A Look At Five Retro-Inspired Racing Watches That Won't Break The Bank
Cars & motorsport

A Look At Five Retro-Inspired Racing Watches That Won't Break The Bank

Get ready to hit the pavement with these accessibly priced classic chronographs.

By Rhonda Riche

The 1960s and ’70s were a golden age of auto racing and chronograph watches. The era represented a pinnacle of engineering while pushing the boundaries of cool style. Over time, what was considered bold and sporty is now accepted as classic and chic.

Today, timepieces nicknamed after track legends like Paul Newman, Steve McQueen (yes, they are actors, but they also put in a few laps in their day), and Nina Rindt command big bucks at auction. 

Scarcity and price shouldn’t stop you from looking good behind the wheel. Here are five of our favorite affordable but high-octane Sixties and Seventies-style timepieces. And all are available now – no waiting lists!

Yema's Mario Andretti Editions

We’ve written about Mario Andretti’s Yema Rallye before, and we’ll probably write about it again. That’s because this timepiece embodies the passion that the legend brings both to motorsports and horology.

“I love wristwatches almost as much as I love racing,” Andretti told Watchonista. “I bought the Rallye in the 1960s because I thought it was really cool. At the time, it was state-of-the-art and right on the cutting edge of modern. I got many compliments on it, so I wore it often. I actually wore it daily for the entire month of May 1969 in preparation for the Indianapolis.” The Rallye, he says, was one of the things that “became part of a day that changed my life.”

You don’t have to win races to wear a watch with such an excellent track record. Yema has reimagined Mario Andretti's Rallye for two limited edition watches. Originally released as a $2,699 mechanical Limited Edition, a wider-production quartz version was released earlier this year that runs on a high-octane Seiko VK64 Mechanical-Quartz movement. It has also been tweaked for modern sensibilities with a 39mm stainless steel case, double-domed mineral crystal, date window, tachymeter bezel, 60-minute chronograph counter, and 24-hour indicator.

The Yema Rallye Mario Andretti Special Edition is available now at $429.

Bulova Chronograph A

Another watch based on a historical reference, the Bulova Chronograph A is inspired by the brand’s popular diver chronographs from the 1970s. but it makes an excellent option for drivers as well.

Originally nicknamed the “Surfboard” by collectors because of the distinctive oval surrounding the two sub-dials, in 2020, Bulova updated this classic stainless steel timepiece with black and red accents and an off-white dial. The distinctive oval is now rendered in black while the orange-tipped hour and minute hands are baton-shaped, the lume-filled markers are bold, and the central chronograph second hand is bright orange – the most ’70s of colors. It is, of course, water-resistant to 200 meters.

The Surfboard is powered by a durable five-hand quartz chronograph movement and presented on a black perforated silicone strap with deployant closure.

Available now, the Chronograph A recreation celebrates a historical design by capturing the spirit and athletic prowess of exhilarating water sports.

The TAG Heuer Gulf Formula 1

TAG Heuer’s Monaco x Gulf is probably the most recognizable of retro-race watches – with its square case, iconic livery colors, the left-side crown, sunray dial with pearl-white counters at 3 and 9 o’clock, date window at 6 o’clock, and vintage HEUER logo at 12 o’clock. But if you seek the visual impact of this iconic watch at a fraction of the cost, look no further than the TAG Heuer Gulf Formula 1.

Introduced in 2018, this chronograph pays tribute to one of motor racing’s greatest sponsoring legends, Gulf. It shares many elements of the Monaco x Gulf, including the brushed Gulf shield-blue dial with orange and light blue stripes (just like Steve McQueen’s car in the 1971 movie classic Le Mans). Plus, the look of the Gulf Formula 1 is accentuated by a fixed tachymeter bezel made of blue aluminum, the black PVD coated steel screw-down pushers, and a blue leather strap with a brushed steel pin buckle.

Available now, the Gulf Formula 1 also sports white counters and a generous 43mm brushed-steel case to make it easier to read on the road. Its quartz chronograph movement also makes it very dependable on a long rally.

Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph H 

When it comes to heritage, Hamilton has a deep well of watches to draw from. Released in early 2021, the new Intra-Matic Chronograph H is based on a pair of chronographs the company released in 1968. These Hamilton A and B chronographs were panda (black sub-dials on the white dial) and reverse  panda (white sub-dials on a black dial), respectively, and were revisited by the brand in 2017 with the Intra-Matic 68, which used an automatic movement. 

The Intra-Matic Chronograph H stays true to the Hamilton A and B chronographs in many ways, from its matte black and white dials to its hand-winding mechanism.

The Intra-Matic Chronograph H is also a solid chunk of funk. The polished stainless steel case measures 40mm x 14.35 mm and houses a modified ETA-7753 caliber that Hamilton calls the H-5. It features 60 hours of power reserve, beats at 4Hz, and is water-resistant to 100m.

Both dial variants are available with either a black leather strap with pin buckle or a stainless steel Milanese mesh bracelet and are water-resistant to 100m. 

Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue 

Not a new watch, but the Heritage Chrono Blue recently went viral when David Beckham posted a picture of himself with his youngest daughter and his Tudor timepiece. And while Tudor is sometimes called the People’s Rolex, the Heritage Chrono Blue is more than just a Daytona derivative.

Introduced way back in 2013, the Heritage Chrono Blue is based on the 1973/74 model known as the “Monte-Carlo.” There are two variants of this classic chronograph, but the one with the fabric strap best fits today’s theme (the other has an integrated stainless steel bracelet and costs several hundred dollars more).

The Heritage Chrono Blue has a straightforward display and bidirectional 12-hour graduated steel bezel for a second time-zone display with a disc in blue anodized aluminum. Moreover, its orange accents and brushed finishes complete the vintage vibes.

Speaking of vintage vibes: In the spirit of the Seventies, the Heritage Chrono Blue is a beefy watch – 42mm in diameter and 13mm thick. Inside, the self-winding mechanical Calibre T401 movement with a power reserve of approximately 42 hours powers the watch. And should you find yourself getting doused in champagne after reaching the winner’s circle, this watch is waterproof to 150m (500 ft).

Available now, it comes on a blue, gray, and orange fabric strap.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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