I had ridden Indians and worn Baume & Mercier watches during their launch event in California last year, and as soon as that event was done, I immediately began lobbying them for a long-term test of both the motorcycles and the watches, so I could see how they performed under daily use.
Baume & Mercier worked with the Indian dealer in Lausanne, Switzerland, Biker Syndicate (www.biker-syndicate.ch) to loan me two Indian motorcycles — a Scout (1,133 cc) and a Chief (1,811 cc) for ten days.
Baume & Mercier also sent me the three watches inspired by this partnership with Indian — the Clifton Club Burt Munro Tribute, the Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Scout Edition and the Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Chief Edition.
Indian is one of the most successful “new” motorcycle companies in history. Founded in 1901, Indian was a leader in motorcycles in the world until 1953, when the company went bankrupt and closed its doors. Several groups tried to bring the famous brand back but were unsuccessful.
That is until Polaris bought the brand in 2011 and reintroduced it in 2013, debuting the new Chief Classic, Chief Vintage and Chieftain.
I rode one of those early bikes in Las Vegas and was very impressed with the build quality and the power of the Thunderstroke engine, so I was eager to ride both the Scout and the Chief at leisure, running errands, criss-crossing Switzerland and going for rides.
Neither motorcycle disappointed. They are two completely different bikes — the Scout is physically much smaller, lithe, quick and very powerful. I felt I could ride the Scout anywhere, and that’s the point. It’s a fun bike that is good for just about every task short of full on touring (though with accessories, this is also possible). The Scout has a small pillion seat, one that doesn’t look very comfortable. Every possible passenger said “No, thanks!” as soon as they saw that seat.
I had a lot of fun on the Scout, riding out into the Jura and tearing up the windy roads. The Scout was comfortable, responsive and shifted and accelerated smoothly. Riding it put a genuine smile on my face every time I cranked the throttle and I felt confident on the Scout. I also loved the look of the Scout engine, with its almost skeletonized finish, a lot like the finish Baume & Mercier gives its automatic movements.
The Chief is another animal entirely. Long and with a much bigger engine, the Chief is a little intimidating. In fact, several riders I enlisted to test ride with me were reluctant to even get on the Chief, because of its imposing length, breadth and heft.
But one ride dispels all those concerns and you fall in love with the comfort, the sound, the torque and the entire experience. You can’t flick the Chief around like you can the Scout, but that’s the point of the Chief. The Scout runs ahead and checks things out, the Chief is stately, proud and never in a rush.
That’s not to say that the Chief can’t hustle when you want it to, but you don’t want to. You want to sit back, watch the scenery slide by while you listen and appreciate the deep rumble of the Thunderstroke engine
Every single rider got off the Chief with a smile on his face, loving the growl of the engine and the different experience of the Chief.
The first watch that Baume & Mercier introduced for the Indian partnership was the Clifton Club Burt Munro Tribute. This chronograph has a number of special details designed to commemorate the land speed record, 184 mph, Burt Munro set (which still stands today). Immediately apparent is the large, yellow number 35, Munro’s lucky number, in the chronograph seconds counter. Next, the “Indian Red” color of the calfskin strap evokes the deep vermillion that is identified with the Indian Motorcycle Company, and was the color of the Munro Special, the motorcycle he rode for the record. The dial itself is silver-colored, sandblasted and snailed, meant to mimic the surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats, where the record was set. The 44mm stainless steel case has a tachymeter scale on the bezel, with the record, 184, highlighted on it. On the back, the famous Indian Head logo of the Indian Motorcycle Company is engraved, as well as the number of the limited edition. The Clifton Club Burt Munro Tribute is limited to 1967 pieces, the year he set the record.
Then, at SIHH, Baume & Mercier unveiled two more: the Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Scout Edition and the Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Chief Edition. Like the first timepiece, they have the Indian touches (like the immediately recognizable Indian “I” as the counterbalance on the chronograph seconds hand, the Indian Head engraving on the back and other touches. No one knows right away that these are Indian-inspired watches at first glance, but upon further examination, the details are revealed, which is a great way to discover them.
I can’t wait to see what watches come next, as this is a long-term partnership.
For the time I had the bikes and the watches, I felt like I was in an exclusive club. Sure, there are Indians around, but they are not the predominant bikes on the road yet, so there was a level of curiosity that I haven’t felt for a long time. Wherever I rode or parked, people would check out the bike, stop and look and even take pictures.
The watches matched the motorcycles extremely well. The Indian touches were intriguing and felt right — not overdone or overwhelming, subtle and distinctive at the same time.
I think Baume & Mercier has really benefited from this partnership with Indian and the development of these watches. Like the Shelby Cobra partnership, Baume & Mercier has certainly upped the “cool” factor, putting its lifestyle message front and center.
If I had to Pick
I liked both motorcycles and all three watches, but if I had to choose one of each, I’d choose the Indian Chief and the Clifton Club Indian Legend Tribute Chief Edition. I love the position of the Chief, which is comfortable and puts you squarely in control of the bike. I also love the engine of the Chief, which sounds fantastic when you twist the throttle. I especially enjoyed blasting through tunnels on my ride, revving the engine and revelling in the throaty song of the Thunderstroke engine as it bounced off the walls.
I thought the Chronograph on a steel bracelet was really good looking, very comfortable and felt perfect for the Chief.