For cycling fans, it’s the biggest month of the season: Tour de France time. For watch spotters, this is usually a non-event, since heavy mechanical watches don’t do well in a sport where every gram is carefully considered. Most racers, if they wear any watch at all, strap on plastic digital heart rate monitors, the matching chest straps visible on their pale, gaunt chests under unzipped jerseys.
Cycling-oriented watches have been few and far between. Anonimo made a special edition for Italian racer Ivan Basso, and Lance Armstrong used to wear a variety of Nike models. Festina has long been the watch brand associated with the Tour de France but doesn’t get much respect among the watch cognoscenti. (We’re waiting to see Richard Mille create a cycling watch, given the brand’s penchant for sports where watches aren’t typically found.) But it’s refreshing to see one of cycling biggest stars, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, wearing a couple of IWCs in this year’s Tour.
Cancellara, a native of Basel whose palmares include wins at the Tour of Flanders and the notorious Paris-Roubaix, as well as numerous stints as World Time Trial Champion, has been a “friend of the brand” for IWC for a while now. He’s shown up at various IWC events, including this year’s SIHH party in Geneva. He’s been seen wearing a Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar, an Aquatimer Chronograph Galapagos Edition and the titanium Ingenieur Double Chronograph. The latter seems like the best choice for a sport of weight weenies, but in this year’s Tour de France, he’s been spotted wearing the Aquatimer as well. The great thing is, he's not just strapping on the watches for the daily podium presentations. He's actually racing with a watch on.
Cancellara is a big, strong rider, known for his speed and power on flat terrain. This was evident in the Tour’s short prologue time trial, which he won, for which he claimed the race leader’s yellow jersey. Fittingly, the time trial discipline, in which a rider is timed over a fixed distance, is known as contre le montre in French, which means, “against the watch” in English. Clearly Fabian Cancellara’s watch choices are working in his favor this year.