Alsta Motoscaphe 120 Watch: A Timepiece for Motorcyclists

Alsta Motoscaphe 120 Watch: Motorcyclist wristwatch

We’re used to seeing and enjoying wristwatches designed for aircraft pilots, scuba divers, and automobile drivers, timepieces aimed specifically at motorcyclists are a much rarer breed. Horologist and Beyond The Dial founder Allen Farmelo yearned to rectify that injustice, and the essayist/photographer/Ducatista did just that with the help of Britain-based Alsta Watch Company. The result of the collaboration is the Alsta Motoscaphe 120.

“I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to bring one of my imaginary watches—a dedicated motorcycling tool watch—out of my mind and onto wrists!” enthuses Farmelo. “The Alsta Motoscaphe 120 is a tribute to motorcycling, and not to motorcycles. It is designed and engineered for motorcycling, not to go with this or that bike. It’s the purpose-built motorcycling tool watch I’ve been longing for, a badass timepiece ready for all motorcycling adventures.”

The idea of a watch designed for motorcycling has us wondering what attributes the Alsta Motoscaphe 120 enjoys that meet our riding needs.

Perhaps the most subtle feature is the left-handed crown, though it is an important detail. When worn on the traditional left wrist, the crown does not dig into the rider’s bent wrist. On your wrist, you’ll feel the thick black leather rally strap that is perforated to allow airflow.

Standard bezels can be fiddly to adjust, and you don’t want to pull over on the side of the road to spin it. The bi-directional ratchet bezel is the product of an Italian watchmaker based in the United States. The craftsman carefully tunes the bezel to make it possible for a hand wearing a motorcycle glove can make adjustments on the fly.

The Alsta Motoscaphe 120 uses a 12-hour GMT timing scale. Multiplying by five gets you elapsed time in minutes or hours, and it can be used to denote a different time zone when traveling. Time is kept by an auto-winding Seiko NH35 mechanical movement.

When riding, you don’t have time to stare intently at your watch to decipher the information it is providing. This wristwatch’s sapphire crystal has an anti-reflective coating to keep the face legible in harsh sunlight.

At a stop, you can appreciate the cheeky dive-style faux speed rating on the face. “176 ft = 53.6 m/sec” is not a limit, however. It’s a starting point. Even those with rudimentary math skills can calculate that a velocity of 176 feet in one second means your motorcycle is moving along at a speed where things start getting interesting—120 mph. Oh, so that’s where the “120” in the watch name comes from—clever. Where does Motoscaphe come from? We will get to that.

When inspecting the dial, you may notice the absence of numbers, including an aperture for displaying a date. Farmelo is quick to note that this is not an oversite. “I knew this watch had to be super easy to read at the fastest glance,” he explains, “and so I worked to remove distractions and increase legibility on the dial. This meant no numerals, no date window, and big, bold white markers on a solid flat black background under a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the underside. The Motoscaphe 120 was all about stripping things away and leaving bold legibility to reign, so no big BTD (Beyond The Dial) logos here. BTD’s branding exists subtly enough on the caseback.”

Speaking of cases, the Alsta Motoscaphe 120 has a 40mm 316L stainless steel chassis with circular brushing. The branding on the caseback that Farmelo mentioned is Beyond The Dial’s signature quote: “The aesthetic revolution will be beautiful.” Yes, we recognize and appreciate the nod to Gil Scott-Heron.

Included with the $895 Alsta Motoscaphe 120 is a leather pouch. No, it is not intended to house the watch. Instead, the oxblood red pouch can carry your sunglasses or essential tools on your next ride. The embossed Alsta and Beyond The Dial logos enhance the sense of luxury, rather than detract from the refined design.

A labor of love for Farmelo turned into a friendship with co-conspirator Angus MacFayden, who resurrected the moribund Alsta brand in 2014. Founded in 1946, Alsta’s first heyday was in the 1960s and ’70s. The Matt Hooper character in Jaws, played by Richard Dreyfuss, wore an Alsta Nautoscaph, a watch that took center stage in the brand’s revival.

“Angus MacFayden of Alsta is a true gent,” Farmelo reveals. “He and I discovered so much in common during our first conversation about this watch that it seemed destined to happen. Angus and I both are David Bowie nuts, and cigar lovers, and motorsport enthusiasts, and so on. It was like meeting a long-lost brother for me, and that brotherly spirit has been with us through thick and thin of bringing a product to market together.”

“I’ve said elsewhere that I’ve had 30 years to dream up this watch,” Farmelo continues, “and in a sense, that’s accurate because I’d been puzzling over the ideal motorcycling watch for about that long. Angus brought his deep knowledge of tool watches, of Alsta, of course, and was able to guide my hand during the design, which I did using Adobe Illustrator and images of the Alsta Nautoscaph, from which the Motoscaphe derives.”

And now we know the entire story of the name of the Alsta Motoscaphe 120. Well played, Allen.

Photography by Allen Farmelo

Alsta Motoscape 120 Photo Galllery