Automotive-themed timepieces are nothing new-what's new is a watchmaker who is just as dedicated to quality as he is to the singular automotive theme. Until now, hot rod-inspired watches have either been cheap chachkas that looked like refugees from a swap meet, or they were made from unobtainium with a price tag to match. That's where the kernel for the idea behind Equipe watches comes into play: Why not make a quality line of luxury watches with an automotive theme that is tailor-made for the sensibilities of the hard-core muscle car enthusiast? On paper at least, the idea sounded good, so we took a harder look at Equipe's website, www.EquipeWatches.com.
We were shocked to find that the Equipe line consists not of just two or three styles, but 15, and all of them retro cool. With names like Big Block, Chassis, Hemi, Octane, and BallJoint, you can tell Equipe is betting the farm that hot rodders will cotton to them just in time for the holiday season. It's a big risk to take, especially when Equipe is boasting custom stainless steel cases, crystals, and knobs, and loading them with quality Miyota/Citizen chronograph-style quartz movements. These don't look or feel like rebadged generic throwaways, they present like the real deal. Being closet watch fans, we ordered two samples for review-the Chassis ($349) and the Spring ($599).
Our samples arrived by FedEx the next day and were packaged in a rugged metal container that was closer in concept to a Snap-on rig than a watch box. The first thing we noticed about these Equipe timepieces is the heft. You know you're dealing with something substantial from the moment you pick it up. These watches are not for girly men, so if you've got a skinny wrist, go buy a Movado. The stainless steel cases have a quality brushed matte texture, which is punctuated by precision-machined fasteners and knobs. Both the Chassis and Spring have chronograph movements, which allow them to time events in 1-second increments up to 60 minutes (30 minutes for the Chassis). The high-quality dials resemble classic automotive gauge faces and the numbers and hands were marked with fluorescent paint for easy reading at night. The water-resistant crown and chrono buttons resemble pistons or breather elements, depending on the model. About our only gripe was the lack of a synthetic sapphire crystal, which would make these watches far more appropriate for wearing while working on a car. You'll have to take care not to bang your Equipe against tools or other metal parts while working, or risk scratching the crystal-but unless you're wearing something pricier, you already have to worry about that.
Equipe timepieces are water-resistant down to 100 meters (330 feet), and are serialized like watches that are far more expensive. Pricing on Equipe watches ranges from $249 for the Octane (which features dual time zones instead of a chronograph movement), to the top-of-the-line BallJoint ($999). Most of the Equipe pieces are sport watches, but some of them, like our Spring model (a tank-style design), are more formal, and appropriate for business or evening events. These aren't toys per se, they're serious, quality timepieces that will impress. We also discovered that wearing one provides an immediate conversation topic for like-minded hot rodders and watch enthusiasts. And finally, there is this extra tidbit: Unlike most watchmakers who hail from Switzerland, Germany, or Japan, Equipe is based right here in Detroit, USA. Equipe really gets it. We're fans of quality watches almost as much as we dig hot rods, and it's a pleasant surprise to find a homegrown company that joins two of our great passions. We say put away that Timex and wear one of these big dogs to the track!