Timing means everything in the world of Formula One. After all, a split second can often decide between a victory and defeat. In a sport governed by accuracy and cutting-edge engineering, watchmakers and race car drivers have a natural affinity. It is no wonder, then, that today’s top Formula One drivers sport some of the most exceptional watches ever made.
As we embark past the second half of the 2022 season — and recount its most memorable moments of this year’s F1 races — we look at some of the iconic watches habitually worn by today’s Formula One drivers. According to pre-owned watch specialist, Watchfinder & Co. these are just some of the coveted timepieces worn by the current crop of F1 pilots. Chances are if you’re looking for a timepiece your favourite F1 driver has, chances are you may be able to find it within Watchfinder & Co.’s vast collection.
Here are some of the collectable luxury watches worn by today’s Formula One drivers
No doubt the sport’s most successful champions, the seven-time world champ clearly has an affinity for IWC watches. Lewis Hamilton has been spotted having worn, from time to time, an awesome threesome: the Big Pilot’s Watch, Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Mojave Desert and Pilot’s Chronograph 41. Originally a massive 55-mm-diameter timepiece encasing the pocket-watch Calibre 52.T.S. movement, the Big Pilot’s heritage travels further back in time than many historic watches, to 1940 when it was made for the German Air Force. The contemporary sand-coloured Mojave Desert edition in ceramic, meanwhile, popped up in 2019.
Fittingly, though, it was the new IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Edition “Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team” that the Brit proudly displayed whilst protesting the threatened strict enforcement this spring of F1’s no-jewellery-while-driving rule. Bedecked with luminous Arabic numeral hour markers, indices, hands and date window as well as rubber strap in the signature green racing colours of the Petronas team, the sporty chronograph symbolises the bond between Mercedes F1 and the Swiss watchmaker, its official engineering partner since 2013 – also the year Hamilton signed on.
The case is crafted from lightweight, grade-five titanium, which has the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metal, and with a quick flip onto its transparent back, all the action of the Calibre 69385 movement with 231 parts and a 46-hour power reserve is visible.
Granted things haven’t been going the way of the Honey Badger this year. But that said, the Australian driver’s taste in watches is sublime. Daniel Ricciardo, has been seen flashing the RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph worth more than US$1.2 million in photo shoots. No doubt the timepiece is part of the 10-year partnership between Swiss haute-horlogerie brand Richard Mille and the McLaren F1 team.
Constructed from graphene – a revolutionary composite dubbed “Graph TPT” by the watch innovator – the world’s lightest mechanical chronograph upon its creation in 2017 weighs less than 40 grams including the strap. Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel, yet six times lighter – a bonus when making precise twists of the wrist at super speed. Ricciardo’s teammate, Lando Norris, is one of a number of top drivers who also favour donning Richard Mille creations in the cockpit and when fine-tuning their machines.
Securing his first World Drivers’ Championship last year was epic, but Red Bull Racing’s boy wonder — who retains his title for a second year running after emerging tops in the 2022 F1 season— enjoyed another red-letter day two years prior when TAG Heuer unveiled the Max Verstappen Special Edition 2019, the first mechanical timepiece to bear his name. The 44mm automatic chronograph in steel is based on the brand’s existing chronograph collection dedicated to Grand Prix racing – the Formula 1 Calibre 16.
It sports a black dial with the words “Formula 1 Calibre 16” flanking the date aperture at three o’clock and racy red details ringed by a bezel emblazoned with the bold red engraving: “Max Verstappen”. A dressier TAG Heuer model gifted to the Dutchman, the Monaco Titan Titanium, has also frequented his wrist in a timely reminder of his triumph on that track.
Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing fellow pilot Sergio Pérez, whose first Formula One victory at Sakhir, Bahrain, in 2020 saw him bag the dubious record of most race starts before securing a Grand Prix win, has a special connection to the TAG Heuer Connected smartwatch. The titanium timepiece, one of the most luxurious smartwatches on the market, symbolises pursuit of excellence and dedication to chasing perfection – qualities that fit the veteran Mexican driver, who won this year’s Singapore Grand Prix, to a tee.
Based on TAG’s classic auto-racing model, the Carrera, the Connected links wearers with the world of high tech through a partnership with Google and Intel. This 45 mm timepiece has a superior LCD screen, an excellent battery life and is packed with features including GPS, heart-rate sensor, compass, accelerometer and gyroscope.
Charles Leclerc is the youngest driver to win a race with Scuderia Ferrari, the oldest surviving Formula One team. He is also a Richard Mille brand ambassador. In the three years since his debut win at the Belgian Grand Prix, Leclerc has been pictured with the avant-garde watchmaker’s skeletonised sports models, including the RM 35-01 Rafael Nadal and a RM 67-02 wrapped in red and white, the colours of his home country of Monaco.
This Automatic Winding Extra Flat watch is regaled for its thin, light, colourful and athletic appearance; engineered from TPT composite materials, with a titanium baseplate and bridges, and an elastic wristband, it is Richard Mille’s lightest automatic timepiece.
The first Chinese Formula One driver, Zhou Guanyu, joined a new-look Alfa Romeo racing team for the 2022 season. He embodies the spirit of daring and individuality required of a pioneer, which neatly coincides with the ethos of Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot, where he is a brand ambassador.
Zhou celebrated Chinese New Year with the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Carbon Gold Tiger, a striking fusion of frosted carbon and gold. He also showed his unique fashion flair by favouring red over the original strap colour for the Big Bang Unico Integrated Black Magic watch. Driven by the Unico 2 calibre movement with a power reserve of 72 hours, and forged from polished and satin black ceramic, the new timepiece has a sleeker profile after reducing its thickness by 1.3mm, making it a perfect fit for sportsmen like Zhou who live for speed.
(Main and featured image: IWC; Other images: Featured brands)