Diving Watches: From Sports Watches to Certified Icons
As we’ve said before, this year’s Baselworld was noticeably different than in years past. The exhibition was much smaller than before. On a positive note, that did mean less walking, which was helpful in terms of surviving the madness. While the void was obvious, it did fill up with some unexpected additions like a fashion runway, a small pond with running water, and a massive Moët & Chandon stand.
Another interesting aspect was the number of cars on display. Of course, there were many cars in previous exhibitions as well, ranging from pristine vintage automobiles to modern racing cars and sometimes even prototype vehicles. The connection between cars and watches is evidenced by the fact that several car brands and models are closely linked with various watches. Let’s take a closer look at some of these pairs.
TAG Heuer has long been associated with motorsport. Their iconic Carrera was designed after Jack Heuer met with two racing drivers back in the early 60s. Jack created a practical, legible chronograph that could be used to time races and calculate speed. On a side note, it should come as no surprise that most watches sharing a relationship with cars or motorsport are chronographs. Nowadays, the Carrera is one of the main pillars of the TAG Heuer collection, and the link to racing is still clear on their website and marketing campaigns.
In addition to the Carrera, they have a complete line of Formula 1 models available at various price points to suit any budget. A partnership with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and the Indy 500 keeps TAG close to the racetrack. Moreover, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the TAG Heuer Monaco, which is still closely linked to famous racecar driver Steve McQueen. This watch was first introduced at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1969.
While TAG Heuer has a connection with motorsport in general, Hublot and Ferrari are in a dedicated partnership. In addition to Hublot watches that feature the prancing horse logo and/or Ferrari name on the dial, the brand also makes some high-end watches that evoke the spirit of the exclusive Italian car brand. One such example is the MP-05 LaFerrari, which comes with a whopping 50-day power reserve and a revolver-shaped winding tool. The watch is reminiscent of the eponymous LaFerrari sports car, which is limited to 499 cars.
Another high-tech Hublot that carries the Ferrari name is the Techframe. This model draws on the concept of lightweight automobile design. The frame construction is connected to Ferrari design, as is the combination of materials. It’s nice to see Hublot’s innovative approach to incorporating both Ferrari techniques and design ideas into their watches.
As you can see, there are a number of ways in which watch brands are linked to motorsport or car manufacturers. However, there are also examples of automobile brands that have their own watch collection. One great example of this is Porsche Design. Porsche follows a clear design philosophy: Optimize function. Reduce form right down to the essentials. Overcome the familiar to continually discover new and exceptional solutions. This philosophy makes Porsche design stand out from the crowd, which is certainly the case with the iconic 911. It was hard to miss the Porsches on display outside the Porsche Design booth at Baselworld.
There are simply too many connections with motorsport to cover in a single article; you could probably fill an entire magazine with them! In short, motorsport and watch brands both produce exclusive and popular items, and they often form partnerships with one another. It may come down to just adding a logo to the dial, but in some cases, watch designers manage to incorporate technology from the automotive industry into a timepiece for your wrist. After all, who hasn’t drooled over an exotic car or exclusive watch that is far beyond their budget?
There is one last noteworthy pairing that comes to mind. I believe it debuted last year at Ateliers deMonaco. Of course, I’m thinking of the Ateliers deMonaco Prato models. This collaboration began with the Ateliers deMonaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 Orage, which holds a special microchip. The chip allows you to get into your car and start the engine. In essence, you can wear the key to your Prato on your wrist. The watch is exclusive to the owners of the car. However, Ateliers deMonaco have also launched the Admiral Chronographe Flyback, which is available to the general public.
While these two products share some characteristics, there is one area that definitely differs. Collectors seem to be obsessed with sourcing watches that are exactly the same as they were when they left the factory. Of course, nobody can guarantee that each and every part is original to the watch. This seems to be less of an issue with cars. Keeping a car in good running condition simply requires occasionally replacing parts that are worn or broken. A mechanical watch is not so different in that it simply requires regular maintenance and the occasional worn down part to be replaced.
I’ve always had a thing for motorsport, and I can understand why watch brands like to partner with automobile brands. My interest dates back to the first F1 race I attended in Zolder, Belgium at just 8 years of age. This was followed by many more races in the 90s. I am just one of many motorsport fans who is also interested in watches, making me the perfect customer for a car-inspired timepiece. It’s all about sales, after all. If I’m honest, while sporty chronographs were functional and much needed back in the day, digital timekeeping has changed things completely.
I must admit that most of my watches are chronographs, but only one of them is actually linked to motorsport (that wasn’t the reason I bought it, however). Whether you buy a watch for its history, design, or some other reason like a connection with motorsport, the most important thing is that it puts a smile on your face every time you put it on your wrist.