The love affair between car races and timepieces go way back. Early race car drivers used to strap bulky stopwatches to wrists to time laps and calculate speeds. Watch manufacturers recognised this might be a tad bit dangerous, and so angled the dials on watches for easy reading without taking their hands off the wheel. The watches then evolved into becoming outrageously bold, with bright colours, unusual shapes and perforated leather rally straps that were soon customised with the racing teams’ colours. Today, the inimitable chemistry between the two continue to flourish, as watchmakers not only continue to sponsor major international races, but also release exclusively-designed timepieces. Here, we bring you three race-inspired watches that will surely evoke the same excitement as the exhilarating sound of engines on the tarmac once did.
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Named after the Renault team’s new R.S. 16 race car for the 2016 Formula One season, the BR-X1 RS16 watches were envisioned to embody the tenacity of the the super cars via Bell & Ross’ iconic BR01 watch.
It comes as no surprise then, that the BR-X1 RS16 Skeleton Chronograph and BR-X1 RS16 Skeleton Chronograph Tourbillon are both crafted from materials such as grade 5 titanium and Carbone Forge — a high-tech composite material made out of folded compressed carbon fibres and thermosetting resin — to withstand extreme conditions. The result is not only an immensely light watch, but also one that’s incredibly strong — perfect for withstanding any impact a driver might face on the track.
With sprightly yellow rubber accents on the crown, rocker push buttons and strap, there’s no mistaking these timepieces pay homage to the Renault Sport Formula One team.
What better way to pay tribute to the “world’s most beautiful race” than with a watch influenced by the design codes of the classic cars that once graced its tracks. Indeed, the Mille Miglia race — an open-road endurance race that was 1,000 picturesque miles (1,600km) through northern Italy — was legendary for the stunning landscapes along Brescia to Rome and the equally beautiful vintage roadsters.
This year, Chopard brings the spirit of the races back to life with the Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition chronograph and you can immediately see the references. In a limited edition of 1,000 pieces — a figure not coincidental to the distance of the race — the dial is surrounded with a tachymetric scale (useful for keeping track of average speed) that revives the aesthetic of vintage dashboards. At 46mm in diameter, this is the largest chronograph wristwatch Chopard has ever produced.
The watch might be aesthetically retro, but it runs on a completely new ‘engine’: the Chopard Calibre 03.05-C, a chronograph movement with COSC-certified precision. Complete with a weathered Supertlo calfskin strap which references the leather tie-down straps on the bonnet of racing cars (of course), this waterproof timepiece should be on every motorsport fan’s wishlist.
Like the Mille Miglia race, the Tour Auto Optic 2000 is a race against authentic collector’s cars over a 2,000km stretch between Paris and Cannes. What’s unique about this race though, is that only car models that have actually taken part in the race between 1951 and 1973 and haven’t been modified are eligible for the competition — a true testament to its authenticity and integrity. Driven by the high-frequency El Primero 4061 automatic chronograph, the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Tour Auto Edition 2016 is an advanced timepiece that beats at 36,000vph and has a 282-part movement, which drives central hours and minutes, with chronograph and tachymeter functions.
Enclosed by a 42mm brushed steel case, the 500-piece special references French rally banners with blue, red and white livery on its rhodium dial, a motif which runs through the textile strap. A dial opening at 11 o’clock reveals the ‘heart’ of the watch where the movement is situated, mirroring a car bonnet that’s opened to boast its state-of-the-art-mechanics.