The need for speed- Le Mans, Formula 1 to Red Bull Racing, a closer look at the motorsports worlds love for luxury watches

Kimi Räikkönen drove for Alfa Romeo at this year’s Singapore Grand Prix wearing the RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Räikkönen – just the latest example of motorsports’ long romance with luxury watches.

Le Mans winners get a Rolex, Richard Mille partnered Formula One drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa, TAG Heuer supports Red Bull Racing while Lewis Hamilton has a signature IWC Schaffhausen – exploring the motorsports world’s love for luxury watches

Did you hear the one about the Canadian woman who found a watch between the cushions of a US$25 sofa she bought from a charity shop four years ago? It was a Rolex Daytona 6241, known as the Paul Newman. It was not Newman’s actual Daytona – that sold for US$17.75 million a few years ago – but it was still worth a tidy US$250,000.

Rolex has been involved with motorsports since the 1930s and is a global partner and official timepiece of Formula One as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship. Winners at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and at Le Mans receive the Cosmograph Daytona with an engraved case-back. Rolex 24 victor Scott Pruett says the Rolex is a symbol of the commitment to win. “There’s no current driver or the past driver who wouldn’t say the most memorable thing you can take away from this race is the watch.”

The Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, to give its full name, or Reference 116520, is third-generation, powered by caliber 4130, a self-winding mechanical chronograph movement. Rolex says its architecture incorporates fewer components than a standard chronograph, allowing the power reserve to be extended from 50 to 72 hours. It is the driver’s boon companion because elapsed time can be measured and average speed read on the tachymetric bezel. It can accurately measure speeds up to 400km/h (249mph).

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Rolex’s Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G’s two-tone silver design takes inspiration from the black of the tarmac track.

Also taking inspiration from the track is Tudor. The Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G features a two-tone silver and gold case and is fitted with a mechanical chronograph movement. The signature snowflake hand finds its way to the dial of the piece.

Watchmaker Richard Mille is passionate about cars and has created a number of limited edition watches closely associated with motorsports. Most recently, Kimi Räikkönen drove for Alfa Romeo in the Singapore Grand Prix wearing the RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Räikkönen. “Richard Mille has powered his own engine for years with all three of these – guts, technological prowess and, above all, fun. That’s why I am more than happy to be at the wheel with the groundbreaking RM 50-04 on my wrist,” says the driver nicknamed “Iceman”.

Richard Mille’s RM50-3 is one of many motorsports-inspired models from the luxury watchmaker.

It is not the only Richard Mille Alfa Romeo watch. The RM67-02 celebrated the return to Formula One of Alfa Romeo, with Richard Mille as a premium partner. It is an automatic winding extra flat watch powered by caliber CRMA7. Lightweight and colorful, its case is made of Quartz TPT and Carbon TPT in hundreds of layers, non-allergenic, UV-resistant and with a high resistance-to-weight ratio. The dial is titanium, a mere 0.40mm thick.

It was a shared interest in highly technical detail and the pioneering use of materials that drew Richard Mille and McLaren Automotive together in 2017. That, and a sense of adventure.

Richard Mille’s RM67-02 celebrated the return of Alfa Romeo to Formula One racing.

McLaren, maker of high-performance sports and supercars, and Richard Mille jointly commissioned the RM11-03, an automatic winding, flyback chronograph, in an edition of 500 dedicated to McLaren. The skeletonized movement RMAC3, with variable geometry rotor, features hours, minutes, seconds, a 60-minute countdown timer, a 12-hour totalizer, and an oversized date and month indicator. The flyback feature returns the counter instantly to zero so the stopwatch can be swiftly restarted.

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Richard Mille even has a connection with Formula E through Brazilian driver Felipe Massa. During his Formula One career, Massa literally test-drove Richard Mille watches. The RM 006 tourbillon bears his name. In 2007 came the RM011 Automatic Chronograph Felipe Massa. “I think you have everything in the watch. You have all the big technology, the most incredible materials – it’s beautiful, people want to have it, so it has become a dream,” he says.

The synergy between top-tier watches and racing cars lies in high precision and high performance. TAG Heuer has known this since the 1960s with the Carrera saluting the Carrera Panamericana race, while the Autavia was worn by 60s drivers. Both watches have modern incarnations in the Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 and the Heuer Autavia from the Heritage range. Other vintage-style 60s racing-inspired watches can be found in Chopard’s Mille Miglia range.

TAG Heuer is associated with Red Bull Racing, the FIA World Touring Car Championship, FIM Endurance World Championship and the Indy Car Series, while Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton promotes the IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire.

Note: This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website