Rallying a classic car across the country is as brutal as joyous a task. It was a tough week. Driving 12 hours a day through dusty gravel road in a noisy car with the heating turned on almost half the time was so exhausting that we fell asleep every day right after we pitched our tent, had some food, and took care of the inevitable maintenance of the car. All that, with just one watch on my wrist. As you might imagine, it was not an easy decision. But in the end, the Fratello × Oris Divers Sixty-Five was a worthy companion.

I consider myself a fast-thinking and decisive person. Despite that, I could not decide what watch would be the best companion for a classic car endurance rally. I blame the lack of experience and my naivety. If you read my recent piece, you know I was a little bit all over the place before the rally. My heart wanted to take a vintage watch, but my brains held me to the ground. I was fully packed, with my shoes on, when I stepped in front of the safe, facing the final call. I decided to take Fratello × Oris Divers Sixty-Five for a trip only two minutes before we left the house. We just got back from the rally. Honestly, I couldn’t have picked a better watch for the trip.

Camping on the top of the hill

At the end of the third day of racing, we had 1,037km on the odometer. The Roadbook suggested three camping options around. We liked the first one the most. Grassy ridges of meadows with views of the mountains, the road to the top passes right by the church. The road up was adventurous, but the views were satisfyingly rewarding. After three days, we were pretty synced with my wife. Without any chatter, I pitched the tent while she made some food. I remember carefully placing the camping chairs with the idea of sipping a drink with my wife. Wishful thinking…

Sorting out the over-heating problem

I know my Prelude well; it has been my reliable daily beater for six years. The temperature control has never moved from the safe zone before.  That day we almost boiled the engine. As seen in the image gallery, the temperature control nearly jumped from its position. I was so afraid, so we took breaks to cool the engine down. The climb was so long and steep that there wasn’t a minute for Prelude’s engine (and brakes) to take a cooling break. The descent was so intense that I had to stop the car for 20 minutes, as I could smell the brake pads burning. I knew some work had to be done.

The fan we installed the night before died the next day.

I looked at the empty camping chairs. Then I looked back at our car. Instead of a mountain view drink, we opened a bonnet and decided to dive into preparations for the next day. It was already dark outside. I shined my flashlight toward my skilled brother, who drove the second car. He helped me install the backup fan I took as a spare part in case the original died. It was actually working fine, just not designed to handle such strain. To be safe, we decided to install the second fan in parallel. Jan used the wiring for the additional Lucas driving lights and connected the fan. We finished at midnight. My wife was already sleeping. I gave our empty camping chairs one last pained look and slipped into my sleeping bag.

Three minutes before the epic storm…

An unexpected storm

The following day I woke up to the sound of thunder. I unzipped the tent and enjoyed the mountain view for a brief moment. A minute later, I woke up my wife and started packing. I thought we might get some rain, but what happened next caught me totally unprepared. Nature takes every opportunity to teach us a lesson. It happened in seconds. The wind was so strong that my brother’s tent was almost blown away. It only didn’t, thanks to my quick-thinking nephew holding it down.

Three minutes after the storm. Happy we survived and found some dry clothes.

Still in my pajamas, rushing around to hide all the important stuff in the car, I got completely soaked. I shouted to my wife to leave everything and hide in the car. I could only try to shield her with my body against the raindrops, which fell so hard that they felt like razor blades. We secured all the equipment and took refuge in our cars. It was an incredible effort. It was only the morning, but we were utterly exhausted. We were also left speechless and shaking from the cold and the shock. We both realized how small and defenseless we were against nature’s brutal and sudden power.

The Fratello × Oris Divers Sixty-Five taking a rainy break

The test you never want a vintage watch to undergo

After the storm was gone, we got out of the car and started to collect our stuff the storm didn’t take away. I was happy to realize we hid all the power banks, phones, walkie-talkies, and gas cookers. I was still in my fully-soaked pajamas that hung off me, heavy with water. At that moment, I realized I still had a watch on my wrist. I also realized that if I had worn my Seiko Rotocall, which I really wanted to and almost did. The rain would have almost certainly killed it. Not sure about how the Gallet Clamshell would have fared, but I am happy I didn’t have it on my wrist.

Thoughts on my choice of watch

This experience shattered all the preconceived notions I held before the rally. I considered wearing a vintage watch because I thought I’d always be ready to put it away should a critical situation arise. I tried to picture the kind of situations I’d be faced with. If our car gets stuck, I’d have put it down on the dashboard panel before stepping out to get it out of the mud. I could also easily remove it if I needed to work in the engine bay. The situations where you could damage your watch are countless on the road.

The reality of what it was like participating in an endurance rally was worlds apart from what I imagined. I put the watch down maybe once or twice. Other than that, it didn’t leave my wrist. I even slept with it on. When we fixed the fan that night, I forgot I had it on my wrist. I remember knocking it a few times. Now I realize how naive I was to think I could think “clearly” and always protect the watch. Well, maybe it would have been possible if I had time. But when you participate in a rally, you don’t have any time to consider these things, let alone daydream about watches.

Why the Fratello × Oris Divers Sixty-Five was a perfect fit

I remember it felt a bit odd to take a dive watch on a rally. That’s why I initially ruled it out in favor of my Speedy Ultraman. But minutes before we left, the Speedy was the last watch I tried on. I found myself deciding between the Ultraman and Fratello × Oris. Finally, I opted for the Oris because the Speedy felt a bit too big. I wanted something that would feel light on my wrist. And I remember thinking at the speed of light that I do not need to time anything anyway. Speed was not the goal, so its master could take a break. We aimed to finish the rally, not win it. Ideally, we’d be returning “in” the Prelude, not “with” the Prelude.

Image courtesy: trans-carpathia.sk

Another unexpected (yet no less critical) consideration was the dust we’d encounter on the road. Most of the days were hot and dry, so dust was everywhere. I was surprised to see through just how many nooks and cracks in the car the dust would come in. You need to take into consideration that you are not driving alone. We often ended up in a convoy of vehicles moving faster or slower; the only thing you could see was the all-engulfing cloud of dust.

What I like the best about the Fratelloris is the dial’s legibility. It turned out to be a handy feature multiple times during the rally. The roads, full of sharp rocks, can be unforgiving of any mistakes. Did you lose focus for three seconds? You get rewarded with a flat tire. Driving endurance rallies on forest roads needs permanent attention. When you want to check the time, you must do it quickly. And the Fratello × Oris Divers Sixty-Five scores full marks in that regard. It turned out to be extremely practical also at night. Big lume plots were a godsend when I wanted to check the time in the darkness of the tent.

Give me some water!

The roadbook for the rally turned out to be a great one.  The organizers put together a great mix of rugged roads, epic panoramic views, and the occasional local surprise. Every evening there was a waterfall or mountain stream we could jump into after a tiring day of driving. And let me tell you, the last thing you want to do after 10 hours of driving is to carefully pack away your vintage watch before diving into the water. From that perspective, Oris was a perfect carefree choice.

Image courtesy: trans-carpathia.sk

One side note, a few days after the rally, multiple messages started coming through the rally chat on Telegram. Here, attendees ask about Garmin watches or glasses they might have lost in a camp or on the side of a road during short breaks. My advice? During a rally, you are coping with a lot of stress far from your familiar surroundings. This is the simple truth of it, whether you want to admit it or not. No matter how much you concentrate, losing something valuable is common. All this considered, I’d suggest never taking off your watch. Not even at night. You pitch and pack the tent seven times in seven days, often in a rush. It’s scary how easily you can lose track of a watch in the rush of it all

Notes on the car

We haven’t received the final results yet, but of about 150 cars, only 70 made it to the finish line. I have to say I was surprised to see how well our 1979 Honda Prelude held up. I was supposed to take a different safari car, built specially for the rally, but it was not done on time. This is why I decided to take my (almost) factory specced Prelude. It got new rear shocks, additional driving lights, new brakes, and a roof rack. That’s it! We witnessed modern cars, half the age of our Prelude, falling apart. This oldtimer made it through without a flat tire. After 2,500 km of driving over rugged terrain, I feel even more connected to a car with which I already had many great memories.

Final thoughts

We finished the rally in five of eight racing days. The reason we ended earlier was not due to the technical problems with the car. But we had to take care of our two bebes aged two and four waiting for us back home. Family always takes the highest priority, so we spontaneously decided to return. Yes, we would have liked to make it to the finish line and say we did it, but we do not regret our decision. It was a completely new experience for me and my wife, and we feel so blessed we could do the trip. We enjoyed every happy and challenging moment and can’t wait to get back on track on a winter classic car Trans-Carpathia endurance rally. And when the next race comes, I will be sporting the distinctive and practical Fratello × Oris Divers Sixty-Five.

For more info about Trans-Carpathia Rally and its events, check out the website.