Love of motoring and a love of watches often go hand-in-hand. Automatic watches and cars both share a mechanical heart, as well as an obsession with timing, endurance and performance.
Racing watches take this common heritage a step further, often featuring racing-coloured dials, perforated straps for increased breathability, and chronographs with a tachymeter scale to allow drivers to measure their speed and distance travelled. Here are our top 5 picks of automotive-inspired watches for the car lover.
Oris Chronoris Date
Released in 1970, the original Chronoris was Oris' first racing-themed timepiece. A svelte 39mm cushion-shaped case, grey dial and matching grey textile strap give this watch a unique yet versatile look.
Orange accents and speedometer-inspired second hand provide strong legibility, while the inner bezel can be rotated by a second crown at 4 o’clock to provide timing functions.
With a price tag of approximately $2,220 this is a fine mechanical timepiece that won’t break the bank, and offers some real automotive cred thanks to Oris’ longstanding partnership with the Williams Formula 1 team.
Christopher Ward C1 Morgan Aero 8 Chronometer
London-based watchmaker Christopher Ward has recently partnered with the Morgan Motor Company to release a slew of new watches celebrating British car racing. The C1 Morgan Aero 8 Chronometer makes a stylish statement with its black-and-white palette, looking equally at home paired with a suit and tie as it does behind the wheel of a vintage car.
The 40.5mm dial will suit the majority of wrist sizes. The red-accented small seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock and the power reserve dial at 9 o’clock evoke the look of a car’s dashboard instruments without being too loud or attention-seeking.
Boasting COSC chronometer certification for guaranteed accuracy within +6/-4 seconds per day and priced at approximately $3,950, this Christopher Ward offers a lot of watch for the money.
Nomos Autobahn Neomatik 41 Date Sports Grey
Named after the famous German highway system, the Nomos Autobahn is the first racing-themed sports watch from this designer brand.
The 41mm by 10.5mm case makes this one of the largest watches from Nomos, providing an option for those who admire the brand’s Bauhaus styling but want something bigger and sportier than is their norm.
The most distinctive feature of the Nomos Autobahn is the large arc of luminous material from 8 to 4 o’clock on the dial, reminiscent of a speedometer at night. An oblong window at 6 o’clock shows three dates concurrently, in what Nomos terms a “three-lane” date display in a nod to a car’s odometer.
The concave small seconds sub-dial also feels very much like a dashboard instrument display, reinforcing the automotive theme. Priced at $6,760, this isn’t your typical Nomos, but should appeal to those with bigger wrists and a love for motor sports.
TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf 50th Anniversary
Few timepieces are as immediately recognizable as the TAG Heuer Monaco. It remains one of the most successful square watches of all time and is strongly associated with car racing thanks to the patronage of Steve McQueen.
To celebrate the Gulf Racing team’s 50th anniversary since their first victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans, the brand released this limited edition Monaco in Gulf’s iconic orange and blue racing colours.
The TAG Heuer Monaco is a two-register chronograph with a 39mm case, which wears much larger than those dimensions would suggest thanks to its square shape.
This watch makes no apologies for its automotive inspiration; the bold colour scheme, chronograph functions, Gulf branding and contrasting orange stitching on the strap announces exactly what this watch is all about at a glance.
With a sticker price of $8,350 the Monaco is far from the most affordable offering from TAG Heuer, but it is among the brand’s most renowned and celebrated timepieces.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
Rolex and the Daytona International Speedway have a long history of collaboration; Rolex has been Daytona's official timekeeper since 1962. Popularised by American race car driver and actor Paul Newman, who wore a Rolex Daytona for most of his career, this timepiece is among the most prestigious automotive inspired watches in the world.
In 2016 a hugely popular new version of this watch debuted in the form of reference 116500LN, an all-steel Daytona with either a white or a black dial and a scratchproof ceramic bezel.
Two years on, the new reference 116500LN Daytona’s are still rarer than hen’s teeth. With a 40mm case and Rolex’s signature Oyster bracelet, this is a watch that will wear comfortably on almost any wrist size. It boasts Superlative Chronometer certification for accuracy guaranteed to within +2/-2 seconds per day, as well as a generous 72 hour power reserve.
Like all modern Rolexes the case is also waterproof to 100 metres, making this watch as capable for water sports as it is for motor sports.
The hefty price tag of $15,700 seems extreme at first for a steel sports watch, but given the extreme demand-induced rarity of this model and the collectability of steel Rolexes in general, owners’ fortunate enough to secure one will be assured of a favourable resale price for many years to come.