Timekeeping
By Jason Heaton
on 9.4.13
Photo by Gishani

Racing-inspired timepieces are plentiful these days. Some have a legitimate history of wear by drivers, some are questionable co-branded tie-ins, and some are inspired by the technology, materials and gauges of race cars. But the actual usefulness of a watch at a racing circuit is, well, to time a race. While wrist-worn chronographs have done the trick for decades, the more common instrument in the paddocks, pits and grandstands during the golden age of racing were hand-held stopwatches, chunky steel timers with oversized buttons for precise stops, starts and resets that were often worn around the neck on a lanyard. Young Italian brand CT Scuderia chose these track-day tools as inspiration for their timepieces, including the Corsa ($1,295).

Let’s get one thing out of the way: we initially resisted reviewing this watch, for two reasons. Firstly, it seemed a bit gimmicky. Secondly, it’s powered by a quartz movement. But after seeing it in person, both of these concerns faded. Sometimes you like a watch because it’s just plain fun, and the Corsa is an unmitigated blast to wear. Sure, the styling is over the top, but that’s the point. This is a watch that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s meant to be played with. Wearing the Corsa, we wanted to time everything, from trips to the store to commercial breaks to parking meters.

Tick List

CT-Scuderia-Corsa-Gear-Patrol-Sidebar
Movement
Calibre: Ronda quartz

Functions
Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph (seconds, minutes, hours)
Split timing

Case
Material: Stainless steel
Diameter: 46mm
Case Back: Steel screw-in
Crystal: Sapphire
Water Resistance: 10 ATM (100 meters)

Dial
White enamel with black markings
Skeleton hands

Strap/Bracelet
Perforated black leather

Operating the chronograph is a satisfying exercise — and for a watch that marries form and function to this extreme, it ought to be. The start/stop and reset buttons are designed for ease of use, protruding prominently from the top of the case in what’s known in watch parlance as a bullhead configuration. The pusher for the start and stop functions is differentiated from the reset pusher in color and size; it stands taller than the reset pusher for immediate tactile recognition (you don’t want to take your eyes off the track, after all) and is blue. The red reset pusher sits lower to the case and has a trick up its sleeve: pressing it while the chronograph is running stops the hands for reading off a split time. Though not a true rattrapante (two overlaid sweep hands), it is a handy function. Press the button again and the hands speed up to the current elapsed time, which the watch “remembers”. Unfortunately, resetting the stopped chronograph revealed a disappointing gimmick: rather than snapping back to zero, the minutes and hours hands slowly spin through their entire circuit before coming to rest. Flashy, yes — but maddening if you want to start timing something again right away.

Though the watch is gorgeous to look at, it’s awkward on the wrist. The case, which mimics an old stopwatch, is thick and bulky, despite the quartz movement within. Lugs are bolted on with visible hex screws. The large fluted crown at 12:00 is anything but subtle, standing well beyond the wrist. Additionally, there is a lanyard ring surrounding the crown in case you decide to go old school and actually wear the watch around your neck, Flavor Flav style. This is made easier by quick release springbars that allow for easy removal of the strap, though you’ll have to source your own lanyard (we did).

Speaking of the strap, the soft and pliable perforated leather (handmade in Italy) band is one of the finest we’ve found on any watch. A large, Panerai-style buckle completes the look. But despite the excellent strap, don’t think this watch will fit under a shirt cuff. It won’t, nor was it designed to. This watch is all about being noticed. If you wear it, expect to be asked to take it off and pass it around. Luckily, it feels better in the hand — nestled in the palm, ready to time stuff — than on the wrist.

In terms of visual aesthetics, bold black-on-white markings from zero to sixty encircle the perimeter of the stark white dial, making seconds a priority at the expense of hour markers. The unique, skeletonized hands make reading the time easy and provide a (mostly) unobstructed view of the stopwatch function. While the righthand subdial is a ticking small seconds function, the left one tracks elapsed time, with minutes and hours in the same counter, not unlike a small clock. Assuming you’re not farsighted, this increases ease of reading.

Finally there is the question of the Corsa’s battery-powered movement. Purists would argue that a faithful wrist-going homage to a vintage stopwatch should be fitted with a mechanical movement, and we’ll admit a twinge of disappointment when we clicked to start the chronograph and saw the sweep hand hesitate before tick-ticking its way around the dial. That being said, the Ronda movement is a good motor, used for years by other brands like TAG Heuer and Tissot in their own chronos. Reliability, precision, affordability and ease of ownership make a quartz movement a logical choice for CT Scuderia’s entry level piece. If you want stopwatch looks with a true springs-and-gears engine, CT Scuderia offers higher-end models, though we still prefer the no-holds-barred styling and color of the basic Corsa.

The CT Scuderia Corsa is not an everyday watch. It may not even be a weekend watch. It’s definitely the only wristwatch that we’d rather hold in our hand than wear on our wrist. It’s a timepiece for those who like the functional design of instruments and the tactile pleasure of heavy steel and clicking buttons. It’s the kind of object you might keep on your desk next to your Tivoli radio and Rotring mechanical pencil. You might even wear it around your neck from time to time and track the washer’s spin cycle. Go ahead — we won’t tell anyone.

METHODOLOGY: We wore the Corsa for one week, both on the wrist and around the neck, timing just about everything.