The Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton has always understood the power of a great watch. He got into this hobby for the same reason many of us do: to find a timepiece that clicked with his interests while conferring respect, elegance, and maybe a touch of magic. That’s why when he was younger he started his collection with a Mickey Mouse watch before saving up another 15 pounds to buy something “really elegant,” Hamilton told GQ recently. “I was walking around always showing it off.” His classmates, who mostly wore electronic Casios, weren’t impressed. We all have our own version of Hamilton’s Mickey Mouse watch in a drawer somewhere, the one that got us started. Now, Hamilton is reaching the pinnacle of his watch–collecting journey with the creation of a new piece with the Swiss brand IWC.
A lot has changed since his Mickey Mouse days. Not only is Hamilton the winningest F1 driver in history, but he’s considered one of the most stylish people on the planet. What hasn’t changed is his love of watches—and love of watches that are worth showing off. He often wears fresh-off-the-runway fashion with outrageous one-of-one tickers. Once, after F1 threatened to ban jewelry on the track, he wore three watches simultaneously during a press conference. Now, after a decade-long partnership with IWC, he’s finally made his dream watch. “It’s taken time to build that relationship in order to then have trust in one another,” Hamilton said. The result is a design made of platinum with a unique teal dial and pops of diamonds inside and out. “This is going to be the best watch from IWC.”
This new Portugieser Tourbillon Rétrograde Chronograph will be an easy companion for Hamilton as he celebrates on the podium or makes the rounds at Fashion Week. “I get to dress up, and the watch is that last little bit to match you,” Hamilton said. This watch checks many of the boxes for collectors like Hamilton, for whom money is no object. The first is the hypnotic tourbillon—the spinning cage at six o’clock is an innovation from the days of pocket watches designed to combat the effects of gravity—the ultimate luxury complication. The second is the solid–platinum case, which makes the watch so hefty that it feels like it should come with its own security detail.
The watch’s dial alone features 12 petite stones, but the most sublime detail is that two silicone pieces inside its movement—the pallet lever and escape—are coated with diamonds. IWC explains that the new Diamond Shell technology increases the timepiece’s efficiency by reducing friction, but what goes unsaid is the new level of flexing unlocked by using diamonds inside a watch.
All of these decisions were personal for Hamilton, who worked on this luxurious version of IWC’s flagship dress watch over the course of two years. “IWC don’t usually put diamonds on their watches, particularly on the men’s watches,” he said. “So convincing them to do that was really cool.” Hamilton landed on the particular aquatic shade of teal, he said, because “I just thought it was the most vibrant and different.” And the tourbillon? One of his favorite complications, of course. Even the beefy platinum was an important choice. “There’s some serious weight to it,” he said as he held it out.
Hamilton’s new IWC continues a grand tradition: Few things burnish a watch’s reputation like ties to racing. Just ask Rolex Daytona collectors about Paul Newman, or get TAG Heuer Monaco fans started on Le Mans. IWC is going to make only 44 of these: a nod to Hamilton’s driver number. But this connection is personal for Hamilton in another way—there is no more important relationship for a racing driver than the one they have with the clock. “Timepieces align really well in my life,” he said, “because I’m literally chasing every millisecond when I’m on track.”
Cam Wolf is a senior style writer at GQ.
A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2023 issue of GQ with the title “Lewis Hamilton’s New Collaboration Is Ready for the Podium”