In the past, the development of watches has always been driven by function and purpose. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. For example, historians point to World War I, and the rigours of trench warfare, as a flashpoint for the modern wristwatch. Consider the Hamilton Khaki. However, we can trace this nexus all the way through the twentieth century to today. We owe the very specific provisions of Fliegers to five German manufacturers who responded to the demands of the Imperial Air Ministry during WWII. The genesis of recreational SCUBA gave rise to dive watches in the 50s and 60s. And while the chronograph can be traced back to King Louis the XVIII and his penchant for the horse-track, it is arguably our modern need for speed that popularized the racing watch.
Indeed, few instruments in the horological world seem as married to each other as watches and cars. War may have given birth to the wristwatch as we know it, but racing made it cool.
Think Steve McQueen and the TAG Heuer Monaco, or Paul Newman and the Rolex Daytona. The Omega Speedmaster may have gone to the moon in 1969, but it was first designed as a racing watch in 1957.
While many racing watches are chronographs, employing pushers and multiple subdials, others avail themselves of a single register and tachymeter—such as the popular Seiko 6139 (the “other” moonwatch) released in 1969. More contemporary references stretch the definition, like the Bremont Jaguar MK1 and its innovative rev-counter dial.
Enter the Aevum Advance Carbon, a racing watch of a different breed.
Designer and brand-owner, Bryan Farquharson, has been a mechanic for more than a decade–first with Toyota, and later with Mercedes-Benz/AMG. He’s been a drag racer and a circuit racer. On the side, since 2011, he’s also been crafting unique leather watchbands as a hobbyist. Now he can officially add watchmaker to that list of accomplishments.
To be sure, Farquharson is a car-lover and a gearhead. But it’s clear he’s a watch nut, as well.
In 2017, with a small group of backers, Farquharson melded his two loves and launched the Aevum Apex First Lap—a watch inspired by his own 1986 Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-Apex Panda. Racing aficionados will also know that the “apex line” is the fastest way to enter and leave a corner. The production run for both dial variations of the Apex was a mere 50 exemplars.
In 2019, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Aevum released its second automotive-inspired watch, the Advance. The Carbon Limited is the latest in this new series and maintains all of the automotive references of the original Advance. Its name refers to ignition timing, or the moment a spark plug fires during its compression stroke to provide more power. Rather than a tachymeter, the chapter ring designates cam timing degrees. Above the twelve, you have a Top Dead Centre indicator. Below the six, there is an indicator for Bottom Dead Centre. Even the crown has been machined to appear like a cam gear, and there is a lumed timing pip positioned on the bezel at three.
The Carbon Limited does, however, retune the standard Advance with a heavy dose of racing appeal. Updates include applied and polished indices with matching, over-sized numerals at six and twelve, and a circular date window at the three position. The hands, as well, take on a leaner look like the batons of an instrument panel. But by far the most impressive upgrade is the carbon fibre dial. At certain angles, the three-dimensional checkering appears almost holographic and acts as the perfect matte backdrop to the tasteful printing done in alternating tones of yellow and white.
Aside from its automotive design cues, the Advance Carbon Limited is rendered in 316L stainless steel with a double gasket, screwed down crown, providing 200m of water resistance. There is a mix of horizontal and vertical brushing which dominates the case, but there is also a tasteful polished line between the bezel and the cushion which sets it off. The case is capped on both sides with flat AR-treated sapphire crystal. Its exhibition caseback lifts the hood on its engine, which is a Seiko NH35 with an engraved rotor. The Carbon Limited also uses a generous application of BGW9 Super-Luminova on its hands, numerals, and indices.
|Case||Ion-plated, 316L Stainless Steel|
48mm Lug to Lug
200m Water Resistance (screwed-down crown)
40 Hour Power Reserve
|Crystal & Dial||Flat AR Sapphire|
Carbon Fibre Dial w/date
|Straps||Handmade Leather Strap|
The build quality of this watch is impressive. At the price point this will retail for, you would not expect this level of finishing or rugged construction. So, it’s hard to complain. But the recessed crown does take some finessing, particularly as you try to screw it back down between the pronounced guards. You wouldn’t want to make a mistake and then take it for a swim.
Farquharson has put his impressive leather crafting skills to work on a bespoke strap that accompanies the watch. He cuts the bands from double shoulder hide, dyes, stamps, and stitches them himself. Fashioned in Belgian leather, the handmade strap is embossed in the pattern of a tire tread and is available in two colours. Here it has been rendered in “distressed asphalt.” I would be hard-pressed to come up with another strap that is this supple and still at least 3mm thick. It is hand stitched at the lugs and at the back of its wide keeper, which is also embossed with a unique valve overlap logo. And the broad, brushed buckle is signed with the brand’s shield logo to match the dial and the rotor. In all, it is an impressive addition to the watch’s automotive styling.
The watch also comes with a hard-shell carbon-look EVA carrying case, an additional nylon strap, a strap-removal tool, and a carbon fibre card proclaiming its two-year warranty.
You don’t have to be a gearhead, or even understand what a camshaft is, to appreciate this watch. I don’t think many people who wear chronographs know how to use a tachymeter, and I bet they don’t often touch the pushers, either. This watch is just plain cool. It makes me want to hang out at the Speedway and flash it around. Of course, unearthing its various Easter eggs does make it infinitely more interesting. You can’t help but appreciate the thoughtful design. I can only imagine, that among car enthusiasts, this watch would be like a secret handshake.
On a more practical level, this is one tough beater with stainless steel construction, sapphire crystal, and a screwed-down crown providing 200m of water resistance. The NH35 is a trusted movement and the quality of its custom-made strap is icing on the cake.
The version pictured here is a prototype and the final product (available at the end of the month) may see a few alterations in packaging. There is even talk of a bracelet. Nonetheless, the Advance Carbon is set to retail for $390CAD ($305USD). This is a bargain by any standard.
However, if you’ve been paying attention, you might ask, “But what’s its function? Why all that preamble about history and ‘purpose’?” And that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t need one anymore. Today, soldiers wear G-Shocks, divers use dive-computers, and races are timed to the millisecond with sophisticated telemetric sensors. We no longer require automatic watches for these things. Heck, we can even get the time from our phones. We wear automatic watches, because similarly to a vintage sports car, they provide us with a little Steve McQueen–like the Aevum Advance Carbon.
Visit the brand’s website for more information and a finalized release date.