Gearheads have an almost irrational attraction to fine timepieces; there's something about wearing a minuscule mechanical movement that captures the imaginations (and wallets) of countless car fiends.
Perhaps it's the wonderment of miniaturization, or the way a ticking watch serves as a perfect sub-scale metaphor for a pulsing engine and whirring gearbox. Whatever the reason, the car-watch connection is as old as the automobile itself, a bond that has long inspired high-end watchmakers to craft lavish homages to the four-wheeled world.
While a functional mechanical watch can be had for under $200 (see virtually any modern Seiko), the pantheon of ultra-high-end wristwatches explores extreme engineering, unrestrained styling, and unparalleled exclusivity that can cost as much as a Paris pied-à-terre.
That said, these 10 automotive-themed watches are among the crème de la crème of wrist candy that feature just as much inventive thinking and brain-bending design as you'll find in a seven-figure hypercar.
Richard Mille RM056 ($1,700,000–$2,000,000)
Richard Mille has been pushing the limits of watch design since it launched in 2005, and the Frenchman's title sponsorship of The Le Mans Classic reflects a small part of his mania for the automobile. By insisting that sponsored athletes like Rafael Nadal and Felipe Massa wear his watches while competing, Mille has ensured that his hardware can function effectively while withstanding considerable g-forces. Commemorating Mille's 10-year partnership with Massa, the RM056 boasts a case machined from a solid block of sapphire crystal that requires over 1000 hours of labor. Inside are more than 500 components that comprise the tourbillon movement, which includes a power reserve and torque display.
Breitling Bentley 6.75 Midnight Carbon ($10,990)
Like Mercedes-Benz's "6.3" and the Corvette's "427," the 6.75 figure holds special significance for Bentley aficionados. Playing up that familiar engine-displacement number is this blacked-out Breitling, a darkly delightful departure from the watchmaker's more familiar bright polished finishes. References to its automotive counterpart abound, including the knurled bezel that hat tips Bentley's signature radiator grilles and a caseback that recalls the carmaker's familiar five-spoke wheel design. Production is limited to 1000 units.
Audemars Piguet Laptimer ($229,500)
Years before his tragic ski accident in 2013, F1 legend Michael Schumacher challenged Audemars Piguet to build a mechanical watch that could time and compare multiple laps. The technical challenge of incorporating two independently controlled central hands required five years of development, yielding this first-ever movement that measures sequential lap times down to an eighth of a second. Audemars Piguet's Laptimer went to market with the blessing of Schumacher's family, with production limited to 221 pieces, a nod to the number of races in which Schumacher scored points.
Hublot Ferrari Big Bang Speciale ($29,800)
If you're thinking this sub-$30,000 watch is eerily affordable, it's probably because all 50 of Hublot's limited-edition, $300,000- MP-05 LaFerrari watches are sold out. The hoi polloi purchasing this $30K Speciale can opt for a black body or one in a grey tint that pays tribute to the livery run by the NART racing team. Both versions of this chunkily designed watch are limited to 250 pieces, and incorporate a five-spoke Ferrari-like wheel beneath the sapphire caseback.
MB&F HMX ($30,000)
MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser started life as an automotive-obsessed tot who dreamed of someday designing supercars. The HMX marks the tenth year of his watch-building collective, and extends a lower price point to a theme that has previously included jets, anime spacecraft, and 1970s-era sports cars. The auto-themed visual cues here are many, including functional oil filler-equipped rocker covers visible through the case top (which echoes an engine window), and a silhouette inspired by bespoke Italian coachbuilding house Carrozzeria Touring. Even the available colors—British Racing Green, Lotus Black, Ferrari Red, and Bugatti Blue—pay homage to Büsser's favored marques.
BRM V8-44-GU Gulf ($9550)
We can't deny the knee-jerk appeal of Gulf livery, which this shamelessly decked out watch wears with pride. But we're also happy to call a spade a spade and recognize this BRM's basic design, which evokes the elemental appeal of an early Porsche 911. Housing a modified ETA Valjoux 7753 calibre movement, this black PVD'd titanium timepiece isn't the most exotic choice among this selection of sky's-the-limit watches. But the "weight-saving" holes in the hands and its chunky pushbuttons remind us of everything we love about race cars, not to mention that familiar blue-and-orange color scheme.
Ralph Lauren Automotive Skeleton ($50,000)
Ralph Lauren's priceless 1938 Bugatti Atlantic Type 57C Atlantic Coupe is a heartbreakingly beautiful teardrop of a car, about as noble an inspiration as we could imagine for a watch. Nodding to the fashion maven's black beauty is the Automotive Skeleton, which features an F.A. Jones movement by IWC and an Amboyna burl wood "steering wheel." Look closely and you'll see the diamond-like coating that produces a subtle matte finish and a smoked sapphire caseback.
IWC Ingenieur Automatic AMG GT edition ($26,400)
Innovative watches invariably rely on incorporating high-tech materials, and IWC's latest car-themed timepiece draws on that theme by featuring the world's first case made of pure boron carbide. The ceramic is one of the hardest and most scratch-resistant materials on earth, and this Ingenieur also uses AMG's signature shade of Yellow Solarbeam in the band's lock-stitch seams and the same Dinamica microfiber inlay you'll find on a Benz's steering wheel, seats, and headliner.
Blancpain L Evolution R Chronograph ($55,700)
Watchmakers interested in tying into the automotive world usually team up with a carmaker. Those who want to prove they're super serious about their automotive ties go next level by sponsoring a race series like the Blancpain GT, which sees action from the likes of Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche. Blancpain's title sponsorship of Lamborghini's Super Trofeo series drives the point home, making the carbon fiber on this flyback chronograph seem perfectly apropos.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ($37,450)
It may be a staple on the wrists of one-percenters (after all, it's been around since 1963), but the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona also happens to be one of the most iconic fixtures among racing royalty. Named after the Daytona International Speedway, this Rolex is synonymous with the 24-hour endurance race because it's handed over to the victors of that famously grueling competition. Not only do rare Paul Newman editions command almost triple the market value of standard Daytonas, these chronographs are routinely worn by racing greats such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Brian Redman, and Hurley Haywood.