Formula 1 and timekeeping are inextricably linked. While Rolex is the main sponsor of F1, newer brands like Hublot and Richard Mille are trying to win over some of the competition’s premier teams. These brands are positioning themselves favorably with top racing teams like Ferrari and McLaren and outfitting their drivers with some astronomically expensive timepieces. TAG Heuer, on the other hand, is the undisputed pioneer when it comes to motorsport sponsorship. The manufacturer and F1 have a history that dates back to 1969. Read on to learn more about specific models from these brands and determine whether they make worthwhile investments.
TAG Heuer: A Pioneer on the Racetrack
When the subject of watches and Formula 1 comes up, it’s hard to avoid mentioning Jack Heuer. The sports watch pioneer hand-delivered his chronographs to pit lanes around the world. In a clear nod to the racetrack, he gave his watches names like “Carrera,” “Monaco,” and “Monte Carlo.” If you were a notable racing driver in the 1960s and 70s, chances are you had a Heuer on your wrist. This was a time before racing was fully regulated, and professional drivers were brave men who weren’t afraid to risk their lives on the track.
The most famous Heuer chronograph is most likely the Autavia. The model gets its name from two words: AUTomobile and AVIAtion. In 1962, Jack Heuer successfully transferred this timepiece from the dashboards of earlier race cars to drivers’ wrists. Some of the era’s most famous names to wear the Autavia include Jochen Rindt, Jo Siffert, and Mario Andretti. These racing drivers put the chronograph on the map, both professionally and privately.
Vintage Autavias with hand-wound Valjoux movements are very popular among collectors and Formula 1 fans today. Similar to classic cars, these timepieces have the potential to appreciate in value depending on their production year, movement, and condition. One example is the ref. 2446 “Jochen Rindt.” Prices for this watch have risen from around $12,000 to some $21,500 over the past four years.
In 2017, TAG Heuer introduced a new version of the iconic 2446 racer under reference number CBE2110. The newer watch is significantly larger than the original Jochen Rindt timepiece and comes with an in-house movement. While the watch enjoys moderate popularity, it failed to strike a chord with Heuer purists, who claim it’s far too bulky. This has affected its price, which, at around $4,300, is well below its recommended retail value of $5,300.
2021: TAG Heuer and F1
In 2021, TAG Heuer and Red Bull Racing announced they would extend their partnership until 2024. Dutch driver Max Verstappen and Mexican driver Sergio Pérez will be the faces of TAG Heuer. However, it must be said that the drivers and watches aren’t quite as glamorous as they were in the heyday of racing. The manufacturer’s Formula 1 collection contains both three-hand and chronograph watches, some of which are powered by quartz calibers. The automatic Max Verstappen Special Edition chronograph from 2019 is powered by the Heuer Calibre 16, which is based on the Valjoux 7750. The watch features numerous red accents, including a “Verstappen” inscription on its black bezel.
Unlike the Heuer classics of yesteryear, current TAG Heuer Formula 1 watches don’t make the best investments. The Max Verstappen Special Edition from 2019 had an official list price of $3,400. Today, you can purchase the watch for around the same price. The automatic “Senna” chronograph had a similar list price but sells for more than $1,000 less on Chrono24. It is unlikely that models from newer collections will appreciate much in years to come.
Hublot: Fine Formula 1 Watchmaking
The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Hublot has been around since 1980, making it a relatively young player on the market. The brand cleverly and effectively combines modern materials and innovative technology. For example, they are the only watchmaker to use Magic Gold, a combination of yellow gold and ceramic. Various Hublot watches also include carbon, titanium, and sapphire components. Hublot knows a thing or two about attracting attention. After all, it’s hard to miss their sizeable watches.
Hublot was a sponsor of the Ferrari racing team for several years and equipped four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel with an exclusive timepiece. Vettel was a big fan of the Big Bang Ferrari Unico Carbon Red Ceramic (ref. 402.QF.0110.WR). This watch boasts a 45-mm ceramic case and the caliber HUB1241 with a 72-hour power reserve. The skeletonized dial offers a view of the movement at work, and the Ferrari red bezel contrasts beautifully with the otherwise black case.
So, does this watch make a good investment? The list price is $29,400, but mint-condition watches currently sell for around $24,000. Prices are still in flux, however, and there has been a slight rise since March 2021.
Another interesting watch from the Hublot Ferrari line-up is the Big Bang Ferrari 1000 GP introduced in early 2021. While it has yet to make an appearance on a prominent racing driver’s wrist, the specs speak for themselves. The watch is made of carbon ceramic, a composite material also used for F1 cars’ brake discs. The 45-mm case houses the automatic caliber HUB1243 with a flyback function. This model is limited to a run of just 20 copies and costs $52,600.
It’s difficult to compare this watch to a TAG Heuer. Obviously, the Hublot is in a more exclusive league when it comes to price. The same applies to the materials used for the case, bracelet, and movement, which are all of the highest quality.
Richard Mille: High-Tech Watches for Ferrari and McLaren
Richard Mille produces extremely robust and exclusive timepieces for athletes and sports enthusiasts. The watchmaker from Les Breuleux, Switzerland is known for using special materials from the automobile and aerospace industries. These include carbon, carbon-based graphene, grade 5 titanium, and various alloys combining aluminum and titanium. Of course, the brand also offers in-house movements made in large part from these high-tech materials. While TAG Heuer watches are practically entry-level compared to the works of art produced by Richard Mille, Hublot is a somewhat closer match, though still trailing by a bit.
In contrast to Hublot, numerous athletes wear their Richard Mille watches on the court, field, or track. A few prominent examples include tennis star Rafael Nadal and basketball player LeBron James. The latter caused quite a stir when he donned a Richard Mille worth several hundred thousand dollars during a game.
Richard Mille has won over some big names from Formula 1 as well, including Mick Schumacher, Charles Leclerc, Fernando Alonso, and Kimi Raikkönen for the 2021 season. Other Mille ambassadors include Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, both of whom have been seen wearing the RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph in the past.
Richard Mille has equipped Mick Schumacher with an RM 033. This model, one of the few round watches in the brand’s range, is extremely flat at just 6.3 mm.
Driver Charles Leclerc, in turn, has opted for the RM 67-02. This is the timepiece that long-time partner Fernando Alonso also tends to wear on his wrist. The watch is made of lightweight TPT carbon, which keeps the total weight of the case and strap to just 32 g. Romain Grosjean, who is back on track after a serious crash in 2020, has been seen promoting the RM 011 Red TPT Quartz Automatic Flyback Chronograph.
Do Richard Mille watches make worthwhile investments?
So, you like the extravagant creations from Richard Mille and are wondering if it’s wise to invest in one? Let’s take a closer look.
The RM 11-03, the watch of choice for F1 drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, cost just north of $200,000 at the start of 2018. That is a lot of money, to be sure. However, it would have been money well spent because the same watch was selling for over $540,000 on Chrono24 in spring 2021. That’s an increase of more than 150%. You can currently buy a rose gold RM 033 for around $79,500. This is some $7,000 more than prices in mid-2019 – not a bad increase at all.
The lightweight RM 67-02 Automatic Winding Extra Flat, the favorite watch of Spanish racer Fernando Alonso, sells for around $277,000. Prices for this model have risen more than $95,000 since mid-2018. In contrast, prices for Romain Grosjean’s RM 011 TPT Quartz Automatic Flyback Chronograph have remained almost linear since 2017. The market price of $184,000 almost seems like a bargain compared to other Mille timepieces.
So, what will it be: TAG Heuer, Hublot, or Richard Mille? All three of these brands offer fascinating timepieces with links to motorsport. Purists will love vintage Heuer watches that harken back to the heyday of F1 racing. They are functional watches with rough edges. If you make the right choice, you may also get your hands on a good investment piece. If you opt for a TAG Heuer watch from the current collection, you’ll be buying a high-quality timepiece but are unlikely to see much in terms of financial performance over time.
If you’re a fan of Hublot, you’ll be getting your money’s worth both technically and visually, but you’d be taking a risk when it comes to investment. Richard Mille is a clear winner in terms of exciting technology, beautiful aesthetics, and investment potential. You can tell the man behind the brand has a true passion for motorsport, which has rocketed Mille to the top of the list when it comes to Formula 1 watches.