Much like the in world of Formula 1, watch brands with the right pedigree are competing for attention on and off circuit at this weekend’s Le Mans 24 hour race. One of them, Rolex, will be highly visible everywhere other than on the competitors’ wrists, while another, Richard Mille, is the only brand confident enough to insist that its ambassadors wear their timepieces for their sporting activity, whether it be playing tennis, golf or careering around a motor racing circuit at breakneck speeds. Also in the mix are Rebellion, aiming for brand awareness as title sponsor of the Swiss team Rebellion Racing, as well as two big brands, TAG Heuer and Chopard, with new partnerships.
At Le Mans this year, former world championship rally driver Sébastien Loeb swaps the hot-seat for a more sedate role as co-founder of Sébastien Loeb Racing with Dominique Heintz. What remains unchanged, however, is his partnership with Richard Mille, whose logo can be seen on the air intake of the team’s ORECA 03 car, which is competing in the LMP 2 category.
Richard Mille will also be back in Le Mans in three weeks’ time as the Main Partner and Official Timekeeper of the Le Mans Classic race on the weekend of July 4, 5 and 6. The competition brings back Le Mans cars from the past 80 years and their drivers on the Bugatti Circuit (a circuit with the Circuit de la Sarthe) and Richard Mille has been involved ever since the first event in 2002.
This year the brand presents a limited-edition watch in conjunction with the race. The RM 030 Le Mans Classic, the fourth piece to carry the name of the competition, rather appropriately has a 24-hour display at 2 o’clock, with the symmetry of its quarter markings broken by an out-of-place 16, which references the start time of the endurance race. Beneath this scale is a discreet Le Mans classic logo. The case, however, is less discreet, since it is made of a white ATZ ceramic. The RM 030 Le Mans Classic is a limited edition of 100 pieces.
Having sponsored the Peugeot Sport team in 2009, then the successful Audi Sport team on its winning streak from 2010-2013, TAG Heuer returns to Le Mans this year as a partner of Dempsey Racing. The deal between the watchmaker famously chosen by Steve McQueen in the Le Mans film and Patrick Dempsey, the star of Gray’s Anatomy, who owns the Dempsey Racing team, was announced only three days ago.
“We are writing an exciting new page in our history,” said the brand’s CEO Stéphane Linder. “Not only in endurance races but also in watchmaking. On the one hand, we have an actor who, like Steve McQueen before him, is not afraid to take risks; and, on the other, a brand that never ceases to amaze, surprise and excite.”
Porsche Motorsport returns to endurance racing at Le Mans this year after a 16-year hiatus with its brand-new Porsche 919 Hybrid in the LMP 1 category. The new car was presented at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, where Chopard also announced its new partnership with the team. The Chopard logo also features on the team's two Porsche 911 RSRs in the GTE Pro category. We expect news of a new Le Mans inspired timepiece from Chopard soon.
The 2014 edition of the Le Mans 24-hour race starts at 3pm local time on Saturday 14th June.