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Watches For Action Men

Words by Mr Alex Doak

Mr Jo Siffert sported a white-dial Tag Heuer Autavia at the 1000 Kilometres of Monza, Italy, 1970. Photograph by Rainer W. Schlegelmilch/ Getty Images

Racing drivers, aviators, explorers, bon viveurs, pioneers of politics and industry… Some wear suits, some wear helmets, some wear flame-retardant overalls or a parachute. So what binds these speed fiends and go-getters? They all wear a Swiss watch – its movement a marvel of speed in itself, ticking at a breakneck 28,800 vibrations per hour, the equivalent of a performance car running full pelt, 24 hours a day.

A proper watch is a fail-safe mechanical instrument for a man of action. It can be used to monitor fuel usage at a glance, lap times with a simple push of a button, even double as a compass when the GPS drops out on the side of a mountain.

Given such illustrious users, watches can even become famous in their own right. Omega’s Speedmaster is renowned as the only bit of non-NASA-developed equipment permitted on board any of the agency’s spacecraft. A Rolex Submariner is often found on the wrists of Secret Service agents, not just because it’s arguably the world’s best all-rounder timepiece, but also a pan-culturally recognised commodity, a useful bargaining tool in an emergency.

Then there are those that have become attached to particular heroic personalities. The superstars of the watch world, if you will. Here, we take our look at the dynamic men whose success in the field made the watches they wore truly deserving of the word “icon”. 

Mr Louis Blériot

From left: Mr Louis Blériot crosses the English Channel, 25 July 1909; the Zenith Pilot Type 20 GMT. Photograph PVDE/ Bridgeman Images