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Time Machines: 7 Automotive-Inspired Retro Watches


A classic car is a time machine into the past. But what about the smaller machines that measure time’s passage? Which watches would harmonize best with the styling of a vintage car, like the Mercedes-Benz below? Fortunately, the retro trend in watches is bigger than ever. Here are seven suggestions, photographed by our own Nik Schölzel.

Mercedes-Benz Classic

ZENITH EL PRIMERO CHRONOMASTER TOUR AUTO EDITION

As the official timekeeper for the Tour Auto Optic 2000, one of France’s most important car rallies for old timers and young timers alike, Zenith released a special model in a limited edition of 500 pieces that will delight aficionados of historical cars. (Steel, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber El Primero 4061, automatic, $9,600; for more on the watch, click here.)

Zenith: El Primero ChronoMaster Tour Auto Edition
Zenith: El Primero ChronoMaster Tour Auto Edition

ERWIN SATTLER CHRONOGRAPH II CLASSICA SECUNDA

This Munich-based manufacture is mainly a clockmaker. Like those larger timekeepers, each Sattler watch has an elegant, tidy face with a classical subdial arrangement and a railway minutes circle. Blued poire hands and a serially numbered silver dial fastened with four screws also recall this maker’s domestic clocks. (Steel, 44 mm, ETA 7750, automatic, 6,900 €)

TUTIMA SAXON ONE CHRONOGRAPH

Tutima, based in Glashütte, Germany, has modified the automatic movement that powers its chronograph, which boasts the brand’s characteristic cushion-shaped case. Now this caliber animates the elapsed-minutes counter from the dial’s center and also supports a 24-hour display. The dial follows the arrangement dictated by Lemania Caliber 5001, whose production was discontinued in the 1990s. (Steel, 43 mm, modified ETA 7750, automatic, $6,500; for a review of this watch, click here.)

Erwin Sattler & Tutima Saxon One
l-r: Erwin Sattler Chronograph II Classica Secunda, Tutima Saxon One Chronograph

ROLEX EXPLORER II

Rolex launched the Explorer II in 1971 as a watch for adventurers and mountain climbers. Since then, this model has remained nearly unchanged and has become a design icon. Rolex’s own automatic movement is regarded as one of the most robust and precise calibers. When its wearer flies to a vacation destination, he can adjust the hour hand in hourly increments to show the time in the new zone. (Steel, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber 3187, automatic, $8,100)

IWC INGENIEUR CHRONOGRAPH EDITION “RUDOLF CARACCIOLA”

IWC dedicated this chronograph to the legendary race car driver Rudolf Caracciola, who first piloted a Mercedes to victory in 1926 and went on to win many other races. Released in a limited edition of 750 timepieces, this watch references automotive history with its dashboard-inspired look and saddle-stitched leather strap. IWC’s new automatic caliber is its high performance engine. (Steel, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber 69370, automatic, $7,150)

Rolex Explorer II & IWC Ingenieur Chrono
l-r: Rolex Explorer II, IWC Ingenieur Chronograph Edition “Rudolf Caracciola”

UNION GLASHÜTTE BELISAR CHRONOGRAPH

With an ivory-colored dial and counters hosting radially arranged numerals and needle-like hands, this watch recalls the instruments on the dashboards of vintage cars. The tachymeter scale is an automotive reference, too. The mushroom-shaped push-pieces, the conical crown and the shrunken leather strap similarly allude to classic watches. (Steel, 44 mm, ETA 7750, automatic, 2,350 €)

GLASHÜTTE ORIGINAL SEVENTIES PANORAMA DATE

The Seventies Panorama Date is patterned after a model from the 1970s. Its forebear was manufactured in East Germany by VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe, which evolved into the Glashütte Original brand. The square case with rounded corners and the blue dial with sunburst pattern give this watch its distinctive character. (Steel, 40 mm by 40 mm, manufacture Caliber 39-47, automatic, $10,100)

Union Glashutte & G.O. Seventies Panorama Date
l-r: Union Glashütte Belisar Chronograph, Glashütte Original Seventies Panorama Date

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12 Responses to “Time Machines: 7 Automotive-Inspired Retro Watches”

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  1. James Sinatro

    I like the hand set on the Tutima. It looks like a Laurent Ferrier. The explorer is usually meant for cave dwellers and adventurers who in dark environs, lose all sense of day or night, and not automotive pursuits.

    Reply
  2. What are you thinking here? no Monaco? No Daytona? No Speedy? I love your blog but this article misses the mark

    Reply
  3. Colin Agar-Rea

    Inclined to agree with most of the comments. There are motor sports inspired watches from Rolex (Daytona) Chopard (Mille Miglia) Tag (Monaco) Breitling (Bentley GT’s) Hublot (Big Bang Kings) Richard Mille, Roger Dubuois, to name a few.

    Reply
  4. Tsar Bomba

    I don’t see any of these as automotive watches. No Monaco or Cosmograph Daytona? Rather poorly researched if you ask me.

    Reply
  5. Barry Silver

    Thanks to your Los Angeles events, I was fortunate enough to taste and then purchase the Four Roses Small Batch. Fabulous Bourban!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • Exactly. The Explorer I was for mountaineers and the II for the opposite, those who explore under ground.

      Reply
  6. This is the first time I have seen the Explorer referred to as an “Automotive-Inspired Retro Watch”

    Reply
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