source of inspiration for watch brands. Masculine, sporty and very wearable, here is a line-up of some great Father’s Day ideas - five top-notch watches that are all petrol-free thanks to their mechanical movements.
Rolex surprised fans this year with the re-introduction of its Oyster Perpetual Air-King model, a popular aviator’s watch of the 1950s that bears witness to the brand’s historic aeronautical ties. Given their resilient nature, Rolex watches accompanied the 1933 Houston Expedition as it made the first-ever flight over Mount Everest at an altitude of more than 10,000 metres. Although the Air-King has appeared in different guises over the years, the new version comes in a larger 40mm steel case with a black dial, and a combination of hour numerals - with prominent 3, 6 and 9 applied white gold numerals - and minute indications for navigational time readings. The Oyster case of the Air-King is not only water-resistant to 100 metres, but anti-magnetic components in the automatic movement protect it from magnetic fields - a feature associated with pilots’ watches of the past.
There is also a British brand that is mad about aviation. The rugged COSC-chronometer certified Bremont watches are put through hair-raising situations to test their mettle, such as the MB line of pilot’s chronometers that are subjected to the same rigorous testing as Martin-Baker’s lifesaving fighter plane ejection seats. The MBII White watch, tested and designed in conjunction with Martin-Baker, survived the same intensive testing schedule as the seats, including live ejection, vibration, temperature extremes and salt fog, and even features a yellow and black detail on the seconds hand recalling the yellow and black ejection pull handle.
Another brand that has forged its identity in the cockpit of an airplane is Bell & Ross. The BR 03 Desert Type watch is designed to meet the specifications of air forces operating in warm countries, and its cool camouflage sand-coloured dial matches the uniform of pilots deployed on desert missions. Constructed with legibility, functionality, precision and water-resistance in mind, the BR 03-92 Desert Type is equipped with a mechanical automatic movement. Just like on-board instruments in aircraft cockpits, which are screwed into the panel, the 42mm matte black ceramic case features four screws on the corners ensuring the watch is water-resistant to 100 metres. The numbers and indices on the beige dial of these watches for men have been cut away to reveal a lower dial covered with black luminescent coating for visibility in the dark.
If vintage motorbikes are his thing, Zenith’s Heritage Pilot Ton-Up watches are the perfect Father’s Day gifts. Although essentially a pilot’s watch, Zenith explains that the watch was inspired by the Café Racer biker movement born in England in the 1920s, whose riders found ways to maximise the speed of their bikes by stripping them down and racing them at top speed from café to café on motorways. The pared-down utilitarian look of the Pilot Ton-Up is the leitmotif of this watch, which exudes a convincing vintage appeal thanks to the 45mm aged steel case and oversized onion crown - typical of pilot’s watches - and the large Arabic numerals and hands treated with a retro-looking beige luminescent coating. Engine failure can be safely discarded in the case of this watch, which houses Zenith’s legendary El Primero high-frequency chronograph calibre powering a tenth of a second chronograph readings, and is good to go for stretches of 50 hours. In keeping with its nostalgic appeal, these Zenith watches come on an oily green nubuck strap.
Chopard watches and classic motorcar racing are inseparable. Since 1988, Chopard has been the partner and official timekeeper of the legendary Mille Miglia vintage endurance competition, which takes place in Italy every spring. The Mille Miglia GTS Automatic Speed watch revisits the characteristics of classic cars that took part in the race between 1940 and 1957. Black is the predominant colour of this racer and the 43mm stainless steel case is blackened with a DLC treatment, which contrasts with the large white numerals recalling a 1950s dashboard and with the red details on the dial, including the date window with the 1000 Miglia arrow. An in-house engine with COSC-chronometry certification will keep this black beauty purring for 60 hours. The strap, featuring a vintage Dunlop racing tyre tread pattern, gives the final touch to this sports watch, which is a limited edition of 1,000 pieces.