Even if you don't know what exactly makes a racing watch, you've almost certainly worn one. So what makes a racing watch?
"Essentially, it's the chronograph function, a mechanism used to time intervals," says Kelly Jasper, contributing editor at Hodinkee.com, a highly regarded source of wristwatch expertise. "The chronograph feature has been around 200 years. It was originally used in horse racing but later became an important tool in auto racing."
In 1957, the last year racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio won a Formula 1 championship, Omega released the first revolutionary Speedmaster; soon after, Heuer unveiled theCarrera (named for La CarreraPanamericana, a legendary and short-lived Mexican road race). In 1963, Rolex introduced the Daytona, one of which Paul Newman wore every day from 1972 until the day he died.
But do most guys actually use the chronograph function, or is it more ornamental? "Well I'm attending a yacht race in two weeks," says Kelly, who owns a vintage Heuer chronograph. "I'll be tracking times with mine."