Race car driving is probably the single biggest inspiration in the world of watches, right up there with aviation and diving. There are plenty of auto-inspired collections, some referencing specific races or drivers.
Few are as authentic, perhaps, as the Sport Auto Blue from Laurent Ferrier. Before he became one of the world’s most respected and sought-after watchmakers, Laurent Ferrier was a successful race car driver. He and his business partner, François Servanin, teamed up on the track decades before they formed a watchmaking company in 2009. In a press release launching the new watch, Laurent recalls a particularly grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1979, in which their team—Ferrier, Servanin and Francois Trisconi—came in third, just behind Paul Newman and his team. “A remarkable achievement for three amateur drivers like us,” says Ferrier. “The story continued in the paddocks where, in a state of elation, I offered a [Patek Philippe] Nautilus to François, as a token of gratitude after this shared performance.”
The gesture sheds light on another point of authenticity: Ferrier worked as a watchmaker and product development manager at Patek Philippe for 37 years, where he was part of the team that developed the famous Gerald-Genta designed Nautilus. Some say the new Sport Auto Blue resembles the famed Nautilus, but if anyone has the street cred to create an auto-inspired watch that (slightly) resembles the Nautilus, surely it is Laurent Ferrier. He refers to the Sport Auto Blue as “a tribute piece to the extraordinary adventure that we experienced as young men. We thought it would have been the ideal timepiece to wear during each of our races.” The Sport Auto Blue is lightweight and robust, with a 41.5 mm case made of titanium, designed with a blend of shapes and contours that rival the Nautilus—in fact, it may well be a representation of the logical evolution of that design. The bracelet is also made of titanium and it is tapered to wear comfortably on the wrist.
The watch may be sporty, but it is also pure Laurent Ferrier in its level of finish and classic minimalism. The case and bezel are given a vertical satin finish, contrasted by a high polish on the flanks, which emphasizes the many curves and counter curves. The finish is carried over to the bracelet, with a satin brush contrasted by polished flanks on each generously rounded link. The dial is true to Ferrier’s trademark preference for classic minimalism, but with a few sporty touches: There is a hint of Super-LumiNova on the signature Assegai (javelin-shaped) hands, which is repeated on the slightly elongated indexes. The opaline finish creates a subtle texture that works well with the gradient blue, which darkens only slightly toward the outer edge. The ghosted “Sport Auto” discreetly blends in with the dial color, since it is not essential information, yet the recessed, framed date window is designed to be noticed. The minute tracks are gray, rather than white, which would have created too much contrast. The signature ball-shaped crown is there, but is now screwed down, giving the watch 120-meter water resistance.
It contains an automatic calendar movement, the LF 270.01, with a platinum micro-rotor and a 72-hour power reserve. There is one subtle automobile reference: the sapphire crystal on the caseback is held with screws that resemble those used in motorsports. Otherwise, the focus is on the movement, which is finished with more than 139 manual operations, including several internal angles, multiple zinc-polished surfaces, as well as areas of satin-finishing and circular graining. The bridge over the micro-rotor is meticulously decorated by hand, with angles that are finished with gentian wood (the stem of a flower that grows in Swiss Alpine areas) or diamantine, juxtaposed with a mirror-polished ring. The bridges are ruthenium-coated and satin-finished.
The Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto Blue is priced at $49,500. Although it is not a limited edition, the brand will make only 125 pieces in 2022.