A racing watch is one of the most handsome and elaborate timepieces one can own. Racing watches are usually the flashiest with their bright colors and embellishments, but they’re actually far from being fashion accessories.
The very first driver’s watches came out in the 1960s, helping professional race car drivers to monitor their speed and lap times even while driving.
These days, you probably won’t be wearing a racing watch for practical purposes, but it would certainly interest a watch enthusiast to know the roots of watchmaking and automobile racing’s storied connection.
Rolex first served as the official timekeeper at Florida’s famed Daytona International Speedway in 1962. In their quest to meet the needs of professional racers, and to emphasize the brand’s affiliation with the prestigious race, the Daytona was born. While the Daytona was successful even upon its launch, its popularity soared when it became the watch choice of actor and race car driver Paul Newman, who famously wore it from the 1970’s until he passed away in 2008.
Today’s Daytonas come with a bezel with a tachymetric scale and a highly reliable chronograph, allowing drivers to measure average speeds up to 400 kilometres or miles per hour, depending on their needs.
The Omega Speedmaster is best known for surviving the grueling NASA tests and being the first watch worn on the moon, in 1969. However, its history actually goes back to 1957 – it was launched as a sports and racing chronograph, complementing the brand’s position as the Olympics’ official timekeeper. Its name is coined from its tachymeter scale bezel, and from the convention used to name other Omega models like the Seamaster.
The Speedmaster has gone through updates over the years, and has released limited edition versions, but it is still powered by virtually the same precise and reliable hand-wound movement that powered it on the moon.
Introduced in honor of the Monaco Grand Prix, the Monaco, launched in 1969, was clearly positioned as a sport chronograph for race car drivers. Because of its novel square waterproof case, imposing size, and a crown unusually positioned on the left (signifying that it did not need winding), the Monaco was a disruptive product from the start. It was given exceptional exposure when actor and race car enthusiast Steve McQueen wore it in “Le Mans”, a ’70s Hollywood racing film.
The current model is an aesthetic ode to the classic Monaco, with some bells and whistles added – such as scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and water resistance of up to 100 meters.
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