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What do watches have to do with cars? On the surface, not a lot. They don’t perform the same function. You can’t wear a car and you can’t drive a watch. But within pockets of car culture, you regularly see a link between cars and watches. It’s not something I’ve really thought about or dissected, it’s just been there.

At this stage, my personal interest in watches is just getting started, only owning a few cheap, basic watches in the past and one Apple watch, which I found to be very functional and durable, but not so exciting. It took a lot of punishment, wearing it in all conditions, being bashed about while working on cars and finally cracking the screen when the hot spatter consumed it while welding. It still operated perfectly, but I wasn’t going to wear it with a cracked screen.

So far, my history of watches hasn’t been exciting. For me, as I considered myself to be on the outside of the watch-collecting community at this stage, the most common association I was exposed to in England was a sleazy car salesman flashing their Rolex like a child waving a sparkler on November 5th, in an attempt to demonstrate their success. Hardly a glowing reference.

Maybe it’s as simple as this; people who like cars, like watches. (Do people who like watches also like cars the same way? I couldn’t say.) Maybe it’s because cars and watches are both mechanical objects that require precise engineering, attention to detail and high levels of craftsmanship to function at their best. Sometimes they might only be seen as status symbols. Owning a nice watch represents wealth, success and class. Although cars can represent the same, they don’t immediately relate to the two for most people who admire both.

Le Mans Rolex Ferrari 458
Le Mans 2022 | © Rolex

Like many others, my link between watch manufacturers’ and cars stems from Motorsport. Rolex, IWC and TAG Heuer are a few examples of the names I’ve seen watching motorsports. You don’t have to dig deep to see that Rolex has a long and rich history of association with motorsport, having been involved in various forms of racing for many decades. Rolex’s connection to motorsport began in the 1930s, when the company’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf, became interested in the sport and began to sponsor drivers and teams.

One of Rolex’s most significant contributions to motorsport has been its partnership with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the world’s most prestigious endurance races. Rolex has been the race’s official timekeeper since 2001 and has also been a sponsor of the event since the 1990s. In addition to Le Mans, Rolex has been involved in several other motorsport events, including the Formula 1 World Championship, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the Goodwood Revival.

Rolex’s involvement in motorsport goes beyond providing timekeeping equipment and sponsorship. The company has also created several watches that are specifically designed for use in racing. For instance, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, which was first introduced in 1963, has become an icon in the world of motorsport and is widely regarded as one of the most important watches in the sport’s history.

Some high-end sports car manufacturers have partnered with luxury watch brands to create limited-edition timepieces, such as Porsche and TAG Heuer, that are inspired by the automakers’ vehicles. These watches often feature design elements and materials that are similar to those found in the cars, and they are often marketed to collectors who are passionate about both cars and watches.

Porsche Carrera TAG Heuer Watch
TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph Special Edition | © TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer and Porsche have a longstanding and close relationship that has been built on a shared passion for motorsports and a commitment to innovation and precision engineering.

The relationship between the two brands dates back to the 1960s, when Jack Heuer, then CEO of TAG Heuer, began to forge ties with the world of motor racing. At the time, Porsche was one of the leading manufacturers in the sport, and Heuer saw an opportunity to align his brand with the excitement and glamour of motorsports.

TAG Heuer has sponsored Porsche racing teams and provided timekeeping equipment for their competitions. The two brands have also collaborated on many special edition watches, including the TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph, which was introduced in 2020 to celebrate the 160th anniversary of TAG Heuer and the 55th anniversary of the Porsche 911.

The Collecting Group - Collecting Cars Watch Collecting
© Collecting Cars

Aside from a direct relationship between two industries, one company has taken advantage of the shared clientele.

Collecting Cars, an online car auction website founded in 2018, primarily lists collectable, special edition or performance cars (and bikes). Their target audience is similar to those in the watch-collecting market. Consequently, the same founders of Collecting Cars, founded Watch Collecting in 2021. It totally makes sense. The customers are often in the same market and they both sell the same way; the platform can be almost identical in its function. Collecting Cars appeals to me massively. Every day there is something new to drool over. And I like watches, but I’m not going to claim I’m an expert, however, I can see the appeal of the platform of Watch Collecting if you’re looking to buy or sell a nice wrist timepiece.

Watch Collecting Website Screenshot Chris Harris Collecting Cars
© Watch Collecting

It’s easy to establish that watch manufacturers have successfully integrated themselves into the world of motorsport. You don’t have to search the web for long to know that. But on my feed, I see the likes of motoring journalists, Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire and Jonny Liberman of Motor Trend displaying their collection of vintage or customized watches. And as far as I’m aware, (I’m not an expert) they don’t have any motorsport-derived designs. They simply have a strong love for cars and beautiful timepieces.

I wrote to Matt Farah to get his two cents. Why they relate and why they are admired:

“Both are mechanical, functional artwork. They have elements of design, aesthetic charm, but they also have technical, engineering prowess, ergonomic fit, and style relative to the user. They both say something about the person using them. They can be extensions of a wardrobe. A watch is like a car you can wear into the bar with you.”

Matt Farah, The Smoking Tire

Matt Farah The Smoking Tire Car Interior Recaro Watch
Matt Farah | © Crown & Caliber

The connection doesn’t have to stem from motor racing, although it’s still a very cool historic and ongoing relationship, you have to remember why watches are so fascinating to collectors. The real connection is a mental one. It’s the details, design and high-quality materials. Knowing that a magnitude of moving parts produces a calculated result that was purposefully designed. On top of that, beautifully made with exceptional materials.

The summary here can be short. Cars are engineering artwork, and so are automatic watches. The correlation is logical.

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