Motorsport and time recording cannot always be viewed entirely separately. Stopwatches and chronographs have enabled motorsport since the very first races; consequently, they are a functional necessity. Designing watches that resemble cars is a modern trend that is anything but functional. Is this new design direction an enrichment or an expression of creative poverty?
Yesterday Part 1 of our insight report, today part II. People who like cars generally like watches and vice versa. The flowing simple design of a Ferrari 250 GTO can bring a car aficionado to tears. Same goes for a simple Patek Philippe Calatrava and a watch collector. But what happens when watch and car designs merge?
Have you ever seen a car with the design of a watch?
To answer that question we must ask ourselves another question first. Not whether the references to automobiles in watches are made subtle enough by means of engravings and names or by reducing components in scale and using them in a wristwatch. After all, taste will always be a highly personal matter. The question, therefore, is not about aesthetics. The main question is: have you ever seen a car with the design of a watch?
Answering that question also means recognising that watches have their own dynamic, their own design language and their own tension arch. A tension arch that still has plenty of flexibility left. When it comes to watches it’s about small gestures, not big ones. It’s about the length of the hands, the shape of the lugs and the finish of the movement. Why is a Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 3919 a more enduring creation than the technically and visually highly challenging Richard Mille RM 36-01 Competition G Sensor Sebastien Loeb? The answer may be found in a comparison with cars. Because the cool, efficient lines of a Ferrari 250 GTO are so well-balanced that they will never be boring and a tour de force like the Lamborghini Veneno with all its angles and wings and spectacle will, at some point, loses its appeal.
Watches will be watches
Boys will be boys. Everybody knows what that means. The saying also applies to watches. Watches will be watches. Putting 100 car references in a tiny watch can lead to a cluttered mess; less is more. The right perforated racing strap can set a petrol head on fire while a crown like a gear box can easily go unnoticed. Have a look at this selection of car-inspired watches and judge for yourself if the designs are hitting the apex or spinning out of control.
The Chopard L.U.C Engine One Tourbillon is shaped like an engine block complete with cylinder heads. The custom-shaped movement is therefore not traditionally round. The presence of a chronometer-accurate tourbillon is an expression of traditional watchmaking skill.
The level of technology in the Richard Mille RM 36-01 Competition G Sensor Sebastien Loeb is overwhelming and the same applies to the use of materials and the look of the watch. This extravagant creation, made of a number of exotic and lightweight materials, has a unique functionality: it measures G-forces. Functional?
The Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1 is the lightest split-seconds chronograph in the world weighing in at a mere 40 grams. Since getting into Formula One Richard Mille has endorsed a few F1 teams and has signed a few drivers as official ambassadors, and last year, the company announced a 10-year partnership with McLaren-Honda. The record-breaking 50-03, a manually-wound tourbillon with hours, minutes, a split-seconds chronograph with a 30-minute totalizer, and power reserve, plus torque and function indicators controlled by the crown, is the first co-branded watch.
In the movement of the TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon very thin and strong V-belts have taken over the job of traditional cogs. The result is a true symbiosis of car and watch technology. Furthermore, the design of the watch was inspired by the legendary Porsche 917 endurance racing car. The belt drive of the watch resembles the characteristic turbo drive on top of the 917’s 12-cylinder boxer engine, although the Monaco V4 has four and the Porsche just one.
The Rebellion T-1000 Gotham is a bit like a picture puzzle. Brake discs, pedals, suspension components; name a car part and Rebellion – also a car racing stable and loyal participant in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with their prototypes – has transformed it into a watch component.
The French Bernard Richards Manufacture only makes watches with automotive DNA. Imagine hands and clasps with holes drilled in them to save weight like a classic Mercedes-Benz SSKL, or the colours of famous racing teams. As a result the BRM Records TB, made of titanium, steel and carbon fibre, looks more like a dashboard instrument from a vintage sports car.
Car collector Ralph Lauren has recently become a watch producer as well. Lauren’s pièce de résistance is the 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupé and the dashboard of this car served as the source of inspiration for the Ralph Lauren 45mm Automotive. The inlaid wood of the dial and the numerals are also found in the iconic Bugatti.