Automotive Horology: A Compendium of 10 Iconic Cars & Watches

Wheels and gears, second hands and tach needles, power trains and power reserves. Men have always been fascinated by time, speed, accuracy and power — and the beautiful combination of high-end timepieces and exotic roadgoing automobiles captures these obsessions appropriately.

Wheels and gears, second hands and tach needles, power trains and power reserves. Men have always been fascinated by time, speed, accuracy and power — and the beautiful combination of high-end timepieces and exotic roadgoing automobiles captures these obsessions appropriately. Hopefully, you never see a man driving an automotive icon while wearing a Franklin Mint gold nugget watch on his wrist. There’s a reason for that. Anyone who appreciates fine design and great engineering in his cars also tends to look for the same from his timepieces. And whether the watch of choice is used to measure lap splits or to simply echo the same kind of quality and heritage as a man’s car, you can be assured that careful time was taken to select both. We matched up some of the best in timekeeping and automobilia in Gear Patrol style.

Our compendium continues on the next page.

Additional contribution by Amos Kwon

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Ferrari 250 GTO & Patek Philippe 5204

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The Car: If you’re a car collector that worships fervently, this is your holy grail. Quite possibly the most iconic Ferrari of all time, the 250 GTO is beauty and power embodied, backed by an illustrious racing history. The easily recognizable design by Bizzarrini and Scaglietti employed a long sloping hood (which houses the huge V12) and is sandwiched between two of the most beautiful fender curves in autodom. The signature gills on each side of the car, along with a tall windscreen and rear glass that tapered toward a beautiful lip spoiler, made the GTO look like no other car. Only 39 Series I and Series II cars were built, and if you can find one today, their auction prices are astronomical. If you’re fortunate enough to drive one, you can’t just wear any chronometer. You’ll need one of the world’s finest.

The Watch: Which timepiece do you pair with one of the most iconic, jaw-droppingly gorgeous and expensive sports cars of all time? A Patek Philippe perpetual calendar split seconds chronograph is a good place to start. For one thing, if you can afford to drive a 250 GTO, buying one of Patek’s signature grande complications shouldn’t require mortgaging your chateau. A true gentleman’s chronograph, the 5204 is powered by the company’s lauded in-house calibre, the drily named CHR 29-535 Q, with a crown-integrated pusher for the timing laps at Goodwood. Naturally, it is only available in the noblest of metals, platinum, and is hand-wound, which any man who enjoys rowing through gears with a gated Ferrari shifter will also appreciate.

Porsche 911 & Heuer Carrera

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The Car: This being the 50th Anniversary of the longstanding automotive icon, the 911 has time on its side. More than 820,000 911s have been built since its inception, and there’s no sign of it slowing down. Its basic lines have gone largely unchanged for half a century, and it boasts an unmatched racing heritage. The current version, the 991, is the most stunning and scintillating in years. Even in base garb, the 911 can throttle just about anyone else with the right combination of speed, performance and tractability. 350 horsepower from its horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine and a seven-speed manual transmission are a match made in car heaven — and the view of the wide and aggressive rear will have you salivating like a Mastiff before dinner. If a 911 is parked in your garage, no matter what generation it is, you’ll need a watch that has nearly as strong a racing heritage.

The Watch: OK, this one was easy. Both Carreras — the Porsche and the Heuer — were introduced in 1963, and both have survived, nay, thrived, well into their 50th year. Heuer (and its modern progeny, TAG Heuer) have become synonymous with automotive chronographs, thanks to the company’s enthusiastic support of motor sports; the Carrera is its standard bearer. In fact, Jack Heuer designed the Carrera with inspiration from the legible dashboard gauges of race cars. Though for the first few years of its long run the Carrera was hand-wound, in 1969 it became one of the world’s first automatic chronographs. Unlike its Porsche counterpart, it is one automatic Carrera we can wholeheartedly endorse.

Jaguar E-Type & A. Lange & Söhne Datograph

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The Car: Don’t think of Austin Powers’ Union Jack abomination of the E-Type. British Racing Green or a classic hue like cream or silver should coat some of the sexiest lines to ever grace a car. The Jag E-Type is automotive glamour at its finest — though in its day, it was an affordable sports coupe/convertible, with more than 70,000 versions sold to the public. The interminably long hood, the sweeping curve of the beltline and the beautiful wire wheels made it a sight to behold. Today, it stands apart in the pantheon of automotive exotica as refined, stunning and truly coveted. A timepiece on the wrist of an E-Type owner should echo the same traits. No chunky dive watches belong anywhere near this beauty. It requires something several notches up on the scale of sophistication.

The Watch: Enzo Ferrari himself once called the E-Type “the most beautiful car ever made”, and the same level of praise in horological circles has often been heaped on Lange’s groundbreaking chronograph, the Datograph. Introduced in 1999 by the recently revived German marque, the Datograph set the watch world on its ear. Conceiving and building a chronograph from scratch is no small feat, and Lange accomplished it — and also created an instant icon. The Glashütte brand is known for its hand-decorated details and refined finishing, and the perfectly proportioned platinum case and black dial of the Datograph pair well with the spoked wheels and long bonnet of the E-Type.

Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 & Richard Mille RM-036 G-Sensor

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The Car: Though it won’t win any prizes for its looks, the Veyron is an engineering marvel. Even the base model brags an astronomical 1,001 horsepower from its quad-turbo W16 engine, sending this earthbound rocketship to 60 MPH in well under three seconds and allowing it to top out at an eye-searing 253 MPH. And if you think the Veyron is all go and no show, you haven’t seen the cabin. Rich materials adorn the inside like a Gucci dinner jacket. The car begs for attention from all angles, so if you like to be low on the radar with a vintage exotic, you’ll pass this one right by. But if you do multi-million dollar business deals like a Great White Shark at a tuna farm, and you also enjoy altering the time-space continuum, this is the car for you. Your watch’s engineering and design should be just as subtle.

The Watch: The RM-036 and the Veyron seem to be cut from the same cloth, all exotic materials and polarizing designs that, even if you hate them, say, “go fast or go home.” Richard Mille has always built extreme sports watches designed for the rigors of a golf or tennis swing or the hard knocks of the polo pitch. But while the raisons d’êtres of those watches were to merely survive the punishment, the RM036 was built to measure it. In addition to a Mille-standard tourbillon movement, this racy number also sports a G-force meter at the top of the dial. When the needle pushes into the red zone, you’re no doubt in a world of hurt. Driving a Veyron while playing with the RM036 on your wrist gives a whole new meaning to distracted driving.

Land Rover Defender & Rolex Explorer

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The Car: Just like a classic timepiece that’s known for its strength and reliability, the Defender garners respect, admiration and a healthy amount of envy for its capabilities and longevity. The “modern” version of the Land Rovers 90 and 110, the Defender’s basic design has gone unchanged for decades. Even the new Defender LXV is a gussied up version of the original. One thing’s for sure: the less-than-potent 2.2-liter diesel or the 2.5-liter petrol engines didn’t hamper this automotive mountain goat. Its off-road prowess is the reason why military, emergency services and adventurers the world over have made it their vehicle of choice. If you see a Defender driver step out of the cabin wearing a Cartier tank watch, he’ll need some schooling on what its replacement should be.

The Watch: While most of our automotive watches are chronographs, built for measuring lap splits, the Defender is one vehicle in which speed could be measured with a sundial. But while speed isn’t its strong suit, durability is — and this is why the Rolex Explorer is the perfect watch to wear if you find yourself behind the wheel of a Defender in some inhospitable place. After all, the Explorer was given its fitting moniker after Sir Edmund wore one when he planted the Union Jack on the summit of Everest in 1953. Little has changed since its introduction; the Explorer is still a time-only watch driven by a tried-and-true Rolex chronometer movement that has seen untold abuse only matched by perhaps its automotive equivalent, the Defender.

Bentley Continental GT Speed & Breitling for Bentley B04 GMT

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Sexy Back

The Car: Bentley’s bread-and-butter (the finest bread and butter, mind you) Continental GT has been its most successful line in history, and for good reason. Beautiful lines, a cabin that would make a British royal’s den green with envy and the kind of power that makes grown men chomp at the bit are a recipe for one of the most capable luxo barges ever made. It’s not a car that’s meant to be babied, but driven hard, and the Speed version begs for it even more. 616 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque from its V12 engine, a huge expanse of fine cowhides, and wood trim that takes six weeks to hand craft means you’ll arrive on time and in style every time. You’ll need a chronometer that echoes the Bentley name with the same kind of attention to detail.

The Watch: OK, another obvious one. Though most car and watch co-brand exercises are short-lived logo swaps, Breitling has been making distinctive Bentley-specific watches for a decade, and the relationship seems to still be in its honeymoon phase. While we’re not sure we’d wear a Bentley-branded watch driving a Camry, if you’re rolling in a Continental GT Speed, you’ve got license to sport a knurled-bezel, openwork-dialed B’ling. The B04 is pure Breitling, conceived and built in their factories; it adds a second time zone function to the chronometer-certified chronograph. Tie-ins with Bentley include the dial which resembles a grille and the winding rotor inspired by a Bentley rim. Just keep the valet away from your watch.

Chevrolet Corvette & OMEGA Speedmaster Professional

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Cars, wow, this is amazing.

The Car: Would a red-blooded American astronaut drive anything but America’s most famous sports car? We think not. American pride should swell at the sight of just about any Corvette, and seven generations prove that it’s here to stay. Gaining in sophistication and power while remaining truly affordable for its capabilities, the Corvette is America’s greatest sports car and deserves a watch befitting of its lineage.

The Watch: Little-known fact: the quintessential astronaut’s watch was introduced by OMEGA in 1957 to capitalize on the growing interest in motorsports. After all, what good would a tachymeter scale be in a space capsule traveling at 17,000 miles per hour? While the Speedmaster was the official watch for NASA manned space flights, the Corvette was nearly the official car for the more terrestrial travels of the same flyboys. A Florida GM dealer offered special rates to astronauts on Corvettes, a perk many took advantage of in the 1950s and ‘60s. For the space geeks among us (you know who you are), there is nary a more authentic way to channel your inner Al Shepard than to hang your Speedmaster-bedecked wrist out the window of a ‘Vette.

Ford GT40 & Heuer Autavia

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The Car: In racing, no one infuriated Enzo Ferrari more than Ford with its incredible GT40. The super low (40-inch height, hence the name) racer was built specifically to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and it did just that — taking four consecutive wins from 1966 to 1969. The big displacement Ford V8s outmatched the Ferrari V12s, and history was made. The reincarnation, the modern Ford GT, echoes the same lines with even crazier performance, but the original still wins our hearts for its monumental accomplishment in automotive racing. It was singular in its purpose and singular at the top of the podium.

The Watch: The brutally minimalist GT40 deserves a bona fide driver’s watch. There are few that carry that mantle as well as the Autavia. Introduced in 1962 as a an “Auto + Aviation” chronograph, the Autavia was powered by Heuer’s groundbreaking self-winding Calibre 11 movement in 1969. The Autavia was the choice of famed race driver Jo Siffert, for whom the famous reference 1163T, with its white dial and blue central seconds hand, is named. May we also add that this reference would be a fine match to the classic blue and white GT40, not that we’re saying you have to match your watch to your car. Yes, we’ve got two Heuer chronographs in our list. But we don’t think we’ll get many complaints.

Aston Martin DB5 & Rolex Daytona (“Paul Newman”)

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The Car: Sure, Bond made it truly famous, but the Aston Martin DB5 is a stunner all by itself, not really needing Sean Connery (or Daniel Craig) to model on its behalf. With 282 horsepower and a top speed of 145 made it very quick for its time. Of course, we’re sure the driving dynamics, by modern standards, leave something to be desired — but who cares — you’re an instant bespoke hero as soon as you step into it. It makes women swoon and lesser men pine to be near it. To drive it is to be a better man, entirely, and a watch to match should echo a better man’s spirit — especially one that had racing fuel running through his veins.

The Watch: We know what you’re thinking: the Submariner would be a better choice for a DB5 given the James Bond connection. But Aston Martin was a classic name in racing and sports cars before it became synonymous with that famous British agent, so we would rather pair that most classic of Astons with a classic chronograph. And there may not be a more classic chronograph than the Rolex Daytona. Though powered by the same movement as numerous other chronographs of its day, 1960s Daytonas possessed a masculine vibe that is still unmatched. Maybe it was the chunky Oyster case and iconic bracelet, or maybe the minimalist, exotic dial. The connection with actor-cum-racer Paul Newman certainly didn’t hurt. In any case, if Q decided to issue a chronograph instead of a dive watch, the Daytona would have been the perfect choice.

Lamborghini Miura & Zenith El Primero A386

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The Car: If you know anything about supercars, you know that the Miura is the grandaddy of them all. The first real roadgoing supercar with a fat V12 buried in the mid-rear, the Miura ran up against Ferrucio Lamborghini’s plans but eventually won both him and the world over. Plus, it boasted the title of the fastest production car of its time. Design-wise, it goes toe-to-toe with the Jaguar E-Type as the most gorgeous car ever made. But regardless of who wins that beauty contest, the Miura will forever stand as a pioneering execution of power and beauty in automotive history.

The Watch: Colorful, exotic and groundbreaking. Those words could as easily describe the Zenith El Primero chronograph as they could the Miura. Just as the Lambo ushered in the era of the supercar, the Zenith was the first integrated full-rotor automatic chronograph when it was introduced in 1969, revolutionizing mechanical watchmaking. Its tricolor overlapping subdials were designed for readability while its 36,000vph beat rate allowed for razor’s edge timing precision. Unlike the Miura, however, the Zenith is slightly easier to service and infinitely more affordable.

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