Watches and Formula 1 – Episode 7 – Williams F1 and Oris
40 years, for some this feels like an eternity (I am only 33 years old) and for others it feels like next to nothing. Making it 40 years in life doesn’t require too much effort if you have no serious challenges. But to make it 40 years in the grueling sport of Formula 1 takes skill, determination, luck, good judgment, a lot of money and a clear vision. One of the most illustrious names in the business is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, so it is only fitting to include it into our Watches & Formula 1 saga; Williams F1 and their long-term watch partner, Oris.
Founded by Sir Frank Williams and Sir Patrick Head, the team started in an old carpet warehouse in Didcot, Oxfordshire (UK) in 1977. Prior to that Sir Frank Williams was pushing drivers in F2 and F3000 series, and he subsequently started venturing into F1 in 1969. Fielding a Brabham BT26A with the iconic Ford DFV 3.0 V8 and long-time friend Piers Courage behind the wheel, they scored two second place finishes! A year later, DeTomaso built a chassis for the 1970 season but it proved heavily unreliable.
1969 and 1972 Williams F1 cars
Not even finishing the first 4 races, the fifth race proved fatal, killing Piers Courage at the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Williams built their first works car, the Politoys FX3, by 1972 which was destroyed by driver Henri Pescarolo (of Le Mans fame) in a crash in the very first race. Struggling to find funding and success during these years, Frank Williams took up a partnership with oil-mogul Walter Wolf. By 1977 the team was no longer in Frank’s hands and he left, along with several employees, to start Williams Grand Prix Engineering.
Like many other teams have been, or still are, the Williams F1 team is British through and through. It is based in the UK, is founded by a Britton and employing many British drivers (including 2 champions) and has even used Ford and Cosworth engines throughout the years which are built in Britain too.
During the years, Frank Williams has seen many successes as well as his share of devastatingly bad seasons, but he has always persevered. The ultimate blow to the team was the death of Ayrton Senna, at Imola in 1994. For many years the last one to fall victim to the dangers of the sport, until Jules Bianchi crashed and collided with a recovery vehicle during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, the death of Senna is still being mourned.
Frank Williams has seen a total of 695 Grand Prix starts in over 40 seasons (this year marks the 40th anniversary of Williams Grand Prix Engineering), in which he has seen 114 wins (making it the third most successful constructor in race wins behind Ferrari with 228 wins and McLaren with 182). No less than seven different drivers have won an F1 World Championship in a Williams (Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve). Fun fact: not a single driver has won more than 1 title with the team. As a constructor, the team has racked up 9 championships and is second behind Ferrari in the standings when it comes to a number of constructor titles.
Williams F1 is currently running in Martini coloured sponsoring (red with light and dark blue stripes on a solid white, black or red background), an absolute iconic livery in many fields of motorsports for years and one of those instantly recognizable ones. Think Marlboro on McLaren F1 cars, Gulf blue-and-orange on many various Porsches or John Player’s Specials black-and-gold liveried Lotus racers. It is of that same level, and it has seen great success in the seventies with Porsche, the eighties with the Lancia Delta Integrale rally cars and LC1 and LC2 endurance cars, and with Alfa Romeo in the DTM Championships.
The Oris x Williams F1 partnership
Considering Oris, they have been partners with Williams since 2003, when they signed a deal with Frank Williams and the F1 team. And, as is often the case with partnerships like these, special editions ensued. Just prior to the joint venture, Oris had launched the TT1. A rugged, sporty chronograph with a steel case, rubber bezel and rubber strap. The familiar thick Oris lugs gave the watch a beefy look.
Some examples of Oris Williams watches
In 2006 the partnership bore the first watch linked to a driver, Nico Rosberg specifically. His father, Keke Rosberg became champion with the team in 1982, his first year with Williams F1. The debut of Nico was quite a moment in the sport as there aren’t that many father-son stories in F1, especially ones where both are employed by the same team. To celebrate, Oris launched a titanium timepiece with a few neat touches. As you might remember, F1 drove with grooved tires for a number of years, which were replicated by the rubber strap on the watch. Nico’s number 10 in blue is embossed on the carbon fibre dial.
Fast forward to 2015, after several collaborative watches over the years, Oris finally introduced the Oris Williams collection. A little explaining is in order, but it’s down to the fact that up to this point, all Williams inspired watches were adaptations of existing collections. New from 2015 is the Oris Williams collection, with a few interesting watches. A day-date model in steel, a skeleton dialled model, one steel and three carbon fibre cased chrono’s make up the Oris Williams collection, ranging from €1,300 to €4,250. A Special Valtteri Bottas limited edition tops the range, which will be built only 770 times. Remember, Valtteri Bottas has since joined the ranks of Mercedes Grand Prix after the departure of former F1 Champion Nico Rosberg from the German team. The only differences with the non-limited edition carbon fibre chronograph is the special caseback with Valtteri’s number 77 and the special box it comes in. Outside of the Williams collection, Oris is bound to find inspiration to produce other limited editions based on the collaboration with the British team.
A prime example of this is, in my opinion, the best commemorative Oris & Williams watch yet; the Oris Chronoris Williams 40th Anniversary Limited Edition. Harking back to the original Oris Chronoris from the seventies (and every added, updated, vintage-inspired or re-issued version to date), the vibe this watch gives off is just perfect. The cool retro-shaped case, the same as the original, and a chronograph dial that is somewhat different than usual with its layout and details. A chronograph with a 12-and-6 layout is not really common. One of the best things about this watch is that it doesn’t scream it’s a Williams-inspired watch. No oversize logos, no over-the-top use of team colours or livery, just a subtle hint to the partnership and otherwise a solid watch.
As for said partnership, it feels like it is a solid one. There is no specific technical link with both brands like you could see between McLaren and Richard Mille for instance, but that is not always the reason to partner up. Oris is still an independent, family-owned business, and Williams can still be considered a privateer-team (despite financial backing and investors and such). Williams is not a factory-run team like Ferrari or Mercedes are. Compare one to the other, and Oris is basically a similar company. No ownership from above to dictate budgets, exposure, production or whatnot. They do what they feel is the best thing to do. And they produce some seriously good watches! More details on oris.ch.