Cycer Perpetual


A White Paper
on the subject of a
Luxury Mechanical Sport Watch
for Cyclists and Cyclotourists

by David Axel Kurtz


There are timepieces specialized to all sorts of pursuits and professions. There are doctor’s watches idealized for taking heartbeats. There are watches for engineers and scientists which are hardened to magnetic fields. There are adventurer’s watches which are designed to be visible at night, or in Arctic white-outs, or in lightless caves. There are pilot’s watches designed to handle low pressures and diver’s watches designed to handle high. There are world-timer watches for those who travel – commercial pilot’s watches which are keyed to airport codes, merchant marine watches keyed to different ports. There are chronographs for timing stock-car races. There are grand complications for the astronomer who has everything.

There is no equivalent watch for cyclists.

I’ll start by outlining the potential demand for a luxury mechanical cycling watch, and then discuss issues related to its design. But let me say that I am part of that demand. I would like there to be a watch which is to bicycling what the Submariner is to diving. If someone made that watch, I would buy it.



The likely purchasers of a luxury mechanical cycling watch are as follows:

1] Passionate cyclists of means.

There are many sorts of cyclist in this category: The Cambridge techie who bikes to work every day; the Silicon Valley whiz kid who mountain bikes all weekend long; the Manhattan lawyer whose velo club races on the Hudson River Greenway on Saturday mornings; the small-town doctor who goes on a ride every morning; the semi-retired consultant who takes their spouse on guided cycling getaways; the senior who wants to be healthy or be sociable; and the ever-so-popular Trustafarian.

To determine if a person is a potential customer for a luxury mechanical cycling watch, I might suggest a ratio of bike value to watch value. Anyone who owns a bicycle that costs as much as a Rolex is guaranteed to be a potential customer for a luxury mechanical cycling watch. Anyone who owns bicycles whose aggregate value is equal to that amount is a likely customer. Anyone who owns one bicycle of even a good fraction of that value is a likely customer, as high-end bicycles suffer almost universally from planned obsolescence; investment-grade watches do not, and thus merit more significant investment.

It is difficult to determine the size of this population. The industry only releases so much data. Is it in the hundreds of thousands? Certainly. Millions? Across the world: most probably. Is it growing? Absolutely.

At the very least, it can be guaranteed that it is larger than the combined number of wealthy divers, fliers, sailors, car-racers, mountaineers, spelunkers, and explorers – that is, the notional target of sport-watches.

Members of this group are highly likely to purchase a mechanical cycling watch: 1) for practical purposes; 2) to advertise their passion; 3) because they were going to be buying a wristwatch anyway.

2] Passionate cyclists without means.

These are people who are known to be dedicated to bicycling, but would not have the disposable income to acquire a mechanical wristwatch. This group presents an excellent opportunity for non-cyclists of means to purchase them a mechanical cycling watch as a gift – including spouses and parents and grandparents, particularly to celebrate accomplishments, weddings, or anniversaries. I cannot imagine what percentage of means-limited cyclists have means-advantaged relatives, but given the popularity of cycling among the children of the wealthy, I must think that this population is not small at all.

3] Professional cyclists.

This means, almost exclusively, cycling racers. This is a group of people who are pathologically obsessed with reducing their weights. Non-essential equipment will never be suffered by a pro racer. As a result, it will be difficult to get them to wear cycling watches during competitions – not just as consumers, but even as spokespersons.

(I am reminded of the story of an Italian racer whose mechanic removed two of the three pins from the inside of the wheel hub, hoping thus to save 6-8 grams of total weight. This lead to the catastrophic implosion of the hubs mid-race, and the failure and the injury of the cyclist.)

However, a “pro racer” watch could be designed for racers to wear everywhere but on the course. It’s the watch that gets you to the race on time, it’s the watch that lets you time your warmups and practice laps, it’s the watch that lets you keep track of your home time zone so you can call your family after you’ve taken the yellow jersey for the day. In that circumstance, the issue of weight would be surmountable.

4] Casual tourists.

These are people who enjoy taking overnight cycling trips, going on week-long cycling tours (guided or self-guided), or who aspire to one large bicycle tour as a once-in-a-lifetime event.

A casual tourist is likely to consider the purchase of a luxury mechanical cycling watch in three situations. One, before they have gone on their Big Tour, as an aspirational purchase; two, after they have gone on their Big Tour, as a memento or boast thereof; three, if they decide that they shall make a regular hobby of touring, and thus consider it a good investment or a justified representation of a lifestyle.

Casual tourists are excellent targets to receive such a watch as a gift – either before the tour, as part of their equipage; or after the tour, as a keepsake and celebration.

5] Permanent tourists.

A permanent tourist is one who spends much, or even all of their time, living off of their bicycle.

The majority of permanent tourists are people not substantively distinct from the homeless. They would never be able to purchase a luxury mechanical watch; if they had such means, they would use the money to purchase Ramen noodles instead. In my experience, the type is unlikely to receive gifts in any form but direct support of the lifestyle.

However, a sizable minority of permanent tourists are retirees of some means. This includes younger retirees, from technology fields or the professions, who have left the rat-race to ride perpetually into the sunset. These people are far less means-limited. These people tend to have regular income, as from pension or investments, and also almost negligible overhead, as many of them do not keep a home or else rent or sublet during the touring season.

This sizable minority is highly likely to consider an investment-grade wristwatch designed for their exact lifestyle. This doubly so if they are not yet retired, and only aspire to become permanent tourists.

5] Others.

The modern watch is the sport-watch. This is mostly Rolex’ fault, but they achieved this by supplying timepieces to suit people’s passions and professions: the diver (Subby, Sea-Dweller, Deepsea); the flier (Sky-Dweller, Air King); the sailor (Yachtmaster I and II); the adventurer (Explorer I and II); the racecar driver (Daytona); the engineer and scientist (Milgauss); the businessman and jet-setter (GMT-Master). The Oyster was popularized by the swimming of the English channel; the Explorer by conquering Everest; the Deepsea by the exploration of the Challenger Deep; the Daytona by its eponym as well as Monaco and Le Mans.

And yet, the vast majority of these watches are worn by people who have little or no association with any of these sports or skills. Their reputations, and associations, trickle down.

The same will be true for a cyclist’s watch.


The creation of such a watch by a respected watchmaking house would cause a sensation in the cycling and cyclotouring communities.

To receive a positive reaction, the watch would have to impress these communities as being very specifically designed for their needs. This will include rigorous testing in the laboratory and in the field. Anything less will be roundly dismissed by the community.

The watches should also be endorsed by members of the community – that is, all the groups identified above.




The watch must display hours, minutes, and seconds.

Hacking seconds are necessary. Leaping seconds are not important.

For racers: it might be more appropriate to have small seconds in a subdial, probably at 3 o’clock. This would allow them to focus their attention on it alone – for when the race is down to the seconds, or for calculating cadence and then keeping it.

For tourists: day and date are important – day even more than date, to anticipate things being closed on weekends.


The watch could be hand-wound or automatic – so long as the cadence of cycling is sufficient to keep it wound. This might be affected by considerations of how the watch is worn (see Angle below).


A cyclist’s watch must have a minimum power supply of 28 hours – one full day’s ride and full night’s sleep, with margin. Anything more is inconsequential.


The watch should be large enough for the face to be seen plainly while riding. It should not be too large to be unfashionable.

Most likely the watch should have two sizes: a “standard” at 42mm or 44mm; a “small” at 36mm. This dichotomy should be kept gender-free, both to reflect the standards of the cycling community, and also because the smaller watch might be preferred by male cyclists for its weight.


Whether the watch is as short as an Altiplano, or high as a Luminor, is not really important.


A paramount concern in a cycling watch is its weight.

For a racer, it is the paramount concern. However, for a tourist, a mountain-biker, and a casual rider, weight must be measured against durability. And for a non-cyclist, it is of little concern.

As a result, it is worth considering that the watch should be made of a lightweight material, such as titanium or a ceramic. Or at least, that versions of the watch be made of these materials, with steel or precious-metal alternatives for more casual wear and use.


The watch should likely be offered with two bands: one for use on the cycle, and one for wear off-cycle. This in the manner of the Tudor Heritage series.

On the cycle, the band must be light-weight and durable. It must breathe sufficiently for it not to interfere with sweating – a nylon nato strap is probably preferred.

Off the cycle, the watch should include a bracelet. This could match the material of the watch, or complement it (ceramic case + titanium bracelet, or vice versa).


The watch must make it easy to tell the time at a glance. This in the tradition of the classic fliegeruhr of the World Wars. The watch-face must have either clear Arabic numerals, clear hour markers, or a combination of the two.

The watch-face should not be unnecessarily cluttered. Central hands must be clearly distinct from each other, certainly by size, probably by shape. Any additional central hands – such as a GMT hand – must be clearly distinguished by color and shape. Other sweeps or faces (power reserve, chrono or calendar dials) must be kept to a minimum – or else so many of them presented that they create a uniform background against which the central hands may stand out with clarity.


Hard as nails, and thoroughly anti-reflective coated. No doming, as this would just attract scratches during falls.

A see-through caseback would probably be appreciated if the movement is to be decorated – but it’s hardly essential.


The watch must be able to withstand a driving rainstorm; a jump in the ocean; day after day of sweat. 100m WR is sufficient – 150 or 200 would be advantageous.


The watch must be supremely resistant to scratching and staining. This including the normal dust and grit of the road; road-salt (for winter riders); trail-muck (MTBers); hours of sweat (racers); literally months of sweat (tourists).


The watch should be, in the parlance of the bike trade, “bombproof” – that is, able to withstand significant mechanical shocks. Shock absorbance of the movement will be the #1 selling point.

The most significant accident which a watch might encounter would be for a 250-pound rider, going downhill at 80kph, going over the handlebars. I presume that no watch could survive a direct impact, but it should be able to survive the tumbling and glancing blows which follow – or at least be able to be repaired afterwards, rather than simply being a total loss.


I do not believe that magnetic resistance is required. However, I should be curious to investigate this, based particularly upon the following variables:

-Proximity to a steel frame (commuters, some tourers)

-Proximity to electronic shifters – or even wireless shifters (particularly racers)

-Proximity to mechanical cycling computers (worth considering)

-Magnetism by proximity to the North Pole / exposure to the Northern Lights. The Northern Tier takes one as far north as 48N. A Trans-Can route can go up to 54. A circum-Iceland route will go to 66, and to tap the Arctic Circle at Nordkapp or Deadhorse would push 70.


The watch must be able to function normally at both A) heights in excess of 14,000 feet (Pike’s Peak), B) altitude changes in excess of 14,000 feet in a matter of hours (Mauna Kea).

Though I doubt this would be a trouble, it would be nice to say that it could function to terrestrial depths (Death Valley, etc.) as well as terrestrial heights.


For a casual rider, the watch must work perfectly in a temperature range of at least 0F to 110F (-18C to 43C) – probably more, to suit snowbikers and sand-bikers both.


The casual bike rider would benefit from lightly luminous hands.

A nighttime mountain biker requires fully luminous hands and markings, as in the Explorer I.

Racers will not need luminous hands, but would not mind them.

A cyclotourist requires luminosity suitable for night use. It might be of benefit for the cyclist to be able to easily ‘turn off’ the glow when camping, which would be easily accomplished in a reverso, or in a “hunter’s watch” with a folding cover.


Many if not most of the functions of the watch must be accessible to a person who has only one available hand (that which is opposite the watch), or has no available hands at all.

As such, any buttons which need to be pressed, must be A) clearly visible at a glance; B) clearly distinguishable at a glance; C) clearly distinguishable at a moment’s touch – by position, size, shape, texture, or combination thereof; D) pressable with a minimum amount of horizontal or vertical force – either very sensitive buttons, or triggers that are more like switches or the like.


Some early watches were offset to a 45 degree angle, thus to facilitate their reading when one’s hand is on the steering-wheel (or yoke of an airplane, or helm of power-boat or yacht). A current example is the Longines Avigation A7. This angling of the dial might be very helpful to a cyclist.

But what angle? There are numerous positions that a cyclist’s hands can take. They can grip the flats. They can be on the hoods. They can be down in the drops. They can be out on aero-bars. In all of these cases, a 45 or even a 90 degree rotation would be appropriate.

The watch-face could either be offset to one of these angles; or, multiple lug configurations could be provided; or, a rotating baseplate could allow the watch to shift, either smoothly or to indexed locations. This latter would benefit those who like to change positions on the handlebars, and would be highly convenient for those who wished to use their watch in normal dress and then on the bicycle. If the range of motion were bidirectional it would also allow the watch to be worn on the right hand.

Also, it seems likely that a cyclist might wear their watch on the edge of their wrist – rotating the band ninety degrees clockwise, or more or less. This could be accounted for, and encouraged.


A chronograph complication would be very useful.

Monopusher would be ideal for operation on the bicycle.

Flyback would be very nice – but if a flyback and a monopusher make for too great a jump in price, the monopusher wins.

A traditional tachymeter is probably not much use, as only closed- or set-course racers are going to be able to judge a mile marker. As such, if a chronograph is used, I would recommend a central second hand, and the chronograph second hand in a subdial.

A minimum of 60 minutes is required – none of this 30-minute-counter silliness. In all probability a 12-hour counter is best, as many cyclists ride for more than an hour at a time.

For a cyclotourist, a 24-hour counter would be delightful.


This is not a necessary feature, but might be desirable to racers, or to cyclotourists.

Of the many ways that these could be implemented, my preference would be for a GMT hand that jumps ahead at one-hour increments at the press of a dedicated button located at 10 o’clock, with no bezel or dial markings otherwise.

The inclusion of place-names with cycling associations (Roubaix, FR; Missoula, USA) would be delightful, but A) likely lily-gilding B) difficult to complete across the globe. Likewise, world-timer watches do not tend to possess the sports aesthetic desirable in this timepiece. As such, the product would probably benefit from a 24h bezel, or a central hand alone.

The GMT hand (or hands) could be subtly bicycle-themed. The Explorer II’s hour-hand is a triskelon; increasing this to 5 or 6 radii would create a minimalist, geometric homage to a spoked bicycle-wheel. This would have to be extensively drafted for aesthetic appearance (meaning, it could easily look dumb).

For racers: this is an important feature, as pro racers will spend much of their lives training in distant places (viz. the Colombian highlands), and the rest of their time jetting around to races all over the world.

For cyclotourist: they would probably benefit from having a secondary hand, for keeping their home time zone. It could also be a hell of a thing for them to have a tertiary hand, for keeping the time zone of their destination. This could be accomplished with two differentiated central hands, in the manner of an Explorer II; or with two small dials like a chronograph; or on a volte-face in a reverso.

For casual owners: this is a useful feature for travel and business, and as such is in high demand.


Some cyclotourists would not want to wear a piece of High Jewelry when riding through rough areas. This becomes more of a concern when touring outside of Europe and the US. While the watch could always just be taken off, or hidden beneath a jersey sleeve, this situation could also be addressed by a reverso or a hunter’s flip-down dial cover.


All riders would benefit from a complication which tracked the time of the sunset. I do not believe this is available on any wristwatch shy of the Vacheron supercomplication. But I thought I would mention it.

A cyclotourist’s watch could profitably include an altimeter; barometer; or compass. I can’t imagine cluttering the dial with these, let alone what they might do to a movement (magnetism e.g.). As such, it might be nice for the watch to come with clip-on altimeter, barometer, and compass, that can be added to the watch’s nato strap while biking, but also removed (or left on the strap when the owner switches to bracelet for daily wear).


It is worth considering that a cyclotourist’s watch be a reverso. The far side could be plain (and perhaps dull, matching the material of the band, so as not to attract attention). Or the near face could show the time and date, and the far face show a GMT hand or hands, with or without a world-timer bezel. Likewise, the near face could have nightglow, and the far side none. The near side could also have a plain dial (suitable for casual wear), and the far side include complications that would not be couture, but would be useful out on the open road. (One might dream of a perpetual calendar on side A, a chronograph on side B – but this is a sport watch, not a grand complication).


There should be a cycling watch. Or even more than one. There is a market, both in terms of active cyclists who will use its functions, and casual cyclists or watch-wearers who are tired of being limited to flieger, diver, and Daytona.

-david axel kurtz
davekov dot com


~ by davekov on 9 January 2017.

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