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Six car-themed watches that sold for huge sums at auction in 2021

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With Christmas Day around the corner, there are plenty of gifts we’ll be hoping to receive this year.

And for petrol-heads with a penchant for timepieces, collectable watches will be top of their wish list in 2021.

But you’d certainly need to gift some of these examples to yourself given the astounding prices paid at auction this year.

These six automotive-inspired timepieces were sold on auction site WatchCollecting for staggering sums in 2021. Find out about each one in our report

These six automotive-inspired timepieces were sold on auction site WatchCollecting for staggering sums in 2021. Find out about each one in our report

We’ve exclusively been given a list of six of the best auto-inspired timepieces sold by auction site WatchCollecting this year.

The website is the timepiece spin off of popular motor auction site CollectingCars.

Like desirable motors, these watches can both be enjoyed but also considered an investment, with their exclusivity and quality meaning buyers will hope to see value grow with time.

The Head of Watches, Adrian Hailwood, knows just about everything there is to know when it comes to timeless timepieces – and in this special report has provided us with some interesting insight into the priciest motor-themed watches that went under the virtual hammer in 2021.

Feast your eyes on these automotive watches, with prices ranging from £3,500 to an eye-watering £82,000 – the latter costing almost as much as a brand new Porsche 911. 

Girard Perregaux Laureato Aston Martin   

Model year: 2021 

Winning bid: £18,500 

This special edition Girard Perregaux Laureato Aston Martin was launched this year to mark the iconic brand's return to F1. A month after it was available it sold for a profit at auction

This special edition Girard Perregaux Laureato Aston Martin was launched this year to mark the iconic brand’s return to F1. A month after it was available it sold for a profit at auction

The watch marked the return of Aston Martin to Formula One, with the team finishing 7th in its first year back

The watch marked the return of Aston Martin to Formula One, with the team finishing 7th in its first year back

Girard Perregaux is no stranger to car manufacturer collaborations. For 11 years they partnered with Ferrari to produce the ‘Girard Perregaux pour Ferrari’ collection, a series of watches, predominantly chronographs, that paid homage to Ferrari’s historic models. 

Despite Ferrari’s F1 success during the period Girard Perregaux’s watches were aimed resolutely at the vintage collector’s market.

With their latest partnership this all changes. Girard Perregaux have celebrated the return of Aston Martin to Formula 1 racing with a very special 188-piece edition of their luxury sports chronograph, the Laureato. 

First made in 1975, the Laureato is Girard Perregaux’s entry into the sports-luxe niche and was originally quartz, back when that was an impressive feature. 

Now powered by an in-house automatic movement, the Aston Martin edition is decked out in the racing livery of British Racing Green. 

The cross-hatch dial pattern harks back to the original A M logo while the chronograph seconds hand counterbalance design echoes the side strakes of the DB4 and DB5. 

The limpid green dial is hand painted in 21 stages creating seven layers, a neat parallel to Aston Martin’s own seven-layer paint process.

Only released for sale in October 2021, this limited edition has already demonstrated its desirability, selling for significantly above retail price in its first offering at auction a month after it was launched.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore ‘Juan Pablo Montoya’

Model year: 2009 

Winning bid: £28,500

When Audemars Piguet does motorsport watches, it focusses on the drivers rather than the cars or tracks. This one carries the name of Juan Pablo Montoya

When Audemars Piguet does motorsport watches, it focusses on the drivers rather than the cars or tracks. This one carries the name of Juan Pablo Montoya 

Montoya drove for both William (pictured) and McLaren during his F1 career, before the Columbian raced in numerous US race series, including Indy Car and NASCAR

Montoya drove for both William (pictured) and McLaren during his F1 career, before the Columbian raced in numerous US race series, including Indy Car and NASCAR

When Audemars Piguet does motorsport watches, it focusses on the drivers rather than the cars or tracks. 

A number of Formula 1 drivers have collaborated with the brand, but none is more crammed with motoring references than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore ‘Juan Pablo Montoya’.

Carbon fibre, widely used in race vehicles for its strength and rigidity, is present on both the bezel and the front face of the crown guards. 

The design on the bezel bolts has been changed to mimic cylinder head bolts. The ridges on the pushers reference the grips on the F1 car’s pedals and even the regular grid of the trademark ‘mega tapisserie’ dial has been changed to evoke the waving of a chequered flag. 

The lettering on the subdials is in a segmented digital format, copying the style of lap boards and race-day timing. Visible through the sapphire display case back is the winding rotor, shaped in the style of a disc brake. The black leather strap is stitched in squares as a reference to the quilting on the driver’s racing suits.

Launched in 2004 as a limited edition of 500 pieces, this watch honoured the adoption of Montoya as an Audemars Piguet brand ambassador. While his F1 career might have ended in 2006, his watch is still proving popular 15 years later.

So popular, in fact, that a collector forked out a massive £28,500 for it a month ago. 

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

Model year: 2021 

Winning bid: £82,000

This Rolex is the most expensive timepiece in our list, with a collector paying a staggering £82,000 for it in September

This Rolex is the most expensive timepiece in our list, with a collector paying a staggering £82,000 for it in September

The 24 Hours of Daytona continues to take place today. Pictured: the 2018 event with cars racing around the iconic banked oval

The 24 Hours of Daytona continues to take place today. Pictured: the 2018 event with cars racing around the iconic banked oval

Rolex launched their Cosmograph in 1963. Targeting racing drivers, they followed the lead of Omega’s Speedmaster and moved the speed-recording tachymetric scale to the watch’s bezel for greater legibility. 

To cement their racing credentials, they decided to name the watch after a racetrack. Old advertisements show Rolex briefly flirted with the name ‘Le Mans’, before settling on ‘Daytona’. 

This was partly to build recognition in the US market by honouring their most prestigious racetrack, but also to mark the link the place where Malcolm Campbell repeatedly broke the land speed record in his car Bluebird, with a Rolex on the wrist.

In recent years, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona has become arguably the most desirable sports chronograph in the world. This makes it almost impossible to buy at retail without impeccable connections, but there is another way to obtain one… to win it. 

From 1992 to 2013 Rolex sponsored the Daytona 24hrs and awarded Rolex Daytonas to the winning team, commemoratively engraved on the back. That opportunity still exists, but no longer in the USA, as Rolex has sponsored the Le Mans 24hr race since 2001, a neat closing of the circle, given the first proposal for the watch’s name.

This example came up for auction in September. The winning bid was a whopping £,82,000. Another £5,000 and they could have gone out and bought a new Porsche 911 Carrera.  

Rolex ‘Bloodhound’ Air King

Model year: 2020

Winning bid: £5,000

Another Rolex making the list is this one dedicated to the Bloodhound landspeed record project that went into administration in 2018

Another Rolex making the list is this one dedicated to the Bloodhound landspeed record project that went into administration in 2018

Rolex doesn’t do custom dials; they used to, back in the 1950s and ’60s when they were fighting for market share and corporate clients were crucial, but not now. This is what makes the ref. 116900 Air King so special, not just one watch but an entire model line is devoted to an external project. 

The 2016 launch and the current Rolex website makes vague associations with aviation, but those in the know recognise the dial as one thing and one thing only…a tribute to the clock and speedometer fitted to the Bloodhound, the supersonic land speed record car.

Back in the 1920s and ’30s Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the world land speed record 9 times and he did it with a Rolex watch on his wrist. Despite offering glowing public testimonials and being Rolex’s first male sporting ambassador, the watch he wore was his own and he never took a penny in sponsorship payment. 

Rolex recognised this by releasing a Rolex Precision ‘Campbell’ model, the only time they have ever put a living person’s name on the dial of a watch. Fittingly, Campbell set 4 of his records at Daytona Beach in Florida.

In 2014 Rolex announced the creation of the clock and Speedometer for the Bloodhound SSC, as it was then known. 

It was appropriate that the brand should support record attempts almost 80 years after Campbell’s breaking of the 300mph barrier. Just two years later, Baselworld saw the release of the Air King that followed the same colour scheme and design cues. 

Sadly 2018 saw the Bloodhound project put into administration and while it was saved at the last moment, Rolex were no longer sponsors and the clock and speedometer were removed. This may explain Rolex’s coyness around the inspiration for the watch, but make no mistake, this is a motorsport watch of the purest form.

And it was supremely valued by collectors, who battled in the virtual auction rooms to get their hands on it. When it sold in July it reached £5,000. 

Porsche Design 911 GT3 Chronograph

Model year: 2021 

Winning bid: £3,500

The 911 GT3 Chronograph was released to coincide with the launch of the 992 GT3 and is only available to buyers of the car

The 911 GT3 Chronograph was released to coincide with the launch of the 992 GT3 and is only available to buyers of the car

Porsche founder, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, famously created Porsche Design studio to create watches shortly after the car brand became a limited company

Porsche founder, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, famously created Porsche Design studio to create watches shortly after the car brand became a limited company

Sometimes cars and watches come together on the track, other times it is on the designer’s drawing board. In 1963 Ferdinand Alexander Porsche established his credentials as a car designer extraordinaire with the launch of the Porsche 911. 

Around nine years later as Porsche became a limited company, he left to set up the Porsche Design studio and soon after created his first watch, the Chronograph 1. 

Inspired by highly legible instrument displays, F.A. Porsche followed the same aesthetic for his watch, but went further creating the world’s first black coated watch case and bracelet. 

This design, powered by the newly developed Valjoux 7750 movement, went on to be a hit, both with the public and with drivers, the watch finding its way to the wrist of Ferrari F1 driver Clay Regazzoni.

Fast forward to 2021 and Porsche Design is still taking inspiration from its cars to guide watch design. 

The 911 GT3 Chronograph was released to coincide with the launch of the 992 GT3 and is only available to buyers of the car. With the same super-lightweight construction, the watch follows the style of the Chronograph 1 and even uses a highly developed version of the same movement. 

Not content with simply replicating the black dashboard of the dial this time, via an online configurator, the case, bezel, dial ring and strap stitching can all be customised so that the wrist Porsche is a perfect match for the track Porsche.

A £3,500 winning bid in September looks like pretty good value. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Amvox collection

Model year: 2012

Winning bid: £4,100

This is the watch James Bond might wear because it has the capacity to do something very clever with his favourite car maker...

This is the watch James Bond might wear because it has the capacity to do something very clever with his favourite car maker… 

The watch could unlock the doors of an owner's Aston Martin, like it had been developed by Q Branch

The watch could unlock the doors of an owner’s Aston Martin, like it had been developed by Q Branch

One of the longest running watch-car partnerships was the 12-year stint notched up by Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin. For this somewhat conservative watch manufacturer their ‘Amvox’ collection was an opportunity to explore cutting-edge design and innovative features without compromising their core ranges. 

The first watch was an alarm, the name combining the initials of Aston Martin with the tail-end of Jaeger-Le Coultre’s famous Memovox model. Later models pushed the boundaries and both function and design. 

You want to actuate your chronograph just by pressing on the glass? The Amvox 2 has this feature. You want a racing-design tourbillon GMT with a date display clever enough not to hide the escapement? 

The Amvox 3 could do that. Want to unlock your Aston Martin DBS V12 just by pressing your watch? Unbelievably the Amvox 4 could achieve just that! 

This feature, and the later Amvox Transponder 2 that expanded the unlocking ability to every Aston Martin in the range, made every owner feel like a real-life superspy with a Q-Branch gadget on the wrist, but that is a whole other watch/car collaboration.

In March, this stunning example went under the virtual hammer on WatchCollecting and sold for just over £4,000. 

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