Porsche Design Indicator
Porsche Design Indicator. Click image to enlarge

By Laurance Yap

The same mechanical fascination that leads many car enthusiasts to be obsessed with sporting machinery often also leads to an interest in watches. After all, if you’re interested in going fast, you want to know just how fast you are going, and you can’t do that without some form of measurement.

The result has been that, throughout automotive history, there have been a number of car-themed watches, most of them with chronographs (stopwatches) which have become as iconic as some of the most famous racing cars. Paul Newman made the Rolex Daytona famous by wearing it in a racing film, and it remains one of the most desirable items on the used market. Steve McQueen wore a Heuer Monaco in Le Mans, and such is its status that it’s still sold today.

Car companies have been a bit slow to realize the cross-marketing potential of cars and watches, but the last year has seen the introduction of many watches designed to go specifically with certain cars.

TAG Heuer SLR. Click image to enlarge

Their designs go from the conservative to the truly wild, and their prices from the downright reasonable to the totally insane. Much like the cars, then.

Under $1,000

Nissan Z triple-window (www.jp.z.com)

Styled by the same team that designed the 350Z, the Z triple-window watch is the most avant-garde of this bunch, with a curved rectangular case and three separate windows showing the date, the time, and the day. Powered by a tiny quartz mechanism, at 42,500 Yen (about $600) it’s not expensive, but it’s not available online, and you will have to go to the Z Boutique in Tokyo to get one. So factor in the cost of the plane ticket…

Seiko Sportura Chronograph (www.odysseytime.com)

Long a sponsor of Japanese F1 sensation Takuma Sato, and now a backer of the B.A.R F1 team, Seiko makes some of the most technically-innovative watches on the market. The Sportura’s Kinetic mechanism, which uses a rotor to charge the battery in the same way a hybrid car recaptures energy under braking, makes for quartz accuracy without the need to change batteries. I like the Sportura’s big case and the arcing readout for its 45-minute chronograph. Though it lists for $1,295, several Toronto-area retailers are offering the Sportura for less than $900 on a bracelet, and $100 less on a red-and-black leather strap.


Omega Speedmaster Legend (www.omega.ch)

While the original Speedmaster made its name as the first and only watch to be worn on the moon, lately it’s been famous as the watch of choice for seven-time world champion F1 driver Michael Schumacher. With each championship he’s won, Omega has released a special-edition Speedmaster. The latest model, a $5,300 automatic-winding column-wheel chronograph, actually commemorates his sixth title, and was made in a batch of 6,000. Its face has a checkered-flag motif around the edges, trimmed in Ferrari red. Next year’s model has yet to be announced, but it’s sure to come.

TAG Heuer SLR. Click image to enlarge

TAG Heuer SLR (www.tagheuer.com)

TAG Heuer was one of the first watch companies to get heavily involved in motorsports, and remains one of the most prominent thanks to its McLaren-Mercedes F1 sponsorship. The SLR Chronograph was designed specifically to complement the SLR McLaren road car, and shares many of the same design cues. Its steel case has vented “gills” in the side, its face separates the hour and minute hands into separate parts just like the SLR’s gauges, and it ticks to the beat of a supercharged, 36,000-vibrations-per-hour Calibre 36 movement that with its 1/10th-second accuracy is the most accurate mechanical stopwatch you can buy. The only downside to this stunning $10,000 watch is that you can only buy it if you’ve also bought a $600,000 SLR as well. If you haven’t, try the company’s other classic chronograph lines, such as the Carrera ($3,300-$4,600), Monaco Steve McQueen ($4,600), or my personal choice, the Autavia ($5,100).


Jaeger-LeCoultre for Aston Martin (www.jaeger-lecoultre.com)

As the maker of one of the first wristwatches with a mechanical alarm, Jaeger-LeCoultre has a magnificent watchmaking history, almost as magnificent as Aston Martin’s racing pedigree. In an era where watch and car brands are finding increasing synergies, the two companies have reached into the past, where JLC’s instruments used to grace racing Aston dashboards. The result is a classically-designed watch in titanium or platinum with big, readable numbers and a distinctive gunmetal-gray face, like the DB9’s gauges. There’s no cool blue backlighting, but like the greatest old JLC watches, the Aston model has a “memovox” mechanical alarm.

Breitling for Bentley

Breitling for Bentley
Breitling for Bentley. Click image to enlarge

Pricing has yet to be released, but a regular non-Aston Memovox costs about $15,000 in gold.

Breitling for Bentley (www.breitling.com)

Bentley was one of the first high-end car brands to pursue a joint venture with a high-end watch company; the 2005 Continental GT even features a Breitling dashboard clock. As for the watches, they are much like the Bentleys they are sold alongside: huge, heavy, and ornate in design, with slide-rule bezels, chronographs, large date windows, and engine-turned bezels. Available in both steel and gold, the Breitling for Bentley models have highly-polished cases and are chronometer-rated, meaning they’re supremely accurate. Various designs are available; the cheapest steel chronograph is $11,400, and an all-gold “6.75” watch (named after the displacement of the twin-turbo Arnage’s pushrod engine) on a bracelet can top $25,000.

Porsche Design Indicator

Porsche Design Indicator
Porsche Design Indicator. Click image to enlarge


Porsche Design Indicator (www.porsche-design.com)

Designed to mimic the styling cues and mechanical intricacy of the new Porsche Carrera GT, the Indicator is billed as the world’s most complicated mechanical watch, with over 800 moving parts. Its prime attraction is a stopwatch that, instead of three circular registers, actually has a digital readout, with large number plates indicating the minutes and seconds being timed. The result is not only a cleaner watch face, but a much more readable design. Rendered in solid titanium, the Indicator features chronograph pushers that resemble the Carrera GT’s foot pedals, huge skeletonized hands, and a see-through case back through which you can view the automatic-winding rotor, which is patterned after the CGT’s five-spoke magnesium alloys. The price is stunning at $85,000, but at least you don’t have to buy a Carrera GT as well.

Girard-Perregaux pour Ferrari Enzo Ferrari (www.girard-perregaux.com)

Is it a surprise that there’s an Enzo watch to compete against the Porsche watch?

Girard-Perregaux pour Ferrari Enzo Ferrari
Girard-Perregaux pour Ferrari Enzo Ferrari. Click image to enlarge

Like the Enzo, the GP Enzo is a lot more expensive than the equivalent Porsche (it’s priced at upwards of $150,000), but like the Enzo, it has a lot more features as well. In addition to a stopwatch, the manual-winding Enzo has a perpetual calendar mechanism which never needs to be reset. Superlative accuracy is ensured through GP’s original three-bridges tourbillon, which compensates for the accuracy-sapping effects of gravity on the watch. The case the Enzo comes in shares the car’s design cues and is constructed out of carbon-fibre with an electric motor to wind the watch when you place it in its holder. If you can’t quite swing the Enzo, GP offers several other Ferrari-themed models at much more reasonable prices (starting around $7,000).

Parmigiani Bugatti Type 370 (www.parmigiani.com)

Michel Parmigiani’s Type 370 has been in development as long as the 1000-hp Bugatti Veyron that it’s supposed to complement. But while the Veyron is still mired in high-speed testing,

Parmigiani Bugatti Type 370
Parmigiani Bugatti Type 370. Click image to enlarge

the Bugatti watch is now on sale — for a price almost as outrageous as the million-Euro supercar. For the privilege of strapping one of Parmigiani’s 150 Type 370s to your wrist, you’ll pay upwards of $200,000. What, exactly, do you get for that? In rational terms, not much. You get a $200,000 watch that you have to wind yourself and that only tells the time. But what’s special about the Parmigiani Bugatti piece is that its hand-wound mechanical movement is a complete reimagination of anything before seen in watchmaking.

Most watches feature a face that sits at on your wrist, which is all well and good for normal use, but which means you have to take your hand off the wheel while driving to read the time. So Parmigiani decided on a vertically-oriented face which necessitated a completely new mechanism that’s more reminiscent of an automobile engine than any traditional watch movement.

Parmigiani Bugatti Type 370
Parmigiani Bugatti Type 370. Click image to enlarge

Visible through the eight-piece gold case’s six sapphire crystals, the 370’s movement allows you to see exactly what’s going on, with all of its various pieces in all their gorgeousness laid bare for inspection. Also visible through the top is the 10-day power reserve indicator, telling you how long the watch still has to run before you have to charge it again.

Like everything else about the watch, winding it is something special, and isn’t done with a simple crown on the side. Instead, a battery-powered metal pen is inserted into the bottom, which takes care of both winding and time-setting duties.

The first Bugatti watch was delivered to noted car fanatic Ralph Lauren earlier this year. Fifty each will be available in each of three colours.

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