What is it that makes something a classic? Is it quality, design, being feature-rich—or is it something else entirely, something intangible, indescribable perhaps? We try to solve this seemingly unanswerable conundrum by pairing what we think are three future classic chronographs with three current classic cars, to see if the marriage of speed and time, old and new, can reveal something about what makes a watch a true legend of the ages. There’s no telling what the answer might be, and there’s always the distinct possibility that if we do find out, we’ll bottle it up and sell it for millions and not tell you anyway. We’ll see.
When you think of Aston Martin, your mind is immediately drawn to a picture of swooping lines, elegant curves and classic James Bond-esque style, but, like the Breitling Transocean we have here, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is less of a suave Sean Connery and more of a chiselled-from-rock Daniel Craig. Timothy Dalton, arguably the closest Bond to Ian Fleming’s original writings, actually drove a V8 Volante in The Living Daylights. It’s a muscle car, through and through, a standout motor that talks with its fists in an otherwise refined and sophisticated stable. By all rights it should be a monstrosity, the child nobody mentions that lives in the attic, but its brutish charm is appealing—very appealing indeed.
Perhaps that goes some way to explaining why Breitling’s Transocean Chronograph is such an attractive proposition. It’s no secret that Breitling makes big, shiny watches, oftentimes ones that sail very wide of the mark, but the Transocean seems to carry enough style in its lumpen 43mm polished steel case to pull it off. Like Daniel Craig, like Aston Martin’s V8 Vantage, the bruiser exterior is graced with just the right proportions, just the right detailing, enough to make what should by all rights be a mess into something wonderful. And the best part of the V8 Vantage—the sonorous 5.3-litre V8—is analogous to the Calibre 01, Breitling’s in-house chronograph movement, built from the ground up. The ingredients are there—could it become a future classic? We think so.
Watch Spec | Breitling Transocean Chronograph AB0152
Case: Stainless steel Dimensions: 43mm Crystal: Synthetic sapphire Water Resistance: 100m Frequency: 28,800vph Movement: Calibre 01, automatic Power Reserve: 70 hours Strap: Leather Functions: Time, date, chronograph RRP: £5,650
Nothing says classic Americana quite like a Ford Mustang. Released in 1964, it was a masterstroke, combining a family compact body with a thundering V8 in one affordable package that looked, sounded and went in a way that made it an unbelievable success, selling the forecasted annual amount in just three months. And it’s still popular today, a pop-culture icon linked to style legends like Steve McQueen and Jim Morrison. As far as celebrity endorsements go, they don't come better than that. So what more befitting a watch of potential classic status to pair with the already classic Mustang than Cartier’s Roadster. An odd choice, perhaps—or is it?
A lot of what made the Mustang the legend it is today comes from the purposeful shape Ford blessed it with. Fifties American cars like the Cadillac Eldorado had a supreme sleekness about them, but also a cumbersome bulk, unlike the lithe roadsters being imported in from Europe. The Mustang changed that, keeping the swooping lines of the previous decade’s Cadillacs while adding a taught muscularity that took the fight straight to the Maseratis, Porsches and Ferraris of the time. The Cartier Roadster captures that aesthetic perfectly, right down to the headlight-like screws at the top and bottom. The dial clearly imbues the retro dash of the Mustang, too, bulbous and unsubtle, but in a completely charming way. It’s a watch that stands out for being bold and different, yet it doesn’t feel at any point like it’s trying too hard.
Watch Spec | Cartier Roadster W62020X6
Case: Stainless steel Dimensions: 40mm Crystal: Synthetic sapphire Water Resistance: 100m Frequency: 28,800vph Movement: Caliber 8510, based on ETA 2824, automatic Power Reserve: 42 hours Strap: Stainless steel Functions: Time, date, chronograph RRP: £6,825
A hero among heroes in the automobile world is Jaguar’s elongated E-Type, a car that really needs no introduction. There’s elegant, lustrous, curvy—and then there’s the E-Type. It’s a hard car to fault, at least for the way it looks, and its cult status is more than deserved. With true racing pedigree, a proper V12 engine and a bonnet bulge that makes nuns blush, it’s the perfect recipe for a classic—and a classic it is. It’s all just so effortless; it’s unsurprising that The Daily Telegraph named it the most beautiful car of all time. It’s hard to disagree with that.
Finding a watch to match such class wasn’t easy, but we think we’ve done it. It had to be something simple, something beautifully restrained. We think that watch is the IWC Portuguese Chronograph. It’s a watch that is stripped back, yet wants for nothing. There are no extraneous flourishes to hide behind here; it’s simply beautiful design, pure and unadulterated. Like the E-Type, it makes your heart ache merely to look at it. The Breitling and the Cartier, like the Aston Martin and the Mustang, they’re classics alright, and we think of them fondly, but this pairing—it’s a league ahead. And that’s what we think makes a classic a true classic: it’s not what you can write down about it on paper, the facts and the figures, it’s the way it makes you feel. It has to make you want to own it forever. How is that achieved? That will always remain a mystery.
Watch Spec | IWC Portuguese Chronograph IW371446
Case: Stainless steel Dimensions: 40.9mm Crystal: Synthetic sapphire Water Resistance: 30m Frequency: 28,800vph Movement: Calibre 79350, based on ETA 7750, automatic Power Reserve: 44 hours Strap: Leather Functions: Time, chronograph RRP: £5,900
With thanks to the Classic Car Club for the loan of the cars. For more information, please visit classiccarclub.co.uk. For more on classic cars, catch The Classic Car Show, sponsored by Watchfinder, on Channel 5, Thursday nights at 7pm.