The motoring watch has a long history. Early race car drivers wore bulky stopwatches strapped to their wrists to time laps and calculate speeds. Later driving watches had angled dials for easy reading without taking a hand off the wheel. And the great chronographs of the 1960s set a high water mark for design, with bright colors, funky shapes and iconic perforated leather rally straps. Cars and watches go together like hot red paint and Italian curves; both are traditionally mechanical, both are products of mindbogglingly complex and precise engineering, and both are utilitarian at heart, with supplementary add-ons elevating them to the realm of luxury. These six modern motoring watches capture the scent of exhaust and the sound of engines running wide open on a ribbon of tarmac — a pitch-perfect tribute to this longstanding bond.
For less than the cost of an exotic oil change, the Autodromo Prototipo ($625) offers a late ’60s-style racing chronograph to amp up your morning commute, even if you walk to work. The Prototipo features a 42mm wide steel case in a brushed or PVD black finish, and comes in a number of dial colors that evoke the brash style of prototype racing in the late 60s and early 70s, when car paint schemes were equally bright. Despite its retro appeal, the Prototipo uses a modern Seiko-sourced hybrid meca-quartz VK-64 movement. The movement is battery powered, but it combines a mechanical system for the chronograph, allowing the Prototipo to boast a sweeping seconds hand and instant chrono reset.
Guiliano Mazzuoli Manometro
Styled after an old-school tire pressure gauge, the Guiliano Mazzuoli Manometro ($3,500) is proof that Italian automotive design works for watches too. The Manometro features a gauge-like display and a 45.2mm cylindrical case with integrated lugs and a crown at ten or two o’clock (lefties rejoice). “Manometro” means pressure gauge in Italian and that’s exactly what this watch looks like — the brass and glass gauges that were (and still are) used to take tire pressures. There are versions offering multiple dial colors and case materials ranging from steel, to titanium and even carbon fiber, and the Manometro features a Swiss ETA 2824 automatic movement. The Manometro will have you looking for excuses to take the long way home.
TAG Heuer Carrera Cal 17 Boutique Edition
No list of automotive watches is complete without TAG Heuer. Their involvement with motorsports is legendary and from Joe Siffert to Steve Mcqueen, few brands identify as closely with the golden age of cars and auto racing and racing chronographs. The Carrera Cal 17 Boutique Edition ($5,700) is a perfect modern take on Heuer’s racing legacy, with vintage styling, a modern automatic chronograph movement and a perforated tropic-style leather strap. Thanks to the automatic Calibre 17 within, this 41mm 30-minute chronograph can easily manage tracking lap times from either the stands or the driver’s seat.
Chopard Grand Prix De Monaco Historiques Chronograph
Chopard has a real love for motorsports. In addition to their Millie Miglia line of watches, their collaboration with famed racing driver Jacky Ickx and their gig as Porsche Motorsport’s official timekeeper (LeMans anyone?), they are also the Official Timekeeper for the prestigious Grand Prix De Monaco Historiques, an annual classic car racing event held two weeks before the Monaco F1 Grand Prix. The G.P.M.H Chronograph ($7,640), Chopard’s tribute to the event, captures the bold styling of its seven different classes of historic race cars. With its sporty silver, black and yellow coloring, the 44.5mm steel and titanium G.P.M.H rocks a 12-hour chronograph and a striking leather strap or matching bracelet.
Halda Race Pilot
The Halda Race Pilot ($10,200) is quite literally two watches in one. Its two modules — one mechanical (and sourced from Zenith, no less) and one full-digital Race Module — mount into a single watch-like frame. The 45mm wide titanium Race Module boasts not only a chronograph, dual time zones and a perpetual calendar, but also g-force indication, FIA Race countdown timing, a race-tuned alarm and information for 150 racetracks worldwide. Combining track data, timing and information from its sensors, the Race Pilot can calculate information such as average speed and even lap records. Of course, its price means you might just need to lock down a few more corporate sponsors.
IWC Ingenieur Automatic Carbon Performance Ceramic
If you’ve run out of garage space but you still want something exclusive, sporty and high tech, the IWC Ingenieur 3224 Automatic Carbon Performance Ceramic ($26,500) will do nicely. Made to commemorate the partnership between IWC and the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, the 3224 is a racy three-hander with a 46mm wide carbon case and a ceramic bezel, crown and crown protector. Beneath the carbon fibre dial ticks IWC’s in-house 80110 automatic movement a 44-hour power reserve, IWC’s Pellaton winding feature and a specialized anti-shock system. Combining cutting edge materials with a rock-solid movement, the Ingenieur 3224 Carbon Performance Ceramic is an ideal choice for the well-heeled gentleman racer, on or off the track.