Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Burt Munro Limited Edition
Please welcome the John Surtees of Swiss watchmaking
Partnerships between watch-making brands and the world of cars are getting more popular by the day; it seems as if there were some sort of a racing for the most original and transversal partnership that could push and broaden a brand’s name beyond the undefined and not-so-clear boundaries of watch-making. The opposite is also true though, since there are cars and motorbikes makers that try their best to partner with watch-making brands, who could somehow improve their brand perception, most of all when they are trying to position themselves within a higher market range.
It seems as if Baume & Mercier were following the “elective affinities” path when it decided to embark on a partnership with Cobra; not a real commercial partnership, but rather a romantic one. The same thing can be said for this year’s partnership that expanded to the world of two wheels. Personally speaking, I would define Baume & Mercier as the "John Surtees" of the watch-making world; the only one, who could boast a credible partnership both with the world of four wheels and the world of two wheels alike, here represented by Cobra’s alter ego; Indian Motorcycles.
What could look like a double partnership aiming at the commercial invasion of the North American market, mainly focuses, in my opinion, on the research and care for details, the unexpected and the very opposite of what could be considered as trivial. The two brands might not be known to everybody, but they are quite popular among the fans of engines, carburettors, legendary enterprises and opinion leaders. These are the people, who prefer engines motors to series productions. The former brand is the “David versus Goliath” from the middle of last century and a defunct “stars and stripes” legend, the latter brand, Indian Motorcycles, is proudly the oldest American motorcycles manufacturer (1901); a company that wrote its own page in the history book of racing, a page that no-one has been able to turn since 1967.
Today, the manufacturer, is ready to write yet more important pages under the protective wing of the Polaris Group that is currently investing a lot of money to take the manufacturer back to the important position where it belongs with the release of its concept version of the FTR1200 Scout Custom (the first flat tracker in the world with a plate and headlights). To this end, Baume & Mercier’s image becomes the functional trampoline to widen the presence of the American brand within Europe.
Starting in 1962, Burt Munro achieved an incredible series of world records, thus making the Indian brand immortal in history and providing additional fame to the legend of the Bonneville salt lake (Ohio). In 2017, his grandchild, Lee Munro, paid tribute to Burt’s record by reaching a speed of almost 200 miles per hour, thus creating an imaginary link with Burt’s achievement; a man, who sadly passed away in 1978, but that inspired thousands of customizers around the world (something that not many people are aware of).
Based on this enterprise, Baume & Mercier crafted a chronograph that firstly represents a tribute to the man and secondly to the mechanic vehicle that made it possible to achieve this world record. It is a three-counter-chrono belonging to the Clifton Club collection, where the continuous seconds counter located at 9 o’clock is a real homage to Burt’s race number plate. The watch also features a black 35 number on a yellow background, the “Munro” writing on the 3 and a mixture of red accents on the embossed small parts and on the two recessed chrono counters at 12 o’clock and at 6 o’clock.
The red colour that you can see here is the Indian red; the same pantone that the American brand uses for its logo and that can be also found on the leather strap with a double stitching and on the hot pressed “phi” logo. Believe me when I say that Baume & Mercier managed to make the softest and most comfortable leather strap ever crafted; the surface finishing seems to come from John Lobb’s workshop. The manufacturer made the right choice when it decided to equip the strap with a pin buckle sporting the brand’s logo rather than with a deployant clasp.
Perhaps it could have been slightly smaller if compared to the size of the Indian logo positioned on the case-back (it is a bit too big, at least for my taste). The dial finishing reminds us of the surface of the Bonneville salt lake, whose colour is a mixture between white and silver and the special superficial roughness is inspired to that of the lake and it makes you wonder how a motorbike could actually dart at a speed of more than 180 mph (184 mph to be more precise; the official record achieved by Burt, which is also appearing on the bezel of the tachometric scale).
From the Ceresio 7 dinner, where Alain Zimmermann (CEO of Baume et Mercier) and Grant Bester (Vice-President/EMEA General Manager of Indian Motorcycles) presented in a world’s preview the first timepiece generated by the collaboration effort between the two companies and also explained what lies behind this partnership, the Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Burt Munro Limited Edition was flown to Eicma to join that same Burt Munro’s vehicle that helped him achieve his world record and also the most beautiful flat tracker in the world; the FTR1200 Scout Custom (a first glimpse of the road version of the AMA championship’s winning flat tracker). Only 1967 samples of the Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Burt Munro Limited Edition are in the pipeline and additional versions will be released mid-January during the SIHH, when I expect the brand to celebrate this partnership with the same intensity shown when it celebrated its successful partnership with Cobra.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®