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Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, "Auto racing began five minutes after the second car was built." He probably has a point. Race drivers have always pushed the limits of what is possible and constantly competed with rivals in breakneck battles. As a logical consequence, the need to precisely measure time and speed soon arose. This is where luxury watches come into play, because racing watches allow you to measure time while driving.

Luxury watches and motorsports

Monza, Carrera, Daytona and Monaco: these words have a magical attraction for many motorsport enthusiasts. Not only are all these names popular series of luxury watches, but also world-famous race tracks that quicken the heartbeat of every racing fan. Whether the legendary and dangerous "Carrera Panamericana" race or the high-speed track at Daytona Beach, all of these words have the following in common: fast cars and precise timepieces.

It's no wonder that even among the luxury watchmakers, there are friends of high-performance cars who are devoted to an ongoing test of strength on the race tracks of the world. This is why entire watch series are developed according to the needs of the drivers and named after legendary races.

TAG Heuer Monaco CAW2113.FC6183 racing watch with rectangular case and blue dial

Inspired by the Carrera Panamericana

Jack Heuer, former managing director of the watch manufacturer Heuer, is one of these friends of motorsports. His enthusiasm for the Carrera Panamericana on the streets of Mexico led him to develop the Heuer Carrera. This is a chronograph, similar to the pilot's watches, which were also very popular at that time, but which would now allow race car drivers and the pit crew to measure speed using a tachymeter scale and lap times using an integrated stopwatch. However, when the Heuer Carrera took to the stage in 1963, it faced a tough competitor. The same year that Heuer launched the Carrera, another manufacturer presented its first and only chronograph.

Competition from Daytona Beach

The Rolex Daytona Cosmograph was officially introduced as a timepiece for motorsports and, in terms of the ultimate icon of racing, it became the competition for Heuer. But the Daytona had a hard time in the beginning. Its now legendary reputation was ultimately helped by none other than motorsports icon Paul Newman. He wore his Daytona for over 30 years, which contributed to the great popularity of the Daytona and made it one of the most sought-after models from the brand.

Despite fierce competition, both manufacturers established themselves in motorsports and are still closely associated with it today. Due to the great success of this type of watch, which was no longer limited to aviation, many manufacturers such as Omega followed suit and produced their own chronographs, which quickly established themselves on the market.

Rolex Daytona 116509 stainless steel chronograph with grey dial lying on brown leather notebook

How does the tachymeter scale on a racing watch work?

If you take a closer look at luxury watches, sooner or later you will come across the concept of the tachymeter scale. If you own a chronograph, then you are most likely delighted with your tachymeter scale. In most cases, this is located directly on the bezel or as the outermost ring on the dial. It indicates the value of an hour that has elapsed since the second hand was at the 12 o'clock position. At 6 o'clock on the scale, i.e., after 30 seconds, the number 120 is displayed, since 1/120 of an hour has passed. The unit of measurement on a tachymeter scale is 1 per hour. Therefore, when multiplied by any length, the result is the change of this value per time, for example, kilometres per hour (km/h).

A tachymeter scale eliminates the need for the wearer to divide the measuring unit by the measured time in seconds and then multiply it by 3600 seconds per hour. In other words, the scale can be used to measure the speed of a car, for example. The second hand indicates the speed for a certain distance, for example, one kilometre. If you start your journey at the moment when the second hand passes the 12 o'clock position, you can see how fast you were when you crossed the target distance by looking at the watch. If it took you 25 seconds to cover the distance of one kilometre, you were travelling at 145 km/h.

The trinity of racing watches

Three of the largest luxury watch manufacturers have produced excellent timepieces, all of which are designed for motorsports and bring the flair of the race tracks to your wrist.

  • Like Zeus on Mount Olympus, the Rolex Daytona is atop the winners' podium of luxury chronographs. As mentioned above, it owes its legendary status largely to Paul Newman. Newman received his Daytona as a gift from his wife, who had the case back of the watch engraved with the words "DRIVE CAREFULLY ME". At auction, the timepiece fetched an incredible price of around 17.8 million US dollars. However, even before the auction, the "Paul Newman Daytona" was considered the Holy Grail of the watchmaking world and unknowingly transferred that spirit to the entire Daytona series.

  • TAG Heuer has produced three models in the race for the best racing watch: the Carrera, the Monza and the Monaco. Each of these watches is a chronograph, but only the Carrera is equipped with a tachymeter scale. Nevertheless, the other two models also have their advantages. The TAG Heuer Monza is a simple, yet highly functional chronograph where sports is in the foreground. This is also the case with the Monaco, but the models in this series offer even more luxury. There are a variety of designs and a high-class appearance and guarantee their future owners the highest level of quality with the spirit of motorsports.

  • Some people just can't get enough. This is probably also true for Omega, because the race tracks of this world seem to be not enough anymore. After all, the chronograph with the modest name "Speedmaster" can not only be found on the asphalt of the earth, but also in realm of space. An Omega Speedmaster was the first watch to meet all of NASA's requirements and reach the moon on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin. Today, the Moonwatch is one of the most popular models from the Omega brand and is celebrated not only among astronomy enthusiasts, but also by fans of motorsports.

TAG Heuer Monaco, Monza and Carrera watches next to each other in watch box with black leather gloves

Racing watches for everyday use

Racing watches exude their very own charm. They appear sporty, elegant and effortlessly confident on the wrists of their owners. Whether they participate in major races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans or only briefly use the left lane on the motorway for passing manoeuvres is irrelevant. Watches like the Carrera and others can be combined with a tailored suit just as well as with jeans and T-shirt to be worn as an everyday watch. If you are looking for one very special watch, do not overlook racing chronographs. With this kind of timepiece, one enjoys a competent and reliable partner at your side for any situation.