F1 Weekend: Racing Against Time
Bell & Ross
When the French-owned watchmaker announced its partnership with the Renault Formula One team, the racing and watchmaking worlds were taken aback. After all, one usually associated Bell & Ross with aviation, not motoring. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see it’s a collaboration that makes sense. Both fields place strong emphasis on precision, innovation and mechanics, and it’s only apt that Bell & Ross enters the world of Formula One for the first time together with a team that disappeared from the sport for five years before making a grand return.
To celebrate the partnership, Bell & Ross released the robust and sophisticated BR-X1 range. Named after the Bell X-1, the first American experimental plane equipped with a rocket engine to break the sound barrier, the timepieces come in a variety of models. The Carbone Forgé edition is perhaps the most fascinating due to the patented forged carbon material on the case. Lightweight and extremely strong, it plays a key role in the aeronautical and space industries and is able to withstand extreme mechanical stress, exactly the sort of timepiece a Formula One driver would want to wear.
The Swiss watchmaker has had a long relationship with Formula One, one that stretches back more than three decades. TAG Heuer first joined the sport in the late 1970s, sponsoring the Williams team. Then, in 1982, the company played a major role in helping to finance Ron Dennis’ takeover of the McLaren team. Instead of just being a sticker on the side of the car, TAG financed the development of the famous 1.5-litre Porsche turbo engine that powered the McLaren vehicles to championship victories in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
Two years later, the late legend Ayrton Senna moved to the McLaren team and began a long relationship with TAG Heuer that resulted in the beautiful 6000 Senna Limited Edition. Ironically this particular timepiece was only developed after Senna had left McLaren. After Senna’s passing, TAG Heuer released multiple iterations of the Link Senna chronograph to commemorate the Brazilian driver and his iconic yellow helmet.
This year TAG Heuer joined forces with the Red Bull racing team in a partnership reminiscent of the one it had with McLaren in the 1980s. The watch firm funded the research and development of the new engines that drive the Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer cars in this year’s race, and it has borne fruit. The team has recorded multiple podium finishes and even won the Spanish Grand Prix in May. It’s also tussling with Ferrari for the runners-up spot in the Constructor championships. As all partnerships go, it has been a fruitful one for TAG Heuer and the Red Bull team.
Sponsoring a singular racing team would be the logical choice for most watch companies but Richard Mille has never been one to do things the ordinary way. This year the brand is sponsoring two Formula One teams – McLaren-Honda and the newly formed Haas Ferrari, which despite its name, is actually American in origin. What’s surprising is the length of the sponsorships. In a time of non-committal business relationships, it’s refreshing to see Richard Mille enter into a decade-long partnership with McLaren-Honda.
While Richard Mille hasn’t yet produced any timepieces in collaboration with these two racing teams, we suspect it’s only a matter of time before a watch commemorating the partnerships will be released. They do have a lot of time.
It’s been a relatively short partnership, all things considered. But it’s one that has been growing in strength over the past three years. Since 2013, IWC Schaffhausen has been the official engineering partner of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team.
Prior to its racetrack debut, IWC has been collaborating with the high-performance automobile brand Mercedes-AMG since 2004, creating a variety of timepieces to mark the car maker’s achievements. One example is the IWC Ingenieur Automatic Edition AMG GT, which was produced last year in a limited run of 25 pieces. The watch was the first in the world to feature a case machined from solid boron carbide ceramic, a material that is as hard as a diamond and yet, as light as aluminium. It’s currently the hardest ceramic available.
In 2014, IWC also released two special models of the Ingenieur Chronograph Edition. Aptly named Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, after the two drivers of the team and fierce rivals, the watches were created in collaboration with the sportsmen. The only thing in common between both timepieces were the materials used – titanium, carbon and zirconium oxide ceramic – to craft them and the calibre ticking inside them. Everything else was markedly different. It was as though Hamilton and Rosberg could not stand having something similar with each other.
With Mercedes AMG Petronas’ recent dominance in Formula One in the past two years, you can be sure IWC will look to continue this partnership. We’re just keeping our eyes peeled for more rival timepieces from the watchmaker.
If there’s one aspect of Formula One that everyone knows, it’s the Prancing Horse. Ferrari’s racing team, Scuderia Ferrari, has a long and storied heritage, and is the only team to have competed in every F1 world championship since its inception in 1950. It’s also the oldest surviving and most successful team, having won a record 16 Constructors’ Championships, proving its worth as a brand of stellar engineering repute.
It was only apt then that Hublot partnered with the team at the start of 2013, in a collaboration that Hublot’s chairman Jean-Claude Biver termed “rich in a host of synergies”.
The Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari timepiece and engineering marvel was the stunning result of the partnership. With a record 637 components, the most in any Hublot timepiece to date, the MP-05 LaFerrari resembles a Ferrari, with 11 series-coupled barrels at the centre of the watch that look a lot like the pistons of an engine. It’s not a coincidence; the timepiece was developed in tandem with its automobile namesake. And just like Scuderia Ferrari, Hublot sought to break records with the MP-05 LaFerrari. Perhaps the most stunning is the 50-day power reserve, which was a new world record in horology. It’s a record that will probably stand the test of time, much like Ferrari’s heritage.
While not as prestigious as other Formula One racing teams, Sauber has seen many young drivers make their mark in its colours before moving on to other teams. Drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica have piloted Sauber’s cars to victory. It’s fitting then that a Swiss watchmaker wanting to make its mark on the modern world has chosen to partner with Sauber. Edox, which means “measuring time” in Ancient Greek, recently put ink to paper on a long-term partnership with Sauber at the start of the year.
“With its Swiss roots, high-performance aspirations and a huge popularity rating, the Sauber Formula One team is the ideal partner for us. We will soon launch the first amazing timepiece that is carefully engineered for the fastest drivers on our planet,” said Alexandre Strambini, CEO of Edox, after the ink dried.
A bit hyperbolic? Perhaps, but Edox has a strong expertise in diving and sailing watches, which translates quite well to racing timepieces.
It’s impossible to talk about Formula One without mentioning Rolex, the official timekeeper and partner of the premier racing championship in the world since 2013. It replaced Hublot in a partnership that would run for more than five years, according to director of communication and image at Rolex, Arnaud Boetsch.
The Swiss brand has a long association with motorsport even before its collaboration with Formula One. It sponsored Sir Malcolm Campbell when he broke the world land speed record back in 1935 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Campbell averaged a whopping speed that was just a whisker below 500kph.
Rolex also sponsors former Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart and has been working together with him since 1968. Stewart still wears the Rolex Daytona that was given to him in Monaco in the 1960s.