Watches and motorsport have a close-knit relationship. Tachymeters stamped onto bezels can be used to measure the average speed of a car over a known distance, and some of the world’s most iconic watch names – Tag Heuer Carrera, Rolex Daytona – got their names from motorsport.
And, while this article is about the watches of F1 drivers, it is impossible not to write about watches and motorsport without noting the so-called Paul Newman Rolex Daytona, and how Newman’s own sold at auction for $17.8 million in 2017.
While that Rolex was Newman’s own, today’s F1 drivers have a chunky timepiece handed to them almost the moment they step out of their car, thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals. Mercedes team sponsor IWC even places the image of a watch on the driver’s gloves, where it can be seen from the car’s onboard camera.
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Often the team is sponsored by a watch company, whose pieces then appear on the wrists of the drivers, sometimes with a colourway to reflect their nationality. Other drivers have their own deal directly with the watch company, with some such partnerships lasting a lifetime.
For 2021, a watch appears prominently on the wrist of all 20 drivers – and here’s a closer look at exactly what those watches are.
Lewis Hamilton and Valteri Bottas
The Mercedes F1 team has been sponsored by IWC Schaffhausen since 2013, so that’s the brand of watch worn by both of its drivers. Lewis Hamilton and Valteri Bottas both wear personalised versions of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, a large, 46.2mm timepiece with black dial, stainless steel case, leather strap and automatic movement.
More specifically, Hamilton has been seen wearing versions of the Big Pilot Perpetual, while Bottas’s watches have blue accents inspired by the flag of his native Finland.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez
Tag Heuer has been the watch sponsor of Red Bull since 2016 and this season extended the partnership until 2024. Tag Heuer has a long history of motorsport collaboration, with the company formerly known as Tag sponsoring the Porsche engine of McLaren F1 cars driven in 1984, ‘85 and ‘86. Tag Heuer, as it was rebranded in 1985, also leant its name to the Renault engine used by Red Bull in 2016.
Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez wear the aptly-named Tag Heuer Formula One Special Edition, a stainless steel sports watch with a blue dial and bezel, with tachymeter and red detailing to match Red Bull’s livery.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
Ferrari has partnered with numerous watch companies over the years, and having parted ways with Hublot the Italian team now works with Richard Mille. Known for their oversize cases, skeletal design, exclusivity and very high prices, Richard Mille watches have found themselves on the wrists of many racing drivers.
This is a cross-platform deal, meaning Ferrari drivers in race categories away from F1 also get to wear Richard Mille watches, while Leclerc has had a personal deal with the watchmaker throughout much of his motorsport career. The Monegasque driver tends to wear an RM watch with a red strap and detailing, and currently has a prototype RM 67-02.
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo
McLaren also has a sponsorship deal with Richard Mille, which has been in place since 2016. The watchmaker’s McLaren-themed timepiece is the RM 11-03, complete with Papaya Orange detailing to match the supercar maker’s corporate colours. With an automatic flyback chronograph, the watch is limited to 500 examples worldwide and McLaren roadcar drivers can apply to buy a watch with the serial number that matches the chassis number of their car.
McLaren teammates Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo wear similar models of Richard Mille. Ricciardo has been seen wearing an RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split-Second Chronograph, while Norris is a fan of the RM 67-02 – believed to be the same model of watch stolen from the F1 driver after the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium.
Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll
The Aston Martin F1 team counts Girard-Perregaux as its official watch partner. This is one of the world’s oldest watchmakers, having been in business since 1791, and the current deal also includes close ties with Aston Martin’s road car division.
Naturally, both drivers have Girard-Perregaux watches on their wrists for the 2021 season, with four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel opting for the Laureato Chronograph 42mm with blue dial, and stainless steel case and strap. Girard-Perregaux was previously the watch sponsor of the Ferrari F1 team from 1994 to 2004
Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon
Formerly known as Renault, the Alpine team is sponsored by fellow French watchmaker Bell&Ross. This has led to the launch of three special edition watches with tachymeters on their bezels, chronograph dials, and bright blue detailing to match the corporate colours of Alpine. These three watches fall under the Alpine F1 Team A521 Collection.
Both drivers previously wore the Renault-themed Bell&Ross timepieces and have since switched to the Alpine-branded models. Alonso is also closely linked to Richard Mille, and has been seen wearing that company’s timepieces, complete with blue, red and yellow detailing, while driving for the Alpine team.
Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda
Instead of partnering with a luxury Swiss watchmaker like most other teams, AlphaTauri has had a longstanding deal with Casio. For this season, drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda are wearing a limited-edition, AlphaTauri-branded Casio Edifice.
There are three watches in the F1 team-branded collection, all featuring 6K carbon dials claimed to be many times stronger than steel. Strap options include fabric, rubber and stainless steel, while the colourways all feature blue and red details to match the livery of the AlphaTauri F1 car.
Unlike the mechanical watches of other F1 drivers, the Casio Edifice has Bluetooth and a smartphone app for automatic time adjustment, the setting of timers, and the transfer of data collected by the stopwatch function.
Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi
Richard Mille no longer sponsors the Alfa Romeo team, having switched to Ferrari. However, the Swiss brand is still partnered with Alfa driver Kimi Raikkonen, who lends his name to a limited-edition version of the RM50-04. Sporting the usual skeletal design of Richard Mille, the Kimi Raikkonen edition features a red strap and red detailing through the dial and tourbillon-powered movement.
Just 30 examples of this watch have been produced and it carries a retail price of just over €1.1m, making it one of the most expensive watches to be worn by any of today’s F1 drivers.
Although it is no longer a team sponsor, a Richard Mille watch is still seen on the wrist of fellow Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi.
George Russell and Nicholas Latifi
For the 2021 season, Williams announced Bremont as its new watch sponsor. The British firm was founded in 2002 and assembles its watches in Oxfordshire, where the majority of today’s F1 teams are also based. The Bremont Alt1-WT with a blue dial is now worn by Williams drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, and by senior members of the team.
However, soon after signing for Mercedes for the 2022 season, Russell was seen with an IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium. This is an all-black timepiece with a ceramic case and black textile strap. Its party piece is the double chronograph mechanism, which allows the wearer to record two separate events, of different durations, at the same time – it can easily be spotted thanks to the pair of second hands and a third push stopper for resetting both timers.
Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin
Haas is another team that no longer counts Richard Mille as a sponsor. Replacing it is Cyrus, a Swiss watch brand that was founded in 2010. For the 2021 season, Mick Schumacher is wearing a Klepcys Vertical Tourbillon, while his teammate Nikita Mazepin has a Klepcys Alarm.
Schumacher’s all-black watch features a 44mm, grade five titanium case with alligator leather strap and an in-house movement made by Cyrus. The tourbillon movement has a 100-hour power reserve, sapphire crystal on the front and rear, and is limited to just five examples.
Mazepin’s watch is one of 38 examples, with a large 46mm titanium case, sapphire crystal front and rear, a physical alarm chime with hammer, and an in-house, hand-wound mechanical movement.