When it comes to theming a watch around an automobile, there’s certainly a checklist of the “usual suspects:” Porsche, Ferrari, and occasionally other legacy racing automakers, such as Bentley or Jaguar. There’s an implicitly accepted list of brands for these sorts of designs, and by and large, it’s a club restricted to the upper echelons of European luxury sports car brands. On the other hand, it’s difficult to anticipate an automotive-themed racing chronograph tied to a car from a stop-motion animated film from the mid-‘70s, but that’s exactly what young Norwegian brand Von Doren has set out to achieve with its latest release. It’s an ambitious, playful, and proudly Norwegian concept to build a watch upon, but the end result is an impressively well-built, attractive racing chronograph design with a veneer of cartoonish fun. The new limited edition Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante combines a handsomely balanced and refined base chronograph design with punchy, colorful embellishments and an impressively solid movement to create a cheerfully offbeat Scandinavian challenger to the classic racing chronograph pantheon.
Before delving too deeply into the Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante itself, it’s best to give some backstory on the design. The watch’s overall concept, along with the “Il Tempo Gigante” moniker itself, originates from the 1975 Norwegian stop-motion animated film “Flåklypa Grand Prix” (better known as “The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix” in English). Part “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” part “Speed Racer,” and part proto-“Wallace and Gromit,” the film is the charmingly well-animated story of eccentric small-town inventor Theodore Rimspoke on his quest to build a winning race car to beat his old rival, who has achieved international success with an engine design stolen from Rimspoke himself. Rather than the sleek ‘70s Can Am-inspired machines of his competitors, Rimspoke’s new racing machine is the massive and baroque homebuilt Il Tempo Gigante — a brass-era steampunk monster with a massive straight-12 engine, a supplemental jet engine in the rear, a full complement of wacky gadgets, and a combined output of over 2,000 horsepower. The car is so powerful, its launch from the starting line measures in at 7.8 on the Richter scale, and through pluck and perseverance Rimspoke’s comic racer wins the day. The film is a cultural touchstone in Norway. It holds the record as the most widely seen Norwegian film of all time, shown in movie theaters somewhere in the world every day consecutively from 1975 until 2003, and stood as the most successful stop-motion feature film of all time until the release of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in 1993. In short, the Il Tempo Gigante racing car is a playfully left-field choice to base a racing chronograph around, but it’s one that resonates deeply with Von Doren’s proudly Norwegian small-production ethos.
The Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante begins with a 41mm-wide stainless steel case. The brand itself describes the case shape as “Genta-esque,” and while the resemblance is faint it’s not entirely un-apropos. Although there’s no hint of an integrated lug structure here, the main case profile is vaguely hexagonal, with softened angles highlighted by a continuous polished chamfer from lug tip to lug tip. Von Doren adds some organic curvature to the design with the upper lug surfaces, with a flowing compound curve accentuated by smooth vertical brushing. These lugs also help the Il Tempo Gigante to wear impressively well, tempering its ‘70s-style racing chronograph wrist presence with a modest lug-to-lug length. The bezel places the Il Tempo Gigante more firmly into the “lightly Genta-inspired” visual space, with squared-off segments at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock, a flat radially brushed top, and broad, mirror-polished chamfers sloping down to a vertical base. It’s a remarkably clean and bright layout on the wrist, with abundant reflective surfaces and broad swathes of brushed stainless steel for a sense of solidity. The 3 o’clock screw-down crown arguably unbalances this design slightly, with a beefy, oversized pillbox design that might find more success with a truncated shape. However, the piston-style pushers flanking it are more reasonably sized, with a crisp, light feel in operation. Von Doren finishes the case with a custom engraved solid caseback, and rates the watch for a middling 50 meters of water resistance.
Although the case of the Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante is a clean, bright riff on the mid-‘70s era that inspired it, the matte black dial is where the watch references “Flåklypa Grand Prix” more directly. The overall layout is simple and classic on paper – a no-date, three-register chronograph design with syringe-tipped paddle hands, and dial markings relegated to the rehaut for a more open feel. In practice, Von Doren adds a colorful, funky flair to this formula that immediately sets the Il Tempo Gigante apart at a glance. As a start, each of the main central hands is color-coded. The hour hand offers a bright signal orange tip, while the minute hand opts for vivid yellow. For the central chronograph seconds hand, Von Doren takes the distinctive crosshair-style hood ornament from the Il Tempo Gigante racer and uses it as a blazing red tip, markedly aiding chronograph legibility. The recessed subdials likewise play with color in their own unique ways. At 3 o’clock, the chronograph minutes subdial is divided into three 10-minute segments in varying shades of matte gray, separated by diminutive yellow accents. The 6 o’clock chronograph hours subdial takes this concept further, splitting into two halves in deep slate gray and sunny yellow. It’s the running seconds subdial at 9 o’clock, however, that takes center stage. The white subdial itself adds a light and graphic crosshair pattern, but rather than a traditional subdial hand, Von Doren uses a printed sapphire wedge. At a glance, this appears to be a standard black needle hand, but as the seconds tick by a sweeping yellow gradient follows behind, giving the impression of a radar sweep or a speed blur. It’s an undeniably fun concept, but while these disparate accents fit the baroque Rube Goldberg style of the car that inspired it, they will likely divide enthusiasts overall. In addition, the dial signature at 12 o’clock plays into this lightheartedly complex theme with no less than three vastly different typefaces for each of its three lines of text.
Inside the Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante beats the Top Grade La Joux-Perret L112 automatic chronograph movement. Although the L112 can ultimately trace its base structure back to the seminal Valjoux 7750, the Citizen Group-owned Swiss movement manufacturer has radically overhauled this classic design for both a new layout and superior modern performance. While a 60-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate is a robust start, the accuracy of the L112 is its real strong suit, averaging just over +3 seconds per day during our review period.
Von Doren fits the Il Tempo Gigante with a fittingly ‘70s-style black leather rally strap, complete with a vivid and charismatic twist. The small hole perforation style, semi-matte pigskin-style texture, and supple, lightly padded construction give it an impressive throwback appeal on the wrist, but it’s the dial-matching lemon yellow lining that truly sets it apart. While a full yellow strap would likely have come across as overwhelming in regular wear, the yellow edges here shine through at oblique viewing angles for an added highlight wrapping all the way around the wrist.
It’s no small challenge to create a vintage-inspired racing chronograph that can stand against the existing field of competitors, especially for a young boutique brand. Like the garage-built fictional race car that inspired it, however, the limited edition Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante offers a plucky, high-performance, unapologetically Norwegian alternative to the giants of the industry, even if its wilder stylistic flourishes may prove divisive. Only 577 examples of the Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante will be made, and the watch is available for pre-order now through the brand’s e-commerce platform. MSRP for the Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante stands at €2,995 Euro as of press time. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.
>Brand: Von Doren
>Model: Il Tempo Gigante
>Price: €2,995 Euro
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When meeting with other Scandinavian friends and relatives, or as a more playful alternative to the traditional racing chronograph.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Fans of the film looking for a way to share their passion on the wrist; racing chronograph collectors looking to try something different.
>Best characteristic of watch: Sharply executed case design and finishing, impressive movement, stylish strap pairing.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The bolder “Flåklypa Grand Prix”-inspired dial touches are a love-it-or-hate-it inclusion.