If you’re going to commission a custom Rolls-Royce with their world class coachbuilding department, you’re not going to cut corners, just ask Alex Innes, head of coachbuilding at Rolls-Royce. Every detail has to be perfect and when it comes to dashboard clocks, clients often commission some of the finest watchmakers in the world for bespoke timepieces, two new examples of which have recently been announced. There’s the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date for La Rose Noire Droptail and the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon for Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail.
This isn’t the first time that Rolls has worked alongside a high end watchmaker in recent history. Back in 2021 they produced the Boat Tail, which at the time was the most expensive new car in the world for good reason. It not only came with champagne but also not one but two Bovet timepieces and ultimately it transpired that the owner of this car is Jay-Z.
What about the new watches and cars though? Well, let’s take a look. First, we have the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date for La Rose Noire Droptail. Debuting at a reported $30 million, this car steals the “most expensive new car in the world” title for itself. The watch is a 43mm diameter piece mounted in a removable holder that means it can be removed from the dashboard and worn on a strap like a conventional wristwatch.
Aesthetically, it has the signature octagonal bezel which looks fabulous mounted in the car. It reminds me a little of Iron Man’s chest mounted Arc Reactor. Although perhaps that’s just because the red and dark grey colourway designed to match the colours of La Rose Noire Droptail looks like the Mark V Iron Man suit from the second film. I can also easily imagine Tony Stark driving the car, which looks awesome too.
The watch is powered by the Calibre 4407, a movement new to 2023. It features a split-seconds chronograph function, a GMT and a large date, beating at 28,880 vph with a 70-hour power reserve. It’s as serious of an engine as its petrol counterpart, which is a twin-turbo 6.75L V12.
Next we come to the second Droptail out of the four that have been commissioned: the Amethyst Droptail. While La Rose Noirse features a rose petal pattern across its design, the Amethyst is a little more conventional in a consistent purple shade. Completing the vehicle is the dashboard clock/removable watch, which is the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon.
Vacheron Constantin hasn’t created a custom watch for a car in close to a hundred years, the last time being in 1928. As such, the project was immediately given to the Les Cabinotiers workshop, the masterminds behind watches like the 2015 Ref. 57260, which was the most complicated timepiece in the world at the time. In fact, it was actually the Ref. 57260 that inspired the watchmakers to create the Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon using the Calibre 1990. A bi-retrograde movement with a complex tourbillon that resembles an armillary – a spherical device used to represent the celestial movements of the Earth, sun, moon and planets.
Interestingly, because the watch is designed to be set into the dashboard vertically, where it will spend most of its time, the tourbillion is actually fulfilling its intended purpose. On most wristwatches tourbillons are somewhat irrelevant because the swinging motion of your arm and general use fulfils the same job. But in a static vertical position, a tourbillon does indeed offset the effects of gravity on the movement.
The styling has been kept relatively simple. It has a 43.8mm diameter in stainless steel with a 12 o’clock crown making it a pocket watch rather than a wristwatch. The display itself is more complex with a peripheral minutes scale and central skeletonised window revealing the calibre below. The plate of the movement is purple in colour to match the car.
Which of these custom watches is your favourite? My bias leans in favour of the Royal Oak Concept simply because I like the more daring pattern of the rose petals. However, between an RO and a Les Cabinotiers special piece, the Vacheron Constantin feels rarer and more special.
More details at Rolls Royce.