Humankind has an insatiable appetite to learn more, to investigate, and to explore. Today more than ever before, we are witnessing a renewed interest in adventure and exploration. Whether it be diving, flying, climbing mountains, surfing waves, studying land masses or the sea, or some other passion, adventure is here to stay. To keep that wandering spirit company, top watch brands are creating timepieces that can go the distance with everyone from scientists to outdoor researchers and explorers.
But timekeeping and adventure have always been inseparable. Charles Lindbergh wore a Longines watch on his wrist in 1927 when he made that famed solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in a single-engine plane. Upon his return, he worked with Longines to create a more apt tool watch, the Longines Hour Angle, which is still in the collection today. When the Aqua Lung for diving was developed in the 1940s, Blancpain recognized the need for a watch to withstand water, pressure, temperature changes, and other elements and developed its first Fifty Fathoms watch (a timepiece still in production today) with Capt. Robert Maloubier, founder of the French Combat Diving School.
When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, they did so with the help of oxygen tanks and with a Rolex watch to time every move to the minute. That watch was built to withstand pressure, extreme temperatures, and shocks and would become the Rolex Explorer — also still built to this day. Earlier this year, Rolex unveiled the Oyster Perpetual Explorer 40 that recalls the watches worn by Hillary and Norgay.
Today, more and more brands are investing in the creation of tool watches for professionals and explorers to help them in their quests to push the boundaries. Montblanc spent years developing a Zero Oxygen watch for extreme mountain climbers, working with mountain climber Reinhold Messner (the first to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen). The Zero Oxygen watch case is designed to be impenetrable by oxygen when the crystal is put on certain humidity and temperatures. Earlier this year, the brand released a new series, The 8000, to honor the peaks that are over 8,000 meters high and the climbers who summited them. One version will accompany mountaineer and Montblanc brand ambassador Nimsdai Purja — the fastest to climb all 14 of the world’s highest peaks (in just over six months) — on his next climbing venture.
Speaking of ambassadors, Breitling collaborates with small groups or “squads” that specialize in certain areas. Its explorer squad includes Bertrand Piccard, the first person to fly nonstop around the world in a balloon; Inge Solheim, who has guided wounded veterans on North Pole expeditions; and David de Rothschild, who built a sustainable ship from plastic bottles reclaimed from the ocean and sailed it from California to Sydney, Australia. Forming this squad was a natural extension for the brand, which was the first to create a watch for extreme adventurers. Dubbed the Emergency, it is the world’s first watch to be equipped with a dual-frequency distress beacon that can be activated to help search-and-rescue teams find its wearer.
As official timekeeper of the recently concluded six-month-long Ocean Race, a sailing race around the world where tiny crews navigate the world’s oceans and some of the most treacherous waters on the globe, Ulysse Nardin is all about adventure. Also a sponsor of the 11th Hour Racing Team, the brand equips the team’s crew with its precision Diver watch whose case is made almost entirely of recycled fishing nets. When the teams all sailed into Newport for supplies and a few days of rest from what is considered the ultimate test of human adventure, Ulysse Nardin unveiled its newest Ocean Race Diver Chronograph, launched in collaboration with The Ocean Race.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph Zero Oxygen
Montblanc’s 8000 Limited Edition 290 is powered by a mechanical movement, has the compass points on the bezel, and showcases the Northern and Southern Hemispheres via the two globes.
Blancpain Tech Gombessa
Blancpain celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms with the 47-millimeter titanium Tech Gombessa watch in honor of Laurent Ballesta’s Gombessa project, created to study rare forms of sea life.
Ulysse Nardin Ocean Race Diver Chronograph
The Ulysse Nardin Ocean Race Diver Chronograph is made mostly from recycled fishing nets and powered by a mechanical movement. It fêtes the brand’s role as official timekeeper of the Ocean Race.
Breitling Emergency Night Mission
Worn by Breitling’s explorer squad, this watch is powered by a COSC-certified SuperQuartz chronograph movement. It emits a dual-frequency distress beacon when activated.
Luminox Survival Outdoor Explorer
The 45-millimeter Bear Grylls Survival Outdoor Explorer chronograph by Luminox features date display, a dial with SOS in Morse code, and a case crafted of Carbonox for rugged durability. The watch is equipped with a black rubber strap with a small removable compass attached to it and is water-resistant to 300 meters.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer 40
Recalling the 1930s and onwards, when Rolex began equipping expeditions with Oyster watches, the 40-millimeter Oyster Perpetual Explorer 40 watch is crafted in proprietary Oystersteel and equipped with a high-precision Superlative Chronometer certified mechanical movement.
Longines Hour Angle
A few years after his solo transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh worked with Longines to create the Hour Angle watch for aviation, still made today in the Heritage Avigation range. This automatic watch features an internal rotating dial that synchronizes seconds with a radio time signal, and a rotating bezel to adjust to the equation of time.
DOXA SUB 300T Clive Cussler
The limited-edition SUB 300T Clive Cussler from DOXA honors its namesake, the late author and founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency. Water resistant to 4,000 feet, the 42-millimeter aged stainless steel watch has a unique finish with a dive bezel that has a worn, weathered appeal. It is sold in a “book” box that can be placed on a bookshelf, and a portion of the proceeds benefit NUMA.