There’s no dispute that changing the strap or bracelet on a watch can entirely alter its character. Yet, there is decidedly less agreement about “authorial intent” when it comes to strap changes. Does swapping a bracelet for a leather strap betray what the manufacturer envisioned for the timepiece’s appearance? Does switching back and forth (for some us, sometimes daily) completely negate the design efforts of the watch’s progenitor? While these questions will likely persist as long as there are watch geeks to bellow about them, Louis Chevrolet has quietly put its cards on the table with the new-for-2022 Speedway LC17 model.
True to its title, Louis Chevrolet timepieces hew close to the world of automotive endeavors. Drawing power and inspiration from the 1963 Corvette C2, the LC17 is never far from its automotive roots. Look no further than the speedometer-esque chapter ring encircling the clearly delineated, concentrically focused dial. The geometry of the inner and outer dial elements (to say nothing of the latching third lug — more on this later) that occupy most of the watch’s visual space makes it clear that this is a timepiece in motion. A red-tipped seconds hand is present on all six color variants (all similar to the official C2’s bodyworks), alluding to the needle so often glanced at when pursuing maximum speed.
Watches competing in the Kickstarter sphere often skimp on finishing details at their own peril. Not so with the Speedway LC17. The stainless steel case is both satin-finished and -polished, giving a subtle, if subconscious, sense of refinement. The bezels and applied indices, numerals, and dial text are all mirror-polished, giving a visual reminder of the chrome heritage this racing watch draws from. To that end, the dial texture is not to be missed as it provides more clues to the high-octane world that births some of watchmaking’s finest speedwatches. Particularly on the black-dial variant, one can almost smell hot asphalt just by looking at the time.
Speaking of speed, no assessment of the Speedway LC17 is complete without a review of the patented strap-changing system. Likely the first thing most watch lovers will notice about this watch is the unmistakable “third lug” extended from north/south on the case. This serves not just as an interesting visual component — and yes, it is quite interesting — but it has a practical purpose, too. Operating as a latching mechanism, each of the two lugs includes a locking apparatus that catches the strap’s integrated bar to ensure a tight, seamless fit. Meanwhile, the conventional lugs feature notches that perfectly align with the included hardware, steering it into position. Each watch includes a black or blue silicone strap, a steel mesh bracelet, and a black, green, or brown leather strap that is dial-color dependent so wearers can practice pit crew-fast swaps with speed and precision.
Flip it over, and the display caseback allows for a glimpse of the engine inside — a modified ETA 2824-2 movement tailored specifically for the Speedway LC17 by the Louis Chevrolet team in Porrentruy, Switzerland. What’s special here is not so much the view of the movement as the obstruction of the view, paradoxical as that may be. The crystal caseback is emblazoned with a motif evocative of the Corvette C2’s brilliantly spiked wheel design and a triple-pointed “8” logo dead center. And to that end, the “8” looms large on the Speedway LC17. It was in the number 8 car that Louis Chevrolet’s car won many races and, in addition to its appearance on the caseback, it also cleverly pops up on the watch’s crown. Here, the deep texture allows for one-handed time adjustment, with or without driving gloves on. The final and likely most rousing detail is on the watch’s flank, where Louis Chevrolet’s slogan “Never Give Up” is placarded on a screwed-in sideplate.
At full retail, the Speedway LC17 clocks in at 1098 CHF (approx. $1,200 USD). The Swiss watchmaker debuted the Speedway LC17’s Kickstarter campaign on March 8th where backers can get special introductory pricing of 668 CHF (approx. $730 USD). The six dial variants (brown, blue, black, green, gray, and silver) mean that fans are spoiled for choice, no matter which icon they cheer for, all the way to the checkered flag.
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