For more than a century and a half, the world of the automobile and that of watchmaking have vibrated in unison. A crossroads that is not surprising, given the close ties and respective know-how of these two worlds. Even today, collaborations are flourishing between manufacturers and lovers of fine mechanics, playing on the taste for sportiness, technology and luxury. A tradition rooted in the collective imagination and whose common thread dates back to the 18th centurye century, at a time when watchmakers made imposing watches called “calèches”, preventing little marquises from arriving late for their appointments. An association that has been sketched out with more precision over the years: from the creation of the first automobiles, a clock adorns the dashboard, supplied in particular by Jaeger-LeCoultre from the beginning of the 20th century.e century. Since then, partnerships have followed one another, with lucrative collaborations that have particularly marked in recent months.
Illustration for example with the Richard Mille RM UP-01, in collaboration with the star manufacturer of Maranello, Ferrari. A watch that seals the partnership between the watchmaker and the scuderia italia while offering itself to the passage of the most coveted record, that of the thinnest watch in the world: 1.75 mm thick or approximately the fabric of two credit cards. Inside this slender case beats a mechanical caliber 1.18 mm thick and weighing 2.82 g. It is from the assembly of the movement and the case that the solidity of the whole is born, each ensuring the rigidity of the other. In terms of performance, “the watch meets the same high standards as all of our other models,” says Salvador Arbona, Director of Movements at Richard Mille. More than a “concept watch”, the 150-piece limited edition model also aims to strengthen technical exchanges between the two houses, both in the choice of materials and in design.
Because these partnerships are also tied around new objectives: if the association between two prestigious brands is obviously important, technology transfers have also become very popular. We no longer count the materials from motor racing that we find in the design of watch cases or movement components. Some houses even go so far as to make rubber straps from Pirelli racing tyres, like Roger Dubuis, or dials designed from an Aston Martin DB5 aluminum bonnet, like the Jalaper workshop. Because in both worlds, the search for materials combining hardness and lightness is essential. And especially in Haute Horlogerie where the infinitely small must also be extremely solid.
Sometimes these collaborations also come out of nowhere, like the TAG Heuer watches resulting from the partnership with Porsche. It must be said that the two brands share a common history and in particular the mythical name of Carrera. Three expected productions have already been unveiled, with a special chronograph edition in February 2021, a sports limited series – Carrera x Porsche – produced in 1,500 copies in March 2022 and even more recently the arrival in the collection of a connected model with the E4 caliber. Here, the watch communicates with the car by giving valuable indications to its owner such as the range, the battery level or the condition of the chassis. And even allowing control of the interior temperature. As for the ceramic bezel, it is inspired by a dashboard counter, while displaying information such as heart rate, daily steps and calories in percentage.
The aesthetic component is of course not forgotten: on the three models, we obviously find the logo of the German manufacturer and a leather strap that takes up the saddle stitching of sports cars. Same visual wink at Bell & Ross and Alpine F1 Team: every year, the manufacture offers a new watch inspired by the team’s single-seater. The latest is called A522, in reference to the name of the current Formula 1 in the race. Designed like a speedometer, the instrument, which incorporates an automatic caliber, takes up the chromatic identity of the team and features the famous “A” of the Alpine logo on the asymmetrical blue second hand. However, Bell & Ross retains the spirit that has made it so successful: square case and extremely legible round dial.
Other references in the automotive world are also experiencing the enthusiasm of enthusiasts. This is the case of the famous – and highly sought after – Cosmograph Daytona from Rolex, which takes the name of a famous American race, or the Reservoir Kanister, a watch with retrograde minutes with jumping hours and a power reserve indicator. which is inspired by the speedometer of the famous Porsche 356 Speedster. A recent commercial success that now requires collectors to register online on a waiting list.
From F1 to vintage racing
Juggling between the codes of the two houses, while affirming their respective heritage, such is also the challenge of these partnerships which are certainly expressed on the wrist, but also on the asphalt. Indeed, the races of historic vehicles are not to be outdone in the field of “automotive watchmaking”. The most famous association is certainly that of Chopard and the Mille Miglia, the legendary Italian event that connects Rome to Brescia every year. It must be said that Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the co-president of Chopard, is a collector of vintage cars and a gentleman driver. We understand better why the 2022 edition is a racing chronograph whose precision is certified by the very serious Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
Who says precision at the wheel also says ease of instantaneous reading, what’s more on the open road! Indeed, the dial – with the 1000 Miglia logo to the left of the date – is very contrasted and the oversized hands are circled in bright blue which echoes the thin tachometer bezel. On the visual side, the watch is fitted with a perforated leather strap which retains the collection’s signature on the back: the rubber sculpture of a Dunlop Racing tire from the 1960s. ahead, with this question resolutely turned towards the future: what if the advent of the electric automobile finally gave connected watches their credentials?