YOU don’t have to be a petrol head to like watches, but it helps. Thanks to shared interests in cutting-edge technology, compelling design, glamorous exclusivity and the importance of time, watch companies produce a multitude of pieces inspired by the beauty of fast cars and the speed and drama of the racetrack.
Which is why I found myself being hurled at colossal speed around the hairpin corners of the Mugello Circuit in Italy late last year. At an event to unveil a partnership between Hublot and Ferrari, I rode passenger in a Ferrari 458 Italia which, souped-up for the race track, had all the easy-going serenity of a ballistic missile. If the micro-parts of a mechanical watch can withstand these kind of juddering, screaming G-forces, they’ll withstand pretty much anything.
“Until you actually drive a modern racing car it is hard to comprehend how violent the environment inside is, and this in my opinion is a fantastic way to really test the watches in real time,” says Stefan Johansson, the former Formula 1 ace. Like many racing drivers Johansson became a collector of watches – I’m told that among F1 drivers their inbuilt competitiveness naturally spills over from the track into competing over watch acquisitions. But Johansson took things several stages further by deciding to set up as a watch producer himself. His cool, ultra-tough chronographs can be bought through his website StefanJohansson.com (or from WestTime, Los Angeles’s famous watch boutique, if you happen to be passing through).
“There’s a natural connection between these worlds,” says Johansson. “Young boys like mechanical things, and that can take you into cars or watches. The older you grow you appreciate nice things, and you can’t have enough of a good thing. If you get the car, you need the watch as well.”