Until about March of this year, I had never heard of the independent watchmaking company Lorige. It was one of those brands discovered through the power of Instagram, just scrolling and suddenly coming across something never seen before. And if ever there was a brand perfectly suited for The Petrolhead Corner it would have to be this one. Lorige’s inaugural collection, the BL-Endurance, goes beyond the usual themes of a racing-inspired wristwatch. Not content with just infusing a watch with racing details, Lorige constructs it with carbon-carbon brake pads taken from endurance racing prototypes cars like an LMP from United Autosports or the new Peugeot 9X8 Hypercar. So to get to know not only the watch but also one of the racing teams it is collaborating with, AND experience endurance racing up close and personal, I travelled down to the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend.
A few things came together for me the past weekend, one of which was the chance to go to the most famous endurance race of them all, the Le Mans 24 Hours. Somehow it never came together to visit the race, despite being a massive car guy and a big fan of the event. So thanks to Lorige, I could finally dip my proverbial toe into the world of non-stop 24-hour racing at the Le Sarthe circuit in the heart of France. And in order to paint the complete picture for you, I joined Lorige not only for the race but also to see it up close and personal with the team of United Autosports.
United Autosports might not ring an immediate bell, but in the world of endurance racing, they’re a force to be reckoned with pretty much wherever they come. The racing team was founded in 2010 and is co-owned by former racing driver Richard Dean and McLaren CEO Zak Brown. United Autosport started out in long-distance GT racing and has since expanded into multiple categories and races all around the world. It also fielded quite the line-up of drivers over the years, including the likes of Paul di Resta, Fernando Alonso and Juan-Pablo Montoya.
United Autosports currently competes in LMP2 and LMP3 endurance racing in several championships, the Michelin Le Mans Cup, Asian Le Mans Series, Extreme E, GT4 Europen Series and the Supercars Championship. In all its endeavours, United Autosports has racked up multiple title wins, with the crowning achievement so far being the 2020 season: LMP2 World Endurance Champion, LMP2 European Le Mans Series Champion and LMP2 Winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Its current top-level car is the LMP2 homologated Gibson-Oreca 07 prototype, finished in a striking deep blue with red and white details.
For 2022 the team competed with two cars in the LMP2 category again, racing with Phil Hanson, Felipe Albuquerque and Will Owen in the #22 car, and the trio of Alex Lynn, Oliver Jarvis and 16-year-old Josh Pierson in the #23 car. With a promising qualifying result leading up to the 4 o’clock start on Saturday, the #22 found itself in trouble after just a few hundred meters into the race. Sandwiched between two other cars, the car ended up damaged and into the gravel in what literally is the first corner leading up to the Dunlop chicane. A catch-up race ensued in which the team managed to climb its way back to 14th overall and 10th in class. Quite impressive considering the LMP2 class fielded 27 cars in total!
The #23 car would fair a little better after it had to pit multiple times due to tire issues early on in the race. This put them at a serious disadvantage against the competition, but after that, the car proved fast and reliable. After 24 hours of racing and completing 368 laps of the 13km circuit, the #23 car finished sixth in class and 10th overall. Not a bad result considering the misfortune for both cars early on in the race.
But how does this tie in with the Lorige BL-Endurance collection? Honestly, it’s quite simple, as the brand partners with United Autosports in more ways than just a logo on the car. As we explained the first time we wrote about Lorige, the brand is born from a passion for cars and racing in particular. Not content with creating a watch that only looked like it was race-inspired, Lorige did one better and incorporated an actual racing component into each and every watch.
The Lorige BL-Endurance collection literally puts a part of a racing car on your wrist. Its case and dial, or what functions as the main component of the dial actually, are machined from a used carbon-carbon brake pad taken directly from a racing prototype. Lorige currently has three different versions of the BL-Endurance, with the BL-Endurance Bleu 24H being directly linked to United Autosports.
As said, Lorige uses discarded brake pads to construct the cases for the BL-Endurance, which is really rather cool, to be honest. There are a few others that use car parts to create watches, but none in the style of Lorige as far as we know. The tonneau-shaped case seems quite large at first yet wears very comfortable thanks to a slim height, low weight, angled lug sections and a smooth rubber strap with a folding buckle and quick-adjustment system.
The link with United Autosports is evident, as each BL-Endurance Bleu 24H is made from a brake pad taken directly from the LMP2 cars that the team runs. The carbon-carbon used for braking components in racing cars (including F1) is extremely resilient to high temperatures and thermal shock, yet is extremely light. The monobloc case and dial component is machined, processed and finished by Lorige, a technique that has been developed over a three-year period.
The BL-Endurance Bleu 24H takes its colours from the United Autosports team-livery, with deep blue elements mixed with small red and white touches. The watch is fitted with the LOR-PR02, a proprietary movement made by Régence Production/Timeless. This features 294 components and indicates the hours, minutes, seconds, date and power reserve. It is driven by a peripheral rotor, which opens up the view of the movement through the backside.
Spending time with this very watch, in what should be considered its birthplace and natural environment, convinced us this is a very well-constructed piece. It’s light, looks good, is very legible (something that is a bit of a miss in this type of watch every now and then) and just oozes a motorsport spirit. A fitting companion for any racing enthusiast, ace driver or team owner. And if don’t feel that connected to United Autosports perhaps, there’s also the black-and-orange BL-Endurance Gris Circuit or the BL-Endurance Hyperblack made in collaboration with Peugeot. Either way, you can’t get your wrist-game closer to your racing-game or vice versa, in any other way I guess.
Quick Facts: 51.6mm x 43.6mm x 10.5mm – single-piece carbon-carbon case machined from brake pads – grade 5 titanium components – barrel-shaped sapphire crystal front and back – 50m water-resistance – case-integrated carbon dial – indices and hands with Super-LumiNova – skeletonized movement construction visible through cutout – Calibre LOR-PR01, developed with Régence Production/Timeless – automatic winding with peripheral rotor – hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve – limited to 24 pieces per variation – priced between EUR 27,360 and EUR 35,040
You’d almost forget there’s more to today’s story than just United Autosports and Lorige. This year was yet again a remarkable year in endurance racing, and the Le Mans 24 Hours race in particular, for multiple reasons.
First off, Toyota won outright for the fifth year in a row. Following the devastating drop-out at 23 hours and 56 minutes into the 2016 edition, granting the win to Porsche, the Japanese manufacturer has not missed a beat since. And to be honest, this was kind of expected as it is the only large-scale car manufacturer in competition at the moment. It has the budget, it has the technology and it has the experience. But nevertheless, to finish first you first have to finish.
The Toyota-Gazoo racing team faced competition from Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus and its SCG007 Hypercar program, and a reworked LMP1 Alpine racing prototype. Both would prove no match to Toyota’s reliability but Glickenhaus impressed everyone with a solid running and a podium finish in what is the team’s second Le Mans 24 Hours. The Glickenhaus team performed very well in getting both cars to the finish in the top class of this year’s edition. The Alpine A480-Gibson from the Alpine Elf Team was less fortunate and finished 23rd overall as a result of lengthy repairs due to clutch and transmission issues.
The LMP2 win was racked up by the JOTA team, who finished only a lap down from the Glickenhaus SCG007 in 4th place. In the GTE-Pro category, the Porsche GT Team took home the win with the Porsche 911 RSR-19 ahead of two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVOs. The GTE-Am (for Amateur) class was won by TF Sport and its Aston Martin Vantage AMR narrowly leading the WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19. The Corvette C8.R racing program sadly didn’t make it to the finish despite looking promising in practice, qualifying and early on in the race. Suspension issues sidelined one of the cars, with the other being taken out in an accident.
As we’ve said before, last year and this year’s race should be considered transitional races, at least for the top-tier class, as the rules and regulations have changed drastically. The 2022 edition will be remembered for fielding the same 5 cars as the year before in the LMH/LMDH category, the lowest number in a very long time. This also wasn’t where the real action was to be found, as the fight for the win was much closer in the LMP2 and GTE classes.
From next year onwards, the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Peugeot, Cadillac, Lamborghini and possibly even BMW will enter with either an LMH or an LMDH car. This will certainly shake things up massively, and we can’t wait to see who will come out on top!