7 of the best racing watches, including iconic chronographs and surprising tourbillons 7 of the best racing watches, including iconic chronographs and surprising tourbillons

7 of the best racing watches, including iconic chronographs and surprising tourbillons

Borna Bošnjak

Racing and watches – name a better duo than that. When a sport is so closely dependant on accurate timing, with thousandths of a second often separating the competitors, it’s no surprise to see it so inherently related to watch sponsorships. For those who love both racing and watches, however, the connection goes deeper than just surface-level advertising. It’s a connection shared through the need for absolute precision, whether that be of the engineering or driving kind. The pinnacles of both motor racing and watchmaking are also undeniable status symbols, whether that’s a vintage Heuer Autavia strapped to the wrist of the cardigan-clad Singer Porsche enthusiast, or a Hollywood celeb showing up to a grid walk wearing the latest carbon composite Richard Mille. The watches on this list represent a bit of both, with plenty of racing thoroughbreds and some up-and-coming or unexpected contenders.

Baltic Tricompax

baltic tour auto tricompax limited edition 2024 wrist 3

While Baltic may not have the racing pedigree of some of the other pieces, Etienne Malec is trying his damndest to make it not matter. And, it’s working. Other than being a wonderfully measured bit of 1970s design, the Baltic Tricompax has now been the official watch of Tour Auto for the second year in a row. This is another example of a historic rally being revived, giving an excuse for petrolheads like the folks over at Baltic to come together and hoon about in iconic cars. If you’re not quite ready to baby a vintage chronograph but want the same look with assurances that it was created by true motor racing enthusiasts, the Sellita-powered Tricompax is worth a look. Price: A$2,990 from the Time+Tide Shop

Omega Speedmaster Racing

omega speedmaster racing michael schumacher

One could argue that an Omega Speedmaster is just about the most iconic watch ever made. Whether or not you agree with that sentiment doesn’t change the fact it could be included in so many “best of” lists, it’s not even funny. For a list of the best racing watches, it’s a different Speedy variant that makes the cut for me, though. The Omega Speedmaster Racing, and more specifically, its two Michael Schumacher variants from 1996, embody the spirit of racing about as well as a watch can.

omega speedmaster racing michael schumacher box

The watch was delivered in a Formula 1 wheel-shaped box, launched at the karting track where a young Schumacher cut his teeth. It was an era when Omega was all-in on Formula 1, variants of the Speedmaster gracing the wrists of Michael’s brother Ralf as well. The movement of the Speedmaster Racing was shared with the Speedy Reduced, outfitted with Omega’s 1141 – a base ETA 2892 with a chrono module from Dubois Dépraz on top. Price: ~US$3,000 (secondary market)

TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 11

tag heuer monaco calibre 11

One of the competitors in the three-horse race that was the pursuit of the first self-winding chronograph was the very movement that powered the first Heuer Monaco. A joint venture between Heuer-Léonidas, Breitling, Hamilton-Büren, and Dépraz & Co resulted in the Chronomatic, or Calibre 11, as it is known in TAG Heuer verbiage. Dépraz built the chronograph, while Büren a modified micro-rotor calibre for the base, a feature that is unfortunately no longer present in its modern iterations. But what does all this have to do with racing? You only need to wait a few years for the Monaco to be cemented in racing history, the reference 1133B featuring on the wrist of Steve McQueen for the movie Le Mans, being inspired by then-Heuer ambassador Jo Siffert. The rest, as they say, is history – just make sure you go with the Calibre 11-equipped Monaco for peak nostalgia of the opposing crown and pushers. Price: US$8,100 (RRP)

Chopard Mille Miglia

168619 3001 Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph

Motor racing is too often shoehorned into just a few categories, and funnily enough, the same goes for watches. With the brand’s recent focus on Alpine Eagle and L.U.C models, Chopard’s Mille Miglia has perhaps not been getting the love it deserves. Named after the iconic open-road endurance race, Chopard has been a sponsor of the revival since 1988, with Karl-Friedrich Scheufele making regular appearances, most recently driving the Mercedes 300 SL alongside F1 legend Jacky Ickx. While there are special editions released for each running of the race, the standard-edition Lucent Steel models are a tad more versatile thanks to their 40.5mm case and regular availability, powered by a COSC-certified ETA A322-11. Price: US$9,140 (RRP)

Universal Genève Compax Nina Rindt

Universal Genève Compax R885103 02 Nina Rindt jpg
Universal Genève Compax ref. 885103/02 Nina Rindt. Image courtesy of Oliver & Clarke.

If you’ve read the blurb about the Baltic Tricompax and thought to yourself “no, I want something older, rarer, way more expensive, but decidedly iconic”, the Universal Genève Nina Rindt is your only option. This particular UG Compax gets its name after its most famous wearer, Nina Rindt, who used to sport the white-dialled chronograph on a large bund strap. Whether or not she actually used it to time her husband’s laps is irrelevant. It’s a well-known fact that the best watches have the best nicknames, and any watch named after a supermodel and iconic F1 pitlane presence is bound to be decent. Price: ~US$25,000 (secondary market)

Rolex Daytona Le Mans

rolex daytona le mans white gold

You knew that a Rolex Daytona would make the list, and it would only make sense to include what is likely the most hyped Daytona release in a while. The Le Mans is special for two reasons – it was revealed to celebrate 100 years of the historic race, but it’s also a callback to the Daytona’s original name. Before the watch ever bore the name of the Floridian city, it used to be advertised as the Le Mans. Even before 1965 when the Daytona name first appeared on the dial, the watch was a known item in the racing world, but its popularity has skyrocketed in the last decade or so. The Daytona Le Mans combines the desirable “exotic” or Paul Newman dials that have become a mainstay of any watch auction these days with the most up-to-date white gold Daytona case. The Calibre 4131 on display, and features a rare sub-dial totaliser counting up to 24 hours, so you can easily time the entire duration of the race. The watch has now been discontinued, replaced by a yellow gold variant, but the hype the Daytona Le Mans generated earns it a spot on the list. Price: US$51,400 (RRP), ~US$300,000 (secondary market)

Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit

laurent ferrier grand sport tourbillon pursuit wrist

A non-chronograph on a list of the best racing watches? Blasphemy – especially considering it has zero racing pedigree. Or does it? Those familiar with Laurent Ferrier (if you weren’t, you’re welcome) and motor racing may also recall that while working for Patek Philippe, the watchmaker would also take part in Le Mans, achieving a class win in 1978 in a Group 6 Chevron B36, and an overall third in 1979, driving the Kremer Porsche 935. So when the time came for Ferrier to create a sports watch, what better to draw inspiration from than his Le Mans days, especially considering the ’79 podium which was shared with co-founder François Servanin? With an integrated bracelet matching the grade 5 titanium case, the pink gradient dial is coloured to reflect the sunrise above the Mulsanne straight, while the reverse is adorned with darkened, bevelled bridges and a double balance spring tourbillon calibre. Price: CHF 175,000