Torgoen Swiss Watches are primarily pilot's watches. Aviation is at the very heart of the company and underlies every product they make. So when they asked me what watch I wanted to review most, I chose the T18 chronograph, a watch inspired by auto racing. Why, you may ask, did I request an automobile themed watch from an aviation watch company? Two reasons, really. The first is because as loyal Time Bum readers know, I love cars. That part is easy. The second, is because I believe an aviation watch company is particularly well suited to make auto racing watches. That second part will probably take some explanation. Let me start with a story.
Innes Ireland was a Scottish Formula 1 driver in the 1960s, and one of the great personalities of the sport. After he retired from racing, he became an automotive journalist. I came to know of him by reading his coverage of Formula One for Road & Track in the late 1980's. Shortly after his death in 1993, I read this anecdote. The author happened to be covering the Grand Prix of Monaco along with Ireland, and before the start of the race, they stopped for a drink at an establishment overlooking the course. When the waitress brought them plastic cups, Ireland asked her for a proper glass. She told him she could not provide one because of safety concerns. All drinks had to be served in plastic for fear that someone would throw it onto the track. As the story goes, Ireland fixed her in a steely glare and said, "Madam, I was a Formula One pilot. I do not throw glass on the track."
I remember this (I use "remember" loosely. If anyone can direct me to its source, I would be forever grateful.) not only for the passing of real barware at racing events, but for Ireland's emphatic use of the word "pilot" to describe his profession. It is a term used more frequently in England than in America, but it struck me as having for more gravity than "driver." Buses have drivers, trucks have drivers, even horse drawn carriages have drivers, but none of those things comes remotely close to the experience of operating a race car at speed. I have been lucky enough to awkwardly hustle around a track a few times, and let me tell you, when you climb into a purpose built race car, you had better pilot that beast, not just take it for a drive. The folks at Torgoen get this. They have sponsored young drivers in the feeder series for both American IndyCar and European Formula One, and they understand the connections between the disciplines of motor sports and flight. The Swiss made T18 chronograph was inspired by Torgoen's 2012 sponsorship of Team Pelfrey in the US Star Mazda Series (now Pro Mazda), part of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system.
The T18 has an ETA G10.211 4 jewel quartz movement. This is the same robust, highly accurate unit used in the Tissot V8 and other watches by the Swatch Group. It is a two button chronograph with 30 minute and 1/10 second sub-dials and a small seconds register at 6 o'clock. The primary sweep hand operates in the chronograph mode. The pushers operate smoothly and smartly reset the hands. Split time functionality is achieved by simply depressing the lower pusher to stop the first timing and start the second without resetting.
There are several different color variants in the T18 range, with two distinct dial layouts. One uses oversize numerals at 12, 3, 6, and 9 that are cut away by the sub dials, and a colored band from 55 to 15 that resembles a tachometer redline. The other uses smaller, angular numerals and a bar on the small seconds dial, also recalling a dashboard instrument. For this review, Torgoen provided a T18301, with the small numerals and linear style small seconds dial. Although this function looks like a horizontal indicator at first glance, it is actually a conventional dial.
The huge 40mm dial is intricate and multi-layered. A carbon fiber pattern provides the foundation. The 30 minute and 1/10 second sub dials are recessed with applied frames and decorative screw heads that mimic the instruments in a race car. The sub dial indexes are white, and their hands are red needles. A white on black date window sits at 4 o'clock. A white chapter index is printed on an angled ring with cut outs for the four raised orange hour numerals, which appear to float above the dial. The orange skeleton sword hands and orange-tipped second hand complete the effect. The face is dense, yet still highly legible, and all that orange is luminescent. It provides excellent nighttime visibility and looks particularly cool on the skeleton hands.
The case is stainless steel with a matte black ionic coating, which should hold up exceptionally well if my experience with a black model T10 is any guide. It measures 44mm in diameter, excluding crown, crown guards, and pushers, and 14mm thick. Lug-to-lug height is 52mm, the physical limit of my 6.5" wrist. In spite of its size, it wears comfortably, aided in part by the slight curvature of the case, creating an arc that hugs the wrist. It has a flat mineral crystal and a screw-in case back that is polished and etched with the image of a single-prop airplane. The pushers are plain but the crown is textured and decorated with the Torgoen "T".
A tough 24mm polyurethane strap secures the watch. It has curved ends, a raised center, and "TOR" "GOEN" in raised letters on each half. A square 20mm buckle engraved with the Torgoen brand holds it all together. The strap is a little long, but still fits my 6.5" wrist, and was quite comfortable. The supplied strap on the T18301 is black, and a fantastic lurid orange comes on the T18303. The synthetic strap is water and chemical resistant, and thus a good choice for pit lane, but I would opt for one of Torgoen's Italian leather straps with contrasting stitching. For all of the practical advantages of a rubber, latex, or poly strap, I'll take leather every time. One note of warning: the supplied strap is a very snug fit to the case, which looks great, but it makes it difficult to reinstall once it has been removed.
On the wrist, the watch has significant presence, both by virtue of its size and its bold design. It is most definitely a sport watch and it commands attention. For all its detail, it still manages to appear purposeful. The black dial, case and strap keep it grounded, allowing the orange to pop without looking fussy or garish. The black and orange reminds me of the aircraft inspired "cockpit" lighting of a BMW dashboard. Aircraft... Automobile... Aircraft... It all comes back around. The carbon fiber and skeleton hands are just plain fun.
With a suggested retail of $570, it approaches the high end for a quartz, although ETA movements do tend to command a premium. I would also like to see a sapphire crystal at this price point. For comparison, the G10 powered Tissot V8 range runs between $375 - $495, but Time Bum readers know better than to accept full retail without a bit of shopping first, and a cursory search yielded T18s for as little as $265, which makes the watch even more appealing.
If you want a fun, sporty chronograph with a bold, racing style, you would do well to check out the Torgoen T18.
Pro: Fun, functional, well made.
Con: A sapphire crystal would have been nice.
Sum: For racing pilots and racetrack bums alike.