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It’s a point of pride for watchmakers to use materials not commonly associated with horology. When J.N. Shapiro debuted the Infinity Tantalum late last year, it was the first time a non-Swiss brand had managed to craft a case from the devilishly uncooperative material. Such substantive prowess not only serves as a stamp of excellence for a watch brand but gives character to a timepiece. If you can work with tantalum, you can work with anything. Similarly, the usage of meteorite in dial-making is legendary in the watch world with brands from Rolex to Zelos making use of the otherworldly material.
Taking nothing away from meteorites, they do tend to lack a certain je ne sais quoi. Sure, hurtling through the vast emptiness of space for billions of years is great but there’s not much soul to it. The same goes for aluminum. When was the last time you were truly inspired by tin foil? But take a hunk of aluminum that has truly been there and done that, and the equation quickly changes. Such is the case for Torgoen ‘s new T51 Mustang pilot’s watch, where the story is laid bare across the dial.
The Torgoen T51, introduced this week, takes the brand’s no-nonsense stainless case found in the T25 and T48 and gives it a major upgrade. Still ticking with the Ronda 515.24H, a Swiss-made quartz GMT movement, the T51 features an all-aluminum dial crafted from the skin of real P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft, the kind used to great effect by Allied air forces during World War II. Through a partnership with Pacific Fighters, a leader in aircraft restoration based in Idaho Falls, Torgoen has managed to bring the soul and history of vintage aviation to its watches.
Torgoen has been around since 2009, working diligently within the world of aviation. As such, they’ve earned bragging rights through partnerships with institutions like the California Fire Pilot Association. The daring videos of giant tankers swooping over burning ridges at alarmingly low altitudes? That’s them. The Torgoen blog reflects this aeronautical spirit and is a veritable who’s-who of aviation, with pilots running the gamut from young to old, commercial to backcountry, and helicopter to biplane. Notably listed among the brand’s ambassadors is Donna Joanne Garrett who, along with her mother, made history as their airline’s first mother-daughter flight crew in 2019.
Tracing back this skybound history a few more decades, aviation buffs know well the story of the P-51 and the role it played in both the European and Pacific theaters during WWII. Its incredible range made it perfect for escorting slow, lumbering bombers toward targets deep in enemy territory while its bubble canopy made for unmatched cockpit visibility—crucial in close quarter dogfights. Aside from the design, the sheer lunacy behind the P-51’s production schedule is the stuff of legends. In today’s era of interminable development timetables, it’s staggering to imagine the speed with which the P-51 went from sketchbook to sky—just 18 months. The rest, as they say, is history.
Flying in such rare air means Torgoen is well-suited to bring a watch like the T51 to life. Staying true to the Mustang’s role as a lynchpin of air superiority, the T51 is a highly pragmatic pilot’s watch. At 44mm, the steel case offers plenty of real estate to make time-telling easy. The sapphire crystal domes over edge-to-edge (not unlike the aforementioned bubble canopies) and the guarded crown is easy enough to operate thanks to its fittingly large size. Affixed to the back by four screws is a special caseback featuring an image of a P-51 Mustang in flight, a nice touch thanks especially to the numbering that designates the T51 as a limited edition of just 100 pieces. The wide-sized 24mm leather strap features contrast stitching, quick-release spring bars, and is fitted with the oversize steel pin-buckle closure commonly found on the world’s great pilot’s watches.
Each T51 has large printed numerals that are brightly lumed, as are the hour markers both on the inner and outer GMT rings. Large, hi-viz pilot style hands complete the look and ensure accuracy in all flight conditions, and both the seconds and GMT hands are lumed too. To that end, the T51 goes the distance as a GMT watch with precise time-telling thanks to the clearly denoted 24-hour outer ring upon the dial.
And it’s that dial that makes this watch truly special. Available in either black or silver, each dial is a piece of living history. Crafted from recovered aluminum as part of Pacific Fighters careful restoration process, it is thanks to this heritage that the material proudly displays its incongruities. Look close and you’ll see etch marks earned from hours of flight time. For the nostalgic, it’s hard not to fill in the blanks, imagining a leather-helmeted P-51 pilot banking steeply over some rocky Pacific island to counter an enemy assault. In the 80-odd years from then to now, this unpresuming hunk of metal has collected some tales.
Model: T51 Mustang
Dimensions: 44mm diameter, 14.1mm thick, 52.5mm lug to lug
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Case Material: High grade 316L stainless steel
Crystal: Domed sapphire
Movement: Swiss Quartz Ronda 515.24H GMT
Strap: 24mm contrast-stitched Italian leather with pin-buckle closure
Dial: Aluminum ‘recycled airplane’ dial from P-51 Mustang aircraft
References: TN/4000 (gray dial), TN/4001 (black dial)
Pieces: 100 pieces per reference
Price & Availability: $495 exclusively via Torgoen website
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