Breakdown: Autodromo Prototipo Vic Elford Edition
The 1960s were arguably the heyday for both motorsports and chronographs, which is probably no coincidence. The very nature of the chronograph is perfectly suited for timing auto races, despite its birth in an age when carriages still had horses in front of them. By the ‘60s, race drivers, team managers and mechanics wore chronographs, watch companies sponsored race teams and chronographs were given as prizes to winning drivers. At a time when timing was still done mechanically and in analog, motor racing and wrist-mounted stopwatches were virtually inextricable. Car design had reached an apex too, with high-output engines and the innovation of new materials coming together in some glorious machines that graced the tracks at LeMans and Daytona.
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Autodromo, the automotive-inspired watch (and sunglasses, and driving glove) brand, pays tribute to the great chronographs and the innovative cars of the 1960s and early 1970s with its new Prototipo ($625). The watch features the sloping lug-less design so common in that era, when watchmakers were experimenting with new designs as much as car builders were. The perforated leather straps that come fitted on the watch would not have been out of place on the wrist of Jacky Ickx or Jo Siffert; the contrasting “panda” dials were common on racing chronographs, allowing for quick reading of lap splits while rocketing down a straight at 180 miles per hour. Even the name “Prototipo” is a reference to the prototype race machines of the ‘60s, which looked like nothing that came before them — all angular, loud and dangerous.
It is somehow fitting, too, that a watch honoring a time when cars were changing and timekeeping was about to enter the quartz era features a movement that straddles the mechanical and quartz eras. The hybrid Prototipo’s Seiko-derived meca-quartz calibre keeps time with the familiar quartz tick, but its elapsed time functions click, sweep and snap back mechanically.
Two of Autodromo’s Prototipos are bi-compax (two register) chronographs in either a black on white or white on black color scheme and colorful, contrasting hands. But there’s also a third Prototipo: the Vic Elford Edition ($775), named after the famous driver of the 1960s. Elford was known for his daring and expert driving — and most of all, his fast lap times, for which is gained the nickname Quick Vic. This Prototipo adds a third chronograph register, a special color scheme inspired by Elford’s Targa Florio-winning Porsche 907 and a caseback engraved with a map of Sicily’s famed race circuit along with Elford’s record lap times. Its large rally-style strap with oversized ventilation holes sets it apart from the other Prototipo leathers. Along with the watch comes a book devoted to Elford’s exploits, signed by Quick Vic himself. All that’s missing is a mist of motor oil and the sound effects of a race engine at full throttle. We break down the Prototipo Vic Elford Edition above.