Watches and racecars have been brothers-in-arms, design-wise, for nearly as long as cars have been on the road and timepieces have been worn on the wrist. In the modern era, the relationship between motor racing and timekeeping has gotten even more intimate, with watches developed in close collaboration with car manufacturers becoming more common: Hublot’s partnership with Ferrari springs to mind, as does Roger Dubuis’s team-up with Lamborghini, to name just a few. Giorgio Piola Timepieces, a new watch brand based in Miami, offers a new take on a racing-style watch, not from a car designer but from a fine-art illustrator who has spent 40 years capturing in his meticulous draftsmanship the high-octane essence of Formula One automobiles and their engines.
“Illustrating Speed” is Giorgio Piola’s stock-in-trade, and the Italian artisan brings those sensibilities to the line of watches that bears his name, all of which feature a design aesthetic that is unmistakably motor-racing-derived and also, most would find, distinctively Italian. We got a look at two chronograph models from the collection, which also includes a three-hand with date and a ladies’ chrono (both powered by a quartz movement from Ronda). The Strat-3 series (below) features 46-mm sandblasted titanium cases with integrated rubber straps whose tread pattern recalls that of race car tires. The chronograph pushers flanking the screw-down crown evoke the look and texture of a car’s pedals. Protected underneath a non-reflective, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, the dials have a colorful if somewhat busy tricompax design, with red, white and yellow highlights and a round red-rimmed date window at 4:30; the subdials’ design is evocative of F1 steering wheels. Surrounding the dial is a tachymeter scale flange, a staple of auto-racing-influenced watches and one perfectly at home on this one. Inside is a Ronda 5030.D Swiss quartz movement that drives the central hour and minute hands, date display, running seconds on the 3 o’clock subdial, and chronograph, with red central counter, 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock. The Strat-3 collection — available in black, blue, green, yellow and red colorways, retails for $500.
The star of the Giorgio Piola Timepiece collection is the G-5 Automatic Chronograph, equipped with the ubiquitous but tried-and-true ETA 7750 integrated chronograph caliber, with automatic winding, a 28,800-vph frequency, and an approximately 44-hour power reserve. This movement is ensconced in a rather sizeable 48-m case made of forged carbon – a lightweight but robust material used in today’s high-end automobile industry and found in only a handful of watches, most of them at far higher price points than this one. The dial, which has a similar three-register arrangement to the quartz-powered version, has a carbon-fiber pattern, though it’s unclear if it is actually made from that material. The Automatic has a double-window day-date display at 3 o’clock rather than a round date circle at 4:30, and the subdials are inspired, the brand says, by the piston rings of a 900HP engine.
The most notable aesthetic element differentiating the G-5 Automatic from the Strat-3 (and, frankly, from most other racing-style chronographs) is its use of a titanium/aluminum bezel (these are two other materials used in the automotive world, prized for their lightness and toughness) in the shape of a disk brake. This bezel is secured to the case by eight screws and surrounds an inner tachymeter scale around the dial. The pedal-like chronograph pushers, with “START” and “RESET” inscribed in relief on their surfaces, are likely also made of (DLC-coated?) titanium, as they don’t display the telltale gnarly pattern of the forged carbon case middle. The caseback, presumably also titanium, has a sapphire window — relatively small in comparison to the massive case diameter — that reveals the ETA 7750 movement, which has been enhanced with a Giorgio Piola-branded, eye-catching red rotor. Like its quartz-powered cousin, the G-5 is securely integrated into a tire-tread black rubber strap with a deployant clasp.
Some, of course, would consider the G-5 Automatic to be imposingly large on the wrist — albeit not overly heavy due to the use of materials like forged carbon, titanium, and aluminum — and the carbon-fiber pattern on the tricompax dial, here again featuring colorful details in red, yellow, and white, has an even busier look than the quartz model’s dial. As a very kinetic, dashboard-inspired timekeeper, however, and as a wrist-worn valentine from an artist to his racing-machine muses, it succeeds admirably. The G-5 Automatic Chronograph in black (pictured here) is a limited edition of 500 pieces, priced at $2,985. Two other non-limited versions, in green and blue, sell for $2,500.