Beautiful watches and racing cars, a history of mechanics

Posted September 23, 2022, 6:04 am

For more than a century and a half, the world of cars and watchmaking have vibrated in unison. A crossroads that was never surprising given the close ties and respective know-how of these two worlds. Even today, collaborations flourish between manufacturers and lovers of fine mechanics, playing on the taste for sportiness, technology and luxury. A tradition rooted in the collective imagination, whose thread can be traced back to the 18th centurye century, at a time when watchmakers made impressive so-called “calèche” watches that prevented small marquises from being late for their appointments. A connection that has been outlined with more precision over the years: from the creation of the first cars, a clock adorns the dashboard, provided in particular by Jaeger-LeCoultre from the beginning of the 20th century.e century. Since then, partnerships have followed each other with lucrative collaborations that have particularly marked the last few months.

Technology exchange

Illustration by example with the Richard Mille RM UP-01, in collaboration with the star manufacturer of Maranello, Ferrari. A watch that seals the partnership between the watchmaker and scuderia italia, while offering itself the passage of the most coveted records, the watch of the thinnest watch in the world: 1.75 mm thick, or about the size of two credit cards. Inside this slim center punches a mechanical caliber 1.18mm thick and 2.82gi weight. It is from the assembly of the movement and the case that the solidity of the whole is born, each of which ensures the rigidity of the other. In terms of performance, “the watch lives up to the same high standards as all our other models,” says Salvador Arbona, movement director at Richard Mille. More than a “concept”, the model produced in 150 pieces in a limited edition also aims to strengthen the technical exchange between the two houses, both in material selection and design.

Richard Mille RM UP-0, the thinnest watch in the world, and Charles Leclerc, star Ferrari driver and manufacturing muse.© DR

Because these partnerships are also forged around new objectives: if the association between two prestigious brands is of course important, technology transfer has also become very popular. We no longer count the materials from motor racing that can be found in the design of watch cases or movement components. Some houses even go as far as making rubber belts from Pirelli racing tires, like Roger Dubuis, or discs designed from an Aston Martin DB5 aluminum bonnet, like the Jalaper workshop. Because in both worlds, the search for materials that combine hardness and lightness is essential. And especially in fine watchmaking, where the infinitely small must also be extremely solid.

Sometimes these collaborations are also born out of the blue, like the TAG Heuer watches that resulted from the partnership with Porsche. It must be said that the two brands share a common history and especially the legendary name Carrera. Three expected productions have already been revealed, with a special chronograph edition in February 2021, a sports limited series – Carrera x Porsche – produced in 1,500 copies in March 2022 and even more recently the arrival to the collection of a connected model with caliber E4. Here, the watch communicates with the car by providing valuable indications to its owner such as range, battery level or chassis status. And even allows control of the internal temperature. As for the ceramic bezel, it is inspired by a counter on the dashboard, while displaying information such as heart rate, daily steps and calories as a percentage.

TAG Heuer Connected Caliber E4 - Porsche Edition, whose bezel is inspired by a dashboard counter.

TAG Heuer Connected Caliber E4 – Porsche Edition, whose bezel is inspired by a dashboard counter.© DR

The aesthetic component is of course not forgotten: on the three models we naturally find the German manufacturer’s logo and a leather strap that takes up the saddle stitching of sports cars. Same visual nod to Bell & Ross and the Alpine F1 Team: every year the manufacture actually offers a new watch inspired by the team’s single seats. The latest is called A522, referring to the name of the current Formula 1 in the race. Designed as a speedometer, the instrument incorporates an automatic calibre, adopts the team’s chromatic identity and features the famous “A” from the Alpine logo on the unbalanced blue seconds hand. However, Bell & Ross retains the spirit that has made it successful: square case and round dial with extreme legibility.

Every year, Bell & Ross offers a new watch inspired by the Alpine single seat.  Here BR 03-92 A522.

Every year, Bell & Ross offers a new watch inspired by the Alpine single seat. Here BR 03-92 A522.© DR

Other references from the automotive world are also experiencing the enthusiasm of enthusiasts. This is the case with the famous – and highly sought after – Cosmograph Daytona by Rolex, which takes the name of a famous American race, or with the Reservoir Kanister, a watch with retrograde minutes with jumping hours and a power reserve indicator, which is inspired by the speedometer of the famous Porsche 356 Speedster. A recent commercial success that now requires collectors to register online on a waiting list.

From F1 to vintage racing

Juggling between the codes of the two houses, while affirming their respective legacies, such is also the challenge of these partnerships, which are certainly expressed on the wrist, but also on the tarmac. In fact, the racing of historic vehicles is not to be surpassed in “automotive watchmaking”. The most famous association is certainly Chopard and the Mille Miglia, the legendary Italian event that connects Rome with Brescia every year. It must be said that Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the co-president of Chopard, is a collector of vintage cars and a gentleman driver. We better understand why the 2022 edition is a racing chronograph whose precision is certified by the very serious Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).

The COSC-certified Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition celebrates the watchmaker's association with the legendary Italian event.

The COSC-certified Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition celebrates the watchmaker’s association with the legendary Italian event.© DR

Who says precision at the wheel also means ease of instant reading, what’s more on the open road! Indeed, the dial – with the 1000 Miglia logo to the left of the date – is highly contrasting, and the oversized hands are circled in light blue, mirroring the thin tachometer bezel. On the visual side, the watch is fitted with a perforated leather strap, which retains the collection’s signature on the reverse: the rubber sculpture of a Dunlop Racing tire from the 1960s. Nevertheless, manufacturers and watchmakers are always one step ahead, with this question determined. for the future: what if the advent of the electric car finally gave connected watches their credentials?

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