A chronograph is not a typical luxury watch. It comes with a litany of features and mechanisms like an added timer, and buttons to start and stop the second hand. The original purpose of this additional functionality dates back to the time of French monarch Louis XVIII, who wanted to be able to time the duration of the laps in the horse races he watched. It was an easy function to transition to auto racing.
Car and motorcycle-inspired chronographs have long been used to keep track of lap times for auto enthusiasts. These watches come with pushable buttons to stop and start the timer. Most racing watches also feature a tachymeter, which is a theodolite for the rapid measurement of distances, so one can get an accurate measurement of an object’s speed. The worlds of watchmaking and racing have been intertwined for years. Since the days in which race car drivers wore heavy duty wrist straps to track their paces, the racing chronographs have evolved greatly. This is a list of some of the best watches for car enthusiasts, most of them chronographs designed to be functional racing timepieces that pay homage to various figures and moments in automotive culture.
Ducati Corse Evolution Chronograph
Though it’s not technically inspired by a car, the Ducati Corse Evolution Chronograph certainly has a racing heritage. Ducati states that their Corse quartz chronograph is dedicated to all racers who desire to constantly improve their performance. The black and red trimmed look invokes a classic racing appeal to match Ducati’s dynastic motorcycle racing history.
Seiko x Giugiaro Design SCED057
Like the Ducati Corse Evolution, the Seiko x Giugiaro Design SCED057 is another watch made for motorcycle riders. This watch was designed with motorcycle riding specifically in mind. The face of the watch has been given a 5-degree lean toward the rider and a 15-degree slant to the dial so that one doesn’t have to fully turn their wrist or remove their hands from the handlebars while riding to see the time.
Ford GT Endurance Chronograph
The Ford GT is Ford’s supercar that was developed to compete with the European titans like Ferrari and Lamborghini. It has a storied racing history, beginning in the mid-1960s when it toppled Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Endurance Race in historic fashion, shutting out the reigning champ from finishing in the top three. This Chronograph is created to honor the first Ford GT40 to win Le Mans in 1966, driven by Bruce McLaren, and painted in that black-and-white striped livery, which was also revived for the 2016 edition Ford GT Heritage car.
Tag Heuer Formula 1 Gulf Edition
The blue and orange Gulf Livery is one of the most iconic paint jobs in all of European racing history. The Tag Heuer Formula 1 Gulf Edition is a fitting chronograph tribute to some of the greatest moments in Formula 1 racing history. Driven by TAG Heuer quartz movement, which the company declares to be “one of the most reliable and accurate made in Switzerland,” the Formula 1 Gulf Edition celebrates legendary cars like the blue and orange Ford MKII that raced in the 1966 Le Mans and the Porsche 917 driven by Steve McQueen in the 1971 movie Le Mans.
REC-901 Porsche Watch
The REC-90 Porsche watch has the distinction of being the only chronograph on this list to be actually forged from the car to which it pays homage. The 901 is a mechanical timepiece, with a dial constructed from a piece of a salvaged, air-cooled Porsche 911. Each 901 watch is a one-of-a-kind timepiece. The “901” watch references the original intended title of the Porsche 911 when it was created in 1964. The watch’s movement is propelled by the Miyota caliber 9100 automatic movement. It comes with a Story Card that you can scan using your smartphone to learn the detailed history behind your watch.
Tonino Lamborghini Centenary Engine
Created to honor the 100th birthday of Tonino Lamborghini’s father, Ferrucio Lamborghini, the founder of Lamborghini who was born in 1916. A glass with carbon fiber membrane protects the skeleton movement that drives the chronograph. The black cow leather strap is a fitting tribute to Lambo’s bovine ancestry.
Porsche Design 1919 Datetimer 70Y Limited Edition
Porsche recently celebrated its 70th anniversary. In commemoration, they published a coffee table book, launched an awesome parade of legendary vehicles at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and released a tribute watch, in recognition of their seven decades of dominance. The sleek, black 1919 Datetimer 70Y Limited Edition is encased in titanium and coated in titanium carbide. It is inscribed with the number 1948, paying homage to Porsche’s DOB. The face also features the silhouette of a Porsche 356.
Baume and Mercier Clifton Club Bert Munro Tribute
Bert Munro is certainly a man worthy of a tribute (if not several). He has already been lionized in the feature film The World’s Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins. Now, luxury watchmaker Baume and Mercier has created the Clifton Club watch to honor the man who set the world record for the fastest motorcycle on land. The beautiful watch comes with a vermilion calfskin strap, black tachymeter on the bezel, and a silver-colored dial on which a bright yellow “35” is emblazoned — for Munro’s lucky number. It took a lot of luck — and plenty of skill — for Munro to break the land speed record in 1967. Pay your respects with this nearly $4,000 timepiece.
Breitling Bentley Continental GT
Breitling is one of the top luxury watch brands in the world. Few know that they have a longstanding relationship with luxury carmaker Bentley. The partnership between the Swiss watchmaker and British car manufacturer has produced innumerable high-end watches, most notably with the 2002 creation of the Bentley Continental watches to mark the release of Bentley’s fastest car ever, the Continental GT. Among those watches, the most vibrant and elegant is probably the “Dark Sapphire” Continental GT watch, a beautiful piece made from a cambered sapphire crystal that matches the Continental GT car model.
Nomos Glashütte Autobahn
The Nomos Glashütte watch is a beautiful model designed in the style of the German Bauhaus school, a design movement from the Weimar era in Germany that has remained timeless since its moment in the sun a century ago. The Autobahn ‘Neomatik Datum’ model is a sport chronometer that alludes to the legendary German highway for which it’s named. Like the highway, famous for its lack of a universal speed limit, the watch is designed to be high-octane and dynamic, with steep curves that create a motif of fast movement.
Omega Speedmaster Racing Master Chronograph
Omega has a rich history, a large part of which is inextricably tied to the history of racing. The Omega Speedmaster is a line of chronograph wristwatches that has been around since 1957. The Speedmaster’s most famous stint was on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin, as the astronaut walked on the moon in 1968. With a power reserve of 60 hours, the self-winding chronograph is the perfect watch for race car drivers participating in long distance endurance races.
ICON 4×4 Duesey Watch
ICON 4 x 4 takes classic overlanders and offroaders them and restores them to immaculate condition. Founder Jonathan Ward is motivated by a passion for vintage cars. But he’s also an avid collector of vintage watches, and he always wanted to design his own chronograph inspired by a classic car. That’s just what he’s done with the ICON 4×4 Duesey Watch, a chronograph modeled after a vintage Duesenberg SJ dashboard. With a case made from sandblasted titanium grade 2, water resistant up to 50 meters, and a bezel forged of titanium grade 5, the Duesey watch is built to endure over the years.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona was introduced in 1963. It was built to meet the rigorous demands of professional race car drivers who wanted to keep track of lap times and measure their average speeds in miles or kilometers per hour. Crafted from 18ct gold alloys along with silver, copper, platinum or palladium, the Daytona is a product of superior craftsmanship. The self-winding caliber 4130 movement is a simple mechanism, ensuring that the Cosmograph Daytona will always run smoothly.
Hublot LaFerrari Aperta
The LaFerrari, also known as the as the Ferrari LaFerrari or Ferrari F70, is a hybrid sports car. Specifically, the Aperta model was created in 2016 and has been in production until this model year. The Hublot LaFerrari Aperta experienced a limited 210 unit run. To honor the limited-edition car, Hublot partnered with Ferrari to create a $300,000 MP-05 LaFerrari super watch. The watch, crafted from sapphire crystal, is designed to be reminiscent of the shape of the supercar. Incredibly complex, the 637 pieces is the most intricate construction that Hublot has ever produced.
Tourbillon McLaren F1 RM 50-03
The most expensive watch on the list, the Tourbillon McLaren F1 RM 50-03, also known as the Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight — McLaren F1 is designed in collaboration by the famed McLaren Formula 1 team and watchmaker Richard Mille. The result is the lightest split-seconds tourbillon chronograph ever made, weighing in at just 38 grams. The ultra-light composition is meant to match the dynamic, feathery speed of McLaren Formula 1 vehicles. The RM 50-03’s tripartite case is forged of Graphene, a nanomaterial that six times lighter than steel but 200 times stronger.
20 Best Small Watches Under 38 mm
If you’re looking to improve your watch collection, consider adding a smaller piece. Check out this list of the best men’s small watches under 38mm, and dial in.