Like supercar rivals Bugatti and Porsche, Ferrari has enjoyed the attention of, and collaboration with, a number of watch brands over the decades. There is no escaping the shared passion for cars and watches among enthusiasts for either subject, so any dial graced with the Ferrari name is bound to have appeal that goes far beyond the ownership of one of the actual vehicles.
Enthusiasts are blessed with two main categories of Ferrari-linked timepieces: oddities and rarities of vintage status, and the official, serial-production, factory-endorsed models in the haute horlogerie sector. The main collections came first from Girard-Perregaux, then in the 21st century, Panerai and now Hublot.
There is a third category of mainly cheap models from a number of sources that have fed the hunger for Ferrari merchandise over the years, including the current Scuderia Ferrari range of quartz models, e.g. chronographs for £179 (USD 234). They fall outside of this purview but one might suppose, however, that completists will buy just about anything bearing a Prancing Horse logo.
Car/wristwatch mash-ups existed long before the trend for commercial arrangements between watch houses and car manufacturers created the now-familiar category of licensed, co-branded models offered through watch retailers. With a maker as rooted in motorsport as Ferrari, it was inevitable – as with Bugatti in the 1920s – the company or privateer teams or even retail agents might commission the great watch houses to create bespoke or limited-run pieces.
Such rarities might have been gifted to drivers, special clients or deserving employees. One must presume that there are Ferrari-related timepieces in this category, especially for winning drivers, while the Ferrari logo certainly appeared on one now-collectable collection from Omega for just this purpose. In 1972, the brand produced a number of stainless steel, time-and-date Dynamics as a special order for the Ferrari team, with red dial and the Prancing Horse and “Ferrari” in white just above the 6 o’clock point. Fitted on a bracelet, it was powered by the 21-Jewel automatic Calibre 1481, and came supplied in a special aluminium box. These pop up at around €1500-€2000 in auction.
Rather more peripheral, but spiritually considered by some to be Ferrari wristwatches, are the Omega chronographs that formed the F1 champion Michael Schumacher “The Legend” Collection. There were countless offerings, all based on Speedmasters, in continuous production from the mid-1990s into the Noughties. As Schumacher was an Omega ambassador from around 1995, the availability of this series coincided with his championship years at Ferrari, hence the connection.
Omega’s deal, however, was with driver, not team, so the timepieces – many with all-red or all-yellow dials, the primary Ferrari colours – do not bear the Ferrari name nor logo. The publicity materials and literature of the era are also free of Ferrari logos, but there is plenty of red to be seen.
For some time, the Schumachers were the unloved cousins of the Speedmasters, but demand for Omega’s chronographs is so voracious that the collectors’ net has widened. Of particular appeal among the Schumachers are the models with the chapter rings known as “racing dials” (also seen on early Dynamics and most famously on the “Tintin” Speedmaster Professional), which accounts for the majority of them.
It’s likely – judging by recent online activity – that the Schumacher watches are the next to be targeted by Speedmaster junkies, as NASA-related watch values soar beyond the reach of many. Among the models likely to climb swiftly are Michael Schumacher Speedmaster Legend “Sixth Title” Ref 3559.32.00 with “panda” dial, which looks not unlike a Rolex Daytona “Paul Newman”, the Mk 40 GMT/Calendar and the black-dial-with-red-chapter “Racing” Ref 3518.50.00.
Indeed, most of the limited editions are bound to climb, as they feature specially engraved backs and unusual packaging. The good news is that the basic trio of standard models offered with all-red, all-blue or all-yellow dials, with “racing” chapter rings and colour-coordinated, ridged straps, are relatively common, and can be found for under £1600. But this won’t be the case for long.
Cartier’s contribution to the Ferrari watch genre was a range of slightly blingy, truly of-the-era time-only models and chronographs under the Ferrari Formula banner. The range was commissioned by Enzo Ferrari from around 1983, and was an early example of the non-automotive marketing that now powers the Ferrari retail boutiques.
With hindsight, however, considering these watches to be Cartiers is slightly misleading, as the range was a product of the group to which Cartier belonged, before it was acquired by the organisation that evolved into what we know now as the Richemont Group, the parent company. The name Cartier doesn’t appear on them, and it is believed that Baume et Mercier made the actual watches, which seems logical as Baume et Mercier had merged with Piaget in the 1960s, and Piaget had been acquired by Cartier by this point.
There were numerous models and variants, including steel, steel-and-gold, all gold, and gold-and-black cases, as well as asymmetric link bracelets, moonphase models, red, white, black or striped dials and leather straps using the single central lug system. The crucial difference for collectors is automatic vs quartz for certain chronographs. The former was a Valjoux 7750 in the chronographs, while the time-only quartz models and the quartz chronographs were rumoured to use a Seiko base.
Prices for these are all over the place, and a swift Google of “Cartier Ferrari” will fill your screen, and you will soon learn that prices now range from €250-€3000 (USD 327-3,924). But there is one surprise to entice collectors. Apparently, in 1988 Enzo commissioned a limited number of the mechanical chronographs with moonphase in solid 18k gold, as gifts for friends and colleagues such as Fiat supremo Gianni Agnelli. Estimates of production numbers range from as few as 50-100, and two that reached the open market fetched Can $31,000 (US $23,390) and Can $36,000 (US $27,160).
Enter the Racing Driver
What came next would create the template for car/watch pairings with an eye to longevity. In 1992, with the watch industry emerging from the Quartz Crisis, its (mechanical) future appearing rosy, former Italian racing car driver Luigi Macaluso took over Girard-Perregaux. He was among the first to grasp the value of both the watch brand’s heritage and of manufacture status, while his devotion to motorsport was woven into his other activities; a partnership with Ferrari was logical and inevitable as Macaluso was a personal friend of Ferrari’s boss, Luca Montezemolo.
Between 1994 and 2004, Girard-Perregaux’s partnership with Ferrari produced a remarkable collection of sport and grand complication models. Because Macaluso understood both the watch milieu and motorsport, he did more than stick Ferrari logos on existing models, and was careful to imbue the timepieces with technical or aesthetic links to Maranello. These would be watches commensurate with the quality, appeal and technical prowess of the cars they represented. The line began with a split-second chronograph, followed by a perpetual calendar chronograph.
This wasn’t accidental as chronographs were perfectly in keeping with one of the major roles of watches in motor racing: timing of events. The majority of the Girard-Perregaux models would always be chronographs, initially classic, round tri-compaxes, but the range grew more adventurous over the years. One of the techniques Girard-Perregaux used to define the pieces – now standard practice for any car/watch collaboration, but then almost novel – was to relate the design of the wristwatch watch to a specific vehicle. This has since come to signify the current Ferrari watches from Hublot, each of the models Parmigiani Fleurier created for Bugatti, the Aston-Martin watches of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Breitling/Bentley timepieces and many others.
For G-P, this reached its apotheosis in the 375MM, inspired by the special Ferrari with body by Pininfarina which Roberto Rossellini ordered in 1954 for his wife, Ingrid Bergman. She loved grey, a colour Ferrari calls “Ingrid Grey” and so the dial of the rectangular 375MM chronograph of 2002, offered in pink or white gold, used that colour for its dial. The sides of the 31x47mm rectangular case were said to recall the curves of the actual vehicle. Girard-Perregaux produced 375 examples.
For 2003, G-P (even the initials of the watch brand begged association with the Maranello marque…) Ferrari’s 330/P4 Sport Prototipo, which won the world championship in 1967 with both professional and “gentlemen” drivers, was recognised with a limited edition of 2000 automatic steel chronographs, 250 pink gold chronographs and 150 in white gold. The caseback bore an engraving of the outline of the car.
That same year saw an existing G-P model, the highly-regarded WW.TC World Hour chronograph, issued in a modified version to celebrate Ferrari winning the F1 World Championship. Called the F2003-GA, the winning car’s initials paid tribute to Gianni Agnelli, while the names of Turin and Maranello were highlighted on the world-timer dial. The company produced 249 in steel, 99 in titanium and 25 in white gold. A similar watch in titanium was issued in a series of 100 pieces in 2004 to mark Ferrari’s first half-century in the USA.
Thankfully for collectors, G-P produced numerous “regular” Ferrari models, including a handsome time-only model with small seconds; at the time of writing, there’s one with yellow dial on eBay for a derisory £897 USD1,174).
At the other end of the scale, eBay has a seller offering a sublime Foudroyante Scuderia Ferrari Split Second in 18k Rose Gold £12,950. In between are myriad chronographs at prices under £2000, including models with all-red dials, assorted pandas and models which look like vintage chronographs of the 1940s.
Further to undermine whatever preconceptions one might have about the history of Ferrari watches and G-P’s offerings, online vendors are also offering Girard-Perregaux time-only Ferrari-badged watches for around £1000… dating from the 1960s. It may be that Dr Macaluso was merely reviving a tradition.
Coming next week:
Ferrari watches – The Modern Era.