Incredible sports watches – Part 1

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July 2011

Sports watches are a huge part of the watch industry. Versatile, rugged and great looking, sports watches are a natural choice for watch buyers – sometimes in addition to other watches (e.g. dress watches, classical timepieces, etc.) and sometimes as a primary timepiece.

For this wrap up of BaselWorld sports watches, we at Europa Star decided to focus on several key brands and what they are doing in sports watches, rather than give you an exhaustive list of all the sports watches presented.
Check out the gallery following this story to see the other new sports watches introduced during the show.

TAG Heuer
One of the highlights of the BaselWorld show, sports watches or otherwise, was the introduction by TAG Heuer of its outstanding Mikrotimer Flying 1000. The first mechanical wrist chronograph to time to 1/100th of a second, the Mikrotimer Flying 1000 was presented as a concept watch. TAG Heuer’s history, however, is to be determined to take the concept watches to market, like the V4.
The Mikrotimer accomplishes this amazing timing feat by using two escapements, one turning at four Herz and the other at 500 Herz. Each of these escapements has its own power source, and the chronograph even eliminates the balance wheel! The Mikrograph from TAG Heuer, introduced in January of this year, was already beating at 50 Herz, so how much harder could going to 500 Herz be?
“It’s not just 10 times more precise, it’s exponential in terms of difficulty,” says Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO, TAG Heuer. “We came to the conclusion that the best way to guarantee the chronometry was to go dual frequency. It’s power on demand. When you don’t need it, you go with the reliable, long lasting movement, and when you need it, you can use the movement moving 125 times faster. It won’t downgrade the performance of the regular timing, which is the case in normal chronographs.”
The result is a chronograph hand that whips around the dial ten times in a second, which is astounding to see. Reading the result in thousands of a second is simple, once you know how to read the dial. The biggest challenge moving forward will be the power reserve – the Mikrograph, at 50 Herz and the chronograph hand going once around the dial in a second, has a power reserve of 90 minutes. With the current working prototype of the Mikrotimer Flying 1000, the power reserve is a few minutes. The goal, in order for it to be a commercial product, is to have the power reserve be around 20 minutes.
“For a watch company, success is earned every day, and we feel we can be successful in the future by capitalizing on our past,” Babin explains. “Our history has allowed us to come up with the new movements easier and faster than others. It has taken close to one century to manage to step up from 50 Herz to 500 Herz and it is a major milestone for the brand. It’s the mission of each generation of management to lay the foundation for the future. We have a very rich history and it’s my repayment to build for the next generation. This is a founding stone. There will be watchmaking after us, so we have to build for them as well.
“We have managed to be the first with 100th of a second, and we are the first with the 1000th of a second,” he continues. “The only two concepts we have not brought to market are the Pendulum and the Mikrotimer Flying 1000, and we are working on both of them now and expect to take them to market. We are working on the solutions, now — it’s more about the materials than the watchmaking.”

Incredible sports watches – Part 1 MIKROTIMER FLYING 1000 by TAG Heuer

Tissot has made an incredible transformation over the last decade, going from a relatively traditional watch company to a cutting edge sports watch brand, one that still has a wide collection of traditional watches.
“It is true that Tissot has placed a focus on sports in recent years with our partnerships in MotoGP, Cycling, Basketball, Ice Hockey and Fencing and this continues with the recent ad-dition of the FIM Superbike World Championship to further our association with motorcycle racing,” says François Thiébaud, Worldwide President, Tissot Watches. “The reason why is really threefold: first, the huge popularity of sport around the world, there are very few events that can bring so many people together regardless of their background as sports. Sports is a unifying force that brings people together both socially and emotionally and we are proud to play a key role in that.
“Secondly, the partnerships that we have in sport are just that, partnerships, we are not a sponsor that simply helps to fund a club or an event, rather, at each of the events we are involved in, we provide a vital service that allows that public to enjoy the show to the full,” he continues. “As the Official Timekeeper of over 600 events worldwide in 2011, we are not only a partner in the sports that we work with, we are a vital part of the machinery providing a valued service to the sport, the athletes and the fans.”
And, finally, the values of the sports that Tissot is involved with mirror the values of the company — precision, performance, innovation and a will to succeed. Being involved in these sports allows Tissot to reinforce this message to sports fans around the world.
In addition, Tissot uses its partnerships and ambassadors to determine exactly what users need. “Through our sports brand ambassadors such as footballer Michael Owen, MotoGP racer Nicky Hayden, racing driver Danica Patrick or basketball player Tony Parker, as a brand we are in permanent contact with sports professionals from the very top echelon of their various sports,” Thiébaud details. “Often their direct feedback is taken into consideration when developing new products, particularly their own signature products. In the world of sports, we are also in permanent communication with professionals from within the sport itself about development and innovation in the sport. This allows us to be innovative in the development of new products for both our timekeeping services and our consumer products and to include new materials and new technologies in our new watches.”
The biggest sports watch introduction for Tissot this year was the Seastar 1000, a professional dive watch water resistant to 1,000 metres. “We expect the watch to be bought and used by diving enthusiasts and professionals,” says Thiébaud. “The Seastar 1000 was in development for around 18 months. The critical parts were the screw-down parts like pushers, crown and caseback but also the implementation of an automatic Helium Escape Valve.”

Incredible sports watches – Part 1 SEASTAR 1000 by Tissot , Danica Patrick

Graff Luxury Watches
On the other end of the spectrum from Tissot is Graff , which specializes in high-end diamond watches, given the brand’s background in gemstones. This year, Graff introduced the ScubaGraff , a serious dive watch.
“Sport watches have always been one of the key concentrations for Graff ,” says Michel Pitteloud, CEO of Graff Luxury Watches. “When the watch division was unveiled three years ago it launched with four categories: Complications, Sport, Dress and Jewelled watches. Sports watches will always be an important component to the watch division. The ScubaGraff was a new challenge in creating an original and limited watch combining a subtle blend of sport and high-tech watch making expertise.
“The strength of the ScubaGraff is that the undeniable aesthetic charm does not detract from the authentically sporting nature of a model designed to do far more than just look good on the wrist,” he continues. “Therefore, the watch will attract both men who will use the diving functions of the watch as well as those looking for a more causal yet technical timepiece to wear.”

Incredible sports watches – Part 1 SCUBAGRAFF by Graff Luxury Watches

Ball Watches
Ball has always been associated with rugged precision, ever since Webb C. Ball developed railroad watches. Today’s Ball Watches are rugged to the extreme, including watches that accompany explorers to the ends of the earth. “Webb C. Ball was quoted as saying his company was based on ‘Accuracy under Adverse Conditions,’ a motto we live by today,” says Jeff Hess, President, Ball USA. “Our watches are not design exercises. Many professionals use our watches for their work. Our watches are used by first responders, divers, explorers and doctors all over the globe.
“Our diver’s watches are a cult hit and almost legendary among some, due to Guillaume Nery and his diving. Our most popular watch is a toss up between Engineer diver watches and Engineer Hydrocarbon,” Hess concludes. New for Basel was the BallEngineer Master II Dive Freefall (pictured here).

Incredible sports watches – Part 1 BALL ENGINEER MASTER II by Ball Watches

Source: Europa Star June - July 2011 Magazine Issue