What makes a watch masculine?
Is it the size? Certain Hollywood leading men might say so.
What about the material? The popularity of heavy-duty titanium and time-worn bronze these days make that a distinct possibility.
How about the complication? I don’t know about you, but debating the virility of a perpetual calendar isn’t a frequent topic in my friend circle.
But what about collaborations, partnerships, and the like? If a watch brand works with Jack Daniels, John Deere, or a different “macho” brand does touting its red-blooded qualifier on the wrist actually help sell watches?
This is a question that I’ve wondered about for years and is one that immediately came to mind when I first heard about the professional relationship between Swiss entry-level watch stalwart Baume & Mercier and the historic, American, chopper-architect Indian Motorcycles. The partnership may seem like it has a niche appeal limited to those who happen to hold an equal affinity for luxury timepieces and old school motorbikes, but it isn’t exactly new territory for Baume & Mercier who, back in 2017, started working with the Carroll Shelby International car brand and produced a line of watches inspired by the legendary Shelby Cobra.
First announced in the August of 2017, Baume & Mercier and Indian Motorcycles released their first watch, the limited edition Clifton Club Burt Munro, in November of that year, and followed it with the release of two limited edition timepieces at SIHH honoring the iconic Chief and Scout motorcycles from the mid-20th century. It was the latter timepiece that I recently received for a hands-on review.
The first thing you notice about the 44 mm Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Scout Limited Edition 10402 is the partially skeletonized opening running vertically down the dial like a snaking crevasse that opened up between 1 and 2 o’clock to 5 and 6 o’clock. This puts the date wheel and gear of the trustworthy Valjoux 7750 movement on full display. The decision to skeletonize only part of the dial is meant to recall the open nature of a motorcycle’s frame which allows a view of the engine.
This approach feels organic given the shared mechanical dynamic between the two brands but I do wonder why the date wheel was chosen to be exposed. It’s not that it isn’t interesting to see the gear connect to the wheel when changing the date via the crown, but when I first received the watch I wondered, what makes this exciting? Upon fiddling with it for a few minutes when the watch first arrived, I wasn’t sure if I would end up paying further attention to it.
The choice to include this partial skeletonization might help answer my opening question. It’s apparent that Baume & Mercier views partnerships with automotive and motorcycle brands as a key metric for growth in the contemporary watch market. That’s absolutely fair. However, by embracing the DNA of Indian Motorcycles over its own brand design codes, the final effect could end up feeling slightly inconsistent with other models like the high-tech Baumatic 5-Day Chronometer also released at this year’s SIHH.
There’s a reason for this. By tapping into the hyper-masculine world of motorsports, Baume & Mercier is endearing itself to a new watch consumer that has already placed a significant amount of sentiment on Indian Motorcycles as a brand or the Shelby Cobra as a car. And, after spending some time with the watch, I have to say that due to the limited edition approach that Baume & Mercier has pursued, I believe this tactic is effective.
So, when I wore the Clifton Club Indian Scout, I couldn’t review it as any simple sport timepiece, rather I had to view it as the embodiment of a certain masculine ideal, as something that is meant to enhance a lifestyle or career built on the back of motorsport instead of a daily wearer or aesthetic complement. In a word, the masculinity of the watch functions as a form of escapism to a time when riding a hot rod across the country was a dream and an Indian Motorcycle provided the key; to that pivotal August day at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967, when daredevil Burt Munro rode his Indian bike to a top speed of 184.087 mph, a record that still stands today.
When viewed in this manner, the off-center horological ravine feels necessary; the creamy counterweight of the seconds hand that forms the “I” of the Indian Motorcycle script is not just appropriate, but required; and the supple calfskin leather strap feels like the sort of luxury that Munro or other high-octane enthusiasts would have indulged in.
Distinguishing the chronograph registers are initials indicating each subdial’s function. Next to the minutes counter at 12 o’clock is an “M”; inside the seconds dial at 9 o’clock, an “S”; and at six o’clock, a small “H” for hours. Both the minutes and hours subdials have a snailed detailing and a subtle fuel gauge motif in the final portion of the register (from 10 to 12 o’clock on the 12-hour subdial and from the 25 to 30-minute mark on the minutes counter).
The final Indian Motorcycle-inspired attribute worth mentioning is one you’ll only have the chance to see once per month. On the 19th of each month, the date window will display “01” in a small subscript next to the actual date as a way to honor the founding year of Indian Motorcycles in 1901. I can’t recall the last time I saw a date window used in such a strategic way, so, in its discreetness, it’s another aesthetic positive.
On the caseback of the stainless steel body is the stamped logo of Indian Motorcycles, while the aforementioned calfskin strap features the simple Baume & Mercier branding. Around the bezel is the customary tachymeter scale given what feels like a new life in this high-speed heritage edition.
All of these small — and large — characteristics working together end up creating a watch that is not only a playful ode to the motorcycle brand that captivated generations in the 20th century but also a unique timepiece that wears its intent on its sleeve. Will this be a watch for everyone? No, and that’s not the point. But for the kind of person who grew up with the roar of an Indian Motorcycle and was long held captive by the thrill of racing and the smell of rubber on cement, there might not be a more appropriate watch.
The Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Scout is limited to 1,901 pieces in tribute to the brand’s founding year and is available now with a price of $3,900.