From the WatchTime archives, a look at some of the current watches that resulted from collaborations between watch brands and car manufacturers.
A substantial number of luxury watch brands maintain partnerships with car manufacturers, auto racing series or race car teams. Others join with one of the prestigious Concours d’Elegance or sponsor a historic motor race, classic car race event, or festival. And almost all of them launch watches dedicated to a specific driver, event, or car. Bell & Ross even developed its own supercar design concept in 2016, the Aero GT. With these alliances, watch brands usually have to devise a co-branding strategy or develop new forms of collaboration in order to take the passion for cars and watches to a new level. We take a look at some of the current partnerships between watches and cars and tell you which brand actually lets you buy a car that matches your new watch.
Historically, watches and cars have always been closely linked. When people began to travel by carriage, pocketwatches and specially made carriage clocks became an important part of a more mobile society. With the rise of the automobile, drivers started to use pocketwatches in special holders, and watch manufacturers began making dashboard clocks and timers along with producing the increasingly popular wristwatch. Heuer, for example, was the first watch brand to produce a dashboard chronograph (patented in 1911), and became known as a driving force in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s in all forms of motorsports. Watches like the Monaco and the Carrera were built specifically with the driver in mind, as was one of the most iconic watches currently available, the Daytona from Rolex. This watch became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold when Paul Newman’s personal Ref. 6239 was auctioned off for $17,752,500 in 2017.
But even without adding a famous actor to the formula, the reason why watch brands continue to produce car-themed watches is obvious: cars and watches often share the same target audience. In other words, being obsessed with watches and cars at the same time isn’t an unlikely condition, and car enthusiasts represent an attractive opportunity to find new watch buyers. But having two strong logos on the same dial can also create a different hierarchy between the two partnering brands. For example, a Mille Miglia Edition from Chopard (where Chopard has served as Official Timekeeper for over 25 years) will always be seen as a watch from Chopard, but the Audi Design Square Chronograph by Sinn from 2004 might be perceived as a product from Audi rather than one from the German watch brand. For a hardcore watch collector, this situation occasionally creates a bit of friction. The same goes for the pricing, but the other way around: some of the watches introduced by the watch brands are as expensive as a car.
Bruce McLaren, who won the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in 1959 at the age of 22 (the youngest Grand Prix winner to that date), founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing in 1963. A year later, the company built the first McLaren race car (the production of supercars started in 2010). One of the company’s early logos featured a papaya orange color, which became known as “McLaren Orange,” the same color that is now used for the Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph, which was unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2018. The watch is limited to 500 pieces globally and will be made available first to McLaren Ultimate Series clients at a price of $191,500.
Under the bonnet of the RM 11-03 beats the automatic RMAC3 flyback chronograph movement, first launched in 2016. Powered by two barrels mounted in parallel and a balance wheel with variable inertia, the movement has a 55-hour power reserve. Winding is ensured by a variable geometry rotor that enables personalized winding adjusted to the wearer’s activity level. Additionally, the baseplate and bridges for this caliber are made of PVD-treated grade 5 titanium to ensure the stiffness and functioning of the going train.
In February 2018, Georges Kern, Breitling’s new CEO since summer 2017, announced a partnership with English motorcycle producer Norton Motorcycles, but it currently seems like the long-established Bentley partnership will continue in one form or another. Breitling launched its Breitling for Bentley watch collection after Bentley had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2003 and has been offering watches with the knurled motif on the bezel ever since. One of the most notable examples might be the world’s most expensive dashboard clock, the self-winding Breitling for Bentley Mulliner Tourbillon, with a six-figure price tag, made for the Bentley Bentayga SUV from 2015.
Baume & Mercier teamed up with the American race car maker Shelby in 2015 and has since released several watches dedicated to the legendary auto brand. Last year’s Clifton Club Shelby Cobra CSX2299 Limited Edition drew inspiration from the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and even involved a design collaboration with renowned automotive designer Peter Brock. The 44-mm watch is powered by a La Joux-Perret 8147 flyback chronograph movement and features a two-tone dial, foot-pedal-shaped chronograph pushers and an oscillating weight in the shape of the Daytona’s wheel rims. The watch is limited to 196 pieces and priced at $7,950.
Mercedes became the sole owner of its high-performance division AMG (Aufrecht, Melcher and Grossaspach) in 2005. In the same year, IWC relaunched its Ingenieur range, shortly after having announced a partnership with the former racing engine forge (which was also IWC’s first partnership with an automotive brand after having briefly worked with Saab in 1997). One of the latest watches celebrating this relationship is the 2017-introduced Ingenieur Chronograph Sport Edition “50th Anniversary of Mercedes-AMG,” priced at $11,800. The watch is limited to 250 pieces and driven by the IWC 89361 caliber with flyback function. The case is made of titanium and features a soft-iron cage for better protection against magnetic fields.
Zenith felt adventurous in 2016 and announced a partnership with British icon Land Rover. Since then, the two brands have launched several special editions of the El Primero Chronograph with co-branding. For example, two 42-mm Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Velar Special Editions were launched in Geneva in 2017, featuring a brushed gray dial with copper-toned details, and a new black rubber strap coated with black-toned perforated calfskin, priced at $7,700. The movement, visible through the sapphire caseback, is Zenith’s automatic El Primero 400B, a direct descendant of the first El Primero caliber from 1969.
Bremont first collaborated with Jaguar during the launch of the cutting-edge Jaguar C-X75 in 2010, for which Bremont developed a unique, analog dashboard clock. In 2014 and 2015, several limited-edition wristwatches were introduced, like the MKI (automatic) and MKII (automatic chronograph).
From Geneva to Italy
Roger Dubuis went full throttle in the last two years when it came to forging partnerships with the automotive industry. The Swiss watch brand recently announced an alliance with Lamborghini’s Squadra Corse, the Italian car brand’s division specializing in motorsports (after its eight-year collaboration with Blancpain had ended). The year before, it partnered with Milan-based Pirelli (one of the largest tire manufacturers) and, most importantly for this selection, Italdesign Automobili Speciali and its V10 supercar named the Zerouno. This car was unveiled to the world during the 87th Geneva International Motor Show in 2017 and, ultimately, the only car on that list that could, in theory, be bought together with the matching watch from the brand. The 45-mm Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Italdesign Edition from 2017 was based on the Excalibur Spider Flying Tourbillon, limited to eight pieces worldwide and priced at $169,000 (the car was limited to just five pieces and sold out immediately). Currently, Roger Dubuis offers several automotive-inspired limited editions, like the Excalibur Aventador S Blue, the Excalibur Aventador S Pink Gold and the Excalibur Spider Pirelli, all sharing some of the materials used in their Italian counterparts.
In 2016, Christopher Ward and Morgan Motor Company launched The Chronometer Collection, powered by the brand’s Swiss-made in-house movement, the COSC-certified Calibre SH21 with 5-day power reserve. The last result of the collaboration is the 40.5-mm C1 Morgan Plus 8 Chronometer, sold exclusively alongside the 50th anniversary Morgan Plus 8 motor car via the brand’s website. Prices start at $2,575.
0-250 mph in 32.6 Seconds
From 2004 to 2019, Swiss watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier produced watches with the logo of the supercar manufacturer Bugatti. For the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show, Bugatti presented a new version of the Chiron (the successor to the Veyron), and Parmigiani Fleurier delivered a special Bugatti Type 390 watch that fits both the car’s aesthetic and the high-end customization service that comes with it. It’s a showcase that clients can customize using pretty much everything from the Type 390, for example, case materials and colors, making the experience of buying a watch very similar to that of ordering a car.
Like its predecessor, the Type 370, the 2017-introduced Type 390 comes with a tubular section for the movement but displays time in a more traditional way. This means that the cylindrical movement can be easily removed. The movement has a power-reserve indicator (and 80-hour power reserve), double barrels that are coupled directly in series and an axially mounted gear train, a set of three planetary gears and a flying tourbillon. The wing-shaped case is able to pivot 12° around its drive shaft for better ergonomics. Price is 295,000 CHF.
Probably the most obvious collaboration between a car brand and a watchmaker comes with the Porsche for Porsche Design initiative in which the Porsche automobile company collaborates with the Porsche Design studio. A notable example of this teamwork is the Porsche Design Chronograph 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series – a 42-mm, 500-piece, limited edition available to owners of the iconic 911 Turbo S sports car featuring Porsche Design’s first in-house movement, Caliber 01.200. List price: $12,650.
From Rome to Modena
Bulgari first introduced a Maserati-themed watch in 2012, a chronograph in the Octo collection with jumping hour function along with four retrograde displays for the minutes, date, and chronograph hour and minutes counters. In 2017, the Italian brand unveiled two new Octo Maserati timepieces, the GranSport and GranLusso, unmistakably inspired by the rev counters on a Maserati dashboard and featuring a combination of retrograde minutes and jumping hours to indicate the time. Inside the 41.5-mm Octo case is Bulgari’s in-house engine BVL 262. Both models are available exclusively at Bulgari boutiques; prices are $12,800 for the GranSport and $30,700 for the GranLusso.
Partnering with the Cavallino Rampante
Hublot released the first Big Bang watches as part of a collaboration with the most famous Italian automaker in 2012. Recent partnerships before Hublot included watch brands like Girard-Perregaux (1994 to 2004) and, of course, Panerai (2005 to 2010), but it was Jean-Claude Biver who immediately shifted gears when he teamed up with the luxury car brand. Ironically, Biver also demonstrated that a Swiss and an Italian brand worked better together than two Italian brands.
Today, and after several dedicated editions bearing the prancing horse logo, Hublot’s and Ferrari’s “fusion of two brands” is most likely one of the most successful examples of a watchmaker taking a seat behind the wheel of a sports car. It also led to the first product ever to be designed by Ferrari that is not a car. In 2017, Hublot celebrated Ferrari’s 70th anniversary with a new limited-edition watch that was designed at Ferrari’s workshop in Maranello, using the same creative processes applied for developing a sports car. The 45-mm Techframe Tourbillon Chronograph is powered by the manual-wound caliber HUB6311. Prices start at $127,000 (for the titanium version), which includes a skeletonized case; flying tourbillon escapement; an interchangeable strap; and a large, lever-style pusher at 9 o’clock.
TAG Heuer, undoubtedly one of the watch brands with the most impressive history in motorsports, announced its partnership with British luxury carmaker Aston Martin during the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show, taking over the keys from Jaeger-LeCoultre (from 2003, Aston Martin’s 90th anniversary, to 2016) and Richard Mille (2016).
The first watch celebrating this partnership is the Carrera Heuer 01 Aston Martin Special Edition, with a skeletonized dial with a honey-comb pattern similar to the grille on an Aston Martin. In addition, the sides of the 45-mm steel case have been enhanced with parallel “speed lines” and chronograph pushers that resemble a car engine’s pistons. Another change to the standard Carrera case can be found in the lugs, which have been redesigned to resemble the look of an Aston Martin’s bodywork more closely, the car brand’s name on the black ceramic bezel and the wings on the dial.
The watch is powered by the skeletonized version of Caliber Heuer 01, the brand’s in-house, automatic chronograph movement with column wheel and comes with a price of $6,550.