When I think of Baume & Mercier’s Clifton collection and motorsports, the Clifton Club Shelby Cobra immediately comes to mind. But earlier this year, the Swiss brand announced yet another partnership, this time with Indian Motorcycle. Founded by George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom, Indian Motorcycle earned its stripes with its newfangled gasoline engine-powered bikes at the turn of the twentieth century. Since those earliest days, motorcycles—essentially engine-driven bicycles—were considered the domain of thrill seekers and daredevils. And they drew the enthusiasm of likeminded individuals interested in riding or racing them to new speed records and a culture all its own.
New Zealand motorcycle racer Burt Munro, famous for setting an under-1,000 cc world record in 1967 at the Bonneville Salt Flats at the age of 68, knew the potential of the Indian motorcycle he purchased in 1926. After modifying and tweaking it for the next decades, he took the bike to the Flats where he set a record speed of 183.59mph, which was later corrected to 184.087mph—a record that still stands today.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of this feat, Baume & Mercier designed a Clifton Club Indian Burt Munro Tribute limited edition timepiece. The 44mm polished stainless steel chronograph, powered by an automatic movement, features a number of details that commemorate Munro and his achievements. The large, yellow number 35, Munro’s lucky number, is boldly evident on the chronograph seconds counter. The Indian Red calfskin strap is reminiscent of the shade identified with the Indian Motorcycle company (as well as the color of the Munro Special—the bike that Munro modified).
The silver-colored dial, sandblasted and snailed, is designed to recall the surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats, and the counterbalance of the chronograph seconds hand is the letter “I” for Indian, as seen on the brand logo. There’s a tachymeter scale on the fixed bezel, with the record 184 mph highlighted in gray, and the closed back of the watch is decorated with an engraving of the Indian Headdress motif of the motorcycle company, along with the number of the limited edition. The date is at 6 o’clock. There are 1,967 pieces in the edition, commemorating the year in which Munro set his record.
But the story doesn’t end there. The Indian Motorcycle team returned to Bonneville last August with Munro’s cousin’s grandson, Lee Munro, destined to ride a modern-day Indian Scout bike that was sponsored and supported by Baume & Mercier. At the 69th Bonneville Speed Week, Lee and the team achieved 191 mph, nearly reaching the milestone 200mph.
The Clifton Club Indian Burt Munro Tribute watches are making their debut at the EICMA, the motorcycle show held in Milan, Italy, November 7 to 12. The watches will be available for pre-sale at Baume & Mercier’s e-commerce site: http://www.baume-et-mercier.com/en-us/clifton-club-indian-10404.html. Price: $3,750