A few years ago, we featured an article on Otto Crocker that was published in a 1951 edition of Popular Mechanics. Otto was a watch maker with an intense interest in both time and speed. He began to merge the two passions on his first trip to Bonneville when he pulled out his trusty chronograph that featured a tachymetre (or tachymeter) bezel. Using the scale on his watch bezel, he was able to measure average speed over a mile as the cars raced past him. While doing so, a light went off in Otto’s head and by the time Bonneville rolled around again, Otto was prepared with a state of the art timing system. Speed trails would never be the same again.
Otto’s legacy is undeniable, but his roots in timing can be helpful to all of us. See, watches featuring chronograph movements and tachymetre bezels are still readily available and they are incredibly simple to use. Here’s a how and why:
Crazy Eddie is flying down the highway in his ’32 roadster. The flathead is roaring, the bias plies are crying, and the quick change is gearing. All is just damn perfect in the world except for one thing – Eddie doesn’t have a speedo and he is increasingly curious about his speed. But Crazy Eddie isn’t as slow as all his pals might think – he came equipped with a chronograph watch. As Eddie crosses a mile marker, he hits the start button on the chronograph and holds his speed. As soon as he crosses the next marker, he hits the stop button. The second hand of the chronograph stops while pointing at the “80” on the tachymetre bezel… Crazy Eddie is going 80 mph.
Pretty rad, right? It’s always amazed me that folks don’t wear chronographs more often. Such a simple little device makes an incredibly accurate speedometer for fellas that often find themselves in hot rods that aren’t equipped. I rarely roll without one.
A Side Bar
Like I said, chronograph watches with tachymetre bezels are readily available. You can pick up a super nice Seiko quartz for around $150 or so. Unfortunately for me, however, I have this little obsession for watches that tends to interfere with my own rationality. For years, I’ve searched for a vintage racing style watch that kind of unites my love for racing with my love for time keepers. Tag Heuer makes an automatic in Gulf colors that’s simply gorgeous, but I don’t have multiple thousands to spend. The search continued.
Just last week, I was contacted by a company in England that makes a number of racing inspired watches. Christopher Ward’s Grand Prix series is made up of six watches inspired by six different achievements in racing – including one that pays homage to our own Harry Miller. They are quartz watches and even so, will seem a bit spendy ($380) to those of you not deep in the watch collecting world. However, CW sent me a couple to review on The Gear Journal (full review coming soon over there) and preliminary reports conclude that these are a damned fine value.
Hang with me here… I believe that Christopher Ward’s collection is one short. Our boy Otto needs to be represented with his own Bonneville inspired watch that features a tachymetre formatted for high speeds. Can you imagine how much fun a watch like that would be on the salt? Timing just like Otto did 70 years ago? Christopher, you got your ears on?
Make two versions… one with a quartz movement for the smoes and one with an auto for the freaks. What ya say?