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The Sporting Time

Swiss sports watches are high-performance timepieces
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Bacon, May/Jun 00

(continued from page 1)

Besides fashioning submersibles for would-be Jacques Cousteaus, Oris is reaching new heights with its automatic, retro-looking BC3 pilot's watches. Inspired by the Big Crown mechanicals that American airmen used in the Second World War to set the time in the numbing cold over the English Channel, BC3s are equipped with sturdy ETA-calibre 2836.2 movements, scratchproof sapphire crystals, day and date display windows, and white or black dials with illuminated hands.  

Oris Worldtimers, particularly the 18-carat rose-gold Jules Verne with two separately adjustable time indicators and an automatic date corrector, also celebrate a heroic spirit. Designed to prevent the date error that almost doomed Phileas Fogg's 80-day around-the-world quest, this 30-jewel limited-edition watch measures the hour in two time zones and automatically switches the date backwards or forwards when the watch is adjusted to local time. A must for globe-trotting travelers, the Classic Worldtimers are fitted with anti-reflex sapphire crystals, stainless steel skeleton screw backs, and secure metal bracelets or leather straps.  

From black-dialed chronographs offering speed and distance timers, to Radius watches symbolizing the sun and automatic 27-jewel chronometers that are certified for accuracy by a Swiss testing institute, Oris offers additional unique pieces.  

Two of the most notable Oris watches are the new Full Steel Pointer Day and Big Crown Original, one of the company's oldest models. Sized at 39.50 millimeters in diameter, the black- or white-dialed Pointer Day features an easy-to-read date window, is water-resistant to 100 meters, and indicates the day of the week with a red center hand. Oris's technical accomplishments are further dramatized by a transparent glass back, which provides a view of the movement and its hand-finished components.  

The Pointer's sister piece, the Big Crown Original, is equally Hi-Mech. Similar in looks to a classic aviator's watch, this stainless steel piece in two men's sizes (36- or 44.5-millimeter case) is powered by an ETA-based movement. It displays hours, minutes and seconds and employs a distinctive pitchfork-shaped hand, which points to one of the 31 numerals marking the date.  

Like Oris, TAG Heuer produces high-tech shock- and scratch-resistant sports watches for the active person. The product of a 1985 merger that connected then 125-year-old Heuer to the TAG (Techniques d' Avant-Garde) Group, this legendary Swiss brand is celebrating its self-described "alliance between tradition and innovation" with classic as well as imaginative futuristic designs.  

The $2,000 Kirium Ti5 with an eight-year lithium battery pays homage to motor racing. Long employed as the official timekeeper of Formula 1 and Olympic sporting events, TAG Heuer designed this grade-5 titanium piece to be far stronger than steel, yet lightweight. The high-tech carbon fiber dial accentuates the polished case, and the watch has a glare-proof sapphire crystal, a unidirectional bezel and a supple, vulcanized, black rubber strap.  

"We wanted to showcase our technological mastery in the ultimate modern sports watch, a model that defied time with very fluid lines," says Michael Fankhauser, TAG Heuer USA's vice president of marketing. "That was a challenge, since we had used titanium as early as 1985, but [because we were] unable to refine the polishing process, the metal looked too grainy. Now this grade-5 [titanium and vanadium] alloy allows us to offer a watch that shines like platinum and is highly comfortable to wear."  

TAG is also renowned for its modern and stylistic Link collection. Meant to symbolize the link between ideas, determination, strength and human endeavor, these quartz and automatic watches feature angled S-shaped bracelets; oversized "sword" hands; black, white, blue or slate gray dials; and serrated unidirectional bezels. The most notable Link watch is an ergonomically advanced chronometer (designed to maximize productivity by reducing the wearer's fatigue and discomfort) with an ETA movement that sells for $2,395. The water-resistant (to 200 meters) Ti5 is a logical extension of the Link collection.  

The Link watches were designed by Eddy Schopfer, the artist who also engineered the specifications for TAG's S/el line. The S/el models--automatic chronographs, certified-for-accuracy chronometers and quartz chronographs designed to measure tenths of a second--are being replaced by modern Link versions. Bimetallic S/els that were once showcased in stainless steel and gold plating will now consist of steel and solid gold. Whether it's an automatic chronograph, the quartz 1/10th version with small second, 30-minute and 12-hour registers, or any other time-ennobling Link, Fankhauser says "these pieces will be fashionably heavier and larger than their S/el predecessors."  


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