Six watches that celebrate the spirit of adventure

Burt Munro probably wasn't wearing a watch when his Indian motorbike rocketed across the Bonneville salt flats in 1967 on his way to a world record speed that still stands today.

Obsessed with shaving weight from his patched-together speed machine, he would have left behind any such adornment as he faced the clock at the legendary annual American Speed Week.

He passed away in 1978, just 11 years after setting the record; unaware that a movie celebrating his story, The World's Greatest Indian, became a worldwide hit. Now, a Swiss watchmaker has immortalised his achievement with the Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Indian Burt Munro Tribute.

Baume & Mercier, the first Swiss watchmaker to begin selling watches in Australia, collaborated with Indian Motorcycles, the American brand that rocketed Munro into the record books for 1000cc motorcycles. The sting in the tail of this improbable tale was that his 184 miles per hour (296.1km/h) pass was set on a 1920 Indian, a bike that was 47 years old when he ran at Bonneville.

The timepiece coined in his honour and launched in Australia this month features Munro's racing number, 35, prominently on the dial, while his speed, 184, is highlighted on the tachygraph around the outside of the face.

The second hand carries the logo of Indian Motorcycles, while the Horween leather band – colour-keyed to the same red as Munro's motorcycle – is sourced from the same American company that supplies the leather for Indian's plush saddles.

The spirit of adventure to celebrate famous achievements or commemorate milestones burns strong in watchmakers, who enjoy infusing their work with subtle cues to surprise and delight their fans, and also to draw new enthusiasts.

Here are five more recently-released watches that celebrate the spirit of adventure and endeavour.

Bremont U-2/51-Jet

English brand Bremont already draws on some significant adventure pedigree with its aviation-inspired range. The U-2/51-Jet – which will be seen on the wrist of Tom Hardy in the forthcoming action movie Venom – continues the tradition as a tribute to the RAF's 100 Squadron, which performed night bombing raids in 1917. Their stealthy appearance inspires the modern-day timepiece with jet black touches on the face and band, and a smoked black glass open case back.


Price: $6800

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere

Montblanc is another watchmaker closely connected to its own turf – in this case, Switzerland, which create a handy connection to the sport of mountain-climbing and its 'holy grail', the Seven Summits Challenge. The 1858 Geosphere celebrates the 160th anniversary of Minerva, the small watchmaker that Montblanc acquired in 2006, but also honours the heroes of mountain climbing with a steel-and-ceramic timepiece displaying two turning globes on its face, with red dots marking the seven summits. The globes turn in opposite directions, completing a rotation every 24 hours. So you'll always know where to find another mountain to climb.

Price: $8400 approx ($9550 for limited-edition bronze case)

Richard Mille RM 25-01

Action heroes don't get much caricaturishly bigger than Sylvester Stallone, he of Rocky and Rambo fame, who provided the inspiration for Frenchman Richard Mille to build "a horological UFO" designed "to conquer the most hostile of natural environments". He's not kidding. You don't often find watches embedded with a spirit level or water purification capsules, or with a mount on the bezel to add a titanium compass. The watch itself is also quite special, with a tourbillon movement with 24 hour display, minutes and chronograph function. It's the Swiss Army Knife of luxury watches.

Price: $1.37 million approx. (limited to 20 pieces)

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment III

Launched to celebrate World Ocean Day, the third generation of the Ocean Commitment watch builds on Blancpain's strong underwater heritage and affinity for protecting the world's oceans, stretching back to 1953. It's a robust diving watch that is water resistant to 30 bar, or approximately 300 metres, and includes a unidirectional rotating bezel and Super-LumiNova dial markings and hands for legibility under the water. Only 250 will be produced, each individually numbered, with Blancpain pledging 1000 Euros from the sale of each watch to its favoured cause of ocean protection. A chance to do good and look good at the same time.

Price: $23,900

Breitling Navitimer 8 Unitime

Another watchmaker inextricably tied to aviation is the Swiss watchmaker Breitling. The Navitimer 8 is a tribute to the Huit Aviation Department, which was established in 1938 to produce both cockpit instruments and aviation watches. Its cockpit instruments were noted for their eight-day power reserve, hence the Navitimer 8 moniker (plus, 'huit' is also French for 'eight'). The Navitimer 8 range resurrects some of the design cues from Huit's onboard clocks. The Unitime model offers world-time indication through an independent hour hand that can be adjusted with the crown and is geared towards intrepid international travellers.

Price: $9100