Drive time: The 6 best watch and car brand collaborationsBorna Bošnjak
Watches have been inextricably linked with cars for the longest time, a symbiotic partnership that boomed once motor racing became a worldwide phenomenon. This prompted vehicle and watch manufacturers alike to seek partnerships with each other, serving the audience whose interests are so commonly occupied by the two. A notable omission from this list is TAG Heuer’s partnership with Porsche, especially considering their output as of late, but we’ve covered this in a separate article that you can find here. Whether on the pioneering end of the technical scale, or carrying on an old-timey charm, these six watch and car brand collaborations all bring something unique to the table.
Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari
If we had gone on to list the most common or most successful partnerships, Ferrari would take many places on that list, linking up with Girard-Perregaux, Panerai, Hublot, Richard Mille and others. The same goes for the premier avant-garde watch manufacturer RM, which has teamed up with Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin. So to make the list more compact, we combined the two. I feel like I cannot mention the RM UP-01 without also talking about Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Ultra – yes, the RM compromises on some key features of a watch to undercut the Bulgari by a frankly negligible amount, but here we are.
Now that’s out of the way, pairing this record-breaking achievement with a Ferrari collaboration is a smooth move on Richard Mille’s part, as the prancing horse marque is often associated with cutting-edge performance, even though their fumble in the 2023 F1 season opener in Bahrain may suggest otherwise. To put this into perspective, most sapphire crystals are around the same thickness as this watch, which manages to incorporate a time display, an entire going train, balance and escapement, gaskets, crystals and two-piece case that provides structure for the movement in 1.75mm. The entire movement is only 1.18mm thick – remarkable.
Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon Sapphire
The dichotomy that presents itself between the RM UP-01 and the Chiron Tourbillon Sapphire is an excellent pointer to how different two equally avant-garde pieces can be. The Richard Mille is a champion in scaling down component sizes as much as possible, while the Jacob & Co. flips the script, disregarding physical dimensions almost completely, purely focusing on creating the craziest watch you’ve likely seen, ever. A total of 578 components make up this tourbillon-equipped giant, though the real intrigue is in its engine. Yes, engine. Bugatti’s quad-turbocharged W16 engine was a remarkable feat of engineering upon its presentation in the early 2000s, the Volkswagen group expanding on their knowledge of VR6 engines that were commonly fitted to everything from a VW Corrado to a Winnebago. Essentially mating two VR8 engines in a W-configuration, the Bugatti W16’s most powerful iteration produces 1,825 horsepower. Constructed of sapphire and polished steel, the W16 replicated in the Jacob & Co. doesn’t produce any horsepower, but given the push of a button, mimics the motion of the cylinders in the actual engine, complete with two tiny crankshafts, even spinning up two tiny turbos – notably, two less than the car. The entire movement, tourbillon-regulated, is also suspended at four corners, mimicking the suspension of the Chiron, cased in an impressive sapphire enclosure for the best possible visibility. It also costs US$1.3 million, about half of the actual car – a bargain, really.
Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX2 Transponder DB9
Possibly my favourite entrant on the list is this – the JLC AMVOX2 Transponder DB9. The less-than-subtle branding immediately suggests a connection with Aston Martin, the quintessential maker of British grand tourers, and more recently, hypercars. On the surface, it’s fairly unassuming, with faint motorsport inspiration dominated by the aforementioned overt branding, but the AMVOX2 has a trick up its sleeve that separates it from the crowd. Should you be lucky and wealthy enough to own an Aston Martin DB9, one of the most beautiful modern cars ever produced, you should seriously consider picking up one of these JLCs, as it’ll save you some embarrassment should you forget your keys. Provided you’re wearing your watch, a single press on the left side of the crystal would unlock the car (see OPEN on the picture above near 9 o’clock). A push on the right side of the crystal that acted like a button would lock the car, while a lever operated the chronograph, rather than traditional pushers.
Though the large 44mm titanium case wasn’t nearly as elegant as the car, the watch was updated in 2014, improving on a funny oversight of the original, which worked only with the DB9. The refreshed model now offered functionality with any Aston Martin, retaining the crystal-integrated transponder antennae and microprocessor in the caseback. The AMVOX2 had a 65-hour power reserve provided by the column wheel 751E chronograph calibre, which was fully mechanical, despite the electronic features integrated into the rest of the watch.
Bovet for Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce is undoubtedly the pinnacle of luxury in the motoring world. The Bentleys and Mercedes-Maybachs of this world may try to compete, but there is no other manufacturer that could build something like the Boat Tail, charge 28 million for it, and get away with it. To go along with the insane level of personalisation on offer from the sailing-inspired land yacht, Rolls-Royce worked with Bovet to create a set of two unique watches that come with each of the three cars, doubling as dashboard clocks and wristwatches. Bovet seems like the ideal partner for this collaboration, owing to their adaptable Amadeo system, allowing the watches to go from wristwatch, to pocket watch, desk clock and finally, dash clock.
Fitted with a tourbillon hidden behind RR’s Spirit of Ecstasy emblem, the watches have a five-day power reserve, and actually make use of the rotating escapement when mounted vertically in the car’s dashboard – a complication that’s rendered largely useless on-wrist, much like the others we outlined here.
Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Land Rover Edition
Land Rover’s latest Defender updated the chicken-coop-on-wheels shape of the previous generations, retaining some of the boxy aesthetic that it’s so well-known for, while also bringing it up to 21st century standards. To match the sleek new look of the capable off-roader that’ll spend most of its time in upper-middle class suburbia, Zenith rolled up their sleeves for their next Land Rover collab. The result was this, a sand-blasted titanium and rubber strap-equipped Defy 21 Land Rover Edition. The choice of material for both the case and strap echo the utilitarianism and sportiness of the vehicle itself, while the inherent nature of the high-tech El Primero 9004 calibre and subtle orange accents throughout help it maintain the bougie vibes of the Land Rover brand. The limited edition of 250 pieces retailed for a smidge under A$20,000.
Bremont for Jaguar
I’m not sure whether you could get more British than a Bremont on your wrist, one hand resting on the wooden knob of your manual transmission, the other operating the oversized steering wheel of your Mk2 Jaguar, snaking through Scotland’s country roads. What began with a tribute to the E-Type Lightweight, hewn of aluminium from the original car, the Mark series pays tribute to Jaguar’s small, sporty saloons of the ’50s and ’60s, with the dial evoking the design of a vintage speedometer.
Powered by a beautiful La Joux-Perret 6901, its 43mm case diameter and 16mm case thickness does depart somewhat from the pieces that would’ve been the car’s contemporaries.
Should you wish to go the full motorsport route, the D-Type chronograph is named after a triple Le Mans champion. Though it does not reproduce the signature shark fin design of the car, the 7750-powered watch is a modern take on a racing chronograph. The oversized crown has a subtly integrated tyre tread pattern that is flanked by pump pushers, with large circularly brushed surfaces prevalent in the 43mm Trip-Tick case.