Who says that you need to choose between digital and mechanical? There have been attempts at hybrid timepieces on occasion – to a greater or lesser degree of success – but that’s not what I’m talking about here. For Halda, you don’t just get one watch that attempts to tick all the boxes; you get two specialists instead.
The entire concept of the Swedish watchmaker is around the interchangability of the timekeeping module, switching in seconds between a specialised piece of racing kit and a standard automatic watch. The timepiece side to the Race Pilot is a great watch in itself. It’s large and weighty, even by racing watch standards, and has an obvious automotive inspiration. The power reserve indicator is taken straight from a dashboard and every facet of the watch – from the knurling on the crown and the numerals, all the way down to the Zenith movement inside – emphasise its racing nature.
These kinds of concepts can fall down on a small but vital detail: how it actually feels to swap the module. If it’s fiddly or feels cheap you won’t want to swap, which kind of defeats the whole point. The Race Pilot has no such issue. The two integrated pushers in the lugs are almost invisible, but popping the timepiece out of its shell is immensely satisfying and I found myself doing it almost subconsciously.
That brings me to the side of the Race Pilot that really sets it apart. Don’t think of the digital piece as a smartwatch; it can’t connect to your phone and it doesn’t come with a built-in digital assistant. It’s an instrument designed for one purpose and one purpose only: racing. The reason there’s no chronograph on the mechanical timepiece is that it’s here, along with a host of other driving-centric features.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to organise a track day to coincide with having the Race Pilot, so there are some features I was unable to test. As well as the two timepieces, the watch comes with a transponder which after a few seconds can be connected to the Race Pilot. If I were to get to a track, this would then automatically sense which of the 150-odd tracks it’s memorised I was on and, as I took corners and blasted down straights, would upload the data directly to the watch.
As it was I did still have a play with the instrument which is surprisingly intuitive given its many functions. Navigating is easy, as is selecting what you want. There’s no touch screen but it’s still as easy to use as any smart watch; and in some ways even more so.
It’s hard to actually find a downside to the Race Pilot. The mechanical watch is a decent, racing-inspired timepiece both inside and out, while the digital section has everything you could ever need for the track. Granted, it’s a little niche outside of that, but that’s precisely why it works: specialism. And it works very well indeed.
Halda Race Pilot, £12,100; www.haldasweden.com