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CLASSIC DRIVING WATCHES

WATCHES AND MOTORING

By Tony V. Concepcion

 

What is of utmost importance to a driver, whether he is just going from one point to another, or he is competing in a high speed motor racing event?  The answer to this is obvious considering the nature of this magazine, that the one thing in common among all drivers is the need for a time-keeping device.  The connection between watches and cars even coincide in terms of their birth (at the turn of the 20th century) and the subsequent progress of these two desirable consumer products.

For people who value fine workmanship and engineering marvels, automobile collecting and watch collecting have complemented each other. The watch company Heuer first gained popularity by providing watch clocks to leading automobile companies.  These clocks, taken out from the dashboards of the old limousines, are now highly collectible.  Heuer itself has become popular over the years as a racing drivers’ watch brand with such model names as the Monaco, Carrera, and Camaro, names all tied up with car racing.

There are a number of ways that car and watch companies have tried to make the relationship stick.  The first is to make watches that are targeted towards car drivers. During the 1930’s to the 50’s, when American watch companies such as Elgin, Gruen, and Hamilton dominated the watch industry, they produced several examples of watches designed with the car driver in mind.  There are examples as shown in the picture, of the watch cases being extremely curved so that these can be worn on the edge of the driver’s wrist facing the driver to make the watch easier to read while driving. The Gruen Company even marketed their driver’s watch as the Gruen Curvex, which not only had a curved case, but even the movement was also amazingly curved.  It became a very popular model at that time, and is highly prized these days as a collectible item. The photo on top shows three examples of the Gruen Curvex model, one with swinging lugs and a big one with an extremely curved case.

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SEIKO SPEEDMASTER

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PANERAI

A more modern example of a watch designed for the driver’s use is the 1980’s Seiko Speedmaster driver’s watch shown above. The main feature of this design is that the entire watch face can be swiveled to make it face the driver even without taking off the watch from the wrist.  The big Panerai wristwatch in the photo set is another example of a design that permits the driver to take his eyes off the road only for a split second to read the time.  This extra large watch has non-reflective crystal, and has highly legible hour and minute markers that make it the favorite of drivers and watch lovers.

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FRANK MULLER ENDURANCE 24

Meanwhile, there has been a tremendous demand and consumer acceptance for mechanical watches with chronograph complication, as this can provide a driver with speed and distance information that can be of great help to the driving task.  The Frank Muller Endurance chronograph is the best example in this set.  

Wristwatches have a great impact on motoring. Motoring enthusiasts consider their watch as a part of their overall image. Depending on which type of race the enthusiast is fixated on, his wristwatch will give him added personality and greatly represent his passion. Wristwatches are fast becoming a major trend in the motoring industry. This trend will continue for a long time as long as there are motor enthusiasts craving for the fast lane and the fast lifestyle. Major wristwatch makers will also continue to endorse motor races as well as creating timepieces that will represent a key demographic in today’s high society.

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AUDEMARS PIGUET LIMITED ED. JUAN PABLO MONTOYA

There are other ways that car and watch companies have tried to make the relationship stick.  One way is for watch companies to be identified with racing events through sponsorships and product placements. With the popularity of such events such as Formula One racing in Europe and the Daytona 500 in the U.S., motoring has amassed a huge following, and with that comes the glamour and distinction that great drivers have attained. Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya are examples of car drivers who have become household names due to their excellence in motor racing. Wristwatch makers, particularly first-rate companies have expressed their elegance by using these celebrities to sponsor their products, as well as paying tribute to these superstars.

            Wristwatch makers have also been riding the wave of this growing trend. For example, Omega celebrated Michael Schumacher’s sixth World Championship title in the Formula One race with a limited edition of its Speedmaster by making only 6,000 units. Its back is engraved with the words “Sixth Title Limited Edition” in black and the words “Michael Schumacher/The Legend” in Ferrari red, Ferrari being Schumacher’s sponsor. 

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ROLEX DAYTONA CHRONOGRAPH

Rolex plays an enormous part in American sports car endurance racing. Rolex has been the title sponsor of the 24-hour Daytona race since 1992 and has had a relationship with Daytona since the opening of the speedway in 1959. Rolex is also the Official Timekeeper of Europe’s most celebrated endurance sports car race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Rolex Daytona Chronograph which is tied up to Daytona racing, particularly the so-called Paul Newman model, is one of the most desirable watches ever made.

There are still other tie-ups that watch and car companies have engaged in.  The Baume and Mercier GMT watch was marketed to coincide with the 70th year anniversary of BMW Motor Company, as marked on the back case. The blue BMW logo is embossed on the paper white dial.  This watch which I featured in a past Lucerne article is number 159 of a limited run of 500 watches.  Other car companies use watches as promotional give away items.  The dial of the Porsche watch is especially interesting because the only numbers highlighted on the dials are 9 and 11 o’clock, denoting the car model which is Porsche 911.

 

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CORUM ROLLS ROYCE

Lastly, one other way of establishing a relationship between the watch brand and motoring is to design watches bearing a distinguishing feature of an automobile. There is the Corum Rolls Royce model pictured in the attached photo owned by my friend Steve Jo of Cebu City.  This limited edition watch which comes in white gold is designed to look like the radiator grill of the Rolls Royce limousine car.  There can certainly be no better way of tying up a watch brand with a car brand. 

With the proliferation of watch brands attempting to market itself in relation to motoring, a motoring event or the car itself, we can expect this trend to continue in the future.  It’s certainly an excellent way on which to base one’s desire to collect watches with a given theme.

Photos by: keith, jeff, borrowed from other websites - thank you

may the lord give us more time for our family
and more watches for our time