Of the list of industries, interests, and other facets of life that have impacted the world of watchmaking, racing has been in the upper tier of influence for quite some time. It’s a logical relationship—where there’s racing, there’s a need for timing, and since the advent of the chronograph (and really, even before that) the watch world has always maintained varying degrees of connection with racing organizations, teams, privateers, and more. Much as there is a difference between the performance of an Aprilia V4 and a Royal Enfield single, there runs a full spectrum of motorsport watches in every price category. In this list, we’ll touch on a range of models from entry-level to luxe.
Chopard Grand Prix De Monaco Historiques
Few watch brands have maintained the level of honest and genuine engagement in motorsport as the family-owned house of Chopard. Karl-Freidrich Scheufele (the co-president of Chopard) was racing the Mille Miglia before bringing forth the idea of becoming a sponsor—a position the brand has maintained for three decades. Aside from this, the brand is also involved in the Grand Prix De Monaco Historiques, another vintage race that the brand has commemorated with this simple and casual 3-hand automatic.
Reservoir Longbridge Club
Though a much newer brand without the same level of interaction with motorsport, Reservoir’s automotive gauge inspired single hand watches are the kind of thing any real automotive enthusiast will love. There are a handful of different models, each of which can trace its design back to inspiration from a classic car or genre. In the case of the Longbridge, if you do a bit of digging you’ll see its dial is modelled after the speedometer of the old-school Austin Mini.
Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Limited Edition
Few names in the world of motorsports evoke more sense of reverence than that of race car driver and automotive legend Carroll Shelby. This watch is the result of a collaboration between Carroll Shelby International and Swiss watchmaker Baume and Mercier. It was one of only 1,963 limited edition pieces inspired by the infamous Shelby Cobra CSX2128, a 289-series roadster that won the 1963 12 Hours of Sebring. Taking cues from their 1948 mono-push chronograph, the modern Capeland Shelby Cobra combines retro accents and classic lines with chronograph and tachymeter functions to honor one of American racing’s great triumphs.
Omega Speedmaster Racing Automatic Chronograph
The Speedmaster line became famous as a tough and reliable manual-wind astronaut’s watch in the 1960s and “Moon Watch” versions are still produced to this day, including several Apollo program tribute models. That said, the watch was actually created to be a race timer well before NASA discovered it for spaceflight use. Today’s Speedmaster Racing versions carry forward that racing DNA, packaged with the brand’s self-winding co-axial chronograph movement with a more vintage-themed two-register date chronograph.
Tag Heuer Monaco – Steve McQueen Chronograph
While the square-faced Monaco became legendary after Steve McQueen checked the time on one in the opening sequence of the greatest racing movie of all time, Le Mans, he did in fact also wear one in real life. Off the set, McQueen raced motorcycles with a fair amount of skill and was downright talented and quick in another early ’70s racing legend, the Porsche 908, a car in which he nearly won the 12 Hours of Sebring! Just as McQueen himself will always remain iconic, Heuer’s iconic timepiece also broke the wristwatch mold, as the first water-resistant timepiece with a square case and the first automatic chronograph. The Monaco is pure vintage elegance, just like the race itself.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
Of course the famed Rolex Daytona has to be on this list. One of the most notorious and iconic motorsport watches in existence, and one that’s in high demand in both vintage and modern guise these days. The current model continues to fetch a significant premium over retail, and classic vintage references like the 6263 and 6241 are easily pulling six figures on the auction circuit. Now powered by an in-house automatic caliber (the 4130, to be precise), and fitted with a Cerachrom ceramic bezel, to many the Daytona is the “must have” of the brand’s collection, if you can survive (or talk your way past) the lengthy authorized dealer waitlists.