“There’s no better pairing than cars and watches!” It’s something you’ll hear from enthusiasts and brands all the time, and while the concept of a pairing can often be pushed unnecessarily far — look at the plethora car-branded watches on the market and on people’s wrists, and you’ll see what I mean — there is an undeniable, if somewhat ineffable, connection between the two. Much of it is nostalgia. We love the so-called “glory days” of racing during the ’50s, the ’60s and the ’70s, and given that during this time wristwatches actually played an important role in timekeeping at these races, the association is an easy one to make.
But I think it goes beyond that. Both watches and cars fall into the category of “functional art.” More than mere conveyance, we love cars because they are intricate, engineered, mechanical sculptures designed and crafted from metal with a real, functional purpose. Watches, more than a time-telling apparatus, are very much the same, just on a smaller scale. And if you’re the type to personify products, cars and watches take on certain personalities. Sometimes those personalities between cars and watches coalesce — some are brash, some refined, others intelligent.
And so, with the industry’s propensity to revive its older models, what we have here are three very different vintage-inspired chronograph watches, lifted straight out the glory years of motorsports that just so happen to fit perfectly with three very different race cars from that era.
Tudor Heritage Chrono
The watch: Tudor’s Heritage Chrono is one of the older watches in its lineup (it debuted in 2013), but it’s still an absolute standout for being a such a glorious reinterpretation of its classic but short-lived “Monte-Carlo” chronograph from the early 1970s. Interestingly, the watch was purportedly popular with Porsche racers from the era. The new iteration of the watch is relatively big at 42mm in diameter and 13mm thick, much in part due to the use of an ETA movement with a Dubois Depraz chronograph module; that’s not a very common configuration these days. But really, it’s the dial design that makes the Tudor stand out most among its peers. Those black trapezoids surrounding the subdial and those orange accents are bold, undiluted throwbacks to 1970s watch design, an era whose revival hasn’t really caught on until the last year or so.
The car: Yes, the Shelby Cobra predates the original Monte Carlo by several years. And yes, the Monte Carlo is more associated with Porsche. But there’s a certain, slightly American brashness to the Tudor that feels matched by the 427-cubic-inch V8 stuffed in the otherwise light, British body. Or maybe it’s the coordinating black-on-gray color schemes.
TAG Heuer Autavia
The watch: Few chronographs are more emblematic of ’60s- and ’70s-era motorsport than the Autavia; its popularity with legendary racers like Jo Siffert and Jochen Rindt is a testament to that. The reference made famous by the latter during the late ’60s is the inspiration for TAG Huer’s 2017 reissue, a fairly clean and understated execution of a watch that became more avant-garde as it was revised going into the ’70s. The black and white “reverse-panda” dial is classic, as are the rotating black bezel and round case shape. That’s classic ’60s, but underneath is something new: the Heuer 02, a brand-new in-house automatic chronograph movement from TAG Heuer.
The car: Again, the Porsche 550 dates the Rindt-style Autavia by over a decade, but the same ethos of elegance and simplicity applies here, too. The 550’s coachwork is free of any superfluous design flourishes, and the small air-cooled engine inside certainly gets the job done.
Omega Speedmaster Racing Master Chronometer
The watch: The Speedmaster may be known as the “Moonwatch,” but it was aimed squarely at car enthusiasts and racers when it debuted in 1957. The most notable feature on the new Speedmaster Racing Master Chronometer is the alternating minute track and orange accents on the dial — they’re pulled from the Speedmaster Mark II of the late ’60s. But the rest of the watch is wholly modern. It uses Omega’s automatic, co-axial chronograph movement with Omega and METAS’s “Master Chronometer” certification. It’s a technical achievement not dissimilar to the original Speedmaster’s durability and accuracy that brought it to space decades ago.
The car: The Ford GT40’s revenge-fueled origin story is classic car enthusiast lore. With the Help of Carrol Shelby, Henry Ford Jr. quickly developed one of the most advanced and successful race cars of the ’60s in spite of Ferreri, which dominated the circuit at the time. The Speedmaster’s origin is scrappy, too, though not exactly revenge-fueled. Still, the “most advanced” accolade rings true for both car and watch.