There’s a skilled driver behind the wheel, ensuring that I have an amazing day at the Tour de France with Tissot. Kilian Patour, a former professional cyclist who rode for Crédit Agricole and Team Garmin-Slipstream alongside renowned riders Thor Hushovd and Bradley Wiggins, is driving the Audi Q5 adorned in Tissot branding. Driving a car in a bike race requires a unique set of skills and experience, and former professionals like Patour know exactly how to navigate the chaotic roads of France. Before the start of stage 13 from Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne to the mountain top of Grand Colombier, I had the opportunity to do some watch and bike spotting.
Spotting the Watches
As I prepared to witness 167 riders taking on the scorching roads of Ain, a French department, I knew that some of them and their teams were associated with watches. The first watch that caught my eye was the one worn by our driver, Kilian Patour. As the official timekeeper of the Tour de France, it was no surprise to see him sporting a Tissot watch. Specifically, he had the T-Race Cycling Tour de France 2023 (T135.417.37.051.05/€625) on his wrist. This quartz chronograph is designed with distinctive features, including yellow details that pay homage to the “TdF’s” yellow jersey, worn by the race leader. Additionally, it has a black dial with an asphalt-like appearance and pushers shaped like shifters. The watch also boasts an engraved Tour de France logo on its case back. With its sizable 45 × 11.6mm black PVD steel and carbon composite case, it certainly makes a statement.
A day at the Tour de France with Tissot
Although the T-Race Cycling Tour de France is too large to wear while cycling, it’s the perfect timepiece for cycling enthusiasts or those who want to express their love for the sport off the bike. As for me, I was wearing the Tissot Sideral (€1,075), a dive watch that beautifully complemented the yellow and black colors associated with the TdF. Its 41 × 14.5mm forged carbon case got me thinking about the weight of bicycles in the race. While the bikes can’t weigh less than 6.8 kilos, the riders themselves strive to be as light as possible. The Sideral, weighing only 90 grams, proved to be impressively light. However, in the world of professional cycling, marginal gains can make all the difference. Therefore, I couldn’t help but imagine an even lighter version of the Sideral designed specifically for cycling.
To achieve a lighter timepiece, the current Sideral’s stainless steel inner case could be replaced with titanium. Additionally, the rubber strap could be swapped for a thinner one made of the same lightweight material used as bar tape. With a water resistance rating of 300 meters (~30 bar), the watch would be sweat-proof and completely unaffected by water splashes.
Dreaming of the Tissot Sideral Cyclo
As my thoughts delved deeper into the potential of the Sideral Cyclo, I couldn’t help but envision four special editions of the watch, each corresponding to the four leader’s jerseys in the various classifications. The Sideral Cyclo Leader could boast a yellow strap and yellow details on the dial, mirroring the jersey worn by the race leader. The Sideral Cyclo Sprinter could embrace green accents, while the Sideral Cyclo King of the Mountains (KOM) might feature red highlights. Lastly, the Sideral Cyclo U23 could exhibit clean and fresh white details. Given Tissot’s sponsorship of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), it’s even possible to imagine a version integrating the iconic rainbow stripes into the design.
The lightweight Sideral Cyclo would offer both functionality and instant timekeeping, making it the perfect watch for cyclists. For other metrics and data, a dedicated cycling computer positioned in front of the handlebars would suffice. Ultimately, the Sideral Cyclo’s shape, weight, functions, and design would make it an ideal timepiece to wear both on and off the bike.
Back to reality, back to the race
Now, let’s return to the real world. After noticing Kilian Patour’s Tissot watch, I spotted another timepiece on the wrist of former US professional cyclist and current NBC Sports commentator, Christian Vande Velde. As a member of the Garmin-Cervélo team, Vande Velde emerged victorious in stage two (the team time trial) of the 2011 TdF. For the 2023 edition of the renowned race, he wore a 2017 Hublot Classic Fusion Chrono Aero Carbon “Best Buddies” Limited Edition. Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering friendship, employment, and leadership training for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The 45mm carbon-fiber-cased watch features the Best Buddies logo, illustrated by the iconic graffiti artist Keith Haring, on its case back.
Vande Velde, along with his former teammate George Hincapie, serves as an ambassador for Best Buddies. It’s worth mentioning that Hincapie, an avid watch enthusiast who owns vintage Daytonas and has been seen with a Richard Mille timepiece, unfortunately did not participate in the TdF this year. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of a Richard Mille watch on the wrist of Tadej Pogacar, one of this year’s TdF contenders riding for the UAE team sponsored by the prestigious watch brand. However, my search for one ended with a mere “Richard Mille” sticker on the stem of the UAE Colnago V4RS bikes. With Mark Cavendish, another Richard Mille owner, out of the race, my hopes for spotting a Richard Mille watch were dashed once again.
Jacob & Co in the peloton
Among the riders, Alexey Lutsenko, the champion of Kazakhstan and a member of the Astana Qazaqstan Team, caught my attention. Lutsenko, who won a TdF stage in 2020 and finished within the top 10 of the race on two occasions, has a personal watch sponsor: Jacob & Co. This information came from an Italian Rolex wearer who informed me that Lutsenko is often seen wearing a previous-generation steel Rolex Daytona.
During my time at the Astana bus, I learned that the Italian Rolex enthusiast had an extensive collection of approximately 60 watches. He advised me to wait for Lutsenko, who would return from the team introduction on the stage. After a few minutes, Lutsenko appeared sporting a 45mm Jacob & Co Epic X with a black rubber strap. This black DLC steel timepiece is weighty and meant solely for podium ceremonies. Lutsenko quickly shared this detail with me before seeking refuge from the heat inside the air-conditioned team bus.
“Attaque de Pierre Roland!” And he’s wearing a TAG Heuer Carrera
Although I didn’t notice any additional watches on the riders, I did spot a friend and former colleague while on my way to the Tissot car, which would be part of the TdF caravan. Kilian Patour identified him as Pierre Rolland, a cyclist who won two TdF stages in 2011 and 2012. Known for his attack-oriented racing style, Rolland would often elicit shouts of “Attaque de Pierre Rolland!” from French commentators throughout the years. As is common with many former professional racers, he now accompanies sponsors’ guests in a car.
On Rolland’s wrist, an as-of-now discontinued 43mm steel and gold TAG Heuer Carrera (CAR205B.FT6087) was proudly displayed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to discuss the watch further as we hurried out of town, eager to stay ahead of the peloton.
High above the peloton with a Speedmaster
I had the privilege of being present on Bastille Day, a French national holiday when everyone takes the day off, and countless spectators line the roadsides. Along the entire route, people patiently waited for the riders to pass by, enjoying the commercial caravan preceding the race and enthusiastically waving at every passing car. Amidst the waves, I found myself waving back with the yellow and black Tissot Sideral from the left-rear window. It made me feel like a VIP. This feeling intensified as we exchanged the car for a helicopter. The pilot’s Omega Speedmaster on his wrist provided reassurance.
Though the helicopter flight was brief, the perspective it offered of the peloton at that speed was unforgettable. While the watch spotting experience at the TdF could have been more memorable, the overall sensation of being immersed in the race will stay with me forever. As I made my way back home, thoughts of the Tissot Sideral Cyclo continued to occupy my mind. To be honest, I rarely wear a watch while cycling. However, a lightweight timepiece priced around €1,250, one that doesn’t merely reference cycling but embodies it through its construction and functionality, might just change that. What are your thoughts, fellow biking enthusiasts? Would you wear a featherweight watch that perfectly matches your carbon bike and cycling gear? Let me know in the comments. Oh, and here are some bikes that I spotted for all you cycling fans.