One of the perks of being a Formula 1 driver – you know, other than being able to drive the fastest cars on the planet, the international fame and enormous paychecks – is that you get a lot of nice freebies as part of the job.
That’s largely thanks to sponsors, with F1 teams and drivers all enjoying multiple, complex marketing arrangements. Few brands are more prominent in F1 than watch brands, and most teams in the sport have watch brands as major sponsors: Alpine with Bell & Ross, AlphaTauri with Casio, Aston Martin with Girard-Perregaux… You’ll always see F1 drivers slipping on new watches before and after races. Some drivers even have their own signature edition watches.
But when they’re not on the tools, so to speak, they often wear some rather different timepieces. Check out some of the 2021 F1 grid’s favourite ‘off-duty’ watches below.
One watch that’s particularly popular among multiple drivers on the grid: the Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is perhaps the most flagrant fan of the luxury sports watch, the Monégasque maestro favouring the rose gold Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph (ref. 5990/1R). This is despite the fact that Ferrari has a sponsorship deal with the already highly exclusive watch brand Richard Mille – with the average ‘Millie’ arguably a more prestigious watch than a Nautilus.
Funnily enough, Daniel Ricciardo – whose current team McLaren also has a deal with Richard Mille – also owns a rose gold Nautilus chronograph, in his case, the ref. 5980/1R. Ricciardo’s actually owned this watch for a few years, having been spotted rocking it as early as 2017 (back when he was with Red Bull), so he was actually cheating on TAG Heuer by wearing a Patek back then…
Of course, most (but not all) modern F1 drivers usually don’t wear their watches whilst they’re competing. In a sport where every gram counts, the extra weight of a wristwatch is theoretically counter-productive, as well as a potential health hazard in the event of a crash – you wouldn’t want a hefty gold Hublot weighing down your wrist.
The same is true for many other sports – Roger Federer might have a big ol’ Rolex sponsorship, for example, but you’ll notice that some attendant will quickly rush over to slap the watch on his wrist after he finishes playing, so the watch will be there for photos but not impact his performance during a match. Sneaky stuff.