Welcome to the Club

Rick Pearson: What makes a man who rides over 300 mph tick?

For those looking to join an exclusive club, take a look at the Bonneville 300 MPH Club. To become a member, all you have to do is go at least 300 mph (just under 500 kph) over the revered salt flats in Utah. However, this club has nothing to do with the clubs you are probably more familiar with: there is no laid-back atmosphere, air conditioning or a nice sound system. If everything were that relaxed and comfortable, then the club would have a great deal more members.

Rick Pearson, Scotsman, a self-avowed petrolhead living and working in Switzerland, and who is a total fan of our watches, belongs to this elite club—a club with fewer than 100 members worldwide. In 2012, not only did he crack the 300 mph mark, but he also crossed over the 500 kph threshold (310.686 mph)!

Against the expansive background of the salt flats, the dimensions of his streamliner, named the Flower of Scotland, look even more slender and diminutive than in the team’s workshop. As far as the cockpit goes, it looks more like it was made for a 12-year-old girl than an adult man. Yet Rick has to squeeze in there, both with his helmet and a healthy respect for what he is about to do. He has to slip into the streamliner—which is akin to pulling a sock over his entire body—and then lay back, with his head on his chest, just a few centimetres separating him from the salt flats. His breathing rate starts to soar, and Rick has to quickly get control of his breathing in order to stave off an unexpected claustrophobic moment.

The starting procedure for the high-performance 1,000cc Kawasaki motor begins, and the entire scene is engulfed by the odour of methanol. Sixteen years of development and hard work have culminated in this one ride; a two-minute ride that will push both man and machine to the absolute limit. Rick’s “seat” contains the ice that is used to cool the raging, raucous “calibre” (i.e., motorcycle engine) that will propel the Flower of Scotland over the salt flats at over 11,000 rpm.

Despite the madness surrounding such record runs, not everything is on the verge of chaos; a high degree of sensibility accompanies them. Rick’s senses are finely honed, and the adrenalin pumping through his body heightens his reflexes even further. And he needs this, for even the smallest variation or change requires him to immediately react and use his extensive riding abilities to compensate. A fraction of a second too late and the record attempt can cost you your life.

Rick still has both—the record and his life. He also has the deep-seeded enthusiasm that many petrolheads have for the mechanics and material aesthetic of our watches. Right now, he is trying the new L2 in bronze. Daniel Dreifuss goes through the starting procedure. Everything is a go. Rick listens for the sound of the watch movement, finds it and is happy that, this time, the propulsion system isn’t sitting behind his head, but rather on his wrist. Now he is ready and equipped for an adventure not only over a lake but also in it—Lake Zurich. Outside one hears the thunderous sound emanating from the motor of a Porsche speeding away. His curiosity piqued, Rick takes a quick glimpse and then sits back again in his leather armchair and just smiles—it’s the smile of a man who has endured the baptism of fire at over 300 mph.