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The chronograph watch

Interview with Adrian van der Kroft
Publiced on 04-05-2022
Reading time +/- 10 minutes

Cars and watches seem to be inextricably connected. Where is this relationship coming from? And does a so called racing watch exist? Adrian van der Kroft tells us more about his use of watches within the racing world.

What do racing/cars and watches have in common according to you (if anything)?

Well… Let me say it like this, watches can exist without racing, but racing can not exist without watches. The only way to measure if what you’re doing is successful, is by checking the clock. Especially in the modern raceworld where the differences are so minimal, the clock is extremely important. Measuring seconds and even milliseconds to check if the driver can or should do an extra pit stop for example. It’s the ultimate measuring instrument of motorsports. 

You are probably not in motorsports if you don’t have a passion for technique, accuracy and perfection. And this is the same with watchmaking.

And what about the design, since the cars are also nice-looking?

Well no, I do think the cars are pretty, but they are probably not. But what I find so fine about racing cars, especially the Italian ones, is their functionality. And yes, this is the same with watches. This is also why we like chronographs, because of their accuracy. So a Rolex is by definition not favorable, even though it’s the biggest sponsor of the Formula 1. 

It’s not that the design is not important, as long as it doesn’t take away from the functionality. In conclusion, in my eyes a watch is not an art object. 

So are there any specifications that a chronograph watch should contain, according to you?

Yes, a certain level of accuracy. I have the best watch in the world, a Citizen Eco-Drive, but the design looks awful. You can actually make a pretty straightforward watch that has a nice design but also a good functionality. As an example, nowadays there are these stopwatches with a flyback function

Just don’t make a watch with too many dials and whatever kind of attributes to it, because it takes away from what a watch should be about. 

What makes a watch a (racing) chronograph? Or in other words, what is a chronograph watch? 

You can call a watch a chronograph when the watch has a deviation of only a few percent per certain amount of time. In other words, it has a stopwatch function with a certain level of accuracy. I think they are mostly mechanical, because otherwise every electric watch would be a chronograph, given their accuracy.

Also, I don’t think a racing chronograph exists. It’s more that you have a chronograph that you use for racing goals. So what kind of watch do I take with me to a race circuit? It has to be a watch with a decent stopwatch on it, preferably with flyback function, which allows me to track the times of my competitors. Because at the end of the day, the clock speaks the truth. Especially in the qualifying races, the clock decides the best driver. However, one of my mentors once told me that in racing you don’t have to be quick, you just have to make sure that you are the first to pass the finish line.

The watch also shouldn’t be too heavy, because when you are driving you have to use your hands and a heavy watch will make your movements more difficult. This is a bit similar to what I want to say about the material of the strap, because a steal strap is not comfortable and would I therefore not recommend. Lastly, it’s a plus when the watch is also water resistant. 

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When I am racing (See Classic Racing to read more) I usually have 2 clocks with me, one is the watch around my wrist (that I rarely check during a race) and the other one is a kitchen timer standing on my dashboard. I use this timer to keep an eye on my time spent during a pit stop, since there is a minimum amount of time I have to stay in the pit lane (about 2 minutes). 

And how do you use the chronograph watch in racing?

I see a driver that I have to drive against in a later circuit and want to know his lap times. I grab my chronograph, start the stopwatch function and press the stop button when the driver finishes his lap. Another situation where I use the chronograph is when there is several cars between the number 1 and the number 2 of the race. To check whether the number 2 is getting closer to the number 1 you can use the stopwatch function again. 

Back in the days, the wifes of the drivers would track the lap times of their husband. They were good calculaters and just followed the second hand of their watch, resulting in accurate lap times. 

You have seen the Camber Watch Monaco edition (see picture), what do you think about it? An honest opinion?

The racing watch has an ambiance of the social and adventurous surroundings from the race world during the 60’s (the Bentley boy atmosphere). The quality of the watch is excellent, because it has all the functions a (racing) watch should have. In short, the combination of the quality and the style of the watch make it an attractive choice. 

Interviewed by Camber Watches, april 2022