The Fast And The Fratelli: Cartier Roadster Chronograph Versus Seiko SRQ029
The race roars on with the Cartier Roadster Chronograph versus the Seiko SRQ029. And what a spectacle it will be! It’s going to be a track battle between two watch equivalents of early 1970s race cars. The Cartier Roadster will be represented by the Matra-Simca MS670, a Group 5 prototype equipped with a howling 2,999 cc V12 engine — the one which, some say, is the best-sounding engine ever produced. The Seiko SRQ029, a 2019 watch that celebrates 50 years of Seiko chronographs, appears on the circuit in the shape of a Toyota 7. This Group 7 car with a Yamaha chassis was powered by a 3-liter 61E V8 made by Toyota. Messieurs, démarrez vos moteurs! ジェントルメン、スタート・ユア・エンジンス！
The race between high-octane chronographs for watch freaks and petrol heads keeps heating up. Today, we see the Cartier Roadster Chronograph ref. 2618, with its swooping lines and daring curves, take on the Seiko SRQ029 with a more instrumental look. Two very different-looking watches that still have a lot in common, both are chronographs outfitted with a tachymeter scale — a must to be able to enter The Fast And The Fratelli Grand Prix.
… once on the track, all rules go out the window.
Keep in mind that there is no price limit, and even limited editions can enter the competition. But once on the track, all rules go out the window. A bit like Michael Schumacher hitting Damon Hill (intentionally) during the 1994 Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide, securing him his first World Drivers’ championship.
The Fast And The Fratelli — Cartier Roadster Chronograph
Cartier might not be a brand you connect with the world of cars. But the Roadster collection, which entered the scene in 2001, was a tribute to the luxury automotive world. The name Roadster, of course, brings the famous Porsche Roadster 356 to mind. And if it doesn’t, just have a look at the Roadster logo Cartier uses — if that doesn’t remind you of a Porsche logo, nothing will. The design of the watch is clearly inspired by the most emblematic ’50s and ’60s luxury cars, but still with some very characteristic Cartier twists and design elements.
A shapely cyclops
The Roadster Chronograph ref. 2618 is the most sporty of all Roadsters that Cartier created. First, there’s the tonneau-shaped steel case with soft edges and visible screws that resemble the headlights of classic cars. The case measures 42.8 × 47.6mm and has a height of just over 12.5mm. Second, there’s a solid case back showing the striking and very familiar Roadster logo. It’s also water-resistant to 100 meters.
The watch’s most striking feature is, without a doubt, the shapely cyclops, designed to integrate with the pointy crown. This creates an absolutely unique look and one that yet again evokes the aesthetics of classic cars from the ’50s and ’60s. The fact that the cyclops also distorts the reading of the small seconds is something I am willing to overlook.
No screaming V12, but a proven ETA variation
The streamlined Roadster Chronograph ref. 2618, with its typical Cartier dial, is now discontinued. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be erased from your memory. In a watch world dominated by round chronographs with more or less the same design, the Roadster Chronograph ref. 2618 is like a breath of fresh gasoline vapor. It’s a watch that dares to be different, and it does so with flawless details and a uniquely flamboyant style. You can find a ref. 2618 on Chrono24 for prices a little below the €4K mark.
… if you want to finish first, you first have to finish.
Inside, there’s no in-house equivalent to the screaming Matra-Simca V12, but rather, the Cartier caliber 8510. It’s a Swiss-made, automatic, 37-jewel movement based on the ETA 2894, and a very reliable “engine” for sure. And that’s important because if you want to finish first, you first have to finish. Your vote also helps a lot, so pick the Cartier Roadster Chronograph to make sure it crosses the line first.
The Fast And The Fratelli — Seiko SRQ029
Its full name is Automatic Chronograph 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, but we use SRQ029 to keep it simple. The watch came out in 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the well-known caliber 6139. That automatic chronograph movement debuted in 1969, and it was around the same time that Zenith and the joint venture between Heuer, Breitling, and Hamilton launched their first automatic chronograph movements.
… Frederic Piguet used the 6139 for “inspiration” when it built its now legendary caliber 1185.
Perhaps because Seiko was Japanese, most of the attention and praise always went to the Swiss brands. Nevertheless, Seiko’s column-wheel movement design has seen many imitations since the 1980s. Did you know, for instance, that Frederic Piguet used the 6139 for “inspiration” when it built its now-legendary caliber 1185? And considering how many automatic chronographs the 1185 has inspired, caliber 6139’s influential role has been underappreciated.
The looks of the old “Panda”
The 2019 Seiko SRQ029 is based on the looks of the 6138-8020 “Panda”, one of the most beloved and collectible vintage Seiko models. The panda-style dial under the box-shaped sapphire has the same vertical brushing as the original 6138. And although the 6138 appeared at a time when futuristic and experimental case shapes were all the rage, the “Panda” had a way more conventional round shape. The SRQ029 is a modern reinterpretation with Zaratsu polishing on its 41 × 16mm Diashield-coated case, The lug-to-lug length is 47mm, if you must know. The steel bracelet with its deployant clasp and push-button closure of course feels way more solid than the bracelet produced fifty years ago.
Still on the grid
Sure, the original from 1969 was a two-register watch, but by creating a three-register layout with two out of three sub-dials in black, the SRQ029 still evokes the original aesthetic. Very true to the original are the black chapter ring, the shape of the hands, the orange tip of the chronograph second hand, the hour markers, and the tachymeter bezel inscriptions. The SRQ029 is part of the Prospex collection and came out in a limited edition of 1,000 pieces with a price of €3,700. A quick search also revealed that the watch is still available from official sources.
Inside, caliber 8R48
Inside the 100-meter water-resistant case with a see-through case back beats the automatic in-house caliber 8R48. This movement is responsible for the inevitable three-register layout Seiko so cleverly disguised as a two-register-style dial. The 34-jewel movement has a claimed accuracy of +25 to -15 seconds per day and a power reserve of approximately 42 hours. The 4Hz caliber 8R48 also has a vertical clutch and a column wheel like the groundbreaking 6139. Furthermore, the new movement uses a three-pointed hammer and a heart-shaped cam to synchronize the hands’ flyback function. It’s quite the “engine,” as you would expect from a movement pioneer.
Cartier Roadster Chronograph versus Seiko SRQ029 — time to vote
Take your time, think it through, change your mind at the very last second, but please, cast your vote! You decide if the Cartier Roadster Chronograph (Matra-Simca MS670) or the Seiko SRQ029 (Toyota 7) takes the checkered flag.
The Fast And The Fratelli — Cartier Roadster Chronograph Vs. Seiko SRQ029
Please find and follow me at Lex Stolk • Instagram