O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches

I do happen to have one other watch aside from my VCs - and it's a brand that watch afficionados seem to hate wink  More on that later.

Just for something different I did a little write up on the nicest genuine sport watches I've come across. Again it was written for non-WIS's , so excuse the basic stuff on the brands etc....  Enjoy..................


I’ve had a couple of people who seem to share my taste in watches ask me where’s my “beater”/sports watch and why don’t I have anything with an automotive flavour , given the interest I take in cars. I do actually have one watch of that type and I thought it might be an interesting discussion , just for something different , to look at some of the sports watches that have caught my eye during my travels and what I ended up buying.   One thing that’s become clear re my taste in watches is that all my high end pieces need to have a sporty element to them. I have no interest at all in delicate dress watches , tend to prefer metals like titanium, DLC or SS and very rarely find a watch I like that doesn’t have a darkish coloured dial. I’ve already discussed how much I like Vacheron Constantin so it’s no surprise that I’ve ended up with their two sportiest watches – the Overseas “Deep Stream” Dual Time and the QDI Date in titanium.   The weird thing is that I have looked at literally hundreds of genuine sports watches and pretty much found nothing that grabs me ........they’re usually too garish and sporty cheeky. I don’t really like Rolex , so they’re out and the same goes for Omega and various other brands. So it turns out my sporty intentions when looking for a watch only extend so far and there really needs to be an element of class, timelessness  (to my eyes anyway). When considering what makes a genuine sports watch , with automotive rather than diving flavour, I’d like to see the following:   - as per usual , sporty metals and plenty of dark colours in the dial +/- bezel - a chrono +/- flyback, rattrapante etc.... but at the very least a nicely functioning chrono - decent water resistance , not to the point of being a diver but 100m would be good - a tachymeter style bezel   It’s interesting how a couple of the genuine higher end Swiss brands have managed (or otherwise) to make a concerted move into the sports watch space, often with an automotive tie up. It was this type of watch that originally generated my interest in high end Swiss watchmaking – my first was the JLC Amvox DBS series but in the end I’ve come to the conclusion that attempts at genuinely sporty watches from high end brands aren’t my thing and are usually a bit of a mess. They’re few and far between but there’s two real contenders that I have considered the most over the years – the JLC Amvox range and one watch from the Blancpain L’Evolution collection, so I thought we might have a look at those first.   1) JLC AMVOX (developed in conjuction with Aston Martin)   Jaeger le Coultre is my second favourite brand of watch behind Vacheron Constantin and also part of the same family housed inside the Richemont Group. JLC are often called the “watchmaker’s watchmaker” and have a great name for developing quality movements/complications that have in the past also been used as “ebauches” by top end brands like Vacheron Constantin , Patek and Audermars Piguet , notably in their Royal Oak. In the past I have viewed them as a technically great company lacking in a bit of personality but in recent times they have changed that and I rate them extremely highly and the best amongst the higher volume high end brands, especially when they produce lower volume variants.   Anyway – it was the Amvox DBS in stainless steel that really got me interested in watches via my interest in cars.
O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches

I have a funny relationship with this watch – even now I can look at it one day and really want one and the next day find it quite underwhelming and way too busy on the dial. Not something I should be buying and thankfully I didn’t. It took me years looking at sports watches to figure out that I don’t really appreciate highly finished, decorative movements on full-on sports watches and that I also don’t like the overly busy dials seen on most of them ..........the conclusion – less is more when it comes to sporty chronos.   There have been a number of series of Amvox and I won’t go into great detail , but here's a very brief summary with a photo of one example in each range:   AMVOX 1 : nice watch but rather bland – don’t like the shape of the hands either which have remained on future models
O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches AMVOX2: Debuted a very interesting chrono activation mechanism via the sapphire crystal rather than a push button and is generally considered the best AMVOX.
O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches
The DBS variant (as shown in the first photo)has a very busy semi open worked dial with some nice guilloche work beneath all the mess. Close but no cigar for me.   AMVOX 3 : GMT function with tourbillion and a big step up in price. I find both the GMT dial and tourbillon’s visibility is poor and , in the end, I fail to reconcile the need for a tourbillon in a sports watch. Some could say that’s the same for any watch , but I think the prestige of a tourbillon is wasted on a pure sports watch. No chrono so really not a sports watch anyway in my eyes.
O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches   AMVOX5: world time watch with a chrono but loses the crystal chrono trigger which upset a few and it has been marked down for that. World time function is the defining characteristic here and does little for me in a sports watch. O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches     A new AMVOX7 has just been released that brings back the special chrono trigger and it’ll likely do well. Still doesn’t quite do it for me.   O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches 2) Blancpain L’Evolution:   Blancpain is another of my favourite brands (no 3) but they’ve become a bit of an enigma after Marc Hayek took over both the Bregeut and Blancpain brands within Swatch – seemingly keeping Bregeut as the classical brand and using Blancpain as the experiemental arm of the Swatch empire’s high end brands. When Blancpain do it well IMHO they’re close to as good as anyone around – they share some of the artistic flair of Vacheron Constantin , are actually even lower volume at around 10,000 watches pa and are capable of some seriously good work. But when they get it wrong it’s usually pretty wrong LOL. Vacheron on the other hand almost never get it wrong , even if it’s not always to my taste.   Most of the L’Evolution watches are a bit of an abomination to me, but I did have my eye on the 560STC for a while – again I’m glad I didn’t get it as it’s another watch that , after an initial “Wow”, faded very quickly. It’s one of the watches designed early in the association with Lamborghini and you can see the outline of the Lambo logo in the date window.
O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches   The back shows some clever work , continuing the theme of the mesh vents and displaying a well finished movement through a sapphire case back.

O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches   In the end I again found this a bit too much – the attraction to the dial quickly faded and the open caseback and nicely finished movement doesn’t really have the same attraction to me as it does on a more classy watch.   At one point I also considered a more formal grand complication watch from Blancpain to kill two birds with one stone – I get my chrono and one of my favourite complications (perpetual calendar moonpahse) all in the one relatively well priced watch.
O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches

In the end I decided against this path , preferring to look for a more dedicated (and much less expensive) watch for daily use and put the pennies saved towards my ultimate grand complication watch , which I’ll keep to myself to avoid competition LOL.       The watches mentioned above are about the only sports watches that I have ever seriously considered up until a few months back and in the end I decided to buy none of them .     In the end I came around to wanting exactly the same in a sports watch (within the above criteria) as what I do in a more formal watch.....understated class with an element of sportiness in the layout and materials. I also came to the conclusion after my struggles with the AMVOX that , when it comes to chronos, less on the dial is more. Thankfully you can get the rare watches that match these criteria relatively cheaply , as the only three examples that grabbed my attention are from what I’d called second or third tier luxury Swiss brands.         So........................tied in 2nd place     Maurice Lacroix Pontos Chronographe: A Swiss up and comer that has been around since the 70’s and produce good quality and decent value for money product as they cannot demand the premium pricing of more established brands. The have recently started producing in house movements in their Masterpiece collection. The Pontos uses the ubiquitous ETA movement that has been the base for most mid tier chronos for ages and it is well tested. I think it’s just a nice classy chrono that meets all my criteria but just missing something intangible. O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches   IWC Top Gun: Simple but classy with a nice ceramic case. Only 60m water resistance and larger than it looks at 46mm dial. Much more expensive  at >$10k but I added it as a bit of an afterthought.  Nice watch but I don't see that the extra value is there.

O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches     And the winner is.................

O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watchesO?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watchesO?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches Tag Heuer 1887 300 SLR (2010): As a rule I don’t like “Tag’s” – not a fan of most all of their designs and view them , for the most part, as rather crudely laid out dials and overpriced. In the end they only produce one watch that really grabs me, but I reckon it’s the classiest genuine sports watch I’ve seen and so I took the plunge. ............and I’ll save the 5 figure discount compared to something like the Blancpain/JLC and put it towards something else.....perhaps a very small down payment on my ultimate watch which won’t likely be on my wrist for many years for both financial and scarcity reasons.   The standard 1887 has a number of differences to a standard Carrera. Firstly the small seconds at 9 o’clock running on a flat dial rather than a recessed sub dial which I think adds to the “less is more” factor of this watch , the tachy is inside rather than outside etc....... but the column wheel chrono movement is the major change. I won’t bother going into detail as you can see the link below for a much better summary than I could provide – the movement actually caused quite a bit of controversy , being hailed as “in house” by Tag Heuer while they forgot to mention that it’s a heavily modified (expensive) Seiko design. In the end 99% of the parts are Swiss made and the few parts supplied by Seiko meet Swiss Made standards , so on a watch of this value I really couldn’t care..it’s a huge step up from the standard Valjoux 7750.   http://www.watchtime.com/reviews/speed-dreamin-testing-tag-heuer-carrera-1887/

O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches   The regular 1887 is a nice enough watch but doesn’t really grab me – it’s the subtle changes seen on the SLR Limited Edition that make all the difference. By the way there was originally meant to be 1860 (to commemorate the year of Heuer’s founding and celebrate 150 years) of these and then 3000 and then finally it became 5000 as demand soared and TAG saw dollar signs. For a “limited edition” with so many out there it seems to be tightly held as not many come up for sale. In the two years it’s been around only a few have appeared on Ebay.     First change is the absence of the Carrera name , even though it’s clearly based on the Carrera 1887. There’s also no “TAG” , just the vintage Heuer logo as a nod to the fact that this is an historic model (harking back the time when the brand was just Heuer) and also as a hat tip to a Heuer Carrera of the mid 1970’s from which some of the colour highlights seem to be based.

O?T - something a bit different - non VC sports watches
Interestingly even the Heuer re-editions have normally had “Tag Heuer” at least on the caseback , so this is quite rare and adds to the exclusivity. The sunburst brown , a colour not available on regular Carreras , also makes a huge difference IMO. To the best of my knowledge the brown calf skin strap is SLR only and a big improvement in comfort and appearance on the fake alligator used on the standard Carreras. The heavy duty engraved Heuer branded clasp is also quite impressive. I also like the way the date is taken from the 3 o’clock position of a standard Carrera and integrated into the 6 o’clock position – again , less is more. If you look carefully the hour markers are flat lume-filled rather than the angled, more formal design on the regular Carreras.   I’m not normally a fan of orange on any part of a watch but here I do like it as it works well with the brown (I hate it with black) and it’s subtle enough to really add to the stunning brown sunburst dial and brings to mind some other racing watches like the Monaco etc..... there’s some nice guilloche work on the sub dials too. I don’t normally go for an old style push button look on the chrono (preferring more a flat streamlined button) but in this case it works and harks back to a very important part of Heuer’s history as a maker of chronographs in the early 1900’s and official time keeper for Olympic Games etc....   The case back lacks the see-through design of the standard 1887 that allows viewing of the automatic mechanical movement which could be seen as a drawback – if it was my only watch it might be a bit disappointing as the 1887 is a decent looking movement but as it is I have a much nicer open backed watch and so I quite like the look of the Stirling Moss Mercedes SLR engraved on the case back. I also like the fact that they didn’t stick Mercedes branding all over the dial .       In the WIS community it’s become de rigeur to look down on Tag Heuer and any praise must be qualified with “even though it’s a TAG” and I’ve fallen for that myself at times . All up thouugh this watch meets all the criteria for a good sports watch and does it in grand style and at a decent price ....... a rare thing........a real “Grand Carrera.”

FWIW I'd never pay full price for a watch like this - mine was purchased "as new" , six months old at a discount of around 40%.   A few stats for those interested : 41mm dial , 50 hr power reserve (40 hr if chrono running), 100m water resistance
sports and dress watches are the most difficult to design! I went
11/19/2012 - 16:02
through more watches than I can remember when looking for a sports watch. My definition of a sports watch is a rather large watch witch something going on the dial or some kind of a tool / diving watch but  nothing I would wear doing sports...not that I do much sports anyway cheeky It was good seeing that you went through the same thought process and don't let anyone say TAG isn't a good brand, they are, I've had my eye on a Monaco with the Gulf dial! Here are some of "sports" watches i bought and sold finally setteling for the Harry Winston Z1 which i luv Bell & Ross BR02 BRM  Corum T Bridge (I still have this one) Graham Swordfish Ikepod Hemipod Jacquet Droz SAW Wyler Geneve Harry Winston Z1
Interesting watches
11/19/2012 - 16:45
Interesting to feature the BR02 today Alex, I just tried one on this weekend at a local AD...unfortunately it simply overpowered my wrist sad.  Lovely watch though and appears very robust.  It was a splash of cold water to visit a bricks and mortar store - very unsatisfying when the sales person didn't know JLC was Jaeger LeCoultre and actually lied about their 2011 Montblanc collection being the most current models available.  That plus the ridiculous security made the entire experience one filled with tension. Too bad about Wyler's demise with their interesting shock-absorbing case.  How did you find the piece?
The Wyler was quite cool, the only issue I have with it
11/19/2012 - 17:18
is that they went out of business when I decided to sell so am stuck with it! However, I've heard they're coming back...
Re: The Wyler was quite cool, the only issue I have with it
11/19/2012 - 17:28
That's when you know that you've made it - when news of you selling a watch is enough to send a company under cheeky
ROTFLMAO :-)
11/19/2012 - 17:39
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Re: sports and dress watches are the most difficult to design! I went
11/19/2012 - 18:23
Gosh, is there any watch that you did not own............ That JD looks really cool, too.
should be Heuer TAG
11/19/2012 - 18:25
Brent, excellent write-up and photo essay yes and looking forward to your future articles!  I'm one that feels my nose wrinkle at the mention of TAG Heuer, but only for the diminishing of  Edouard Heuer (a pioneer in chronograph design) that is implicit whenever someone simply calls the brand "TAG" angry.  I've ranted on the same issue with "Vacheron" as well so nothing new here...