Thursday, March 20, 2014
ICE watch for Italian pilots
Just had the incredible luck to buy one of the most amazing and cool looking watches on the planet. Is so rare that I still can't understand why the entire Heuer community let this one slip away. There had to be a catch, bad movement, non original parts, hands falling off,... No my friends, just some scratches on the crystal and the case. But who cares? This is a military watch, used by Italian fighter pilots! Not that these pilots have seen a lot of real battle action but still. My father was a fighter pilot for the Belgian airforce, so I know what that means. In these days pilots were really flying, not in those fake simulators but in really dangerous fighter aircrafts. Not 3 or 4 hours every week in super advanced fighters but every day in killing devices like the F104 Starfighter. People who know that aircraft know what flying it meant. For others imagine a long rocket with tiny wings on the side. A motor problem caused an immediate danger for the pilot since there was only one motor. On top of that the little wings made gliding nearly impossible. Motorengine failure meant jumping if you had the time and the luck on your side. My father went to a lot of funerals in his life, lost many of his close friends but survived that black period only thanks to his aversion to risk taking and him being an incredible perfectionist. He would not take an aircraft into the air without being absolutely sure it was technically ok. There is this story about him visiting my brothers' scouting camp not with the car but with his aircraft, overflying the camping site so close to the ground everybody ran for cover. The story passed from generation to generation and survived the test of time. I have seen people swearing this story is true. My father always denied he was there and that only fools do things like that.
But back to that watch, it's an Heuer lemania 510.543 it A.M.I. by the way, but I'll tell you more about that later. I just told that pilot story to give you an image of the life those guys had in those days. From that point of view it can be compared to the racing drivers of that time. Risking your life was in a way part of the game. Safety back then was not what is is today. Watches did not have to be fancy and were no status symbol. They were instruments for racers, pilots, engeneers and other professionals. They had to work and be reliable. And in that way they were treated, not the way luxurious watches are treated these days. So my watch having some scratches adds to the history and its value. Without the scratches one could question the fact it was really used by an Italian fighter pilot as daily working device.
Picture of my dad next to his F104 Starfighter: