3 Classic Driver’s Watches

Article By: Logan Hannen

Oct 16, 2018

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to zip on through the world of one of the watch world’s most interesting and underappreciated genres: the driver’s watch.

First, some definitions: a driver’s watch is, as the name suggests, a watch designed to be worn by someone operating a motor vehicle. The way this is executed is by making the design of the watch more legible when your hands are placed on the steering wheel, giving you the ability to see the time without having to either turn your wrist or your head. In some ways, these original models, which can be traced back well into the beginning of the 1900s, were designed to function like the hands-free calling of their day – giving the driver the ability to see the time via as little distraction as humanly possible so as to keep their focus on the road. Is that metaphor kind of a stretch? Yeah, but it makes sense. Think about it while we discuss three of my current favorite driver’s watches!

1: Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921

Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921
Source: Monochrome

When you ask a watch geek to name a driver’s watch, if they’re familiar with the genre, then this is likely going to be the piece you get back. It’s become a sort of modern day classic. Basketball superstar J.J. Redick even discussed his fascination with the piece with Ben Clymer for an episode of Talking Watches. It’s just one of those “if you know, you know” kinds of watches that people see, and they either get it right away or they don’t. But what’s so funky about it? Well, the most obvious difference between this and a traditional timepiece is the fact that the dial is turned about 30 degrees or so to the right, putting the 12 o’clock position right about where you would typically expect the halfway point between the 1 and 2 o’clock markers to be. If you pick up your wrist right now, and pretend like you’re holding a steering wheel, and then turn your wrist upwards towards your face without physically moving your hand’s position, you’ll see how this is useful. Mechanically, the 1921 features an in-house manual winding caliber 4400, specially designed to fit the unique design of this watch, complete with a crown at the traditional 1 o’clock position on the dial. It’s funky, fun, and at the same time super elegant, and really, what else do you need?

2: Omega Chronostop Driver’s Edition

Omega Chronostop Driver’s Edition
Source: WatchGuy

The Chronostop Driver’s edition is a total oddball of the vintage Omega catalogue. Released in the late 1960s in an effort by Omega to attract a younger consumer base to their brand, there were initially two versions: this driver’s model, and then a more standard edition with the dial facing the more traditional way (i.e., logo at 12 o’clock). The driver’s model is different in more ways than just it’s dial being turned 90 degrees to the right, though. While that alone would make it easier to read while driving, much the same way the Vacheron above does, the piece is also, as per Omega, designed to be worn on the underside of the wrist, rather than on top. The idea is that, doing this, you won’t even need to turn your wrist to see the time, though this is entirely dependent on where you hold the wheel and at what angle. Still, it was a unique effort by Omega, one that sought to not only be functional, but also to change the way we considered wearing watches (even if it didn’t quite stick).

3: MB&F HM5

MB&F HM5
Source: MB&F

Max Busser & Friends is a brand that I have no qualms admitting is doing some of the most innovative horological and, frankly, general mechanical things in the world today. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at their Co-Creations series and then get back to me. In the meantime, let’s dive into the HM5, the brand’s second go at a driver’s watch (the first being the HM4), but one that feels almost as though it’s jumped directly off the dash of a classic car with a vintage analog clock with what we would now call a “digital readout” kind of display. There are two variations – one in zirconium, one in red gold – but both are fundamentally the same. They both feature a so-called “optical prism” used in order to make the display pop and appear larger thanks to a fascinatingly shaped sapphire crystal, and both differ from the other two driver’s watches on this list in that it is truly only readable when your hands are in their natural driving position. While it does make wearing the piece a bit unique in terms of reading the time in non-driving situations, it really does feel like it would actually be intuitive given how frequently we have the flanks between the lugs more easily viewable to us than the dial itself without turning our wrists.

Alright, geeks, that’s all I’ve got for you today! Be sure to let us know what you think and, as always, keep it classy, watchfam!

MORE FROM THIS SERIES