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Cars and 'collabs': luxury watchmakers turn to autos for inspiration

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
In this article:
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The luxury watch market has been on fire lately. Swiss watch exports in March (the latest dataset available) are up 11.4% from a year ago, hitting a market value of over $2 billion (the first time exports crossed that threshold this early in the year).

Success in the showrooms has translated into luxury watchmakers, both big and small, pushing forward with new models, including many capitalizing on another big watch fad, models featuring collaborations with high-end automakers.

British watchmaker Bremont, a company that’s seen its status rise among luxury watch collectors, recently debuted two new updates to its watch "collabs" — one featuring British marque Jaguar (TTM) with the Bremont Jaguar C-Type and the other with iconic U.K.-based Formula 1 team Williams F1 with the Bremont WR-22).

High-end cars and high-end watches may sound like a match made in heaven for wealthy men and women of a certain age. But it isn’t just about a luxury pairing for luxury’s sake; from a brand point of view, the collaborations highlight brands' similar design aesthetic or commitment to precision engineering.

Bremont Jaguar C-Type
Bremont Jaguar C-Type

Yahoo Finance caught up with Bremont co-founder Nick English from the Classic Car Club in Manhattan, where the brand was showcasing these two watches and other new models (as well as Williams F1 racing car to boot).

“We’re all engineers, and we all love design — it’s a fusion of two like minds,” English said about the collaboration with Jaguar. “ I think having an iconic British race car brand like Jaguar [paired with] and an iconic now for us, British watch brand like Bremont, where we’re trying to machine as much as we can in the U.K., it was a sort of synergy made in heaven.”

Watches with mechanical movements (as opposed to quartz electronic battery movements) are usually powered internally by a mainspring, which then use intricate parts like barrels, wheels, and jewels all working in harmony to keep time. The analogy with a car’s engine — with its hundreds of moving parts — is quite apt.

Bremont WR-22
Bremont WR-22

Sometimes both partners use similar parts or materials in the building of both watch and machine. “We’ve got engineers, we’ve got some of the same machines — our case machines — that they [Williams] use to manufacture parts,” English says about Bremont’s relationship with Williams F1. “We’re not experts on carbon fiber technology, but we’re learning quickly, and they are [experts], so there’s a really lovely diffusion of skillset.”

Custom Porsche watches

Porsche Design, the in-house design studio created by Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson "Butzi" Porsche, also embodies that sentiment. Part of the Porsche Lifestyle Group, Porsche Design works closely with the automaker’s customers who wish to personalize their Porsche Design watches, with materials from the car they actually own.

Porsche Design Chronograph 1
Porsche Design Chronograph 1

“The colors, types of leather, and decorative stitching on these chronographs all originate from automotive production,” Porsche Lifestyle CEO Dr. Jan Becker said in a statement to Yahoo Finance. “This innovative concept fulfills the desire among many Porsche customers to design a chronograph for their wrist that matches the dream sports car in their garage.”

Of course, a big reason why these collabs happen in the first place, is to make money. Though watchmakers acknowledge the financial wins here, founders like Bremont’s English say the collaborations can help smaller watch brands push forward with branding, develop prestige, and challenge the big boys in the watch world.

“People are realizing that there are brands after Rolex, and i think that’s a really exciting development in the industry, because that hasn't always been the case,” English said when discussing the state of the industry. “There are some amazing people doing some amazing things, on a very unique level — you know watches being made in the hundreds, not the millions, and I think that has some value in itself.”

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Pras Subramanian is a senior autos reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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