Racing Watches

High-speed racing cars and precision watches share a rich heritage in time-keeping excellence. For over fifty years, prominent Swiss watchmakers TAG Heuer, Chopard and Rolex have not only featured prestigious watch collections inspired by premier auto-racing competitions such as the Formula One, Mille Miglia, Daytona series respectfully, each of these brands has also sponsored these prominent racing competitions as well.

Both TAG Heuer and Rolex are brands long associated with automobiles and auto racing.  In 1911 Edouard Heuer, the founder of TAG Heuer, received a patent for his Time of Trip dashboard chronograph, which was used in automobiles and aircrafts to measure the time and duration of a trip. With further racing themed collections: the Monte Carlo 12-Hour Stopwatch, Super Autavia full chronograph, Sebring 60-minute split-second timer and Auto Rallaye 60-minute stopwatch, Heuer was the leading producer of stopwatches and timing equipment in the late 1950’s.

Many attribute the TAG Heuer’s racing legacy to actor Steve McQueen, who wore a Monaco chronograph on his wrist in the 1971 motion picture “Le Mans,” which catapulted the original Heuer brand to worldwide prominence and notoriety.

In 1971, automaker Ferrari chose Heuer as the official timekeeper of Team Ferrari in the European Formula 1 competitions. The Heuer brand was acquired by Techniques d’Avant Garde, manufacturers of the ceramic turbochargers for Formula 1 cars in 1985. The newly formulated company TAG Heuer soon introduced the Formula 1 racing inspired watch collection featuring cases made of the ceramic material that were also used in the turbochargers.

In addition to the Formula 1, TAG Heuer continues to pay homage to racing car competitions with the Carrera, Monaco and Monza collections, which are all in production today. Rolex introduced the Cosmograph Daytona, a new generation chronograph expressly designed to meet the demands of professional racecar drivers and named for the high-speed Florida speedway. With a tachymeter bezel that allowed drivers to measure speeds up to 400 kilometers or miles per hour, along with small second, 30-minute and 12-hour subdials. 

The Cosmograph Daytona was an immediate success with racecar drivers, including racing enthusiast and driver, actor Paul Newman, who sported one on his wrist from 1972 until his death in 2008.  The stationary tachymeter bezel used for calculating speed on the Rolex Daytona remains one of the signature elements of the Daytona models being produced today.

In 1988 Chopard entered an agreement to sponsor the Mille Miglia racing competition in Italy. The brand soon released a timepiece collection in commemoration of the competition, featuring chronograph dials with a carbon fiber backgrounds, power reserves on automatic models patterned after fuel gauges on dashboards and rubber straps that replicated the treads of Pirelli touring tires. 

Chopard continues to sponsor the Mille Miglia annual competition and the Chopard Mille Miglia watch collection today features chronograph and three hand Swiss-made watches for both men and women in quartz and automatic styles.

Prestigious watchmakers Omega and Tissot also feature racing-inspired watches with their Speedmaster and T-Race series. The latter watchmaker is also been the sponsor of the NASCAR racing series, as well as the Indianapolis 500 and Honda Grand Prix.    

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