Two of the greatest inventions of the 20th century grew up together, with the early years of the mass-produced car coinciding with the introduction of the affordable, wearable clock. And as motorsport developed in the years before World War II, so did the mechanical chronograph, which integrates a stopwatch function into its face and features a small scale printed in the dial, called a tachymeter, to calculate speed over a fixed distance. By the late 1950s, these chronos were being worn by racers all over the world. And while it now seems that every watchmaker claims some racing heritage, these chronographs—two new, three vintage—boast authentic ties to the track.
1.] HEUER CARRERA AUTOMATIC (CIRCA 1974) Jack Heuer is the most influential name in modern race timing, having struck a deal with Enzo Ferrari to supply watches and clocks to the Italian legend's engineers and drivers. You may remember McQueen's Heuer Monaco from the film Le Mans, but Heuer gave this watch, a Carrera Automatic in solid gold and engraved with his blood type, to every Ferrari team driver. (Vintage, about $7500 for reference 1158)
2.] TUDOR HERITAGE BLUE CHRONOGRAPH This handsome tribute piece recalls the original Tudor Monte Carlo chronographs popular with Porsche GT drivers but with a larger 42-mm case, a sapphire crystal, and the reliability you'd expect from a modern watch. The newly relaunched Tudor brand immediately reestablished its motorsport bona fides as the title sponsor of the new United SportsCar Championship launching in 2014. ($4250, )
3.] OFFICINE AUTODROMO PROTOTIPO VIC ELFORD Autodromo's aesthetic usually recalls Italian race cars of the Sixties and Seventies. But for the Prototipo Vic Elford, a limited edition version of the brand's new (and first-ever) chronograph, founder Bradley Price was inspired by the Porsche 907 that Elford used to win the 1968 24 Hours of Daytona. The watch even comes with a commemorative book signed by Elford himself. ($775, )
4.] ROLEX COSMOGRAPH DAYTONA BIG RED (CIRCA 1973) Wondering what to wear that says couture and car culture? Check out some great glasses and gloves from Autodromo, a company better known for its watches. While the Omega Speedmaster may have defined the racing watch, Rolex's Cosmograph Daytona established its legacy. The most common variation is called "Big Red" and features some of the first screw-down pushers ever seen on a chrono. And while another Daytona dial configuration bears the Paul Newman moniker, the actor/racer was known to sport a Big Red on the track. (Vintage, about $35,000 for reference 6263)
5.] OMEGA SPEEDMASTER (CIRCA 1957) Apollo 11 astronauts might have worn Omega Speedmasters to the moon, but this classic timepiece was devised with motorsport in mind. The name is a nod to driving, and the Speedy was the first wrist chrono to feature its tachymeter scale on the bezel instead of the dial for increased legibility. The original Speedmaster is the pinnacle of racing watches. (Vintage, about $65,000 for reference 2915-1)
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