Watchmaking in pole position

horlogerie automobile

Today as ever, high-end cars remain an object of intense desire and fantasy. They have consistently inspired watchmaking, which continues to pay them increasingly explicit tributes.

It is no coincidence that watchmaking is hot on the tracks of prestige automobiles. Despite debates on their relevance, pollution, congestion and other unpleasant factors, cars remain an extraordinary object of desire and a means of expression, of escapism, of pleasure. Watches share with them an appeal to a certain part of the brain in men (and sometimes women), a mechanical nature as well as an underlying philosophy. Almost all high-end automobile makes are thus in partnership with a watch brand. In most instances, the connection is superficial. Watches do not pick up automobile identity, nor its aesthetic codes, nor even in certain cases a comparable degree of exclusivity. That is because a name on a dial or a wheel rimshaped oscillating weight are not enough. But when the relationship is long-term and permeates the deepest, innermost levels, it reaches a whole new level. Merged codes and mutual admiration are the authentic drivers of truly motor-loving watchmaking.


innovation-rolex innovation-tag-heuerSpending serious time on the tracks and with drivers and manufacturers naturally contributes to forging an identity. Heuer, and more recently TAG Heuer, has cultivated close ties with motorsports since the 1920s, a logical reality for a brand focused on chronographs, a complication predestined for racing paddocks. Rolex has chosen an even more intensive approach. In the 1960s, the brand with the crown logo made its first foray into driver’s watches with its Daytona. The latter bears the name of the famous Florida racing track, and has become a legend in its own right. This is the model presented to the winners of the countless competitions that Rolex sponsors as a timekeeper or official watch, including the F1 championship, the FIA Endurance championship, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans…


innovation-rebellioninnovation-roger-dubuisRoger Dubuis has joined the race somewhat belatedly but with undeniable vigor. Keenly aware that its clients are wild about high-speed cars and racing, the brand has associated first with Pirelli, the tire manufacturer most closely associated with tracks, and then with ItalDesign, founded by one of the kings of automobile design, Giugiario. For Rebellion, which has since the outset been backed by a racing team bearing the same name, motorsports are a fundamental part of its history. The brand cultivates a design and a watchmaking approach inspired by automobile components. The latest interpretation of this theme, the Predator 2.0 GMT, notably features a minutes hand shaped like a brake caliper and disk.


innovation-richard-mille innovation-hublotThe most powerful results are achieved when the design of the watch, its materials, its shape and its creation actually involve car industry stakeholders. Richard Mille has a new partnership with McLaren across all its divisions. The spirit of excellence and a love of pistons amount to more than just a common denominator between Mr Mille, himself a keen driver, and the English marque that has won countless titles in competitions since 1963. Hublot has built a fruitful partnership with Ferrari, which could easily have crushed it with the weight of its prestige and its history. Instead, their relationship is so well-balanced that Hublot entrusted the Maranello-based design studio with creating its latest watch, a tribute to the 70th anniversary of the prancing horse. The result is a true hybrid cross between a case, a carbon cell and a tubular chassis. The Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph reflects the technical nature and the performance of these noble speed machines. Yet such initiatives remain exceptional occurrences that are countless laps ahead of mere superficial brand-name bonding.

An expert watch journalist and regular correspondent, he provides reader-friendly contributions to our innovation column.

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