An acquaintance of mine at W&W, who knows how much I love Shelby Cobras, sent me a link to Baume & Mercier’s new Shelby Cobra watch that celebrates their 50th Anniversary of winning the 1965 FIA International Championship. “Wow,” I said to myself, “This must be one hell of an incredible watch!”
But when I clicked the link and the watch popped up, I had the distinct feeling that this was yet another April fools joke. Unfortunately, further reading proved me wrong, and I was devastated. Yes, this is a joke at the expense of everyone who knows what an authentic Cobra really is and how these growling beasts shaped blood and guts car racing history.
Baume & Mercier got it all wrong. And I mean ALL wrong! This watch captures none of the spirit of the Cobra 427’s that brought fear and defeat to Europe’s most sophisticated race cars like Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche. Cobras, whether in 260, 289, or 427 configurations were the ultimate representation of American know-how, sheer determination, bravado, and a can-do-or-die attitude.
Does looking at this watch conjure up images of a Cobra drifting through a hairpin, fat tires dispensing clouds of white smoke, ear-splitting exhaust notes belching from massive, rocker panel mounted pipes? Not in a million years! This watch captures absolutely none of that special Cobra imagery.
If these watches were cars, they’d corner like a ’57 Buick station wagon, accelerate like a ’63 Studebaker Lark, and sound like someone in the advanced stages of emphysema. Now, to be kind to Baume & Mercier, these watches are probably superbly crafted and boast ultra-fine chronograph movements. B&M watches are usually elegant, sometimes sporty, and intended for gentlemen. However, gentlemen rarely drove the early Cobras.
These guys were gear heads with grease under their fingernails. They lovingly inhaled the acrid scents of burning oil, burning tires, transmission fluid, and super-heated brake drums. I would wager that you’d never find someone wearing a yellow, v-neck cashmere sweater piloting a Cobra.
Cobras were the ultimate tool cars, and should be represented by tool watches. Baume & Mercier doesn’t have the right pedigree to design or build them. Companies like Omega and Heuer, with their authentic racing heritage, should have made this watch. In fact, in 1968 Heuer introduced an official Cobra watch called the Carrera 45 Dato. It was a magnificent monocompax that did the Cobra justice.
I feel that Helson could have built a worthy contender, but their lack of awareness and very limited distribution would have prevented it. Oris could have done a worthy job. And since Cobras were, in fact, highly modified British sportscars, Bremont should have been a contender. This could go on and on and……….
Obviously, you’ve been studying the photos that accompany my article. What do you think? Am I wrong? Is my passion for these incredible cars warping my vision and blowing my expectations out of proportion? Could be. But is there really anything very special about these watches that scream “Cobra?”
Beginning with the case, it’s a standard Capeland style. So are the pushers and crown. Nothing special here. Nothing Cobraish. Honestly, many Capelands are gorgeous watches that I, the Curmudgeon, would gladly wear.
Now, let’s gaze at the dial. Eccch! Ouch! The racing stripes are a travesty. Nothing wrong with the numerals and hands: standard Capeland fare. For even more creativity, take a gander at the 30 minute counter. It looks like a dashboard gauge. Brilliant idea. Never seen that before.
But the real piece de resistance is the seconds hand with the Cobra logo. Ssssssensational! I would have loved to have been in what was most likely the17th or 18th design committee meeting when some brazen graphic artist had a eureka moment and announced the idea. All present were so shaken by this groundbreaking concept that they broke out bottles of Himbeergeist and began yodeling.
By now, I think you get the point. The watch leaves a bit to be desired. And leaves the Cobra in a ditch coughing and wheezing. Sorry, Baume & Mercier. But I do have some invaluable advice for you. 2015 marks the 65th Anniversary of the Nash Rambler. So, go for it!