Posted on March 08 2018
Unsurprisingly, the love of cars and watches has always overlapped. The metal, leather and mechanical heart is common to both the timepiece and the vehicle. Inspiring design and technical innovation are at the centre of the horological world and the race track, with watches often taking their cue from Motorsport.
Some of the biggest names in the world of watches have paid homage to the glamour and style of the motoring world.
The Rolex Daytona Chronograph is arguably the most iconic watch of the 20th century. Introduced in 1963, it was named after the Daytona International Speedway in Florida and partly gained it’s iconic status due to an association with actor and part-time race driver Paul Newman. Swiss giant Tag Heuer, particularly with it’s Carrera model, also has a long-established relationship with motor racing having produced versions of its chronographs with the logos of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as the names or logos of other racing teams or sponsors.
While Newman wore his Rolex fellow actor Steve McQueen wore a Heuer crest on his racing suit and a square-dial Heuer Monaco on his wrist in the Le Mans film.
However, we’ve already looked closely at Daytona style watches here, and have also noted some of the watches worn by McQueen here too. The Rolex is out of the reach of most watch buyers and TAG Heuer are also a luxury brand. So instead, let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known and more affordable watches inspired by cars.
The DeLorean Motor Company created and designed the iconic DMC-12. It is one of the most iconic sports cars of all time despite only being in production for a few years in the early 1980s. Famously it was used as a time machine in the Back to the Future films and is therefore particularly memorable to those who came of age at that time.
The car had a very strong aesthetic. Particularly notable are the gull-wing doors, unpainted stainless-steel body panels, and a rear-mounted engine. The body design of the DMC-12 was a product of Giorgetto Giugiaro who happens to have designed a couple of interesting Seiko watches that we’ve previously highlighted.
British watch company DMC watches has been created with the intention of creating a watch collection in homage to the DeLorean car. The watch that they have produced gives more than a nod to that original DMC-12 sports car. From the horizontal lines on the dial mimicking the front grills of the DeLorean to the stainless steel case body, the tribute is unmistakable. There’s also the winding crown shaped like a tire and the famous DMC logo prominently displayed. The speedometer-like dial features a sporty red seconds hand, luminescent hour and minute hands, in addition to the expanded date window at 3 o’clock. On the case back is an engraving of the DeLorean in its most famous position — with the gull-wing doors wide open.
Straton is a Swiss-based microbrand watch company created in 2015 by Kyle Schut and so far has produced five motorsport-inspired watches. For each watch, Straton has used crowdfunding to launch the design. The ethos of the company from the beginning was inspired by the founder's passion for “classic cars, racing and watches” and he uses his own classic cars when promoting the brand.
The watch we’ve shown here is the Syncro, a quartz chronograph that comes in two case sizes and five colour options. It’s powered by Seiko’s VK64 meca-quartz hybrid movement and has a domed sapphire crystal, screw-down crown and 200M water resistance.
It’s a colourful, retro-styled watch available with a number of strap options.
Whilst a number of watch brands can demonstrate a link to motorsports, very few can make the claim that their watches are designed by a car designer. This is precisely what British brand MHD have as their central selling point.
MHD Watches was established in 2014 by Matthew Humphries, the gifted young designer who, at the age of 21, became Head of Design at the Morgan Motor Company and was responsible for the stunning Aeromax and Supersports cars. The companies watches are inspired by Matthew’s own background in sports car design and his passion for watches.
The SQ1 is the first quartz produced by MHD and captures the style and case shape of 60’s & 70’s watches. The dial takes influence from the cars of the same period with a red zone reminiscent of the rev counters in classic Porsche 911 VDO car dials.
This limited-edition timepiece has a 42mm brushed stainless steel case, satin-finish dial and lumed hands. It comes with the option of a leather racing strap, Milanese metal strap or a canvas Nato.
Christopher Ward C70 VW4
Another British brand, Christopher Ward was created by three friends in 2005. Interestingly, they planned from the beginning to offer their watches with a very straightforward pricing structure. The retail price of the watch would be three times its production cost. The result is high-quality watches, affordable, rather than cheap.
In 2014 the company did what very few other manufactures achieve. They created their own calibre or watch movement. As they note this was...
“the first commercially viable movement from a British watch brand in 50 years. Designed and built by our highly skilled watchmakers at our atelier in Biel, it put Christopher Ward in that select group of watch brands able to make their own calibres”.
The C70 range is a motor racing-inspired collection all named after notable cars, drivers or courses from the racing world. The particular model that we’ve chosen here is the C70 VW4, inspired by Stirling Moss’s Grand Prix victories of 1957 when the British built Vanwall car took first place three times. As the Vanwall cars were constructed in Maidenhead, the home of Christopher Ward, the astonishing story of how this British team fought off and beat the then all-conquering Ferrari’s is particularly close to the company giving the watch some real meaning.
The watch is clearly a motorsports inspired piece and has a number of details referencing the Vanwall cars. The Number 20 of the winning car occupies the 12 position on the face, while the 18 of the second machine is highlighted in Vanwall’s trim colour of yellow on the bezel. Moss’s astonishing 90.61mph best average lap speed is picked out in red on the tachymeter. The watch is powered by a Swiss quartz movement rather than their own calibre and is modestly sized at 42mm.
Tissot T-Race Moto GP 2018 Limited Edition
Swiss watchmakers Tissot trace their origins back to the mid-1800s. Their more recent involvement in Motorsports has been as both an official timekeeper and sponsor. Most notably they have been a key sponsor for the Formula One team's Lotus, Renault and Sauber.
Having been the official timekeeper of the Moto GP they have produced a number of watches inspired by the motorcycling event. There have been a couple of Limited Edition Moto GP models so we’re focusing here on the most recent, the 2018 version.
There are two versions of this 2018 watch, a quartz and a more expensive automatic version. Although similarly styled in black and gold they are two distinct watches with slightly different cases and sub-dial placements.
The more affordable quartz is inspired by the frame and styling of motorcycles, with features such as a brake-disc bezel, dashboard counters and tyre treads on the dial. The 43mm case is 316L stainless steel with a black and rose gold PVD coating and the glass is sapphire crystal.
Autodromo’s tagline is “Instruments for Motoring”. The company is the creative vision of founder Bradley Price, an industrial designer who set out to craft unique products, including watches, that express the spirit of motoring. Or as the company puts it...
“Our products draw aesthetic inspiration from a golden age of motoring when driving required style, panache, and perhaps a little bit of danger”.
Their watches include the Ford GT model which is very much the racing chronograph, the more vintage-looking Monoposto automatic chronograph, the 1980s inspired Group B and the watch we’re highlighting, the Stradale.
This model is maybe less inspired by motor racing and more by driving as a pleasure. The word Stradale means “road-going” in Italian and conjures up memories of a time when the gentleman driver blurred the distinction between a road and a race car.
The watch itself draws design inspiration from the dashboard instruments of Italian berlinettas - sporty coupes - of the late 1950s and early 1960s. It features a stylish multi-layered dial, a domed sapphire crystal and a strap modelled on the leather interior of a car. The Miyota automatic movement is visible through the exhibition back.
Japanese giants Seiko are among the biggest watch manufacturers on the planet. Founded in the late 1800s the company has progressed from its initial production of clocks to the forefront of wristwatch design and manufacturing. Along the way, the company released the world's first quartz watch, the first quartz chronograph and introduced the innovative Kinetic models – a marriage of mechanical automatic watch features with quartz accuracy.
The SNDF93 doesn’t have any direct link to Motorsports, but it is an affordable quartz chronograph that looks the part. Particularly when married up to a leather racing or colour Nato strap.
The design is very much as you’d expect from a racing-inspired chronograph, there’s the contrasting sub-dials, tachymeter, chronograph pushers and the nice touch of a yellow second hand. This cheaper watch doesn’t have a sapphire crystal but does have a WR of 100M.
Stuhrling Original 678
This relatively new watch company sold over a million watches in 2017 and have positioned themselves as a brand selling affordable luxury. A reaction against Swiss dominance of brands like Rolex.
Like the Seiko, there’s no unique design heritage to this watch. Again, it’s a watch very much in the Motorsports style, although not specifically influenced by any particular car or event. It’s another very affordable starting point for the watch enthusiast beginning to look at motor racing watches.
Although a part of the brands Monaco collection there’s no homage paid to Tag’s famous square watch. This more conventional-looking watch uses Seiko’s V33 movement to power the watch and it’s three sub-dials. The tachymeter is on the bezel and this model comes with a colourful Nato strap, similar to the style I would suggest adding to the Seiko SNDF93.
There are three colour options for the watch with the blue looking the most authentic as a racer.
Sea-Gull M306S ‘Mille Miglia’
Chinese manufacturer Sea-Gull has a long and proud history of manufacturing having produced watches for the Chinese military. Their Air-force mechanical chronograph is a popular watch that has been recently remade and has proven a hit with watch geeks.
This watch, the M306S, clearly takes its design inspiration from Swiss manufacturer Chopard’s Mille Miglia range. Chopard now sponsors this famous classic car race and produce a series of sports watches featuring the races name and logo.
The Sea-Gull watch isn’t an exact homage to the Chopard's but certainly has similar styling, particularly the oversized numbers at 12 and 6. Also notable is the textured dial, reminiscent of the Omega Aqua Terra’s ‘teak concept’ dial.
The watch is a modest 40mm in diameter and powered by Sea-Gulls St2130 automatic movement. The glass is sapphire crystal and there are two variations available - either black or white.
If you’re familiar with our blog you’ll know we’re enthusiastic about Russian watches. There’s often an easily recognisable style to Eastern European watches and there’s a particularly strong heritage for military and space watches.
So this Denissov is somewhat of a departure having been inspired by Motorsports, something we don’t normally associate with Russia.
Denissov was founded by Vladimir Andreevitch Denisov who has been involved in the Russian watch industry since 1951. Having worked for a number of companies for a time he was with Poljot at the First Moscow Watch Factory and was involved in the development of the famous 3133 calibre chronograph movement.
The Speedster line includes a mixture of similarly styled watches with some chronographs. Depending on the model the watch will be powered by a Swiss ETA or Russian Poljot movement. This model, the 31681.1029.1.S3, uses the mechanical Poljot 31681. There’s an exhibition back that allows the owner to see this attractive movement in action.
The bold colouring and styling remind me of a Maserati Tipo at Le Mans with those stripes running the length of the car. It works well on the watch, straight lines down the middle of a round dial. The beefed-up case and heavy knurled crown give the watch a chunky feel, although the case isn’t itself large. With Russian watches still being relatively scarce in the west this will certainly attract a bit of attention once on your wrist.
Marchand Classic Driver Chronograph
Marchand is a British watch brand set up to pay homage to the founder's great-grandfather, a Swiss watchmaker, and Motorsports - owner Daniel had a previous career as a racing driver.
The Classic Driver Chronograph is clearly a retro-inspired watch, referencing the classic GT cars of the 70s and 80s. It's 43mm in diameter and is powered by a Japanese Miyota chronograph movement. There's a sapphire crystal and a tan leather racing strap.
Hopefully, that will have whetted your appetite for Motorsports inspired watches. There are also affordable watches by the likes of Vratislava, Geckota and Steinhart. For those with a higher budget, there are designs from Zodiac, Certina, Hamilton and others.