The 2016 Formula 1 Timepiece Grid
As the 2016 Formula 1 season opener approaches, we can take a look at the revamped lineup of watch partnerships on the F1 grid. Watches and cars, of course, go together like bacon and eggs. I, for one, love the associations between classic carmakers and watchmakers. This year, we have a few new (big) names on the grid, so let’s take a look.
Edox & Sauber
Edox is no stranger to motor racing. Edox has been the official timekeeper of the World Rally Championship and this association has produced a number of WRC-themed racing pieces. Edox has also done pieces for Sebastien Loeb. This is the brand’s first foray into F1 and this, surely, will raise its profile.
It is remarkable that Sauber did not have a watch partnership because they are a Swiss team!!! Peter Sauber’s team has a long history in F1, which includes giving superstar, Kimi Raikkonen, his F1 debut. Sauber is the only F1 team with a female team principal, which certainly makes them an attractive partner from a sponsorship point of view.
Oris and Williams
Oris has a rich watchmaking history which spans over 100 years. This company, still indepently owned, has pioneered mass production and has used the slogan, “real watches for real people.” Their partnership with Williams dates back many years and Oris have done a superb job of exploiting this racing connection. The Oris-Williams link has led to a whole line of timepieces, offering some cool mechanical racing watches at entry-level prices.
Williams is a legendary F1 team, having won numerous world championships in different eras of F1. Williams have a very “tough” and “gritty” image, which is personified by their team principals, Frank Williams and Patrick Head (the “Bulldog”). I think the Williams personality fits perfectly with “real watches for real people.”
Bell & Ross and Renault
This combo makes perfect sense to me and I cannot believe that Bell & Ross has not done F1 before. After all, they built their brand on professional tool watches and instrument-themed watches. Doesn’t this fit perfectly with F1??? As a French company (yes, Bell & Ross is a French company), Bell & Ross seems to have made a logical choice of F1 partner with a French carmaker.
As you know, most F1 teams are actually based in England, regardless of their home office. But Renault still has a French identity and I am sure this was a factor in the Bell & Ross partnership. Renault has won world championships in different eras of F1 and I am glad to see them team up with a cool brand like Bell & Ross.
TAG Heuer and Red Bull
In true JC Biver style, TAG Heuer has pushed the envelope on this one. The 2016 Red Bull cars are running Renault engines that will actually be branded as TAG Heuer. Now that’s bold. TAG Heuer is absolutely synonymous with Formula 1 and the brand has sponsored the McLaren team for ages. JC Biver has been doing amazing things at TAG Heuer and this new aggressive F1 branding strategy is certainly avant-garde.
Red Bull totally dominated F1 for 4 years until Mercedes took over. Red Bull’s brand is young, adventurous and hip, so their partnership with TAG Heuer seems ideal.
Richard Mille and McLaren / Richard Mille and Haas
Richard Mille creates the most spectacular and high end “racing machines for the wrist” that I can think of. It seems fitting that they finally enter F1 and they are doing it with TWO teams.
McLaren is one of the big names in F1 history. McLaren’s story includes championships, records, dominance, epic rivalries and legendary drivers. The McLaren image is stark, high-tech, immaculate and driven. You have to think that Richard Mille is a great match.
Haas is the new kid in town, although the name is well known in other forms of motor racing. Although new to F1, Haas has a technical partnership with Ferrari and its new association with Richard Mille is intriguing. For Richard Mille, Haas represents a new American team with which to build a fan base.
IWC and Mercedes
IWC is a very masculine brand with a history of making tool watches and high-end stuff. IWC fits with Mercedes extremely well. IWC puts a drawing of its Big Pilot watch on the gloves of the Mercedes drivers so that, when you see them from the onboard camera, it looks like they are wearing an IWC in the cockpit. Very cool.
Mercedes, of course, have been the dominant team for the past few years. As such, they must be the dream team for any watch brand to sponsor. The IWC-Mercedes partnership has seen the introduction of some very cool racing timepieces. This, for me, is what it’s all about.
Hublot and Ferrari
Hublot is high end and in your face. This fairly young watchmaker, once ran by JC Biver, has been making some bold pieces with real high-mech movements. The Hublot-Ferrari relationship has already spawned some outrageous timepieces that only the mega wealthy could ever afford. That seems pretty appropriate for F1.
Ferrari is the biggest name in F1 and, probably, all of motor racing. Ferrari has a glorious and dramatic history full of passion and pain. Many experts question whether F1 could even survive without Ferrari. While other teams change engines, sponsors and livery, Ferraris are always red and made in Maranello, Italy. The vibrant Hublot brand seems like a good fit for Ferrari.
Rolex and F1
Rather than sponsoring an individual team, Rolex sponsors the sport of Formula 1 as a whole. Perhaps more than any other brand, Rolex symbolizes quality, status and wealth. In this way, Rolex is a superb partner for the glamorous sport of Formula 1. When you attend a Formula 1 Grand Prix, you see Rolex clocks everywhere. These clocks resemble a Datejust II with a gold fluted bezel, however, which does not seem to fit a racing environment. I would prefer that Rolex make use of its iconic Daytona chronograph design. Or, better yet, I would like to see Rolex exploit its F1 association and launch a brand new F1-themed design…
There is still a bit of room left in F1 for a couple of watchmakers. Given the British DNA of F1, I would think that Graham and Bremont are obvious candidates. Both of these brands have already done some racing pieces and would surely benefit from some high end, high octane and high-speed F1 visibility.
Does your timepiece collection contain a proper racing piece for Grand Prix Sundays? If not, perhaps I have given you some ideas or inspiration for your next purchase. As always, the fun is in the search…