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Watch brands rev up their automotive partnerships

Watch brands rev up their automotive partnerships

Monday, 01 March 2021
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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5 min read

Within days of each other, Girard-Perregaux, Richard Mille and TAG Heuer announced partnerships with prestigious car manufacturers. Breitling, IWC and Roger Dubuis already have successful automotive alliances. More about this meeting of mechanical minds.

Wrenches for one, tweezers for the other, but the same high-performance, precision mechanics. Alliances between car manufacturers and watch brands are nothing new, with both partners quick to point out the similarities between their two activities, differentiated only by scale. The most illustrious automakers are rarely without a watch brand by their side in much the same way that horology’s big names are drawn to these kings of the road, as confirmed by three new deals.

Carrera Porsche Special Edition © TAG Heuer
Carrera Porsche Special Edition © TAG Heuer

The first announcement came from TAG Heuer. Absent from LVMH Watch Week at end January, the brand was back with a vengeance a week later with news of a strategic partnership with Porsche (previously, Porsche Motorsport had teamed with Chopard). The TAG Heuer/Porsche pairing will focus on customer experience, now a key element of any self-respecting customer relationship strategy. “The strong friendship of our brand with TAG Heuer exists since decades and I am more than happy that we are now taking the next steps in the frame of a strategic partnership,” said Detlev von Platen, Executive Board member at Porsche AG. “We bring together what our customers love the most about both of us: authentic heritage, thrilling sports events, unique life experiences and the fulfilment of dreams. We both strive to create some unique, magic moments for our communities.”

Steve McQueen and Jo Siffert
Steve McQueen and Jo Siffert

The two brands indeed have ties that go way back, starting with the Carrera Panamericana, a 1950s road race that gave its name to products both at TAG Heuer and Porsche. The saga continued when Steve McQueen wore a Heuer Monaco and drove a Porsche 917 in the 1970 movie Le Mans. The actor based his character on driver Joe Siffert, who was sponsored by Heuer. In the mid-1980s, the two brands worked together to produce the TAG-Porsche engine that powered the McLaren team to three consecutive Formula 1 world titles. Watchmaker and automaker have also joined forces in the Endurance World Championship and for the launch of the Formula E championship. In this latest announcement, TAG Heuer and Porsche are promising further collaborations in motor racing as well as golf and tennis. Sealing this union is the TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph.

The Richard Mille team, 2020
The Richard Mille team, 2020

Ferrari is no newcomer to the watch world, having entertained partnerships with a number of brands, starting with Girard-Perregaux in the 1990s. Next in line, in the mid-2000s, was fellow Italian Panerai, which briefly handed over to Cabestan. The Hublot/Ferrari alliance proved longer-lasting, beginning in 2011 and concluding at end December last year. For Richard Mille, which already owns an all-women Formula 1 team and has a longstanding love affair with the automotive world, this was the ideal opportunity to mint a deal with the Prancing Horse. In a statement, the watchmaker said the multi-year partnership would “extend from the pinnacle of motor racing in Formula 1 through WEC endurance programmes, Competizioni GT, Ferrari Challenge, Ferrari Driver Academy to the fast-developing Esports category.” Designers and engineers on both sides will be putting their heads together to incorporate the “Italian touch” into Richard Mille watches.

Partnership between Girard-Perregaux and Aston Martin
Partnership between Girard-Perregaux and Aston Martin

The third alliance in the news is between Girard-Perregaux and Aston Martin, both of which have important milestones this year. The watchmaker, which celebrates its 230th anniversary, is accompanying the British automaker for its return to racing with the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One team after a 60-year hiatus. The announcement included few details although limited-edition timepieces are expected to follow. Coincidentally, until last year James Bond’s carmaker of choice partnered with TAG Heuer, and before that with Jaeger-LeCoultre. A reminder that, like any alliance, tie-ins between watch and car manufacturers come and go, lasting for as long as they serve both partners’ interests. Together since 2003, Breitling and Bentley take first place in the loyalty stakes. IWC teamed up with Mercedes AMG Petronas back in 2013 while Roger Dubuis hit the road with Lamborghini in 2017, alongside a tie-in with Pirelli. The connection between cars and watches clearly has plenty of mileage left.

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