Some watches and in particular diver’s, pilot’s and motor racing driver’s watches have highly specific features whose initial purpose was linked to the function of the watch but which, over time, have become true signifiers enabling the timepiece to be recognised. Here are a few examples.
With the Fifty Fathoms, Blancpain invented the modern diver’s watch. This watch already had a unidirectional rotating bezel, luminescent indexes, a self-winding and anti-magnetic movement and was water-resistant to 50 fathoms (around 100 metres). All those criteria are the foundation of ISO standard 6425 which defines the diver’s watch today. The Rolex Submariner is another archetypal diver’s watch: water-resistance, uncluttered dial, luminescent indications, chronometer accuracy, rotating bezel and robust design in steel.
The Carrera for its part is an archetypal chronograph. Jack Heuer, its creator, wanted it to be perfectly readable. The 1/5th of a second scale is printed on the dial periphery. The tachymeter is not placed in the centre of the dial as was the case with many chronographs in the 1940s and 1950s, but instead on a graduated ring above the indexes. The dial looks larger and “cleaner”.
Launched in 1952 to accompany the boom in commercial and leisure aviation, the Breitling Navitimer features a circular slide rule enabling all the operations associated with air navigation to be effected. This timepiece is a valuable supplement to the flight instruments.
Created by Rolex in 2007, the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II incorporates a countdown which is programmable – with a mechanical memory – and features “on-the-fly” synchronisation. These functions are an ideal response to the skipper’s need for precision in the crucial regatta start phase. They are assured by a self-winding mechanical chronograph movement comprising some 360 components. Countdown programming, for between 10 and 1 minutes, is activated and then locked by the rotating bezel. The all-new interaction between this case element and the movement illustrates the technical creativity deployed to permit particularly simple use.
The T-Touch Connect Solar from Tissot is the latest development in the T-Touch line. No fewer than 35 patents were filed when it was designed. In standalone mode, it runs almost indefinitely; in connected mode, it can run for up to six months, depending on how it is used and its exposure to sunlight. The Sw-ALPS operating system, the result of a collaboration between the Swatch Group and the CSEM, can interact with smartphones via a Bluetooth chip linked to a dedicated app. Other models feature specific functions. The Exospace B55 from Breitling has functions designed for pilots and navigators. The SwatchPAY! allows the wearer to make contactless payments, while the Smartwatch Vitality from Frédérique Constant measures your heart rate.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional occupies a special place in the history of space exploration, since it is the only piece of equipment to have been used on all of NASA’s manned space flights, from the Gemini project to the current International Space Station programme. In 1964, NASA contacted watch manufacturers with the aim of producing a “highly robust and accurate timepiece, which could be used as an essential tool by the teams on the Gemini and Apollo missions”. The Speedmaster was selected in 1965, after a series of rigorous tests. On 21 July 1969, during the Apollo XI mission, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon for the first time, with an Omega Speedmaster Professional on his wrist.