The love for mechanical watches and cars often go hand in hand. Performance, precision, complex engines, material innovation, new technologies and the pursuit of excellence. The similarities are endless and horological brands are rarely without a carmaker or racing team by their side.
Not a new phenomenon, the two industries have a long history of collaboration. Arising out of necessity, watchmakers first began working with car manufacturers to supply dashboard clocks. This evolved into partnering with motor racing teams as official timekeepers, and automotive timepieces eventually became an accepted part of watch companies’ marketing strategies.
Rolex is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest motorsports sponsors, having partnered Formula 1, the Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Its iconic Cosmograph Daytona is named after the legendary speedway in Florida.
However, not all pairings are meant to last, enduring for only as long as they serve both parties’ interests. In 2015, Tag Heuer and McLaren concluded their 30-year partnership, one of the longest tie-ups in Formula 1 history. Parmigiani Fleurier became the official partner of Bugatti in 2004, and they mutually ended their collaboration 15 years later. Jaeger-LeCoultre, Aston Martin’s official watch brand since 2004, parted ways in 2016, when Richard Mille took over for two years before passing on the baton to Tag Heuer in 2018. Hublot’s partnership with Ferrari quietly came to an end last December after a 10-year run.
The longest-running union existing today is the one between Breitling and Bentley. That debuted in 2002 when the watchmaker made the onboard clock for the Bentley Continental GT, which quickly expanded to wristwatches. In Italy, Chopard is the official timekeeper of the Mille Miglia classic car race, while A. Lange & Söhne partners with the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este — each producing co-branded timepieces. Zenith and Land Rover and Bremont and Jaguar have also come up with various watch collaborations. Other partnerships include IWC with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team as its official engineering partner back in 2013, while Roger Dubuis forged its partnership with Lamborghini in 2017.
Here’s a look at the automotive alliances from Tag Heuer, Girard-Perregaux and Richard Mille.
TAG Heuer and Porsche
Deeply rooted in motorsports, Tag Heuer has worked with many car companies, starting with Scuderia Ferrari, but also McLaren, Mercedes, Audi and, more recently, Aston Martin. One of the most highly-anticipated watch/car duos with authentic motor racing heritage and on-track success, the friendship between Tag Heuer and Porsche has existed for decades and has now evolved into a strategic partnership ranging from sports competition to product development. The Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico gave its name to creations from both brands: Porsche named its most powerful engine the “Carrera” after its class win in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana while Jack Heuer conceived the first Heuer Carrera chronograph in 1963.
Thereafter, Jack Heuer struck a sponsorship arrangement with Jo Siffert at the wheel of various Porsches, with the Heuer logo on his car and suit; Siffert was the Swiss racing driver that Steve McQueen based his character on during the filming of Le Mans in 1970. In the 1980s, Tag Heuer and Porsche developed the Tag-Turbo engine that led the McLaren team to three consecutive F1 world titles. Porsche also created its own Formula E team with Tag Heuer as title and timing partner in 2019.
The two brands will be collaborating in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the one-make cup series Porsche Carrera Cup. For their first joint timepiece, they produced the 44mm Tag Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph powered by the in-house Calibre Heuer 02, with an 80-hour power reserve. In the Porsche colours of red, black and grey recalling historic Heuer models, it features a rotor in the shape of Porsche’s trademark steering wheel, while set against the asphalt effect dial are Arabic numerals suggesting the numbers on Porsche dashboards.
“Time is at the very core of racing. Without its mastery, there is no competition, no progress,” states Frédéric Arnault, Tag Heuer CEO.
“From its early years, Heuer made it its speciality to develop tools like chronographs, stopwatches and dashboard timers, which helped drivers, teams and race organisers keep time in increasingly accurate ways. The company served a very tangible purpose in motor racing from the start; it was in its DNA… In the future, you can expect strong innovation from a movement perspective, taking inspiration from core technologies from the Porsche world, adding a Tag Heuer flavour to the car, other chronographs and also novelties with the Connected watch,” says Arnault.
Girard-Perregaux and Aston Martin
Girard-Perregaux has signed a multi-year agreement as the official watch partner of British automotive manufacturer Aston Martin Lagonda and the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 team.
Both brands are commemorating milestones this year: founded in 1791, the Swiss watchmaker is one of the oldest fine watchmaking manufactures still in operation and celebrates its 230th anniversary, while Aston Martin marks its return to Formula 1 after a hiatus of over 60 years.
For the 2021 season, Girard-Perregaux branding appears on the rear-view mirror of Aston Martin’s F1 cars and on team uniforms. Girard-Perregaux’s and Aston Martin’s design teams have participated in high-level discussions on movements, aesthetics, functionality, material usage and ergonomics.
Several limited-edition timepieces will be revealed, the first of which is scheduled for release towards the end of the second quarter this year. Revisiting a Girard-Perregaux legend and building bridges between the two marques, it will be a haute horlogerie timekeeper embodying both brands’ design ethos while perfectly encapsulating an innovative material never before used in the watchmaking industry. A second timepiece will be launched later in the year, from another of the manufacture’s iconic collections. We can also expect to see Girard-Perregaux clocks in Aston Martin road cars.
In fact, Girard-Perregaux has a history of collaborations with the automotive universe. During the mid-1990s, then owner and car enthusiast, Luigi Macaluso, began a 10-year partnership with Ferrari, and together they produced the highly-successful Ferrari watches.
“Girard-Perregaux has had strong ties to the automotive world in the past, which we were keen to reactivate in a stronger way,” notes Clémence Dubois, Girard-Perregaux’s chief product and marketing officer.
“We feel this union is the perfect fit, given the common themes present: craftsmanship, material innovation, technical mastery and achievement, quasi-obsessive attention to detail, exclusivity (in regards to our limited production) and yet inclusivity in our respective brand messages due to our openness to a wider audience of passionate enthusiasts. Both enjoy reputations as insider brands of sorts or, at the very least, remain aspirational in their respective fields. An Aston Martin is rarely one’s first car, and the same can be said of Girard-Perregaux: it is rarely one’s first watch. The added platform afforded by F1 brings both our brands an invaluable boost in terms of compounded exposure.”
Richard Mille and Ferrari
Calling its timepieces racing machines on the wrist, Richard Mille is no stranger to the automotive world, with friends and partners like Jean Todt, Alain Prost, Felipe Massa, Sébastien Loeb and the Venturi Formula E team. It also owns an all-women LMP2 racing team.
Discussions for Richard Mille’s collaboration with both Ferrari’s racing and road car divisions were initiated last summer, and this year it is partnering two F1 teams — Scuderia Ferrari and McLaren — while continuing personal relationships with F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Mick Schumacher. The new multi-year partnership extends from Formula 1 to WEC endurance programmes, Competizioni GT, the renowned Ferrari Challenge single-model championship for gentlemen drivers worldwide, Ferrari Driver Academy seeking emerging talent and the fast-developing e-sports category.
Starting from 2022, a series of watches bearing the famous Prancing Horse logo will be launched by Richard Mille’s team in Switzerland and Ferrari’s designers and engineers, thanks to the transfer of savoir-faire on product development, R&D and material innovation.
“Richard Mille has always, since its inception, been viewed as the Formula 1 of watchmaking; the inspiration of materials and technology found in F1 being applied to produce extremely technical, ergonomic and light timepieces,” says Tim Malachard, Richard Mille’s marketing director.
“It is also not a secret that those who like cars and motor racing are also fans of watches. Ferrari and Richard Mille share many common values, and many of our customers are owners of both brands… We view our collaborations as true partnerships developed over many years… [having] engineers interacting from both companies will enable us to create fascinating products using the best resources and technicity from two brands.”