How Mercedes Got Into Watchmaking

Ben Adams
10 May , 2022

It’s the most predictable of clichés that in motor racing time is of the essence. With margins as fine as they are at the upper echelons of Formula 1, every thousandth of a second can make the difference between winning a race and losing millions of pounds of prize revenue. It’s what separates good drivers from great drivers.

So it’s hardly surprising that watch sponsorship deals have been the norm in Formula 1 for decades.

Although it was beaten to the drivers’ championship title at the end of 2021 and is struggling so far this year, Mercedes-AMG remains a benchmark in the world of Formula 1, having won the constructors’ title for the past seven years. Since 2013, IWC has been a partner of the team, but it’s only now that they have come up with an official Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team watch together.

The watch in questions is the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Edition and will be worn by the entire team throughout the season. It’s got the usual IWC Pilot hallmarks but it’s also very turquoise, in deference to main sponsor Petronas.

At over 8,000 CHF (around £6,000) they’re not exactly giving it away, but Formula 1 has always been expensive and premium – which is why it appeals to watch brands.

The IWC Pilot has become an icon, but this edition aims to up the technology game to mirror its association with Formula 1. Making that connection even closer is the fact that the entire team will be wearing the watch at races this year; from Lewis Hamilton downwards. The team-issued watch has got sponsor logos on the strap, whereas the on-sale version doesn’t ­– but that’s just about the only difference. It’s also not going to be a limited edition, so anybody who wants one should be able to secure it.

The case is crafted from lightweight and remarkably rigid grade 5 titanium, which offers the best strength-to-weight ratio of any metal and is used extensively in Formula 1. It’s got a carbon black dial and turquoise green accents, while coming in two separate strap variations: one black embossed calfskin and one (unmissable) turquoise rubber strap, both of which can be exchanged easily.

There’s also an intriguing mixture of blasted and polished surfaces, that gives it an almost 3D look. Say what you like about this watch, but it certainly stands out. Thanks to its bi-directional pawl winding system, it has a power reserve of 46 hours – and you can see the movement at work thanks to the display case back. IWC certainly feels confident about what it’s doing here: offering a six-year extension to the standard two-year international warranty. What’s unfortunate for IWC is that they’ve released this watch right in the middle of Mercedes’ worst start to a Formula 1 season in recent history, but the squad has such strength in depth that they are certain to bounce back at some point. And now there’s no excuse for not doing that in a timely fashion…

 

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