There are so many facets to the connection between watches and motorsport, and the automotive world in general, that it has provided us a plethora of paths to trod along. While we’ve already discussed the watches of Formula One racing, a step in the other direction quickly came to mind. Strange as it sounds, a small number of watches over the years were actually created with driving in mind. A “driving watch” can take a number of different forms, as it is by no means a clear and defined category in the same way that diving watches and pilot’s watches have specific criteria they need to meet in order to qualify. Dial orientation, special features, and other details can all play a role, but in the same breath it is almost a category of “you know one when you see one”.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921
Of the options we’ve found, the Historiques American 1921 is one of the few that was actually purpose-built for drivers when originally conceived in — you guessed it — 1921. By rotating the dial by 45 degrees, the line of sight to the dial with your left hand at 10 o’clock on the wheel (worn with the watch case on the inside of your wrist.) Worn conventionally, the 1921 is also easy to read if you’re more of a one-handed driver as well. Originally offered in platinum or pink gold in a 40mm cushion-style case, Vacheron recently expanded the line with a smaller model, measuring 36.5mm across (also in pink gold). Having spent a modest amount of time with the platinum model on the wrist a number of months back, the Historiques American 1921 is quite comfortable, and an overall joy to wear, however when not behind the wheel the offset of its dial takes a bit of time to get used to. One doesn’t realize how hardwired we are to the location of 12 o’clock on a dial until that point of reference shifts to a different location.
Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX Collection
Rather than narrowing it down to a specific piece, considering a total of 7 models in the series were created during the brand’s partnership with Aston Martin, which lasted from 2005 through to 2012 as they released one model each year. Unlike many automotive timekeeping partnerships that rise out of the ether, the relationship between the two brands actually goes back quite some time. Back in the 1920s Jaeger was heavily involved in the production of dashboard instruments for some of the more prestigious car brands on the market, including Bugatti and Aston Martin. History lesson aside, what JLC and Aston created with the AMVOX line of watches is quite unique. The first few pieces arrived as an alarm watch, a chronograph with a vertical trigger that was started and stopped by pushing on the top and bottom of its case, and afterwards a rather sleek tourbillon GMT. Where things got interesting was as of the creation of their fourth of seven watches—the AMVOX 2 DBS Transponder Chronograph. Not only was the chronograph caliber of the 2nd watch carried forward, but the brand also found a way to integrate a transponder into the watch, allowing its wearer to lock and unlock their new Aston Martin from their wrist. If this isn’t a driver’s watch, we really don’t know what is.
MB&F Horological Machine N°8 Can-Am
Now the brand’s third creation that fits the bill in terms of a driving watch, the HM8 launched last year featuring a similar caliber to what was found in the previous HM5 and HMX models from MB&F. Through a bit of clever engineering, an otherwise flat/semi-conventional power drives a digital time display facing down from the lower lugs of the timepiece. This, similarly to the change in orientation found on the Vacheron Historiques American 1921, provides a thoughtful line of sight to the current time when your hands need to be on the wheel. Unlike the previous models, both of which featured a very automotive “fastback” inspired case design, the automotive referenced on the HM8 Can-Am are a touch more subtle. A pair of “roll bars” link the display portion of its horological engine to the other extremity of its case, and when viewing its undercarriage, part of the caliber’s mainplate is designed to replicated the ridges often seen in the engine valve covers of older muscle cars.
Cartier Drive de Cartier Extra Flat
Solely a contender by name, as its design isn’t any more or less beneficial to drivers, the Drive to Cartier Extra Flat, now available in steel, is just such a fantastic watch on the wrist that we couldn’t help but give it an honorable mention. Measuring a very slender 6.6mm thick, the new watch from the brand is a serious contender in the ultra-thin category, especially considering the steel example still skirts under the $10k mark. Priced at $5,600, the Extra Flat undercuts JLC’s Master Ultra Thin Small Seconds significantly, as well as being a solid millimeter thinner. It is also half the price of Bulgari’s fantastical Octo Finissimo Automatic, though the Octo wins all the brownie points for its case and bracelet design, as well as having held title of world’s thinnest automatic wristwatch until being dethroned by Piaget during SIHH 2018.
Author: Justin Mastine-Frost