Just when you thought that Formula 1 couldn’t get more over the top if it tried, the Las Vegas Grand Prix returns for the first time since 1982 this weekend. Back then, it was known as the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, as the whole track was contained within the premises of the famous Caesars Palace Casino: which also made it the very first (and last) grand prix to be held in a car park. This year, it gets rather more exciting as it takes Formula 1 onto the streets – including the iconic Strip, passing famous hotels such as the Bellagio and the Venetian, as well as Caesars Palace of course.
However, there’s no celebratory toga party for multiple Mercedes champion Lewis Hamilton afterwards, who hasn’t won a race since 2021. But he gets a very strong consolation prize instead – as Mercedes is sponsored by IWC, which is bringing out a couple of new watches to celebrate this much-hyped race.
To be fair, they’re not completely new. But they do have some rather cool original features; most notably some very Formula 1 materials – where the quest to remove weight is undertaken with even more zeal than Kim Kardashian.
The Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 AMG is crafted from titanium, which is about 45% lighter than steel, and even more solid. It comes on either a titanium bracelet or a black rubber strap. The rest of it is mostly the familiar three-subdial IWC Pilot that we know and love. Unless you know it’s the special titanium AMG version, you would be hard pushed to distinguish it from the rest of the range – which can only be a good thing.
Its new brother, the Pilot’s Watch Performance Chronograph 41 Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, is more individual and distinctive – but did they really have to give it such a long-winded name?
This watch is made out of Ceratanium: a proprietary material developed by IWC. It has all the strength and integrity of titanium but addresses the metal’s biggest shortcoming, as Ceratanium is scratch-resistant like ceramic. Creating it is an involved process, based on a special titanium alloy and then hand-finished using a kiln to bake it. The result is a matt black material, and like the ‘basic’ titanium version, it comes either on a Ceratanium bracelet or the same black rubber strap (which to my mind, actually looks better). What really makes it stand out from the crowd are the turquoise highlights on the date window as well as on the seconds hand of the bottom register, which recalls the distinctive Petronas colours of the F1 car.
Both watches feature a tachymeter scale on the ceramic bezel, which allows the wearer to calculate average speed based on the distance travelled (as seen on the iconic Omega Speedmaster for example, which contrary to popular belief, actually started out life as a racing watch rather than a moon watch).
Granted, you’re unlikely to find Lewis Hamilton and George Russell fiddling with their bezels mid-race, but it all adds up to the general air of speed and racing ambience that these two watches underline so well – helped by an enduring partnership with Mercedes that dates back to 2004.
Inside both watches, you’ll find the IWC 69385 movement with a power reserve of 46 hours, visible through the display caseback (which also sports a prominent AMG logo for the first watch, while the Ceratanium caseback is more subtle). There’s a generous helping of lume on the more prominent Arabic numerals, framed in black nickel.
Think of this as a classic IWC Pilot’s watch with an extra taste of speed, and what we have – in my view at least – is a genuine rival for the Speedmaster. Personally, I prefer the classic titanium watch of the two due to its attractive brushed metal finish and the absence of turquoise highlights which will be very much a matter of personal taste.
The titanium watch will set you back around £7,800 (on the rubber strap) while the Ceratanium costs around £3,000 more. Both however represent probably the most convincing watch yet to come out of the long-standing Mercedes and IWC partnership. They’re also a lot more tasteful than most things seen in Las Vegas.
Don’t just take our word for it – the watches were officially launched earlier this week by none other than Hamilton and Russell, who were the stars of ‘Speed City’: a spectacular pop-up event, complete with drone show and driving displays held by IWC in the desert close to Las Vegas. IWC’s Chief Design Officer, Christian Knoop, was on hand to present the watches, and he was joined by another ex-Formula 1 driver and IWC brand ambassador: David Coulthard.
The association between IWC and Mercedes is one of the best-known in motorsport, with some serious pedigree behind it; yet another reason why these two latest watches are so compelling. The best racing watch of the year? Quite possibly.
For more information on these two new watches, please visit: www.iwc.com.
Anthony Peacock works as a journalist and is the owner of an international communications agency, all of which has helped take him to more than 80 countries across the world.
Photographs courtesy of IWC Schaffhausen