Timing in the Fast Lane
BY ROBERTA NAAS
A healthy dose of self-confidence lies behind the 2001 marriage of Parmigiani Fleurier and Bugatti: Each wanted, simply, to be first. Parmigiani aimed to be the first watch with traverse movement, while Bugatti sought the title of “fastest car on earth.” After four years of intense research, Parmigiani Fleurier came up with a prototype for the Bugatti watch, with positioning of its five main plates on a horizontal axis offering an unhindered view of the bridges and train wheels. And Bugatti, at about the same time, launched the Veyron 16B, which was indeed, for a while, the fastest car on record. The collaboration continues today with a just-revealed Parmigiani Bugatti Super Sport watch, which was on the wrist of test-driver Pierre-Henri Raphanel when he broke the world speed record, making the new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport the fastest auto in the world. Professor F.A. Porsche—grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who founded the Porsche automobile company of Germany—started Porsche Design Studios several decades ago and continues to create Porsche timepieces, among other lifestyle items. Newcomers include the Devon Tread 1 with its patented system of interwoven time belts in the watch mechanism that are partially inspired by drive belts on motorcycles. An engineering masterpiece, the Tread 1 uniquely employs a series of fiber-reinforced glass nylon belts that display the hours and minutes. Also just unveiled is the Spyker collection, named for the highpowered Dutch car reintroduced a decade ago following a 75-year absence. Made in Geneva, the watches take their design cues from the car’s intake valves, wheels, logo and more. While the leather for the belts is provided by the company responsible for the car’s interior, color customization is available for Spyker owners.
Many of these watches take years to develop and often carry price tags just as hefty as those of their luxury-car counterparts. But then, perfection doesn’t come cheap. Especially if you seek a watch that emulates—or even controls, to an extent—a car that quickens your pulse and reflects your lifestyle.
As a teenager, Henry Ford taught himself to fix watches. It has been said that he seriously considered going into the watch business.
British saddler firm Alfred Dunhill unveiled its Motorieties collection of driving accessories, which included a stopwatch and pair of leatherbound driving binoculars called “Bobby Finders.”
James Ward Packard, founder of the famed Packard Motor Car Company and one of the wealthiest men of his time, bought a watch from Patek Philippe for $16,000 as part of his collection. For six years, it was considered the most complicated watch in the world, with 13 complications including a disk showing the position of the stars as seen from Packard’s Ohio home.
Swatch Group, then known as SMH, joined Daimler-Benz (now Daimler AG) to form a venture to develop a miniature car for city driving now called the Smart car (then nicknamed the Swatchmobile). It was introduced in 1997, and the Swatch Group sold its venture share to Daimler-Benz later that year.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MALCOLM GRIFFITHS (BLANCPAIN CAR); PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PHOTOFEST NYC (THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR)