When watchmaking and racing meet

The concept of the wristwatch goes back to the production of the very earliest watches in the 16th century. Now a common wearable, wristwatches weren’t as popular back in the day, when timepieces were widely worn in pockets. Wristwatches were first worn by military men towards the end of the 19th century, when the importance of synchronizing maneuvers during war was recognized. The popularity of the wristwatch increased in the 20th century, when it also became a professional instrument used in various fields, including motorsport.

The worlds of watchmaking and automobile racing have shared a strong connection for decades. The world’s most important brands have supplied chronographs and sponsored major events since the 1960s. TAG Heuer is arguably the most recognizable name when it comes to motorsport, but not the only one. The relationship between watchmakers and motorsport also spawned fashion items and collectibles, with racing and high-performance cars often serving as a direct inspiration for watches. Classic models like the Rolex Daytona and TAG Heuer Carrera both turned 50 in 2013, an achievement that speaks volumes of the importance of watchmaking for motorsport.

Because we here at top speed love a good watch or chronograph inspired by important racing events and race cars alike, we decided to take a look at 10 currently available watches that pay tribute to the world of racing.

Keep reading for the full story.

Moto Koure MK I

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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Made by Moto Koure, a new Australian microbrand, the MK I is the most affordable watch in this list. It is inspired by 1960s and 1970s sports car racing, but Moto Koure also quotes the Jaguar MK series as a creative influence. The center section mimics the dashboard of a 1960s automobile with two old-school gauges and a background with either a genuine aluminum diamond plate or leather piece, as seen in vintage race cars.

Unlike other watches on our list, the MK I is available in eight different color combinations with matching straps and mecha-quartz or automatic movement. Its stainless-steel 40 x 44mm case comes with a sapphire crystal lens with anti-reflective coating, and a European perforated leather strap. It’s water resistant and features stainless steel push buttons. Even though its design is rather simple compared to modern watches, it’s classy and looks the part for the price. Speaking of which, the mecha-quartz version retails for AUD$454 (about $351), while the automatic variant retails for AUD$1,165 (around $900).

Autodromo Group B Evoluzione

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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When it comes to affordable watches, Autodromo is another brand to consider. Its current collection includes the Group B, an automatic watch inspired by the 1980s Group B rally era. The design is straight-forward and simple and comes with a titanium and stainless steel case, Miyota 9015 automatic 24 jewel hacking mechanical movement, and nylon straps. It is available in four colors, but Autodromo also offers a Group B Evoluzione for 2016. Limited to only 200 examples, the same number required to homologate a Group B car, it is lighter than the standard Group B and features blue dials and a bespoke strap in dark-blue, light-blue, and red. Pricing is set at $1,100, which also includes a handmade aluminum collectors box.

EDOX Chronorally

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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The official timekeeper of the Dakar Rally, EDOX has a large collection of sporting instruments on offer, including the Dakar-themed Chronorally. If you’re a fan of the world’s toughest motorsport event, than this watch should be on your Christmas letter to Santa this year. Not only does it feature a 48mm titanium case, a carbon-fiber dial, an aluminum push-button, and a tire-imprint rubber strap, all of which will remind you of a modern Dakar racer, but it’s also affordable at $1,875.

Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra 1963 Limited Edition

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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If you have a bit more money to spend and you’re a big fan of American racing history, than Baume & Mercier, one of the many Swiss luxury watchmaking companies, will be more than happy to supply you with its very own tribute to the iconic Shelby Cobra. Developed in cooperation with Carroll Shelby Inc. and launched in early 2016, the Capeland Shelby Cobra 1963 Limited Edition pays homage to Carroll’s early Cobra and its success at the race track. Two versions are offered. One has a stainless steel case with satin-brushed and polished finishing, a black alligator strap with white contrast stitching and yellow, rubberized calfskin lining. The other one is the Competition edition and features black ADLC coating on the steel case and a strap made of black, vulcanized rubber, the same material used in the wheels of the Cobra race car. They’re not exactly cheap at $4,450 a pop, but they’re definitely more affordable than an original 1963 Cobra.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 36 Chronograph Flyback

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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TAG Heuer needs no further introduction, but it’s worth mentioning that its watches were highly popular among racing drivers from the 1950s and 1970s. The brand was also the official timekeeper for several motorsport events in the last 50 years, so it’s not surprising that many of its current products are related to the racing scene. When the 911 Carrera celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, the German carmaker teamed up with TAG Heuer for the ultimate Porsche 911 watch. The result was the Carrera Calibre 36 Chronograph Flyback, a work of art among mid-range chronographs.

Inspired by vintage TAG Heuer stopwatches, it displays the seconds on a large scale along the outer rim of the dial, making it the perfect watch for a weekend at the track. It comes in a 43mm case made from titanium and finished by sandblasting before being treated with a black titanium carbide coating. The anthracite dial is decorated with a sun ray effect, while the chronograph minutes and seconds subdials have polished facets. The caseback is smoked sapphire, while the black perforated leather strap is inspired by the hide used in vintage race cars. This one is priced at $8,900.

BRM BT-12 46 Gulf

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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Fans of Formula One might recognize BRM as the acronym for British Racing Motors, an F1 squad that raced between 1950 and 1977 and won the championship in 1962, but BRM is also a watch and chronograph manufacturer. And, by no means a regular one, as BRM currently offers some of the most exquisite bespoke chronographs out there with virtually infinite customization options. Remember the DS E-Tense Concept from the 2016 Geneva Motor Show and the fancy watch attached to its center console? Guess what, it was made by BRM Chronographes. Moving on to the BT-12 46 Gulf presented here, it arguably one of the coolest watches you can buy if you’re into vintage racing. Inspired by the Gulf Oil-sponsored teams of the 1970s and the iconic Porsche 917 driven by Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans, it features custom ETA Valjoux movement and the familiar orange-and-blue Gulf logo and colors. The same colors were also added on the strap which, according to BRM, is made of actual seat belt material from a race car. How cool is that? Cool enough to send you back $9,550.

Rolex Daytona

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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Rolex is yet another manufacturer that needs no introduction. The same goes for its Cosmograph Daytona collection, which was introduced in 1963 and designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers. Come 2016 and the collection has been updated to modern standards with a 40mm case in 904L steel with a black Cerachrom bezel. The bezel is reminiscent of a 1960s model, but now it’s corrosion-resistant, scratchproof, and impervious to UV rays. There are more finishes you can choose from, it’s reliable, and it even allows drivers to measure average speeds up to 400 km/h or mph. Sounds like Bugatti could use one for the Chiron’s upcoming world speed record attempt. This one moves us into ten grand territory with a starting price of $12,400.

Blancpain L-Evolution Super Trofeo

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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Much like Rolex and TAG Heuer, Blancpain also backs several motorsport series, the most notable of which are the Endurance, Sprint, and ADAC GT Masters. The Swiss manufacturer also sponsors the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, an international series for Lambo Cup cars based on the Huracan. The L-Evolution Super Trofeo watch is dedicated to this championship and it’s among the most expensive from our list. The reason for that is that it incorporates materials found in Lamborghini cars, including carbon-fiber in the case and dial and Alcantara in the leather strap. The red accents and the sharp design of the case and hands also mirror Lambo’s current design language. It’s as expensive as a new Ford Fiesta at $14,500, but it has more carbon-fiber than the small hatchback.

Graham Silverstone RS Endurance 24HR

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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The market is packed with chronographs inspired by Europe’s iconic race track, but none is as cool as Graham’s Silverstone RS Endurance 24HR. What makes this watch special you ask? Well, on top of using a lot of motorsport-inspired elements, including a seconds counter shaped like a car’s disc brake and tire-patterned rubber for the strap, it also boasts a monopusher movement with a double chronograph function for measuring 24-hour race and lap times. I’m no watch guru, but I know for a fact that not many of them come with a 24-hour counter. The function can be activated with a red pusher at four o’clock and followed on the lower dial marked for 24 hours. Sure, it’s not like professional drivers will use a watch like this at Le Mans with so much technology in their cars, but it’s a cool feature to have. If you can spare $14,580 that is!

Chopard Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition - $15,870

Top 10 Coolest Motorsport-Inspired Watches
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The most expensive watch from this list comes from Chopard, another manufacturer based in Switzerland. The Superfast Chrono is also a tribute to Porsche, but unlike TAG Heuer’s Carrera, which celebrates the 911, this one was created in honor of the 919 Hybrid’s impressive win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015. Powered by Calibre 03.05-M flyback chronograph movement, it comes with a 45mm steel case crowned with an 18-karat rose-gold bezel. It’s stamped with the 919 logo at nine o’clock and the "Porsche Motorsport Official Timing Partner" logo on the back. The black, white and silver colors it is available in match the three cars raced in 2015. Naturally, all models sport red accents as seen on the 919 Hybrid. Other highlights include scratchproof glass, slick tire profile rubber strap, and a 60-hour power reserve. The standard edition is limited to 919 examples, but Chopard also issued a special 17-unit run in honor of Porsche’s 17 overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Pricing starts from $15,870.

Now that we reached the end of our list, tell us which of the chronographs above is your favorite. Also, let us know which motorsport-inspired watch should’ve made the list.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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