Beautiful watches and racing cars, a history of mechanics


Posted Sep 23, 2022, 6:04 AM

For more than a century and a half, the world of the automobile and that of 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 are flourishing between manufacturers and lovers of fine mechanics, playing on the taste for sportiness, technology and luxury. A tradition rooted in the collective imagination and whose thread can be traced back to the 18th centurye century, at a time when watchmakers were making imposing so-called « calèche » watches, preventing little marquises from arriving late for their appointments. An association that has been sketched out with more precision over the years: from the creation of the first automobiles, a clock adorns the dashboard, supplied in particular by Jaeger-LeCoultre from the beginning of the 20th century.e century. Since then, partnerships have followed one another, 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 the scuderia italia while offering itself to the passage of the most coveted of records, that of the thinnest watch in the world: 1.75 mm thick or approximately the stuff of two credit cards. Inside this slender middle beats a mechanical caliber 1.18 mm thick and 2.82 g in weight. It is from the assembly of the movement and the case that the solidity of the whole is born, each ensuring the rigidity of the other. In terms of performance, “the watch meets the same high standards as all our other models,” says Salvador Arbona, movement director at Richard Mille. More than a « concept watch », the model produced in 150 pieces in a limited edition also aims to strengthen technical exchanges between the two houses, both in the choice of materials and design.

The Richard Mille RM UP-0, the thinnest watch in the world, and Charles Leclerc, star Ferrari driver and muse of the Manufacture.

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

Because these partnerships are also forged around new objectives: if the association between two prestigious brands is obviously important, technology transfers have 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 so far as to manufacture rubber straps from Pirelli racing tyres, like Roger Dubuis, or dials designed from an Aston Martin DB5 aluminum bonnet, like Jalaper workshop. Because in both worlds, the search for materials combining 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 resulting from the partnership with Porsche. It must be said that the two brands share a common history and especially the legendary name of Carrera. Three expected productions have already been unveiled, 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 in the collection of a connected model with caliber E4 . Here, the watch communicates with the car by giving valuable indications to its owner such as the range, the battery level or the status of the chassis. And even allowing control of the interior temperature. As for the ceramic bezel, it is inspired by a dashboard counter, while displaying information such as heart rate, daily steps and calories in percentage.

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

The 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 obviously find the logo of the German manufacturer and a leather strap that takes up the saddler stitching of sports cars. Same visual wink at Bell & Ross and Alpine F1 Team: every year, the manufacture indeed offers a new watch inspired by the team’s single-seater. The latest is called A522, in reference to the name of the current Formula 1 in the race. Designed like a speedometer, the instrument, which incorporates an automatic caliber, takes up the chromatic identity of the team and features the famous “A” of the Alpine logo on the unbalanced blue second hand. However, Bell & Ross retains the spirit that has made its success: square case and round dial of extreme legibility.

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

Bell & Ross offers a new watch every year inspired by the Alpine single-seater. 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 much sought after – Cosmograph Daytona from 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 which 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 heritage, such is also the challenge of these partnerships which are certainly expressed on the wrist, but also on the asphalt. Indeed, the races of historic vehicles are not to be outdone in the realm of “automotive watchmaking”. The most famous association is certainly that of Chopard and the Mille Miglia, the legendary Italian event that connects Rome to Brescia each 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 understand better 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 association of the watchmaker with the legendary Italian race.

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

Who says precision at the wheel also says ease of instantaneous reading, what’s more on the open road! In fact, the dial – with the 1000 Miglia logo to the left of the date – is very contrasting and the oversized hands are circled in bright blue which echoes 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 back: the rubber sculpture of a Dunlop Racing tire from the 1960s. Nevertheless, manufacturers and watchmakers are always one step ahead , with this question definitely for the future: what if the advent of the electric automobile finally gave connected watches their credentials?

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