How Jochen Rindt’s Chronograph Became A Racing Icon
In the minds of most vintage watch collectors, the greatest era of sports chronograph production coincides with the glory days of Le Mans and Formula 1. When looking back at older pit photos from the ’60s and ’70s, you’re almost always bound to find something eye-catching on the wrist of your favorite driver, and if that driver happens to be Jochen Rindt, you’re certainly in luck. Both Jochen and his wife, the model Nina Rindt, are known for having worn two especially gorgeous timepieces—these now eponymous chronographs from Swiss watchmakers Heuer and Universal Genève are among the most sought-after watches on the market today.
Heuer’s involvement in automotive racing can be traced back to the late 1950s, when the Swiss watchmaker began producing the Master Time, Monte Carlo, Super Autavia, and Auto-Rallye—a complete line dashboard-mounted clocks, stopwatches, and chronographs designed with motor racing in mind. Soon after the success of those products, Heuer would start manufacturing legible, chronograph-equipped wristwatches for the same market.
As the largest manufacturer of sport timing equipment, motorsport naturally became deeply rooted in the brand’s DNA, and eventually led to Heuer’s sponsorship of Formula 1 teams and drivers, starting with Jo Siffert, who became an ambassador for the brand in 1969. Even those who weren’t sponsored by Heuer still chose to wear their chronographs on the track, simply because they enjoyed wearing the watches, and they were seen as an integral part of a driver’s uniform and gear.
Jochen Rindt’s Heuer of choice was a third execution example of the Autavia Ref. 2446M, characterized by its 60-minute bezel and highly legible “reverse-panda” dial. Due to the number of photos in which Rindt can clearly be seen wearing the watch, this specific variant has become synonymous with the Rindt name, and therefore is quite desirable in today’s market. In his day, Rindt wore the Autavia on a so-called “beads-of-rice” bracelet, manufactured by Gay Freres, a Swiss fabricator of watch bracelets and chains. This gave the watch an exceptionally sporty and tasteful look on the wrist.
Nina Rindt (herself the daughter of Finnish race car driver Curt Lincoln) has also become somewhat of an icon in the watch world in recent years, thanks to the booming resurgence of interest in the now defunct brand Universal Genève. As standard Compax and Tri-Compax chronographs started commanding more and more with the passing of each and every day, collectors quickly spotted a panda-dialed, Valjoux 72-powered Compax on Mrs. Rindt’s wrist, and so the name “Nina Rindt Compax” was coined. It’s also worth noting that the Nina name has been endearingly assigned the reverse configuration of this watch as well, that collectors refer to as the “Evil Nina”.
If you’re on the hunt for one of these watches, remember, originality is the name of the game. Seeing as the demand for vintage watches is now higher than ever before, finding clean and honest examples of these two watches can prove to be quite difficult—though with a little persistence, you too can channel the horological greatness of this automotive power couple.
What’s your favorite racing chronograph? Let us know in the comments!