Au­to­mo­bile + Watch Guide

Trac­ing the in­ter­sec­tion of cars and watches

Automobile - - Contents - By Jon Alain Guzik & Con­ner Golden

In re­cent years, au­tomak­ers and watch­mak­ers have got­ten to­gether to cre­ate time­pieces in their cars and watches to pair with them. We ex­am­ine what makes these col­labs tick.

RROCKS SLIDE ALL around as I look out of the Range Rover Ve­lar’s win­dow. The pro­fes­sional driver in the pas­sen­ger seat is an ex-Camel Tro­phy ter­rain­chal­leng­ing com­peti­tor; he tells me to move the wheel a lit­tle to the left, then a lit­tle to the right, and then to give it a shimmy as we plow through rutty roads high on San Gor­gonio Moun­tain.

On my wrist is the new­est col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween watch­maker Zenith and Land Rover, the $8,700 Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Ve­lar. With its black ceramic-coated alu­minum case and brushed gray dial off­set­ting cop­per-col­ored hands, it’s a hand­some piece. This watch is all the more spe­cial be­cause it’s pow­ered by a clas­sic move­ment, the El Primero, which in the watch world is akin to a clas­sic Porsche flat-six and is one of three move­ments that changed the mod­ern watch in­dus­try.

Later that evening, chat­ting about cars and watches, Land Rover’s nat­tily dressed chief de­sign of­fi­cer, Gerry

McGovern, who sported a gold Aude­mars Piguet Royal Oak on his wrist, re­marked: “Peo­ple don’t re­ally need these things—cars and watches—but they de­sire them.”

That de­sire and con­nec­tion be­tween watches and mo­tor­ing be­gan in 1919 with Vacheron Con­stantin. Vacheron was one of the first man­u­fac­tur­ers to the flip the move­ment and crown 45 de­grees so driv­ers could bet­ter read the time while keep­ing their hands on the wheel. In 1919 the dial was aligned to the left, and then in 1921 it flipped to the right. Al­though these driver’s watches couldn’t time laps like a chrono­graph, they sure looked good be­hind the wheel of a Bu­gatti Type 30. They still do; Vacheron Con­stantin has sent out a slew of reis­sued His­toriques Amer­i­can 1921 over the past few years, which daz­zled even the most jaded col­lec­tors.

Not un­til the 1950s, though, and the launch of the hand­wound Valjoux 72 chrono­graph move­ment, did the idea of watches and cars be­gin to bur­row deep into the minds of watch and car col­lec­tors. That move­ment pow­ered, among other things, early Rolex Day­tona, Heuer Car­rera, and Univer­sal Gen­eve Com­pax mod­els, clas­sic and much sought af­ter au­to­mo­tivethemed watches from the golden age of hand-wound chrono­graphs. Later—but be­fore the quartz-watch rev­o­lu­tion of the 1980s put the clas­sic Swiss watch­mak­ing in­dus­try un­der threat—the 1970s saw the re­lease of the work­horse Valjoux 7750 and ETA 2824 move­ments, many of which power the grail watches now on col­lec­tors’ wrists. Al­though many high­end watches have shifted to­ward in-housede­vel­oped move­ments, the vast ma­jor­ity of to­day’s watch in­ter­nals are still based on the de­sign of these two move­ments. The sit­u­a­tion isn’t much dif­fer­ent than Pa­gani or As­ton Martin us­ing en­gines sourced from AMG, as these move­ments, like the en­gines, fea­ture their own cus­tom parts and tun­ing.

Al­though these ob­jects’ me­chan­i­cal souls have much in com­mon, anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests a car per­son is of­ten a watch per­son, yet watch peo­ple are rarely into cars—and not for lack of try­ing on the part of watch brands.

“Like a lot of car deal­ers, my first big watch pur­chase in the mid-1980s was a Rolex Pres­i­den­tial, in yel­low gold, of course,” says Ed Tonkin, an af­fa­ble Port­land, Ore­gon-based watch col­lec­tor. “It’s a won­der­ful watch but very cliché, as ev­ery car dealer has one strapped to his wrist.” From there, Tonkin amassed an in­sane col­lec­tion of more than 400 rare watches from Greubel Forsey, Aude­mars Piguet, and the first “su­per watch,” a Ulysse Nardin Freak #1.

Tonkin’s fam­ily owns the old­est Fer­rari dealership in the U.S. and also col­lects cars,

PALM SPRINGS, Cal­i­for­nia —

The Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Ve­lar fea­tures the clas­sic au­to­matic El Primero 400B move­ment housed in a 42mm case made from black ceramic-coated alu­minum.

Left: Land Rover de­sign boss Gerry McGovern sees sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the Aude­mars Piguet Royal Oak and the cars he helps his com­pany cre­ate. Right: Car dealer and watch con­nois­seur Ed Tonkin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.