Gumball Rally/Around-the-World-in-80-Days/24 Hours of Le Mans: Here’s a Proposal for a Real-Life International Chronometry Competition that Both Brands and Collectors might Enjoy
by Ian Skellern
The Gumball Rally, now called the Gumball 3000, became famous thanks to the 1981 film Cannonball Run starring Burt Reynolds. A Cannonball Run is an unsanctioned speed record for driving across the United States, typically accepted to run from New York City’s Red Ball Garage to the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach near Los Angeles, covering a distance of about 2,906 miles (4,677 km).
The origin of the race dates back to 1933, when legendary motorcycle racer Mister Baker, crossed the United States coast-to-coast in 54 hours, earning him the nickname Cannonball. In the 1970s, motoring journalist Brock Yates of Car and Driver magazine started the Cannonball Baker Sea To Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash in honor of Cannonball. The first race was held on April 1, 1971, and the first prize was a Gumball dispenser.
Why not do something similar with a wristwatch competition?
What went wrong with the International Chronometry Competition
The big problem that the ‘modern’ International Chronometry Competition run by the International Museum of Horology in Le Locle faced was brands worried about reputational damage if they lost (see International Chronometry Competition 2019 Decides That The Best Way Out Of A Hole Is To Keep Digging. And Expects Us To Watch.)
To mitigate this, after weeks of testing, the organizers simply published the winners and runners-up in each category, with no details about the watches that dropped out, performed poorly, or why.
It was like watching a Formula 1 race in which you see the start, then the screen goes blank for 2 hours, and then shows the winners being crowned. Not surprisingly, not actually seeing the competition play out led to the International Chronometry Competition generating little support from either the brands or the watch community, and it only ran 5 times from 2009 to 2019. See Why The International Chronometry Competition Needs To Change Format Or Sink Into Total Irrelevance.
Horological Gumball Rally
My solution goes like this . . .
A group of well-heeled collectors – brands/independents are also welcome to participate, but I suspect they will wait to see how it goes – set off from, say, Geneva, but could be New York, Dubai, or Singapore, wearing one or two watches, on a two-week world tour. A suggested itinerary might be something like New York-London-Geneva-Dubai-Singapore- Los Angeles – New York.
If anyone at Seddiqi reads this, it might be a biennial event starting or finishing at Dubai Watch Week.
They spend say 2 days at each stop along the way (stops could be sponsored by brands or retailers organizing collector events), and in each place they do a few outdoor activities typical of the city/country. The watches are worn normally throughout the tour and, as all watches now are water-resistant to at least 30 meters, they should be swum with or at least plunged into a hotel pool at each stop.
While there will be a lot of trust involved, all participating watches will be synchronized at the start, and time-stamped photographed at least 4 times each day to minimize cheating. The photos, clearly showing the dial and secondhand position, will be instantly published on social media. As will photos of the watches being worn in various activities.
Each evening, all of the competing watches might be put on a tray – either flat or on their size depending on the strap/bracelet – in a safe to minimize the possibility of ‘fine tuning’ ta watch’s accuracy by manipulating the tendency of watches to gain or lose time depending if the movement is flat or vertical.
A chronometry prize will go to the most accurate watch that loses or gains the least over the world tour, but prizes might also be awarded to other categories like, Most Extreme Activity, Best Value For Money Accuracy, Most in the Spirit of the Competition.
If brands get involved, as with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, there might be separate Professionals and Amateurs categories.
What do you think? Might something like this work? Do you think it might be interesting? Do you have any other suggestions?
Further reading: The lost spirit of chronometry competitions
You might also enjoy:
Wristwatch Precision: Why the Fundamental Purpose of Watches is Playing Second Fiddle and How to Fix This
International Chronometry Competition 2019 Decides That The Best Way Out Of A Hole Is To Keep Digging. And Expects Us To Watch