Ever since Steve McQueen rocked a Gulf racing suit and flaunted his Heuer Monaco watch in the 1971 film Le Mans, watches and auto racing have been linked. A mechanical movement is essentially a tiny engine, so it’s only natural that watch fans are often passionate about cars and vice versa. Branding taps into that synergy, but watch designers are going beyond slapping a car logo on the dial. Now they incorporate design cues from the cars and sometimes the same high-tech materials used to build cutting-edge F1 racers and supercars.
In 2012, IWC revamped its Ingeniuer Collection with 11 new timepieces that celebrate a global partnership with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. The range includes pieces made in titanium, ceramic and carbon, as well as the Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month ($49,700) with a case made of titanium aluminide, a compound used in Formula One cars.
Hublot (photo), the latest brand to join forces with Ferrari, rolled out the extreme MP-05 LaFerrari. Akin to a concept car, it was developed with Ferrari teams to evoke last year’s LaFerrari F70 supercar. The case, in black PVD titanium, and the domed, sapphire crystal echo the shape of the car, while the movement’s 11 interconnected barrels, positioned in a linear fashion like a spinal column, support each other to deliver a remarkable 50-day power reserve, a record for a manual tourbillon. The brand will produce 50 pieces at a high-octane price of $345,000.
Classic cars are more Chopard’s style. The brand’s copresident Karl-Friedrich Scheufele has participated in Italy’s legendary Mille Miglia endurance race since the 1980s. Chopard not only redesigned its annual limited-edition Mille Miglia timepiece ($6,930, $24,360 in rose gold) from the ground up, it also partnered with the Italian bodywork specialist Zagato for two additional Mille Miglia Zagatos ($8,100 and $9,900), each in 500-piece limited series. The Classic Racing Collection added three new steel Superfast models—an automatic, chronograph and power reserve—powered by movements produced by Chopard’s Fleurier Ebauches. In addition to sporty striping on the dial, the case sides are grooved like the air-cooled aluminum engine blocks found in classic cars. The Superfast collection ranges in price from $9,230 to $33,190.
The Ball for BMW collection, launched this year, offers more affordable options. Swiss designer Magali Métrailler designed the chronograph ($4,999) with a black steel case coated with DLC (Diamond Like Carbon). The black dial is embellished with a grille motif and orange markings typical of BMW gauges. For enhanced nighttime legibility, the hands and indexes are illuminated with microtubes of 3H gas, which is 100 times brighter than conventional luminescent paint. Gentlemen, start your engines!
Visit ballwatchusa.com, chopard.com, hublot.com, and iwc.com
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