You may have heard some uproarious cheers last year when legendary BMW racing driver Bill Auberlen tied for the most wins in IMSA history with a last-lap pass at Road Atlanta in the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 during the 2019 running of Petit Le Mans. But even as the champagne flowed in Victory Lane, motorsport fans knew it only set off another challenge, this time to cement Auberlen’s place in IMSA lore by winning his 61st race and becoming the most dominant driver in series history.
Now, in a series called “Race to 61,” Auberlen will be joining the ranks of other legendary drivers with his own limited-edition watches that celebrate the achievement. The three designs are in partnership with watchmaker Franck Muller, and feature hints of the timeless BMW Motorsport blue-purple-red livery that has carried Auberlen to so many victories over the last three decades.
“When I was approached with the idea to partner with Franck Muller on a limited edition watch I was all in,” says Auberlen in last week’s press release. “I am honored by the fact that they are as excited as I am about my ‘Race to 61.’ Aesthetically, like a great racing car, the watches we have designed are beautifully aggressive. I began testing for the 2020 IMSA season with a Franck Muller watch on my wrist and it is a perfect fit.”
Whether collectors and watch enthusiasts prefer 18K Rose Gold, Black Forged Carbon-Fiber, or Blue Titanium, the timepiece will feature all of Franck Muller’s legendary quality and presence, with 165 components in total, and 21 jewels at points of friction. You can read all about the specifics of the watch construction soon on Franck Muller’s website, but suffice to say, there are more parts involved in this timepiece than some race cars—and the identity of Bill Auberlen’s BMW Motorsport history flows through all of the designs. Naturally, 61 serial-numbered examples of each style will be made, meaning only the fastest-acting BMW Motorsport fans will be lucky enough able to pair this watch with the BMW in their driveway.
This kind of exclusivity, quality, and watchmaking craftsmanship comes at a price. The 18K Rose Gold tops the list at $31,500, followed by Black Forged Carbon Fiber at $25,500, and Blue Titanium for $24,000. But when you get a knowing nod from Bill Auberlen at the track, and get to wear the first watch celebrating his status as an IMSA legend, we’d imagine it’s all worthwhile.—David Rose
[Photos courtesy Franck Muller group.]