Humans have always been fascinated with speed. How we can move faster. First, we domesticated horses. When the train was invented, people worried that passengers would suffocate at the blazing speed of 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). Of course, we now know that humans can survive much greater speeds than that. The current land speed record is over 700 miles per hour (1232 km/h).
The world’s first motor race, “The Competition for Horseless Carriages”, took place in 1894 and had, according to storytelling, a bit of a problem with poor timekeeping.
Since then, racing and watches have had a parallel journey through history.
When the last century was new, in 1902, racing began along a stretch of beach at Daytona, Florida. One of the most successful racers at the time, Sir Malcolm Campbell, was wearing a Rolex Oyster while breaking four land speed records. Rolex of course eventually released the Rolex Daytona.
The first true racing watch was built by Jack Heuer in 1963 with two things in mind: a chronograph and an associated tachymeter. The Heuer company (now TAG Heuer) alongside other famous watchmakers also made instruments for vehicles, such as dashboard timers for race cars.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s Heuer developed the Autavia, Carrera and Monaco making them more appealing to racers, with the Monaco as one of the most famous racing watches due to its presence on Steve McQueen’s wrist in 1971 in Le Mans.
Race cars and watches alike are mechanical instruments of precision made for speed and time. However, their history being intertwined should not be a surprise. Their bond being pure physics - speed equals distance through time (speed = distance ÷ time).