The History of Partnerships Between Watchmakers and Automobile Manufacturers

By Aleksandra Kurek March 1, 2018

Traditional driver’s watches, as well as watches created out of partnership with automotive brands, demonstrate a passion for technological evolution and showcase mechanical design at its finest.

When we think of driving watches, most of us automatically conjure up scenes from 1970’s cult racing movies. We imagine Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona or Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco. Indeed, these watches have popularised the style and have gone down in history as its very epitomes.

However, even before driving watches peaked in popularity following their prominent roles in blockbuster productions, the world of automobiles and watchmaking was already closely intertwined.

The First Partnerships

In the 1920s, Jaeger-LeCoultre was affiliated with Aston Martin, producing exquisite dashboard instruments for equally luxurious cars. 

In the 1930s, Rolex became involved with the race driver Sir Malcolm Campbell, popularly called the ’Speed King’. He professed a genuine passion for Rolex products, serving as one of the early promoters of the brand. This honourable association was commemorated in 1963. That year, Rolex launched its Cosmograph ‘Daytona.’ The model is named after the speedway in Daytona, Florida where Sir Malcolm had earlier broken five out of nine of his records.

 

 

After the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, Heuer’s Carrera is perhaps the second most quintessential driver’s watch. Launched also in 1963, it remains a rugged and functional ‘tool watch’ aimed specifically at professional drivers. It has established its reputation as one of the ultimate driving watches. And, it has adorned the wrists of some of the world’s leading racers, including Niki Lauda, Bruce McLaren, and Jo Siffert. 

The Evolution of Modern Partnerships

Evidently, the link between luxury watches and motorsports has been around for decades. As of late, many luxury car manufactures have sought to highlight their successful partnerships with watching brands. Watches produced out of these collaborations show a merge of advanced technology and unique aesthetics, reminiscent of dashboards or car engines.

3 Top Partnerships and Their Creations

Among the most prominent driver’s watches available today is Hublot’s Techframe Ferrari 70 Years Tourbillon Chronograph.Hublot has been affiliated with Ferrari since 2013. The watchmaker has produced engine-like timepieces evocative of the sporty aesthetic of Ferrari’s high-performance automobiles. In 2017, Ferrari celebrated its 70th anniversary. On this occasion, the Swiss watchmaking brand developed a limited edition watch designed entirely by Ferrari. Led by the Italian mastermind Flavio Manzoni, the team exercised the same creative processes as those used in sports car design. Thus, the Hublot movement serves as the ‘engine’ of the watch, offering maximum strength for minimal weight. It features the HUB6311 calibre hand-wound manufacture movement, containing a total of 253 components and with a five5-day power reserve. This unique mechanism is fitted with a tourbillon, and also has a chronograph feature.

 

Hublot Techframe Ferrari 70 Years Tourbillon Chronograph

 

Another prominent collaboration between watchmakers and car manufacturers is achieved in the Parmigiani Bugatti Watch.The latest Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Type 390 pays tribute to the successful partnership between the brands, which began in 2001. The watch itself was designed to complement the Bugatti Chiron – the fastest street-legal supercar, unveiled in 2016. This explains the unusual shape of the watch, which draws clear parallels with the aesthetics of the car. Similarly to the Ferrari watch, Parmigiani translates the automotive mechanical concepts into complex details of its movement with the Fleurier Bugatti Type 390In terms of function, the watch features a hand-wound type “coaxial” movement. It’s formed of seven layers consisting of a total of 302 components and is probably the most complex watch movement manufactured by Parmigiani Fleurier to date. It also boats an 80-hour power reserve thanks to its two series-mounted barrels.  

 

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Type 390

 

Lastly, the Bentley GT ‘Dark Sapphire’ Edition developed with Breitling is a celebration of the partnership between the two brands. The collaboration stretches back to 2002, when Bentley launched the Continental GT fitted with technical instruments supplied by Breitling. The watch features a rugged case made out of Breitling’s proprietary ‘Breitlight’ case material. Furthermore, it houses one of the latest Breitling COSC-certified super movements, the Caliber B06. It boasts a unique feature from a 1926 Breitling patent – a 30-second chronograph, alongside an impressive 70-hour power reserve.

 

Bentley GT ‘Dark Sapphire’ Edition

 

All in all, driver’s watches have come a long way since first attracting our attention on the wrists of silver-screen stars. Traditional driver’s watches, as well as watches created out of partnership with automotive brands, demonstrate a passion for technological evolution and showcase mechanical design at its finest.

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