Comparisons between the mechanisms that run watches, and the engines that power cars are frequent and entirely justified. From a technological perspective, both involve engineering, design and manufacturing principals that are both traditional and innovative. Car makers constantly seek to make their engines faster, lighter and more reliable. In much the same way, watchmakers constantly experiment with materials and movements.
These similarities extend to the branding and marketing of these products as well. “There are so many brand similarities. There are so many elements of how these products are made, bought and experienced that make good watches and good cars so similar,” said Jean-Marc Jacot, chief executive of Parmigiani-Fleurier.
One of Parmigiani’s highlights at the SIHH this year was the Bugatti Super Sport watch unveiled in late 2010. In an industry still somewhat chaffing from the economic slump, the Super Sport was one of the bolder racing-themed co-branded watches to be presented at Geneva. The watch, modelled around Bugatti’s iconic Veyron 16.4 Super Sport car, incorporates haute horology with an inspired design, and is available in a limited edition of 30 pieces.
Over the years, the watch industry has seen several brands work with prominent auto marquees to produce co-branded collections. Audemars Piguet and Maserati, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin, Breitling for Bentley, and Tag Heuer for Mercedes are just some of the collaborations that have produced interesting timepieces.
Among the many watch exhibitions that were held in Geneva in January, outside the main SIHH venue, was a comprehensive Tag Heuer pavilion that housed a variety of Formula racing cars and paraphernalia. The highlight at the pavilion was Tag’s new Carrera Mikrograph piece with a chronograph accurate to 1/100th of a second.
However, given the industry’s move towards smaller and slimmer watches, 2011 was not a year with many new collaborative products. While brands at the SIHH continue to flaunt their present and historical associations with racing teams and car brands, few committed to these associations with specific models or line extensions.
But the indications from BaselWorld, held in March, were much more positive for this segment. Brands such as Chopard, Blancpain and Breitling—all had pieces with strong automotive themes and connections. As the economic tides turn and brands go back to investing in designs and experiments, the future for many of these partnerships seem bright.
Over the past half-a-decade or so, motor racing has grown in popularity in Asia. Seven out of 19 races in the 2011 F1 calendar will take place in Asia. Important new circuits include Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Singapore, Yeongam and New Delhi.
With many of these races located in important growing markets for the high-end watch industry, brands are bound to leverage on brand partnerships and racing-themed product lines. For connoisseurs of both cars and watches, and they are not few, things are looking bright.
This year’s highlight in this segment, however, is the Parmigiani Super Sport. Parmigiani calls it the “fastest watch in the world”, because it was worn by driver Pierre-Henri Raphanel when he broke the world record for the fastest production car in a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport in 2010. Raphanel hit a top speed of a little over 431 kmph.
In order to achieve its unique sports chassis contours, the watch has a time-setting system that is set at right angles to the dial. The dial itself is set perpendicular to the wrist and viewed through a side-window. The movement inside is a manually wound Parmigiani 372 calibre with 10 days power reserve. The dial is open-worked and made of carbon fibre, and is housed inside a case comprising six anti-reflective Sapphire crystals.
And despite the watch’s unique layout, Parmigiani has still managed to incorporate the brand’s signature tear-drop lug design. Each limited edition piece is individually numbered on the back and costs $260,000 (around Rs 1.15 crore).