I’ve made a point of attending Monterey Car Week for many years and was disappointed to have had the last few years dashed by Covid-19. I’m a collector and lover of air-cooled Porsche 911s and my core business and passion are dealing in vintage watches, which are always plentiful at Car Week, so I was excited to take in rare rides and watches on display again after the time away. There is something to be said for experiencing these things at scale—an experience many of us were robbed of throughout the pandemic.
The wrists on the scene bore no small sum of special pieces. But this past week proved to me once again that it’s not about the rarity of the item or its value, but also about sharing passions on every level with like-minded people. Whether it was the guy in front of me at the coffee shop wearing a vintage Seiko diver or the kid wearing a TAG Heuer that he bought because it reminded him of the one Aryton Senna wore or the guy wearing a modern engineering marvel made by Richard Mille, everybody was there for the same thing. That’s what the real watch collecting community and the real automotive enthusiast community share: celebrating and protecting these things and connecting with people who are just as passionate about them as you are.
Watches and automotive pursuits have always shared a special relationship, and whether you approach the two from a love of pure design, an interest in the technological advancements and precision both industries foster, the tactile delights they both offer, or the tangible history these two worlds share via motorsports timing, watches and cars have always made perfect sense as bedfellows. From the iconic Heuer shield logo emblazoned on the bodies of sleek Porsche Le Mans challengers and Ferrari Formula One cars of yesteryear to heroic racers that became early Rolex ambassadors, like Sir Jackie Stewart, these worlds have always been inseparable. And in my experience as both a vintage watch dealer and a hopelessly obsessed car guy, the enthusiasts from these respective worlds are incredibly quick to become part of both worlds. I see it happen with my friends and clients all the time, and I’ve always said anyone that can appreciate the things that make a vintage car so intoxicating will appreciate a vintage watch.
As I took in the events, which included a thrilling track day at Laguna Seca, sponsored by Hagerty and Radford Motors (founded by Formula One World Champion Jenson Button along with Ant Anstead and Roger Behle), the Porsche Club of America’s Werks Reunion (which was particularly interesting to me as I’m a daily driver of a 1975 911S hot-rod), and halo shows like the Quail and Pebble Beach Concours, I was constantly reminded of these connections. While taking in the unbelievable group of winning Le Mans cars that had been assembled in the paddock of Laguna Seca, I found myself staring at the Ferrari 250 LM that the legendary Jochen Rindt helped pilot to victory in 1965. I was wearing a 1968 Heuer Autavia ref. 2446c Mk. 1 that was very similar to the ref. 2446c MK. 3 Autavia model that Rindt favored throughout his career. I later spotted someone wearing a beautiful 1960s Universal Geneve Compax (ref. 885103/01) “Evil Nina,” which had the inverse dial colorway of the very watch Rindt’s wife Nina was often seen wearing as she timed her husband’s laps in-period.
I had a similar moment of synchronicity a few days later. I found myself timing the laps of Paul Newman’s Le Mans class-winning 1979 “Hawaiian Tropic” livery Porsche 935 as it was driven in anger around Laguna Seca during a historic race with my personal early 1971 Rolex ref. 6262 “Paul Newman.” In these situations, you quickly understand the direct connection these objects have to the past and to its heroes, and while we constantly speak about these connections in watch circles, we rarely experience them firsthand.
While my own interests and passions chiefly center around the vintage watch world, the best of the contemporary side of horology was also well-represented. Brand ambassadors like Button, who wore a white gold Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126719BLRO with a stunning meteorite dial while treating fans to hot laps around Laguna Seca in the brutally fast Radford Type 62/2.
Four-time IndyCar Champ and 3-time Indy 500 winner, Dario Franchitti, also wore a contemporary Rolex GMT-Master II throughout the weekend—a “Batgirl” ref. 126710BLNR configuration on a Jubilee bracelet. He wore it on his right wrist due to an old racing injury that prevented him from wearing it on the left.
I was struck by the thought that while these new Rolexes worn by these racing legends were both fresh and showed few signs of use, we were witnessing their stories being written in the moment. Did the elegant white gold case of Button’s recently acquired GMT take on a ding or scratch during those hot laps? Would that watch someday be remembered as the trusted timepiece a legendary racer wore while shaking down a future-classic supercar? Absolutely. Every watch and every car’s story must begin somewhere, and while so much of Car Week is about ruminating on the past, it also showed that watch collecting indeed has a rich future ahead of it.