True Tango: The Torgoen T51 Mustang watch pays homage to one of aviation’s greats
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Watchmakers are proud to use materials rarely associated with watchmaking. When JN Shapiro launched the Infinity Tantalum late last year, it was the first time a non-Swiss brand had successfully crafted a case from this fiendishly uncooperative material. Such substantial prowess not only serves as a seal of excellence for a watch brand, but gives character to a timepiece. If you can work with tantalum, you can work with anything. Likewise, the use of meteorite in the manufacture of dials is legendary in the watchmaking world with brands from Rolex to Zelos using this otherworldly material.
Taking nothing away from meteorites, they tend to lack a certain I do not know what. Sure, rushing through the vast vacuum 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 foil? But take a piece of aluminum that’s actually been there and done it, and the equation quickly changes. This is the case with the new pilot’s watch T51 Mustang from Torgoen, where history is laid bare on the dial.
The Torgoen T51, introduced this year, takes the brand’s no-frills stainless steel case found in the T25 and T48 and gives it a major upgrade. Always running with the Ronda 515.24H, a Swiss-made GMT quartz movement, the T51 features an all-aluminum dial made from the skin of an actual P-51 Mustang fighter jet, the type used put to good use by Allied air forces during the World War. II. Through a partnership with Pacific Fighters, an Idaho Falls-based aircraft restoration leader, Torgoen has managed to bring the soul and history of vintage aviation to its watches.
Torgoen has been around since 2009, working diligently in the world of aviation. As such, they have earned bragging rights through partnerships with institutions such as the California Fire Pilot Association. The audacious videos of supertankers flying over scorching ridges at alarming altitudes? It’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. Brand ambassadors include Donna Joanne Garrett who, along with her mother, made history as their airline’s first mother-daughter flight crew in 2019.
Tracing this aviation history a few more decades, aviation enthusiasts are familiar with the history of the P-51 and the role it played in European and Pacific theaters during World War II. Its incredible range made it perfect for escorting slow, heavy bombers to targets deep in enemy territory, while its bubble canopy provided unrivaled cockpit visibility, crucial in close dogfights. Design aside, the sheer madness behind the P-51 production schedule is the stuff of legends. In today’s era of endless development schedules, it’s staggering to imagine how quickly the P-51 went from sketchbook to heaven – just 18 months. The rest, as they say, is history.
Flying in such rare air means Torgoen is well placed to bring a watch like the T51 to life. True to the Mustang’s role as the fulcrum of air superiority, the T51 is a very pragmatic pilot’s watch. At 44mm, the steel case offers plenty of space for easy reading of the time. The edge-to-edge domed sapphire crystal (much like the aforementioned bubble canopies) and protected crown are fairly easy to use thanks to its sufficiently large size. Attached to the caseback by four screws, a special caseback features the image of a P-51 Mustang in flight, a nice touch not least thanks to the numbering which designates the T51 as a limited edition of just 100 pieces. The wide 24mm leather strap features contrast stitching, quick release spring bars and is fitted with the oversized steel pin buckle closure commonly found on the world’s great pilot watches.
Each T51 has large printed numerals that are brightly illuminated, as are the hour markers on the inner and outer GMT rings. Large, high-visibility pilot-style hands complete the look and ensure accuracy in all flight conditions, and the seconds and GMT hands are also luminous. To that end, the T51 goes the distance as a GMT watch with accurate time thanks to the clearly marked 24-hour outer ring on the dial.
And it’s this dial that makes this watch truly special. Available in black or silver, each dial is a piece of living history. Crafted from salvaged aluminum as part of Pacific Fighters’ painstaking restoration process, it’s thanks to this heritage that the material proudly displays its incongruities. Take a closer look and you’ll see etch marks earned from hours of flying. For the nostalgic, it’s hard not to fill in the blanks, imagining a leather-helmeted P-51 pilot veering sharply over a rocky Pacific island to counter an enemy assault. In the nearly 80 years since, this unassuming piece of metal has garnered stories.
Model: Mustang T51
Dimensions: 44mm diameter, 14.1mm thick, 52.5mm lug to lug
Water resistance: 50 meters
Housing: High quality 316L stainless steel
Crystal: Domed sapphire
Movement: Swiss Quartz Ronda 515.24H GMT
Webbing: 24mm Italian leather with contrast stitching with pin buckle closure
Dial: “Recycled aircraft” aluminum dial from the P-51 Mustang aircraft
References: TN/4001 (grey dial), TN/4001 (black dial)
Rooms: 100 pieces per reference
Price and availability: $495 exclusively via the Torgoen website
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