Because gearheads intuitively grasp that a mechanical watch movement is essentially a fine-tuned miniature engine, scores of watch brands have tapped the marketing potential of partnering with automobile marques to design watches that allude to a car's signature motifs. But a few have revved up the relationship with genuine collaborations between designers and engineers from both disciplines.
Porsche Design, founded in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, has the most authentic connection between the two. Heeding Porsche's mantra of form strictly following function, designers and engineers from Porsche Design Timepieces in Switzerland, Studio F. A. Porsche in Austria and Porsche Development Centre in Germany came up with the new Monobloc Actuator collection (left, $6,350 to $6,850).
To create a purer chronograph design, they eliminated the push buttons and seamlessly integrated a pressure-operated rocker switch on the side of the case to activate the chronograph, powered by an automatic Calibre ETA Valjoux 7754. The engine of the new Porsche 911 RSR racecar inspired engineers, who referenced the camshaft and valve tappets. Porsche's team devised an articulated case that remains hermetically sealed when you move the rocker arm, even underwater.
Like all Porsche Design watches, the 45.5 mm Monobloc Actuator GMT-Chronotimer is constructed from lightweight titanium, which is available in natural silver or blackened finishes with your choice of a titanium bracelet or rubber strap and two dial colors—blue or matte black.
Bovet partners with the famed Italian automotive studio Pininfarina, responsible for such classic designs as Ferrari and Maserati. Their latest collaboration is Tourbillon Ottanta Sei (center, $173,300 in titanium; $189,000 in rose gold).The watchword of this Ottanta project was "light," leading designers to construct a see-through case from four panes of clear sapphire crystal, etched with the Pininfarina logo and showcasing the movement from all sides. The 44-mm weighs just 15.54 grams in titanium. Three circles highlight the movement's single barrel: a 10-day power reserve display at 10 o'clock, the hours and minutes display at 2 o'clock, and an airy flying tourbillon at 6 o'clock.
This year, Baume & Mercier built on its partnership with the Carroll Shelby Company with the Clifton Club Shelby Cobra Limited Edition collection. A 1,964-piece chronograph pays tribute to the first official race of the legendary Daytona CSX2299 Coupe. A 196-piece CSX2299 flyback chronograph marks the car's 196-mph speed record at Le Mans in 1964. A driver and designer of racecars, Peter Brock worked closely with Alexandre Peraldi, Baume & Mercier's design director.
The CSX2299 (right, $7,960) borrows numerous elements from the sleek car. The striking bi-color blue and silver dial evokes the Daytona's tail. Chronograph pushers echo the car's foot pedals. The red chronograph hand is tipped with Brock's rising Cobra logo. The winding rotor recalls mag wheels. "Function first, aesthetics second," says Brock. "Make the shape work. Then make it look beautiful. Light and fast."