It’s no secret that cars and watches have a longstanding history together. Racing cars depends on accurate timekeeping, and luxury motorsport watches provide precision in spades. Though most racers no longer need the wristwatch for timekeeping, this style still exudes cool.
HISTORY OF THE RACING WATCH
Racecars and watches both run on incredible mechanical engines that rely heavily on precision and accuracy. So, it is no surprise that they would be strongly connected throughout history. In 1894 the “Competition for Horseless Carriages” took place. It is widely-regarded as the world’s first motor race and was plagued with issues due to poor timekeeping.
At the turn of the century, in 1902, races began along the stretch of beach at Daytona, Florida. Sir Malcolm Campbell was one of the most successful racers at Daytona and would go on to break the land speed record four times and did it while wearing a Rolex Oyster. Rolex capitalized on that connection and would eventually produce the Rolex Daytona, one of the most iconic racing watches ever.
Though other brands like OMEGA, Chopard, and Graham created watches for racing, perhaps no brand is linked closer to racing than Heuer (now TAG Heuer). Heuer created dashboard timers like the Master Time and Monte Carlo that were common on both rally and racecars. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Heuer continued to develop the Autavia, Carrera, and Monaco making them more appealing to racers. However, the Monaco is perhaps the most famous racing watch due to its presence on Steve McQueen’s wrist in 1971 in Le Mans.
characteristics and features
- High-Contrast Dial Most racing watches have high-contrast dials, so they could be read at high speeds
- Chronograph The Chronograph is a separate stopwatch function on a racing watch. It utilizes start and stop pushers to operate the second hand and has two or three registers on the dial.
- Tachymeter Bezel A Tachymeter bezel scale located around the dial allows the racer to make speed calculations
- Angled Case Orientation Though this isn’t the case anymore, many racing watches had an angled case, so they could be read without taking your hands off the wheel.
- Rally-Style Straps Many racing watches now come on bracelets but historically they were on breathable leather or rubber straps