Auto-Motivation of Time

The market for car-related watches gets bigger each year as more upscale watchmakers—seeking additional affluent customers—form licensing pacts with fine-car companies or look to the racing world and car design, including interiors and accessories, for inspiration for their own timepieces. This year is no exception.

PARTNERING WITH LUXURY

Watch brands capitalize on the cachet of the automotive elite through licensing agreements. Two upscale watch firms are producing timepieces for segments of the Mercedes-Benz luxury-car company. IWC, in an agreement announced last October, is making watches for the Mercedes-AMG division, which makes limited-production, enhanced-performance luxury cars. The first, unveiled this year, are the Ingenieur Automatic AMG (in titanium case) and Ingenieur Chronograph AMG (both part of IWC’s launch of its revamped signature Ingenieur collection).

Nautische Instrumente, a fine watchmaker in Glashütte, Germany, has been licensed by trademark-holder Mercedes-Benz Accessories GmbH to produce timepieces for the company itself. It will design, manufacture, and distribute fine watches bearing the Mercedes-Benz name and “star” logo. The collection, on sale this year, has 14 models for men and women.

German luxury watchmaker Martin Braun has also formed a new marketing partnership with British luxury-carmaker MB Roadcars, a three-seater car using state-of-the-art technologies.

Audemars Piguet is marking Italian car manufacturer Maserati’s 90th anniversary with a special edition of its relaunched oval oversize Millenary line. Millenary Maserati has dual time (a 24-hour indicator), power reserve, date, and the Maserati symbol by the power-reserve indicator. There are 900 pieces in steel, 450 in pink gold, and 90 in platinum.

Breitling has introduced the customized, very limited edition Mulliner Tourbillon watch (named for luxury car Bentley’s customizing workshops). The watch is part of Breitling’s long-term cobranding agreement with the car company.

TechnoMarine, under special license with Hummer (the oversize off-road vehicle) has produced the TechnoMarine Hummer XS Magnum Square, with a replica Hummer hubcap on the dial and a Hummer tire-tread strap.

‘FORMULA’ FOR SUCCESS

Many watch brands this year raced with the excitement of the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Here are the contenders.

Martin Braun is the official sponsor of the Formula 1 Jordan Team. It will equip it with watches and annually produce a new watch under the team label, starting this year with a sporty version of its EOS watch, with a redesigned black and yellow dial on black-rubber strap.

Italian luxury watchmaker Panerai will produce and distribute watches for luxury Italian carmaker Ferrari and its Formula 1 racing team, under agreement between Ferrari and the Richemont Group (Panerai’s parent firm). The first go on sale in 2006.

Oris, official watch supplier of the Formula 1 Williams Team, has two versions of its automatic WilliamsF1 Team chronograph—a limited edition (with left side pushers for left-handers) and an unlimited one with black dial, PVD black-coated case, and black-rubber tire-tread strap.

INS AND OUTS OF CAR DESIGN

Automotive influence is evident, too, in watch designs, including perforated straps resembling driving gloves and subdials resembling dashboard gauges. The faces of IWC’s Ingenieur AMG watches, for example, evoke “the masculine aesthetics of an automobile’s instrument panel,” says the company.

Even luxury watchmaker Harry Winston is influenced. The HW logo on its Excenter Tourbillon turns blue with only 25 hours left on the double power reserve (110 hour), an idea inspired by vintage British racing cars, which had two fuel tanks and a dashboard warning when to refuel.

The brand most auto-motivated in its watch designs may be A. Dunhill Ltd. Its 2005 lead model is the 42 mm Wheel Watch—created for “lovers of fine cars and wristwatches alike,” says designer Tom Bolt—with a unique mono-lug case based on “spinners” used to attach wire wheels to vintage sports cars. It has two models: Petrolhead (with a power-reserve indicator based on a gas gauge) and Pressurehead (with a compression-meter design for the reserve indicator).

Dunhill’s Bobby Finder 25 (the name refers to British police and early 20th-century speed limits), has a split case, visible gasket, its own specially produced automatic movement, and an image of a bobby with a whistle engraved on back. Dunhill’s ceramic and pink-gold Carwatch has a silhouette like a sports car and a “tool kit” with a mountable and engravable “license plate,” screws, and screwdriver.