For some 120 years, timepieces and automobiles have shared an inseparable bond. The first professional car races and rallies at the start of the 20th century drew renowned watch manufacturers onto the scene with their demands for accurate timekeeping. Alfred Dunhill’s Dashboard Clock from 1903 is considered the very first instrument clock. It was nothing more than a standard pocket watch with a small seconds display that could be mounted onto the dashboard of a race car with a special attachment.
In 1911, Swiss manufacturer TAG Heuer introduced the Time of Trip, the first clock to be permanently integrated into the dashboard of a car. It was also the first clock racers could use to measure 12-hour time intervals for long-distance races. The TAG Heuer Autavia, a model we still know and love today, followed at the start of the 1930s. It wasn’t until the early 1960s, however, that Jack Heuer brought the Autavia from the dash to the wrist.
Over the years, there have been numerous partnerships between watchmakers and car manufacturers. Some collaborations have come and gone rather quickly, while others have stood the test of time and still exist to this day. Read on to learn more about some of the most important timepieces to be born from these partnerships.
TAG Heuer – Carrera, Monaco, and Autavia
When it comes to watches and cars, there is one man who has to be mentioned, and that is Jack Heuer. The watch pioneer, born in 1932, developed a whole series of sports chronographs and introduced them to racing drivers in pit lanes around the world. He gave his watches names like “Carrera,” “Monaco,” and “Monte Carlo,” making it very clear what they were built for: professional timekeeping under tough racing conditions. If you were a race car driver in the 1960s and 70s, it was almost mandatory to wear a Heuer on your wrist.
TAG Heuer timepieces have also made their mark on the silver screen. Some of you will certainly remember the iconic Hollywood film Le Mans from 1971, in which famous actor Steve McQueen competes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race with a Heuer Monaco ref. 1133 on his wrist. It should also come as no surprise that Heuer has been a sponsor of Formula 1 for many years, as is apparent in countless videos and photos from the sport.
The very first TAG Heuer racing watch was the Autavia, which first debuted in 1962 under reference number 2446. The model name is derived from the words “AUTomobile” and “AVIAation.” It was Jack Heuer himself who transformed the design of the Autavia cockpit clock. As the story goes, Heuer, an enthusiastic race car driver himself, struggled to read the dashboard clock accurately in stressful racing situations.
TAG Heuer – A Fixture on Racing Wrists
Notable TAG Heuer Autavia wearers include Formula 1 drivers Jochen Rindt, Jo Siffert, and Mario Andretti. Vintage examples with hand-wound Valjoux movements are extremely popular among collectors and can, therefore, be rather costly.
A new TAG Heuer Autavia was released in 2017 under the direction of watch guru Jean-Claude Biver. The 42-mm ref. CBE2110.BA0687 comes with a black dial and is powered by the in-house Calibre Heuer 02 movement. This watch will set you back just under $5,500. The limited Jack Heuer Edition comes with a silver dial and is priced closer to the $6,000 mark.
Heuer introduced the very first Carrera chronograph in 1963, the same year that Porsche debuted its first 911 Carrera. Both of the manufacturers named their new releases after the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, one of the most notoriously dangerous rally races in the world at the time.
At the start of 2021, TAG Heuer presented the Carrera Porsche Chronograph, the first timepiece resulting from an official partnership with the high-performance German automobile manufacturer. The watchmaker from La Chaux-de-Fonds took cues from the current Porsche 911 when designing this timepiece. The watch has a gray dial and black ceramic bezel with a red Porsche inscription. It is powered by the in-house Calibre Heuer 02 movement and costs just under $6,000.
Breitling for Bentley – Intensely Elegant
The collaboration between Breitling and British luxury car manufacturer Bentley is still relatively fresh, dating back to just 2002. The pairing couldn’t be better suited, however, considering both brands are known for doing things in a big way. The collection has the straightforward yet catchy name “Breitling for Bentley” and is home to some pretty remarkable timepieces.
One such example is the Premier Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition. Breitling presented this stainless steel model in 2020 to celebrate the launch of the new Bentley Continental GT Mulliner Convertible. The 42-mm watch features a silver dial with red and blue accents to match the sports car’s color scheme. The watch is powered by the COSC-certified Breitling caliber B01, which gives the watch a bicompax layout with subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock. The Premier Bentley Mulliner is limited to a run of 1,000 and costs $8,650 new.
Do you still have some $220,000 to spare? Great! You can also purchase the coordinating Bentley and enjoy the Breitling dash clock with its diamond-patterned silver dial and chrome bezel. Cheers to that!
The collection also includes other enticing options like the Chronomat B01 for Bentley, which stands out with its integrated bracelet and green sunburst dial. This watch was released to celebrate Bentley’s 100th anniversary. The so-called Rouleaux bracelet is a notable feature of the model that dates back to original Chronomats from the mid-1980s. The bracelet features characteristic rounded links that are reminiscent of window blinds. This watch shares the same caliber as the Premier Bentley Mulliner, the Breitling caliber B01, and sells for $8,250 new, making it a slightly more affordable option.
Porsche Design – Watches by and for Porsche
The high-performance car manufacturer Porsche and watches from Porsche Design share a close link that amounts to much more than just a collaboration between the two entities. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche – the man behind the legendary Porsche 911 – founded his design workshop in Zell am See, Austria some 50 years ago. In addition to sports cars, the workshop designed – and continues to design to this day – sporty and functional timepieces. The watches are produced in Grenchen, Switzerland.
The first official Porsche Design timepiece was the Chronograph 1 from 1972. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche drew inspiration for the watch’s design from the 911 at the time. It was the first mass produced watch to feature a black PVD coating. While it was initially intended as a gift for employees, the Porsche Design Chronograph 1 developed into a bestseller for the brand. The tried-and-tested Valjoux 7750 powered this early version.
Porsche Design released a new edition of the Chronograph 1 this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the legendary watch. While the original featured a stainless steel case and bracelet, the anniversary edition is made of titanium with a state-of-the-art glass bead-blasted carbide coating.
The interior of the watch has likewise been upgraded. In place of the Valjoux movement, you’ll now find a COSC-certified, in-house caliber WERK 01.140. According to Porsche Design, the Chronograph 1 will be delivered between April and July 2022. The anniversary edition has a limited run of 500 pieces and lists at $7,700.
Porsche Design offers a host of other models that likewise boast state-of-the-art materials and technology. The Monobloc Actuator Chronograph series, for example, also features watches made entirely of titanium. In place of typical chronograph push-pieces, these watches rely on an integrated rocker switch to operate the chronograph. This functional addition is based on the gearshift design of the current Porsche 911. The Monobloc Actuator 24H-Chronotimer is limited to just 251 pieces and priced at $7,450.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona: Everybody’s Darling
While it’s not officially linked to any specific car manufacturer, the Rolex Daytona is irrevocably connected to motorsport and, thus, a worthy addition to this list. Daytona Beach, Florida has been a hotspot for racing since 1902, and that reputation only grew with the opening of the Daytona International Speedway in 1959. Rolex became an official timekeeper of the track in 1962, and released their Cosmograph with a chronograph function the following year. Later, this timepiece earned the now-famous nickname “Daytona” to underscore the brand’s close relationship with the race track and motorsport in general. Similar to Omega’s Speedmaster from 1957, the Cosmograph Daytona also featured a tachymeter scale on its bezel, allowing the wearer to determine average speeds and distances.
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona: A Rough Start
It’s hard to imagine today, but upon its release, the Rolex Daytona went largely unnoticed by the general public. A bit of a bust, the watch spent more time in shop windows than on fans’ wrists. This completely changed at the end of the 1960s, however, when Hollywood legend and amateur race car driver Paul Newman was increasingly spotted in public sporting his Rolex Daytona ref. 6239. He frequently donned his watch with a so-called exotic dial in front of the camera, which proved an excellent marketing strategy and noticeably boosted sales.
If this hadn’t been the case, Rolex would have likely removed the Daytona from their lineup and the model would have been relegated to the history books. Today, however, it is one of the world’s most sought-after chronographs and is available in a number of different versions. Paul Newman’s personal watch was auctioned off several years ago for a staggering $17.8 million, making it the most expensive Rolex ever sold. It’s hard to believe the same model could be purchased for a few hundred dollars in the late 1960s.
Vintage Daytona prices, whether Paul Newman or otherwise, have skyrocketed in recent years. They now reside in the purely speculative realm between roughly $65,000 and $1 million. The ref. 116520 with the Rolex caliber 4130 is a particular favorite neo-vintage model among collectors. At the time of writing, the watch could still be purchased for just under $45,000. The current ref. 116500LN with a ceramic bezel is more or less impossible to buy at authorized dealers. Prices for this model on Chrono24 are currently around $48,000 and rising.