Anyone who knows Etienne, Paul and Clément, the three gentlemen behind one of the hottest names in horology and the fathers of the microbrand-Kickstarter movement, knows that when they are not creating brilliantly designed watches that feel excavated from the collective psyche of collectors around the world and then executed at an unparalleled cost to quality ratio, they like to drive. When I met them at Geneva Watch Days precisely a year ago, they had each spent hours behind burning rubber from their Paris headquarters. I mean each of them had gotten behind the wheel in his own air-cooled Porsche and hauled ass, following the trajectory of the Huguenots’ exodus some three centuries ago to arrive at the seat of high Swiss watchmaking. And you could tell from their blissed-out expressions as that heady mixture of adrenaline and dopamine coursed through their central nervous systems that, for each of them, there was no place they loved more than behind a steering wheel. So much so that as they explained to me their plans for their holiday, I couldn’t help a bemused chuckle.
Etienne Malec said, “We are going to Scotland where there are hundreds of kilometers of amazing roads and barely any people and we are going to drive every day, all day long.” A few months later, when I saw the trio of motorheads in Paris and asked how their Scottish automotive adventure had gone, all three beamed. Paul Bienstman exclaimed, “There is no better beer in the world than the one you have after spending eight to ten hours driving in a great car.” Malec who had since acquired a first generation water-cooled 996 GT3 was already telling us about their next adventure, though Clément, whose partner was now expecting, would have to skip the drive.
It dawned on me that three guys who spend almost all their free time heel and toeing and hitting one apex to the next must have some very specific thoughts on a driving chronograph. So I asked if they had an inclination to design the ultimate driver’s watch. Clement Daniel replied with a smile, “It’s funny you ask this because we are about to launch our first automotive chronograph. And it’s in partnership with Peter Auto.” For those non-gearheads amongst you, Patrick Peter is a legend in the vintage car world. He is the individual responsible for reviving the famous Tour de France as a historic rally with the Tour Auto. This is one of the most important events on the vintage car rally calendar. He has also established several different touring car championships. He is also Richard Mille’s partner in the Le Mans Classic as well as the Chantilly Concours. But just as important, he is a Baltic client. Since its inception, one the greatest things about Baltic is how it has transcended its price bracket and is embraced by everyone, from the fledgling watch collector to the most seasoned horological veteran. And that’s simply because the watches are phenomenal looking.
Our own limited edition Bicompax chronograph designed by Etienne Malec is a watch that I know is universally beloved; it has achieved a secondary value of four times its original asking price of USD 670. At the same time, one of my favorite watches is Baltic’s new Aquascaphe Titanium, which at EUR 710 (approximately USD 724) delivers a truly insane level of performance and quality. It has a titanium case, domed sapphire crystal and even a ceramic bezel insert with luminous dive markers. I mean, come on, that is a truly mind-blowing value proposition. So when the Baltic boys decided to create a true driver’s chronograph, I knew it would be something special.
Driving It Up a Notch
The new Tricompax Baltic × Peter Auto is a true step up for the brand. To begin with, it features a Swiss made SW-510M manual wind chronograph caliber with 63 hours of power reserve. Says Malec, “We thought about the automatic movement, but in the end, we wanted to keep the profile of the watch thin like its historic inspirations.”
One of the lovely things about the new Tricompax is that it exudes a powerful sense of history but without being derivative. Here and there, you see flashes of vintage Speedy in the tachymeter and in the bezel insert, or the “Paul Newman” Daytona inspiration in the cream stepped dial, but the wonderful thing about Malec’s designs is that they are always boldly and confidently original. He explains, “Look at the profile of the new Tricompax — it is actually the same as that of the Aquascaphe and the 36.5mm chronograph we made for Revolution. So there is a strong visual signature over the case shapes that we make.”
The thing about Baltic’s design choices is that they get it. The fantastic large but flat crown, the perfectly proportioned pump pushers, the stunning flat link bracelet, the typography of the scales, the snailing in the counters counterpointed by the fantastic gréne or frosted center mass of the dial. It is exactly the dream checklist of vintage chronograph details that we collectors salivate over and that the majority of modern brands shy away from. It simply exudes vintage ’70s charm but done in a decidedly original Baltic way.
So if you need to ask the question as to whether I like the new Tricompax, I think the answer is pretty obvious. Yeah, I like it a lot. I like the size which is 39.5mm by 13.5mm, I like that the flat link bracelet can be easily traded out for the leather strap, I like the incredible tasty yellow and orange graphics — orange for the chrono seconds hand and minute counter, and yellow for the hour counter that’s all so crucial for endurance racing. But in particular I love the package that the watch comes with, which involves a dash mounted rally timer replete with two independent mechanical flyback stopwatches. The hands and colorways of the stopwatches follow the same style as those found on the watch. Says Malec, “You could screw it into your dash but, as car lovers, we realize that’s not really ideal. So even though it looks like it’s fitted with Allen bolts, you can actually just use the provided 3M tape to fix the timing unit to the dashboard. The stopwatches are really fun to use. You can use [them] to measure lap times and for special events in vintage rallies where you are trying to drive between two points within a specific time.”
By all accounts, the entire Baltic team also had a fantastic time at the shoot for the video. Says Malec, “It was incredible that Peter Auto managed to arrange for a Porsche 910 and even got us Sébastien Crubilé [the head of Porsche restorer, Crubilé Sport] to drive it. We bought a helmet worn by Jacky Ickx during the 1979 F1 season and he was happy to wear it for the shoot. It was so amazing to see the watch in situ and perform and [it] looked great. Maybe the best part of the day was that every single person there, even the intern, got a hot lap in the car. It was funny at one moment during my lap, Sébastien pulled over because he smelt gasoline. He opened the engine bay and there was gas from a hose hitting the engine block. He calmly took out a wrench and tightened a five euro hose clamp and stopped the leak. And we got back in the car and continued. What an amazing day.” Finally, Malec, Paul and Clément continue to astound us with the value proposition of their launches. This watch comes in a limited series of 300 pieces, each made in Besançon, France. With a Swiss Sellita movement and accompanied by the incredible rally timer unit, it is priced at just EUR 1,975 (approx. USD 2,030) before tax — which is proof positive that Baltic’s commitment to treating their customers right remains unwavering.
Tricompax Baltic × Peter Auto
Movement: Manual-winding Sellita caliber SW-510M; 63-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds and chronograph
Case: 39.5mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 50m
Dial: Cream; color coded chronograph counters
Strap: Flat link stainless steel bracelet and Taupe calf leather strap
Price: EUR 1,975 (approx. USD 2,030)
Availability: Limited and numbered edition of 300 pieces