Monday, May 29, 2017

MEET THE WATCH: Yamaha MT-01 Motorcycle Limited-Edition Mechanical Watch by Victorinox Swiss Army

I might be considered a boring guy. I don't really view television, but spend most of my spare time reading about watches, writing about watches and searching (you guessed it) for watches. While this may seem a bit obsessive, it is entertaining nonetheless. I get excited when I "discover" a design that I have not seen before. While browsing different auctions on eBay, I ran across a rare watch that does not come up for sale very often. Here is what it looked like.

A limited edition mechanical watch made by Victorinox Swiss Army for Yamaha Motorcycles. Photo: cytochrom
I contacted the seller, Rafal aka cytochrome, to see if he would allow me to use his photos in this article and he agreed. All images of the watch with the MT dial were made by him, and I'm thankful that he let me share them with the watch world. 

You may be wondering what kind of watch you are looking at. Readers of my blog may think it looks familiar since I have written four other articles on this style of watch, but I am jumping ahead. Let's talk first about the origin story of this timepiece.

This watch may look familiar, but it is highly modified from an exisiting Victorinox model. Photo: cytochrom
In 2005, Yamaha released a mean-looking motorcycle named the MT-01. It was a naked bike without plastic fairings and was powered by Yamaha's largest V-twin engine. To my eyes, it looked like many of the standard upright Japanese motorcycles of the 1980s, except it had a twin cylinder engine instead of an inline four. Because this blog is dedicated to watches and not motorcycles, you can learn more about the vehicle at 2005 Yamaha MT-01 review on Motorcycle USA.

Victorinox Swiss Army made a promotional watch for Yamaha's MT-01 motorcycle. Photo: Yamaha
As part of the promotion for this motorcycle, Victorinox Swiss Army created 400 limited-edition MT-01 watches. Instead of starting from a clean slate, Victorinox modified one of their existing  watch models, the SeaPlane XL Mechanical, which was released in 2003. I wrote a detailed article about it at: MEET THE WATCH: Swiss Army SeaPlane XL Mechanical, and you can view the photo below for reference.

Swiss Army used the SeaPlane XL Mechanical as the starting point for the Yamaha MT-01 watch
Below is the Yamaha MT-01 version. See if you can tell the differences between the two. I counted 8 variations on the front and 3 on the back of the MT-01 from the original, and that does not include the box and its contents, which I assume would have been different as well. A list will appear at the end of the article if you want to jump ahead to check your answers... 

Can you find differences on the Yamaha MT-01 watch compared to the original SeaPlane XL? Photo: cytochrom
First, let's talk about what design features remained unchanged. The basic layout of the dial is similar with no date window and a sub-dial at the 6:00 position. The Swiss Army Shield is still present, but a branding change required the addition of the word "Victorinox" in the logo. 

You can see the distinctive guilloche pattern on the dial that looks like a spiderweb. On high-end watches, this pattern is etched by hand using 100 year old machines, but I would suspect that it is stamped here. Regardless, it is a stunning effect. 

There is also a sloped chapter ring with metal applied and printed indices. In a way, it mimics the outer slope of the watch. Showing a thin edge of metal on the bezel helps reduce visual bulk here.

The SeaPlane rendered in all stainless steel for an industrial look. Photo: cytochrom
The neon green skeleton hands of the original SeaPlane XL were replaced with polished stainless steel versions. This one modification had the biggest effect on the personality of the watch taking it from fun to serious.

On the sub-dial, the yellow seconds hand was replaced with a red one, and the word SEAPLANE was removed from the sub-dial. In its place, a Transformers-like logo was added at the 60 mark. 

Yamaha MT-01 watch with a sloping chapter ring and tapering case. Photo: cytochrom
Victorinox used the same 45 mm lugless case as the original Swiss Army SeaPlane XL Mechanical. Lugless is a literal description as you can see that the watch looks like a perfect circle from above. The case does not have the normal protrusions that hold the watch bands in place. Instead, there are lug-like structures built into the bracelet that keep it and watch case aligned while making a smooth visual transition between the parts.

The Yamaha MT-01 watch was based on Victorinox's SeaPlane XL modular watch. Photo: cytochrom
All SeaPlane watches, including the Yamaha MT-01 Limited Edition, were designed for tools watch band changes. Most regular watches require tools to attach or remove a watch band, but the SeaPlane's quick change system did not. Below you can see how the pieces would fit together with the ring working as a locking bottom. A clockwise turn of the ring on the back would lock the wristband to the case. The parts are precision-engineered and crafted with great skill. There are likely many hours of machining to make this seemingly simple system work.

Yamaha MT-01 watch with the steel bracelet and locking ring. Photo: cytochrom
The Yamaha MT-01 watch came with a very special 9-link metal bracelet. This was an expensive accessory available for the Swiss Army SeaPlane XL so it is nice that it was included for this limited edition. This increases the appeal of the watch in both value proposition, aesthetic and practical terms. The Swiss Army SeaPlane came with a plastic watch band that was susceptible to ripping over time. If you are planning on keeping a SeaPlane watch, you will want to invest in a metal bracelet or face the fact that one day, plastic watch band replacements may no longer be available. The metal bracelet might be considered "bullet-proof" and should never rip.

An integrated deployment clasp maintains the streamlined look of the metal bracelet. Photo: cytochrome
Notice how thin the bracelet is and that the bulk of the deployment clasp is hidden with the bracelet. I love the way the clasp is just two end links with buttons on the side to operate the latch. Rendering the Yamaha MT-01 watch parts in stainless steel and removing the neon colors of the original SeaPlane XL Mechanical gave this limited edition version a no-nonsense industrial personality. Where the original colorful SeaPlanes were more trendy in the mid 2000's, the Yamaha MT-01 stainless steel version seems a better fit for a bad-ass marauder of a motorcycle.

The metal bracelet is thin and elegant in design. Photo: cytochrom
Looking at the crown side of the watch shows additional evidence of Victorinox designers muting the colorful playfulness of the original SeaPlane, which had the words ADJUST in a circular arrow graphic. The screw-down crown is plastic so great care should be taken not to stress it because replacing it might be impossible.

The crown has been simplified without writing on it. Photo: cytochrom
The back of the Yamaha MT-01 Limited Edition mechanical watch has a display window showing the hand-winding Unitas 6498-1 (maybe 6498-2) pocket watch movement. The Yamaha MT-01 triangular logo appears to be etched onto the glass. The function of the locking ring should be clearer from this view and the words "OPEN" and "CLOSE" inform the user which direction to turn the ring to lock and unlock the watchband.

The Unitas 6498 movement can be seen through the display window. Photo: cytochrom
In closing, the partnership between Victorinox Swiss Army and Yamaha Motorcycles produced a memorable and highly collectible limited edition watch series of only 400 units. This makes the MT-01 watch fairly rare. While care was given to cater to the the owners of the Yamaha MT-01 motorcycles, the appeal of the watch goes beyond that small demographic. Even if you don't know what a MT-01 is or even ride a motorcycle, you can still appreciate the watch's design. 

The MT-01 watch feels like it is from some alternate future, but also tied to an industrial past. The design simultaneously lives between both eras. The neon colors of the original SeaPlane watches were replaced with polished surfaces that reflect what is around it instead of projecting its own color... save for the single red seconds hand that reminds me of a tachometer needle. If I ever got hold of one of these, I might be tempted to bead blast if to a satin finish for a customized tool watch. Overall, I think Victorinox delivered a stylish commemorative watch for a beast of a motorcycle. 

If you own this watch and a Yamaha MT-01, send in your photos and I will post them with the article!

 A fitting limited edition watch for the Yamaha MT-01. Photo: cytochrom

ANSWERS: Differences between the original Swiss Army SeaPlane XL Mechanical and the Yamaha MT-01 Limited Edition Watches:

  1. SWISS ARMY logo replaced by Victorinox Swiss Army
  2. Neon green skeleton hands replaced with polished stainless steel skeleton hands
  3. MT letters added to 3:00 spot (3 removed)
  4. SEAPLANE word removed from sub-dial
  5. Logo added to sub-dial removing 60
  6. Yellow hand in sub-dial replaced with red hand
  7. Crown does not have words "ADJUST"
  8. A 9-link stainless steel bracelet replaced the plastic watch band
  9. A MT logo appears on the glass display back
  10. The limited edition number is engraved in the case
  11. The model number has been changed to v.25076 from v.24076

No comments: