In the golden age of motorsport, back in the 50s and 60s, watch brands would traditionally gift limited-edition timepieces to winning drivers and teams to celebrate victories and podiums.
This is still a thing today: the winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona usually receives a Rolex Daytona.
To cut a very long story very short, the overlap between watches and cars is huge.
If you really wanted to recite every watch named after a car, or every timepiece built in partnership with an automaker, you’d have to write a 1,000-page book.
Unfortunately, we can’t write that book here but what we can do is list – in random order – five iconic timepieces with a strong connection to the car world.
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1. Rolex Daytona
The Daytona is one of the most popular Rolex – in that everyone’s heard about it, and it is also by far the most lusted after in the pre-owned market. Collectors want it, yearn it, crave it.
Amazingly, when this first came out in the 1960s, it was one of the easiest and least expensive Rolex models to get – apparently no one really wanted it, but that changed when Paul Newman began wearing one.
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Back in 2017, a Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona – formerly owned by the Hollywood star himself – was sold at auction for a record-breaking $17.75 million.
In 1962, Rolex became the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway in Florida and a year later, in 1963, the Swiss brand unveiled the Cosmograph 6239, nicknamed the ‘Daytona’, as a tribute to the Speedway of the same name. The rest, as they say, is history.
2. TAG Heuer Formula 1
Formula 1 was launched in 1986 and it marked an important milestone for Heuer because it was the first timepiece created by the company after the merger with TAG Group, a Luxembourgish holding company (hence the name ‘TAG Heuer’).
It was a funky, colourful, slightly upmarket alternative to Swatch watches, and it wasn’t an automatic piece -it was actually powered by a battery.
The original Formula 1 became a canvas for TAG Heuer because over the years, the company has released about a million different versions in terms of colourways and complications.
3. TAG Heuer Monaco
Another TAG Heuer, but this one is far more important because it is named after the world’s most expensive racetrack: Monaco.
In 1966, Edouard Heuer (great-grandson of Heuer’s founder) began working on a top-secret project codenamed ’99’.
It premiered a year later in Geneva as the ‘world’s first automatic chronograph’, coming in with a square – unheard of at the time – and a waterproof case.
Named after the GP that takes place in the world’s most famous principality, the Monaco, was immortalised by Steve McQueen. He wore it in the 1971 film Le Mans.
In fact, McQueen’s own watch – the one he actually rocked on the silver screen – was sold on December 12, 2020 in New York City for $2,208,000.
4. Chopard Mille Miglia
The Mille Miglia essentially started out as an endurance race for rich people in the late 1920s but it quickly evolved and became something else entirely.
It was a glamorous event because world-class drivers like Stirling Moss and Tazio Nuvolari were taking part.
But it was also dangerous, which is why it was eventually discontinued in 1957 for safety reasons.
The race was revived in the late 1970s as a regularity rally.
In 1988, Chopard became the official timekeeper for the race.
This love story spawned a plethora of wristwatches dedicated to the ‘most beautiful race in the world’ because, in the words of Chopards, they wanted to “build a bridge between automotive engineering and mechanical watchmaking”.
Well, they did.
5. REC Watches P-51
I know what you’re thinking: how can we justify adding REC, a semi-unknown brand from Denmark, to a list that features TAG Heuer, Chopard and Rolex?
Easy, they came up with the coolest idea ever, crafting timepieces from classic vehicles undergoing restoration.
This is probably their most popular timepiece, it’s called the P-51 and it’s made using the doors of a vintage Mustang from the 1960s.
Don’t worry: no Mustangs were harmed in the making of this watch because they only use ‘leftover’ components they salvage from the restoration process.