There’s a pro at the wheel. He’s going to make sure that I enjoy a day at the Tour de France with Tissot to the fullest. Former French pro bike racer Kilian Patour, who rode for Crédit Agricole and Team Garmin-Slipstream alongside the likes of Thor Hushovd and Bradley Wiggins, is going to be the driver of the Audi Q5 in Tissot livery. Driving a car in a bike race requires special experience and skills, and former pros know exactly how to drive, behave, and react on the hectic roads of France. Before the start of stage 13 from Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne to the mountain top of Grand Colombier, there was a bit of time to do some watch spotting — and bike spotting, of course.

There are 167 riders ready to hit the scorching roads in the French department of Ain. I know that some of the riders and teams have links with watches. The first watch I spot is that of our driver Kilian Patour. Hired by the Tour de France’s official timekeeper, it’s no surprise to find a Tissot on his wrist. It’s the T-Race Cycling Tour de France 2023 (T135.417.37.051.05/€625) a quartz chronograph with a distinct design. The yellow details reference the “TdF’s” yellow jersey worn by the race leader. But there’s more — a black dial with an asphalt look, for instance, and pushers in the shape of shifters. There’s also an engraved Tour de France logo on the case back. And at 45 × 11.6mm, the black PVD steel and carbon composite case is large.

Tour De France With Tissot

A day at the Tour de France with Tissot

The T-Race Cycling Tour de France is too large to wear while cycling. It’s a watch for fans of cycling or cyclists who want to express their love for the sport off the bike. The Tissot Sideral (€1,075) I’m wearing might be a dive watch, but the yellow and black colors are a great match for the TdF. And while wearing the watch with its 41 × 14.5mm case in forged carbon, it got me thinking. The Sideral weighs 90 grams and has cycling potential. You see, the bikes in the race can’t weigh less than 6.8 kilos. The riders don’t have a weight limit and try to be as light as possible. The current Sideral is definitely light, but since marginal gains win races in the pro peloton, the cycling version should be even lighter. And that’s possible.

The current Sideral has a stainless steel inner case to keep it robust and protect the Powermatic 80 movement inside. Change that to titanium, get rid of the rubber strap, and use a thinner one made of the same lightweight material used as bar tape. The water resistance rating of 300 meters (~30 bar) will make the watch completely sweat-proof, and it also will be totally fine when you empty a water bottle over your head and spill some on your wrist.

Tissot Sideral

Dreaming of the Tissot Sideral Cyclo

Once my mind started racing, the potential of the Sideral Cyclo — I even came up with a name — became more and more evident. There could be four Tour de France versions matching the four leader’s jerseys in the different classifications. The Sideral Cyclo Leader could have a yellow strap and details on the dial in that same color, matching the jersey that’s worn by the leader of the race. The Sideral Cyclo Sprinter could use green, the Sideral Cyclo King of the Mountains or KOM could have red accents, and the Sideral Cyclo U23 could have clean and fresh white accents. And since Tissot also sponsors the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), a version with the iconic rainbow stripes integrated into the design is also a possibility.

The lightweight Sideral Cyclo would be a functional watch that shows the time in an instant — for other stuff, there’s the cycling computer in front of the handlebars. The Sideral Cyclo’s shape, weight, functions, and design could make it a watch to wear on and off the bike.

Back to reality, back to the race

Anyway, let’s return to the real world. After spotting the Tissot on Kilian Patour, another watch made its appearance. It was the watch on the wrist of former US pro and current NBC Sports commentator Christian Vande Velde. As part of the Garmin-Cervélo team, Vande Velde won stage two (the team time trial) of the 2011 TdF. The watch he’s wearing during the 2023 edition of the world’s most famous and biggest bike race is a 2017 Hublot Classic Fusion Chrono Aero Carbon “Best Buddies” Limited Edition. Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for friendship, employment, and leadership training for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The 45mm carbon-fiber-cased watch includes the Best Buddies logo, illustrated by iconic graffiti artist Keith Haring, printed on the case back.

Tour de France

Christian Vande Velde

Vande Velde is an ambassador of Best Buddies together with his former teammate George Hincapie. It’s too bad that Hincapie isn’t at the TdF this year because, according to Vande Velde, he’s a veritable watch nut who owns vintage Daytonas and has been seen wearing a Richard Mille. Hoping to see a Richard Mille watch on the wrist of Tadej Pogacar — one of this year’s TdF protagonists who rides for the UAE team sponsored by the high-end watch brand — I started the pit walk. Sadly, the only “Richard Mille” I saw was a sticker on the stem of the UAE Colnago V4RS bikes. With Richard Mille owner Mark Cavendish out of the race, my hopes were on former French world champion Julian Alaphilippe wearing his RM 67-02, but he was nowhere to be seen, unfortunately.

Tour de France

Jacob & Co in the peloton

Alexey Lutsenko is the champion of Kazakhstan, and he rides for Astana Qazaqstan Team. He won a TdF stage in 2020 and finished within the top 10 of the race twice. He also has a personal watch sponsor, Jacob & Co, as a team staff member wearing a previous-generation steel Rolex Daytona informed me.

I also learned that this Italian Rolex wearer had a collection of around 60 watches. He told me to wait at the Astana bus for “Luts” to return from the team introduction on the stage of the village départ.

After a few minutes, “Luts” appeared wearing a 45mm Jacob & Co Epic X on a black rubber strap. It’s a heavy watch in black DLC steel that he only wears during podium ceremonies and never on the bike, as he told me in very few words before getting quickly getting out of the heat and into the air-conditioned coolness of the team bus.

Tour de France

“Attaque de Pierre Roland!” And he’s wearing a TAG Heuer Carrera

There were no other watches to be found on riders’ wrists. But on the way to the Tissot car that was going to be part of the TdF caravan, Kilian spotted a friend and former colleague. Pierre Rolland won two TdF stages, one in 2011 and another one in 2012. Rolland was known for his attacking style of racing, and during the TdF, French commentators often shouted out, “Attaque de Pierre Rolland!” many times over the years. As do so many former pro racers, he now rides in a car with guests of sponsors of the race.

On his wrist sat a now-discontinued 43mm steel and gold TAG Heuer Carrera (CAR205B.FT6087). But there was no time to talk about the watch because we had to race out of the town to stay ahead of the peloton.

High above the peloton with a Speedmaster

I was there on Bastille Day, a French national holiday when nobody works and everybody seems to be roadside. Along the whole route, people were waiting patiently for the riders to pass, entertaining themselves with the commercial caravan ahead of the race and waving at every car that passed. And all this waving also led to me waving back with the yellow and black Tissot Sideral out of the left-rear window. It kind of made me feel like a VIP. That VIP feeling became even stronger when we swapped the car for a helicopter. All it took was one look at the pilot, and I knew it was going to be a nice flight. The Omega Speedmaster on his wrist was a comforting sight.

The flight was short and sweet, but the perspective on the peloton at that speed was an unforgettable sight. The watch spotting at the TdF could have been more memorable, but the overall impression of being inside the race will last forever. And on the way back home, I also couldn’t stop thinking about the Tissot Sideral Cyclo. Admittedly, I never wear a watch while cycling. However, a lightweight timepiece around €1,250 — one that doesn’t simply reference cycling but embodies it in its construction and functionality — might change that. What do you think, bike-riding Fratelli? Would you wear a flyweight watch that matches your carbon bike and cycling kit? Let me know in the comments. Oh, and here are some bikes that I spotted for all you bike fans.