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Standing the test of time. From clocks to cars, why the automotive and watchmaking industries are a match made in heaven

There is, and always has been, a fascinating interplay between cars and watches, especially as these mechanical works of art exemplify the marriage of engineering, craftsmanship, and legacy. In this blog we’ll journey through the timeline that initially connected the world of horology to the world of automotive engineering, exploring the shared history, design philosophies, and the intricate mechanical details that continue to bind these two worlds together today.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the first cars were rolling off assembly lines, the need for reliable timekeeping was paramount. These early vehicles were equipped with dashboard-mounted clocks, often manufactured by renowned clockmakers out of necessity, to help drivers and passengers keep track of time during their journeys. These dashboard-mounted clocks – more than mere functional instruments – were a testament to the craftsmanship of clock and watchmakers and their dedication to precision and accuracy. From the first car clocks which were humble pocket watches with a winding stem long enough to poke out of the dash (allowing them to be wound on a regular basis), to the ostentatious and glamorous clock Breguet created for the Bugatti Royale in 1932, for example – the height of sophistication and wealth at the time – the partnership between clockmakers and automotive manufacturers is one that has continued to stand the test of time.

As the automotive industry evolved, so did the role of clocks, and later, watches. One of the most significant contributions of watches to the automotive world was the development of racing chronographs. In the early 20th century, as motorsport gained popularity, drivers needed a way to measure elapsed time with precision. Watch manufacturers responded to this demand by creating chronograph watches specifically designed for racing.

These watches featured a stopwatch function, allowing drivers to accurately time their laps and performances. Brands like Rolex, Heuer (now TAG Heuer), and OMEGA were pioneers in producing these racing chronographs, which quickly became an integral part of motorsport history. Iconic models like the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona and the TAG Heuer Monaco have become legendary not only for their functionality but also for their association with racing legends.

In the automotive world, where ruggedness and endurance are essential, watches often mirror these qualities. Many luxury watch brands have collaborated with automotive manufacturers to create timepieces that not only pay homage to iconic cars but also share their durability and precision. These watches often incorporate materials like carbon fibre, titanium, and ceramic, which are commonly used in high-performance cars, to ensure longevity and resilience.

Bremont and Jaguar are one such partnership that has collaborated to celebrate the car manufacturer’s success at one of the world’s most famous endurance races. The Jaguar D-Type won the Le Mans 24 Hours race three times between 1955 and 1957, and so to commemorate its domination, Bremont designed a mechanical chronograph that celebrated this golden age of motorsport racing. In recent times the brand developed a unique dashboard clock for the Jaguar C-X75 cars in 2010 and launched a bespoke wristwatch in 2014 in honour of the Jaguar Lightweight E-Type which offered six limited edition watches to match the six exclusive cars.

Let us also not forget about watches’ dominating appearance in the ever-popular Formula 1 race series, with names such as Richard Mille and Rolex now synonymous with sponsoring the events and drivers alike. Although Rolex seems to have a monopoly on Formula 1 as a whole, Richard Mille continues to successfully create highly popular collections. Celebrities such as Pharrell Williams and John Malkovich are partnered with the Swiss brand, further adding to its position in the luxury watchmaking industry.

Unlike Rolex or TAG Heuer, who’ve been around for over a century, Richard Mille has only existed for just over two decades, utilising unusual materials and high-profile celebrities to promote the beauty of its timepieces. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris can be seen wearing their respective Richard Mille timepieces on a regular basis, some of which are amongst the most expensive watches available on the market. Such is Richard Mille’s connection with Formula 1, special watches have been made to celebrate certain individual drivers, with previous collaborations featuring driving stars Romain Grosjean,  Felipe Massa, and Kimi Räikkönen to name a few.

It’s clear, therefore, that today, the relationship between watches and cars remains as strong as ever, with both industries embracing cutting-edge technology and design principles. High-end watch brands continue to partner with automotive manufacturers to produce limited-edition watches that capture the essence of the most coveted cars. These collaborations often lead to timepieces featuring intricate dials, materials, and design elements inspired by iconic automobiles.

From the early dashboard clocks of vintage cars to the sophisticated racing chronographs and contemporary luxury timepieces, the bond between watches and the automotive world has been unwavering. Both industries share a commitment to precision, craftsmanship, and innovation. Watches not only serve as functional tools for drivers but also as symbols of status, style, and passion, and as the automotive world continues to evolve with advancements in technology and design, so too will watches. This enduring partnership between the two industries reflects the enduring human fascination with the art of engineering and the beauty of measuring time, both on and off the road.

Although our core passion is, of course, centred around cars, we are also passionate about all that encompasses the motoring world, as well as everything to do with the written word. If you have any questions for us at HBPR, or would like some insight into the world of communications, automotive-based content, or anything in between, please get in touch at hannah@hannahburgesspr.com. Our door is always open.

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