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6 Luxury Sports Watches That Can Take a Licking

Plus, motorcycle adventurer Charley Boorman talks timepieces and adventure travel.

sports watches Charley Boorman wearing a Bremont watch

One of the most memorable, and successful, watch advertising campaigns was the one featuring John Cameron Swayze for Timex. These ads showed Timexes being torture-tested, and at the end Swayze would show the watch was no worse for wear, concluding with, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

Today, most people wouldn’t dream of torturing their luxury sports watches, but the reality is that these watches are tested to extremes so they can be relied upon to survive just about anything they are put through. A high-quality luxury sports watch can take what you dish out, and it is tough and good-looking enough to go from the gym to the office and then out to dinner.

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This versatility is an underappreciated commodity in today’s watch world, as so many watches are specialized for one purpose, but it’s nice to wear a watch that you don’t have to worry about, no matter what you do.

Rolex Sea-Dweller Two-Tone Steel and Yellow Gold, Luxury Sport Watches

Rolex Sea-Dweller Two-Tone Steel and Yellow Gold

You don’t see much yellow gold nowadays, but Rolex rocked the boat by introducing this two-tone beauty at Baselworld. This 43mm Rolesor (a combination of Oystersteel, its stainless-steel product, and yellow gold) timepiece is water resistant to an extreme 1,220 meters (4,000 feet) and features a uni-directional bezel with a Cerachrom insert, with numerals and graduations coated in gold. This watch can truly go anywhere and do anything. $16,050, rolex.com

Breitling Superocean Ironman Limited Edition

When you think of the toughest athletes on the planet, surely Ironman triathletes come to mind. Just introduced by Breitling is the Superocean Ironman Limited Edition, marking Breitling as the official luxury watch of the Ironman. The 44mm automatic watch comes in a stainless-steel case with a black dial boasting the Ironman logo at three o’clock. Water resistant to 1,000 meters, this new Superocean limited edition comes on a red Diver Pro III rubber strap and has “One of 300” engraved on the caseback. $3,950, breitling.com

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Favre-Leuba Sea Sky

Favre-Leuba is a little-known brand, but it is, in fact, Switzerland’s second oldest. For centuries, it has been making tool watches built to survive the real world. The 44mm Sea Sky is a tough chronograph that features either bright orange or bright yellow dials, making it an eye-catching all-around timepiece. $3,300 (rubber strap) to $3,800 (steel bracelet), favre-leuba.com

Carl F. Bucherer Patravi ScubaTec

The combination of black and blue in the ScubaTec is new for summer 2019, and the juxtaposition of the warm gold and the black and ocean blue hues works very well. Water resistant to 500 meters, the 44.6mm Carl F. Bucherer ScubaTec is also a certified chronometer. $23,600 (also available in steel for $6,200), carl-f-bucherer.com

Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600m Diver’s

Grand Seiko is Seiko’s luxury watch arm, and for the first time in its history, Grand Seiko has included a professional diver’s watch in its range. This high-frequency, anti-magnetic automatic timepiece is produced to Grand Seiko’s demanding precision standards (-3 to +5 seconds a day), and its 46.9mm titanium case is designed for saturation diving down to 600 meters. The blue dial version is limited to 500 pieces worldwide, while the black dial is part of Grand Seiko’s collection. $9,600, grand-seiko.com

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatic

The Fifthy Fathoms from Blancpain was one of the first true diving timepieces, introduced in 1953, and recently Blancpain has been using that original as inspiration for new vintage-themed versions. This year, the brand introduced a red gold version with a deep blue ceramic dial. Water resistant to 300 meters, the 45mm watch is powered by an in-house automatic movement with a robust five days of power reserve. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatic is elegant yet tough as nails. $35,800, blancpain.com

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Q&A: Putting Watches to the Test

Charley Boorman wearing a Bremont watch

Legendary British motorcycle aficionado Charley Boorman, an ambassador for Bremont, is preparing his next televised motorcycle adventure with actor Ewan McGregor. First came the series Long Way Round and Long Way Down; this one will be called Long Way Up. In this series, to air on Apple TV in 2020, Boorman and McGregor will start in South America and ride up to Los Angeles.

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In addition to the shows, Boorman has been hosting guided tours of Africa, all the while wearing his Bremont Supermarine watch. Worth caught up with Boorman during his preparations for the upcoming project.

How did the partnership with Bremont start?

The guys at Bremont asked Ewan and I to simply wear their watches, break them in and see what would happen after four months on the back of a motorcycle through all sorts of terrain. They performed admirably, and I love championing a British company.

Why is a watch necessary while doing what you do?

I can’t tell you the importance of keeping an eye on the time when you’re on the road. Whether it’s getting towards the end of the day and you need to find a place to put your tent up or when all sorts of bizarre noises are keeping you awake at night. Knowing when to call home and when to get in touch with your family is so important.

What do you love about what you do?

If you go on a holiday and spend a week on the beach, you don’t remember any individual day, but if you are on a motorbike and you break down and someone helps you, you will remember that for the rest of your life.

When you travel by motorcycle, it’s a completely different experience. You stop in a small village, people are willing to talk to you because you look dusty or cold or dirty. If you were in a car or a bus, people wouldn’t react to you the same way. It’s a unique experience.

The TV shows are about adventure, travel, the experience, being challenged by terrain and culture, to show people that it’s easy to get out there and do it, much easier than people think.

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What do you want people to get out of your adventures?

When I say I am going to Africa, people immediately say how dangerous it is. The idea of the motorcycle tours was to introduce people to Africa, that it’s a great place. People who have come on our trips have gone on to do their own adventures and gone places that they otherwise would not have gone. The media tends to sensationalize things. For example, I went through Iran a couple of years ago and the people were lovely. It was a beautiful country, with incredible food, but no one knows this. The perception is completely different. That’s what I love about going to different countries—you learn that people are just people.

Are you careful with your watch?

No, I just put it on and forget about it. I wear it all the time, even when I am showering. I had a massive crash a few years ago, where I hit a wall and smashed my leg to pieces, and the watch came through with no problems. I’ve had quite a number of big crashes and my Bremont watch is the one thing that has never broken.

Boorman has a number of Bremont watches, but the one he is wearing now is the Supermarine S501 (43mm, water resistant to 500 meters, certified chronometer), which retails for $4,795. bremontwatches.com

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