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Time and motion: the best motor-inspired watches

From the quest for technological advancement to the pursuit of handcrafted perfection, watchmaking and automobile manufacturing have much in common. Justin Hast explores the most successful partnerships between the two

Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 – best car-inspired watches

The turbulent year we have all endured has been brutal for many, no doubt. But for others, it has also revealed a number of simple joys. That time to reflect and appreciate what we already have, to celebrate an empty diary, to live FOMO free.

The time spent at home has allowed many of us to dive deeper into our passions, from reading to gardening, watches to cars.

And that is why we felt it appropriate to share some of the most important automotive-inspired timepieces – some from global brands, others the smallest of artisans.

Because we all know, if you love design, engineering or just plain beautiful things, cars and watches just make sense – peanut butter and jam, gin and tonic, Ant and Dec.

Here are ten watches you absolutely won’t see behind the wheel at every junction.

Over the last decade, Bremont has been on an admirable mission of bringing back large-scale watchmaking to the British Isles. Its new state-of-the-art facility in Henley upon Thames has set them in good stead to achieve this lofty goal in the near future.

As well as being ambitious, Bremont is also the king of partnerships – with deals including England Rugby to Concord, the British Armed Forces and, of course, Jaguar.

It was back in 2015 we saw the launch of the first Bremont watches inspired by Jaguar, and two watches specifically taking inspiration from its vintage E-type: both MKI and MKII derivatives.

The second of which is a handsome three-hander model, with a bi-compax chronograph driven by the BWC/01 automatic calibre. It runs on the same La Joux-Perret base we saw in the Wright Flyer watch.

This year, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the E-Type, Bremont has developed an exclusive limited-edition box set. Each set includes one of the two different coloured bezel chronographs – there will be 60 pieces in green and 60 in grey – as well as Bremont’s first ever rally timer.

Bremont Jaguar E-type 60th box set, £12,995. For more information, see bremont.com

Vacheron Constantin is part of the so-called ‘Holy Trinity’ of watchmaking alongside Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. The best of the best in terms of technical know-how and the art of watchmaking. It’s a supremely elegant maker, and the oldest in continuous production.

One of its best loved creations is inextricably linked with the world of motoring. The cushion-cased, off-centre 1921 is the horological epitome of the Roaring 1920s – and we love it.

It’s a hand-wound dress watch, which looks very similar to one launched in 1921 for the American market. Its crown is boldly placed between 1 and 2 o’clock, and dial features a railway dial-train and black-painted Arabic numerals, as well as a small second between three and four o’clock.

The 100th anniversary of this icon in 2021 sees new executions in white gold and platinum. It’s beyond chic and a lesson in understated elegance.

Historiques American 1921 WG 40mm, £42,500; vacheron-constantin.com

The Breitling and Bentley relationship dates back to 2002 when Bentley commissioned Breitling to design the onboard clock for the very first Continental GT, which debuted the following year.

Since 2018, Breitling has taken the partnership up a gear – integrating special Bentley editions into its core product offering as opposed to a stand-alone Breitling for Bentley collection.

This Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley celebrates Breitling’s partnership with a bold 42 mm stainless steel case and British racing green dial with contrasting black small seconds and 30-minute chronograph counters.

Turn the watch over and enjoy a glimpse into the heart of the self-winding high-performance chronometer-certified chronograph calibre, Manufacture Breitling Calibre 01. It is the perfect blend of bang for buck, elegance and performance.

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley Mulliner Limited Edition, £6,820; breitling.com

The word ‘iconic’ gets thrown around far too often in the world of watches (and luxury as a whole, for that matter). But in this instance, it is perfectly appropriate.

The Rolex Daytona is THE definitive driver’s watch – as much now as back in 1963 when it was first introduced. Designed from the outset to meet the demands of professional racing drivers, it was initially powered by the hand-wound Valjoux 72 calibre and named after Florida’s Daytona International Speedway.

You might recall seeing adverts like “We invented this to track the speed of a 7-liter sports racer”. This Daytona 116500LN from 2016 is the definition of modern Rolex Daytona delivery and execution. It features design cues that speak of its racing pedigree, like the ceramic tachymeter scale bezel for timing average speed, and legible black/white or white/black dial and sub-dial format. With waitlists still as long as the post-lockdown queue for the barbers, snap one up if you get the chance – you won’t regret it.

For more information, see rolex.com

Max Büsser and his team at MB&F are a crazy bunch – pushing the envelope on horological craftsmanship year after year.

One particularly striking yet functional creation was its HMX, launched to mark its tenth-year anniversary in 2015.

This a driver’s watch through and through, with the time clearly visible without moving one’s hands from the steering wheel. It boasts a jumping hour, dragging seconds with a prism system that makes the horizontal rotating discs carrying the numerals for the hours and minutes, visible in the vertical plane.

The HMX is a piece of incredibly refined engineering and execution. You bet there isn’t another watch that will garner more questions.

For more information, see mbandf.com

Ressence Type 5X - Limited Edition / 40

Ressence Type 5X - Limited Edition / 40, best car-inspired watches

Nobody in the watch world has challenged the intuitiveness of a wristwatch quite like Ressence. The business based in Belgium and founded in 2010 has developed a singular vision of watchmaking through a hugely considered design DNA and the development of a trio of rotating disks on the dial which show the passing of time without hands having to cross.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2020, it released a series of four watches in separate limited edition runs of 40 watches each, forming the evocatively named Collection X.

The Type 5X reference started life as the brand’s dive watch – large and organic, it was introduced in 2015.

For the anniversary, however, the brand collaborated with the Italian race car driver and designer Eugenio Amos, founder of Automobili Amos. And so together, they gently evolved the purpose of the Type 5X to better suit the driver’s seat, rather than the wet suit.

This Type 5X still features the external rotating bezel, lightweight titanium case, and oil-filled dial chamber, but now has a new colourway and can even have a rubber accessory fitted to optimise the angle of the watch while driving like many designs of yesteryear. A real winner if you want to rock something off the beaten path.

£31,000, available from mrporter.com

Autodromo Group B Series 2

Autodromo Group B Series 2, best car-inspired watches

Few indy brands have seen the visibility and success Autodromo has in recent years. The US-based start-up has really nailed its aesthetic and at the same time captured the hearts and minds of the automotive community.

The Group B is the definitive creation from Autodromo and is inspired by the brutal, but innovative Group B rally cars of the 1980s.

It’s all about those sharp lines, hard facets, and technical detailing, offset against a robust steel and titanium construction. It then builds in contrasting colours that speak to the futurist visions of Giugiaro and Mead.

For the Series 2, an integrated steel bracelet as well as spring-bar lugs have been added to the already daring design. Featuring a slatted layout, the bracelet builds off the severe design of the case, creating a seamless line of metal.

Under the hood is the Miyota 9015 automatic calibre: a Japanese-made movement quickly becoming an industry workhorse. At 39mm, it might just be the perfect daily beater.

For more information, see autodromo.com

Roger Dubuis Huracán STO

Roger Dubuis Huracán STO, best car-inspired watches

Roger Dubuis is known for pushing the limits of what is technologically and materially possible in the watch world. From a design perspective, it’s well recognised for pioneering skeletonised dials.

And while it may not be to everybody’s taste, the Huracán STO is a perfect example of all the best from Roger Dubuis rolled into one: a bold colour combination combined with the trademark skeletonised dial.

Inspired by the automotive world, the RD630 was developed specifically for the partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse. This is the second calibre developed for the partnership with Lamborghini SC and this engine is not only on show 24/7 but offers a 12° angle balance escapement with an automatic winding mechanism displaying a rim-like rotor.

The upper calibre features a strut-bar designed bridge recalling the ones of the V10 engine of the Lamborghini Huracán supercar. The calibre has a twin barrel power supply allowing it to reach a power reserve of 60 hours. Limited to just 88 pieces, you won’t see many of these in the wild.

For more information, see rogerdubuis.com

Richard Mille RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph

Richard Mille RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph

‘A racing machine for the wrist’ perfectly sums up what you get when you buy into the exclusive Richard Mille owners’ club.

The passion runs deep at RM, with Mr Richard Mille himself a legendary car collector and race fan. Inside his garage, you’ll find Bruce McLaren’s first Formula One Car, the M2B from 1966, and the Ferrari 312B that won the 1970 Italian Grand Prix and was also driven by Mario Andretti.

A fixture of the Richard Mille collection since 2007, the RM 011 took its leave to make way for the RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph. The RM 11-03 boasts a skeletonised, automatic winding movement with a variable-geometry rotor, flyback chronograph, 60-minute countdown timer at 9 o’clock, and 12-hour totaliser.

The guiding principle for Richard Mille is to bring complexity visually to the fore. This RM 11-03 is all about the beautiful glossy bevelled rims, satin-brushed grade 5 titanium upper bridges and three-part tonneau case. The grade 5-titanium crown borrows the design of competition wheel rims and tyre treads. While the grooved pushers – machined from the same material – recall the surface of pedals, and have covers made from another material as ubiquitous as titanium in Formula 1, carbon fibre. But in this case, it’s Carbon TPT. This revolutionary Carbon Thin Ply Technology has been pioneered by the boundary-pushing brand.

Earlier this spring, Richard Mille announced a long-term partnership with Ferrari, so expect some high-octane collaborations later this year.

For more information, see richardmille.com

Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor ‘Montre Ecole’ British Racing Green

Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor ‘Montre Ecole’ British Racing Green, best car-inspired watches

Mr Ferrier is everything you imagine a watchmaker to be: considered, patient, experienced and bearded.

The one thing you may not know is that in his youth he was a formidable racing driver and came 3rd in the 24 Heures du Mans in 1979.

So, it may come as no surprise that he has combined his two loves with the Montre Ecole British Racing Green. A perfectly proportioned 40mm stainless steel case boasts a deep lacquered green dial, and a silver sub-dial which draws inspiration from classic car rims. Even the leather strap is inspired by the bonnet straps that were common in the 1960s.

Laurent Ferrier builds watches that look simple at first glance – until you turn them over. The bridges are immaculate, the wheel spokes are bevelled, the screw heads are polished, and the interior angles are hand-crafted.

While the cars Mr Ferrier drove were designed for speed – his watches have been designed to allow the wearer to cherish the slow passing of time for all its worth.

For more information, see laurentferrier.ch

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