Do you want to know more about the best racing watches for car enthusiasts? You’ve come to the right place.

Even for those with little interest in motorsport, there is something undeniably alluring about a great car that makes it hard not to let your eyes linger as it passes you by. It’s the way the contours of the design look just right, the way the purr of the engine invites you to imagine the rush of speed as you put your foot down. For those who are passionate about cars, the combination of first-class engineering and elegant looks make models such as the early Porches, Bentleys or Maseratis close to irresistible.

The Geckota C-05 Chronograph - Image Credit: Geckota

Little wonder then that true car enthusiasts try to reflect these combined features of engineering and design in other elements of their lives. One of the most obvious places to do this is on their wrist.

Watches and cars have enjoyed a long and cherished history together every since Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record wearing a Rolex Oyster nearly 100 years ago. Just as diving watches and pilot’s watches have become recognised styles in their own right, so racing watches are one of the most popular types of watch, and make the perfect timepiece for the car enthusiast who wants to bring a little of their passion for motorsports into their everyday style.

What defines a racing watch?

While there are no set rules for exactly what makes a racing watch, a number of features are common enough to be seen as defining. So if you’re looking to buy a racing watch, these are the features to look out for.

Chronograph and Tachymeter

Motorsports are all about timing, so it makes sense that watches for racing drivers have traditionally featured components that make this easier. Cue the chronograph and the tachymeter.

A chronograph is a separate stopwatch feature within the dial that allows a driver to take lap times. Racing chronograph watches often feature more than one of these extra dials, so a driver can compare lap times.

The tachymeter on the Geckota C-01 Chronograph - Image Credit: Geckota

A tachymeter is a separate bezel around the dial, inscribed with a scale that allows a driver to calculate distance/time ratios.

It’s worth noting that not all watches in the racing category will have these two features. These days it’s increasingly common for watches to take their inspiration from the motorsports genre, without including all the more technical features. The Geckota C-03 Automatic Racing Watch (featured below) is a good example of this.

High Contrast Dial

Legible dials are essential in motorsports - Image Credit: Geckota

If you’re travelling at high speed and need to keep your attention on the track, it helps if you can read your timepiece in the blink of an eye. So your typical race car watch will have a high contrast dial with easy to read figures. Don’t just take our word for it: Here’s Andy McKenna talking about the watch collection of a racing driver. As he says: “one of the most important aspects from a driver's perspective is the ability to quickly scan the various dials on a car's dashboard for required information quickly and easily.”

Racing Straps

Pick up a racing strap, like this grey Dartford Leather - Image Credit: Geckota

Finally, if you’re aiming for a truly authentic race car watch, then pay attention to the strap as well. Typical racing watch straps would have been perforated leather or rubber. That’s not always the case these days, and you can find attractive racing watch straps in other materials as well. You can browse a range of great racing watch straps and other sports watch straps here.

Seven of The Best Motor Racing Watches for Car Enthusiasts

So – what are the best watches for those who love the life on the open road? We’ve selected seven of our top picks to help you narrow your choice a little.

The Rolex Daytona

They don't get more iconic than the Rolex Daytona (especially the Paul Newman...) - Image Credit: Geckota

Let’s start with the classic. Following the aforementioned breaking of the land speed record by Malcolm Campbell, Rolex laid it on thick in their marketing that he was wearing their Oyster model at the time. (Incidentally, Campbell insisted on paying for the watch himself as a matter of pride. Today’s influencers could have learned a thing or two.) Anyway, Rolex continued to nurture the association with motorsports, and finally released the Daytona (named after the coastal town in Florida where the first motor races were held) in 1963. It has been considered one of the classic racing chronographs watches ever since.

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The Geckota C-04 VK64 Space Age Racing Chronograph

Just as the best cars have always looked to the future for inspiration, so this watch draws on a space-age design language to create a stylish and impressive addition to the Geckota racing watch range. Sitting in a 40mm case, the multi-layered dial is easy to read while the ceramic, tachymeter bezel adds a touch of quality not often seen at this price point. This is a great watch for those who love the clarity and functionality of a racing watch and bold, imaginative design.

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TAG Heuer Monaco

Probably the brand of watch that are most synonymous with motorsports, TAG Heuer engineered the dashboard timers such as the Monte Carlo that became essential equipment for the early race and rally cars. Of all its racing watch models, perhaps the most iconic is the Monaco, made famous after being worn by Steve McQueen while starring in the 1971 classic, Le Mans. This watch features an unmistakeable square case and dial, with square chronograph timers helping complete the model’s bold design. This was the first racing chronograph watch to feature the Chromatic Calibre 11, unique at the time for its automatic chronograph movement. Still as striking today as it was when worn by McQueen, the Monaco set the standard for racing watches that pushed the boundaries of design.

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Geckota Racing C-03 Automatic Watch

If you are looking for exquisitely designed yet affordable racing watches, this flagship model is worth considering. While this is not a chronograph watch with the tachymeter bezel, the style is so heavily influenced by the motorsports design language that it is instantly recognisable as a racing watch. High-end features such as automatic movement and the fully lumed ceramic bezel insert immediately lend a touch of class, while the refined design features such as the slimline hands and understated dial make this the perfect watch for those who like the classic look. Completing the racing watch style, the watch is set off by a comfortable leather, or perforated sailcloth strap.

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Geckota Racing C-03 Scott McKenna Limited Edition

As an adaption to the classic C-03 model above, this limited-edition racing watch was created in partnership with the British racing driver Scott Mckenna, a previous winner of the Ginetta Races. It takes the classic features of the standard C-03 model such as the ceramic bezel and specially designed hands, and brings in a bold design language inspired by Scott’s own distinctive style. Read more about Scott’s story here. Only 27 editions of this model have been made, so don’t miss your chance to get your hands on a piece of Geckota history.

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Bremont MKII Jaguar Racing Chronograph Watch

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Take a look at the Bremont #jaguar range in store today. Inspired by the iconic Jaguar D-Type this new addition to the range is limited to only 300 pieces. The blue dialled bi-compax chronograph has brushed nickel sub-dials and a Tachymeter dial ring with its chronometer rated movement housed in a 43mm satin finished three-piece Trip-Tick® case. The large exhibition sapphire case back shows the beautifully finished mechanical BE-50AE movement and the very intricate Jaguar steering wheel inspired rotor. The watch crown has the original Dunlop tyre tread etched into it and the heritage Jaguar logo finished beautifully in enamel on its end. Ian Callum, Jaguar's Director of Design has signed each leather wallet packaging for this exclusive model. . . . #jaguar #jaguars #jag #jaguarcars #british #britishmade #madeinbritain #bremont #luxury #luxurywatch #luxurywatches #leatherwatch #uk #britishwatchmaking #tachymeter #dunlop #bremontwatches #bremontjaguar #bremontwatch #thbaker #timepiece #weekend #menswatch #mensgiftideas #mensfashion #mensaccessories #gentswatch #cambridge #wristwatch

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With watches and cars so naturally aligned, it makes sense that numerous partnerships have evolved between brands. One such instance of this is the collaboration between Bremont and Jaguar for this simple but stylish racing watch. Coming in all black, or contrasting black and white dial designs, the model is reminiscent of some classic Jaguar styling, with the hour markers purposefully based on the figures on the E-type instruments. The Jaguar logo sits just below the centre on the dial, meaning there’s no mistake that this is a watch for the serious car enthusiast.

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Geckota C-01 Gen 2 Racing Chronograph Watch

Finally, for those car enthusiasts for whom only the classic representation of the genre will do, this racing chronograph watch ticks all the boxes, from its baton hands all the way to the perforated leather strap. The 42mm case, high contrast dial and curved edge sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating help this fill the race watch criteria of being easy to read. Another of the more affordable racing watches in this list, the C-01 Gen 2 is powered by Miyota 6S21 movement technology and is water-resistant to 100m.

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You’ll find more racing watches for sale over at the Geckota store.