Well before the first motorcar set off on its first Grand Tour, puttering along and turning countless heads, mankind was obsessed with speed. There was something about the arrival of the internal combustion, engine though, that turned everything up a notch. Several notches in fact.
A combination of increased competition and speeds (as well as finishes) that were impossible to judge with the naked eye saw the dawn of an unbreakable bond between two mechanical marvels – the technological wonder that was the automobile and the precision engineering that had long-characterised ﬁne timekeeping.
The a l lu r i ng pre s t ige a nd g lamou r of motorspor t has long been instr umental in attracting the biggest names in haute horology as its prime sponsors and collaborators. By the same token, the exactitude and precision offered by only the finest watchmakers have elevated motor racing into one of the most adrenalin-filled and competitive spectacles on the planet
It is no surprise then that the FIA Formula One World Championship – arguably the absolute pinnacle of auto racing – has numbered many of the brightest stars in the watchmaking firmament among its sponsors and partners, including Tag Heuer, Hublot and Rolex.
This symbiosis between the high-octane world of motor racing and some of the world’s most coveted luxury watchmakers has resulted in the creation of a number of timepieces specifically designed to commemorate such partnerships. It has also seen some of the technology born on the racetrack hijacked by high-end horology.
With Formula One rightly considered the ultimate motorsport discipline, two of its foremost proponents Nico Rosberg, a member of the Mercedes F1 team, and Lewis Hamilton, the defending world champion, have both now partnered with IWC Schaffhausen to create their very own luxury time pieces. This has resulted in a pair of watches that take F1’s performance engineering and innovatively apply it to ﬁne watchmaking.
The has been widely seen as the perfect marriage of technical performance and classic style. The two Silver Arrow drivers, naturally, ideal brand ambassadors for IWC, are themselves true timepiece aficionados and were more than happy to involve themselves in the design process that led to the unique watches that bear their names.
As a teen, Nico Rosberg was given an IWC watch by his father – ex Formula One driver Keke Rosberg – making him no stranger to the works of the Swiss watchmaker. Visiting the company’s Munich workshop last year, he even took a turn at watchmaking himself. Reﬂecting on the mysteries of this arcane art, he says: “For me, IWC watches epitomise not only complex technology and unmatched performance, but also passion and emotion”. Clearly a fan of the brand, he drew up the designs for his own watch in conjunction with Christian Koo, IWC’s Design Centre Director.
The Ingenieur Chronograph Edition Nico Rosberg, as it is known, features a silver-plated dial, titanium case with a crown, crown protection and zirconium oxide screw heads, all combining to give it an undeniably sporty look. The yellow seconds hand and the hands in the totaliser at 12 o’clock represent a clear nod to Rosberg’s own on-track look. The watch also comes with a durable rubber strap, complete with embossed calfskin inlay for comfort.
For Lewis Hamilton, he says the chance to work with IWC on his timepiece, gave him a fresh perspective on the pride and passion that goes into every single one of the company’s watches. In design terms, he was particularly keen on incorporating as much technology as possible into the watch destined to bear his name.
An apt reflection on the innovative use of materials that has long been an F1 hallmark, the world champion’s watch features a carbon dial, push buttons, crown protection and zirconium oxide screws. The Ingenieur Chronograph Edition Lewis Hamilton is also the ﬁrst IWC watch to come complete with a titanium bracelet.
As their names suggest, both watches boast chronograph stopwatch functions and both are powered by the IWC calibre 89361, providing an impressive 68-hour power reserve. Adorned with 38 jewels and water-resistant to 12 bar each of these watches are limited to special editions of just 250 numbered pieces making them true collector’s items for both chronophiles and F1 fanatics alike.
If F1 is truly auto racing’s crowning event, then the most dazzling jewel in that particular array would have to be the Monaco Grand Prix, easily the most anticipated race on the motorsport calendar. The world famous street circuit has been hosting races since 1929 and has provided the inspiration for the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique 2016 Race Edition, a special commemorative watch designed by Chopard to mark this season.
Billed as “powerful driver’s instruments”, these distinctive watches manage to maintain a classic vintage vibe without any sacrifice to functionality. The watches are an apt homage to the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique race, an event held every two years in the glitzy playground of the rich and famous that is Monaco and, for which, Chopard has long been the ofﬁcial time keeper.
Available in titanium and stainless steel incarnations – as well as in a premium 18-carat rose-gold edition – the watch is powered by a high-precision engine chronometer that comes specially certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). Self-winding and benefitting from a 46-hour power reserve, the watch offers hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph and date functions.
This particular timepiece is, indeed, the perfect driver’s companion and comes with engine piston-shaped pushers and a grey bezel with a tachymetric scale for calculating average speeds during race times. It is also water-resistant to 100m.
“This partnership has seen some of the technology born on the racetrack hijacked by high-end horology “
The watch also comes with interchangeable straps, bestowing the perfect finish. One is rendered in Barenia calfskin with orange or blue stitching for that distinctly vintage look or there is the alternative of the grey NATO strap with racing stripes, which gives something of a more relaxed and sporty look. This special race edition is also limited to 500 in stainless steel and titanium and to just 100 in rose gold.
While honouring drivers and tracks is all well and good, it would be sore amiss for any true appreciation of motorsport to miss out the star turn – the revved up wonders that actually tear around the track. Thankfully Breitling’s Bentley GMT B04 S Carbon Body ensures there is no such omission.
While not strictly a new time piece, this notably fresh take on the Bentley GMT B04 S has been reimagined by Breitling’s design team and more than a little embellished with the subtle inclusion of a little of the technology actually used in the F1 car’s chassis. Strikingly original, this sporty space age dual-time zone watch is powered by the Breitling Calibre B04 calibre, a COSC certiﬁed, self-winding chronometer.
The case material on the special Carbon Body edition is composed of tiny carbon ﬁbres, all woven into several hundreds of layers and then bonded by heat-set resin. The result is unprecedented rigidity combined with superlative shock-resistance, all topped with a distinctive racing matt black ﬁnish.
At 45mm and with a high-tech carbon case decorated with 47 jewels, this dark, minimalist watch offers maximum user-friendliness, while being water-resistant to 100m. It also comes with a comfortable and functional rubber strap. Limited to a run of just 250 pieces, this is yet another special edition that will be far from short of appreciative purchasers.
Fittingly, then, it is only most right and apt to conclude with a timepiece that celebrates one of the individuals, to this day, most synonymous with motorsports at their very ﬁnest – Michael Schumacher. Now retired, Schumacher won seven FIA Formula One World Championships and 91 individual races. Naturally, then, it is only fitting that such a legend should have a watch beﬁtting that status. Thankfully, Audemars Pigeut were more than happy to oblige.
In fact, the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher is the second watch to bear the driver’s name. Five years in the making, the timepiece is a triumph of engineering and design, as well being the ever ﬁrst watch to feature “two angular indexing systems on a single chronograph, each with an independent memory”. Basically, this makes it possible to measure and record an extended series of consecutive lap times.
Overall, every piece above represents a fascinating fusion of two worlds that truly know the importance of making every second count.