Passion For The Ice #3: Andy sits down with us to chat about his relationship to watches over his 30 years of experience as a racing driver...
For Episode #3 of Passion For The Ice we wanted to learn more about the relationship watches and motorsports have from a man who has been in the industry as a racer for 30 years. So sit back and enjoy Andy McKenna and his watches...
So Andy, how did you get into watches?
For as long as I can remember my interest in cars and racing has always been in tandem with my interest in watches. It all started with my admiration for the double F1 World Champion, Jim Clark. Please bear in mind that when I was reading my first book on Jim I was 17 years old in the days long before the internet or certainly before I had encountered anything like it (showing my age!)
Something that captured my eye and fired my curiosity and interest was what type of watch Jim was wearing. The vast majority of pictures that I looked at were in black and white and I was unable to zoom in despite trying with a magnifying glass (yes I did try this).
Unfortunately, I could never quite make out what type it was. Go forward a few years and the arrival of the internet in our house I was able to do some research. I had discovered that in fact, Jim was wearing an Enicar Sherpa Graph in the early years and later on a Breitling 806 Navitimer. From then on searching online and looking at watches worn by racing drivers became a regular hobby for me.
My wife, Alison bought me my first ever Breitling as a wedding present in 1999. Scott and Ben have quite naturally followed in my footsteps and have been developing their own watch collection since the age of 4. Needless to say that Scott McKenna and Geckota are an extremely good fit for each other.
What does your collection look like now?
It’s somewhat depleted! My family have managed to adopt or guilt me into giving them two of my most treasured watches. My wife Alison bought me the Breitling Superocean as a wedding present, although I did wear this regularly for the first few years I started to become paranoid about losing it or damaging it whilst wearing it as a racing driver/driver coach.
It would appear on reflection that what first appeared as a wedding present was actually a watch that was on loan to me as my wife now wears it most days!
The second watch that I really wanted was a TAG Heuer Autavia Siffert reissue. From the first moment I saw one of these I thought it was one of the most stunning, iconic and most recognised motorsport related watches that I have ever seen.
I got this watch for my birthday a couple of years ago from my whole family. Unfortunately, I hadn’t learnt my first lesson about being worried that I would damage/lose this particular watch it spent more time in my watch box than it ever did on my wrist. Roll on 2019 and my son Scott turned 18 years old, having spent many hours talking to my wife about what we should get him for this milestone birthday and asking his younger brother Ben we all came to the conclusion that Scott’s main interest was driving racing cars, winning races and wearing nice watches. Scott was instrumental in the choice of watch that was given to me for my birthday so it was a no brainer - I decided to give the Autavia to Scott for his birthday.
How prevalent do you think the relationship between cars and watches is?
It is hugely prevalent, let me give you a few examples of watches that I only discovered because of their connection to particular racing drivers and that is the only reason.
Jim Clark and the Enicar Sherpa Graph, Ronnie Peterson and the Heuer Carrera in 18-carat gold, Jochen Rindt and the Heuer Autavia and last but by no means least, Stefan Bellof and the Heuer Montreal.
What is your current go-to daily watch and why?
I don't think many would believe me when I say that just about every morning I put on a 1980's Timex Indiglo digital watch complete with an elasticated strap just like back in the day. The reason is purely and simple form & function. In my day to day life over the past 30 years, I have always had a need to time laps around a racing track whether it is someone that I am coaching on a race track, an Ice Driver guest on a frozen lake in Norway or more recently my sons in racing cars. This watch is practically unbreakable!
I am also a big fan of all things retro.
How about your watch option for the weekend?
I have three watches that I go to at the weekends. The first was my Dad’s and is a Seiko 6138 Panda dial. The second one is a watch that I acquired for form & function and is a Wenger. Finally, I love to wear my Geckota C-01 Gen 2 Racing Chronograph as a dress watch.
What do you think about the current watch market and the increase in vintage appreciation?
This does not surprise me at all, as just about every watch I’ve ever looked at was a watch that was connected to a racing driver from the 60's 70's and 80's.
For years everybody thought that Jim Clark wore a Breitling Top Time on a white tropic strap. I am a little bit of a stickler for detail and I was never convinced that this was the case. One day people far more knowledgeable than me declared that Jim was in actual fact a brand ambassador for Enicar watches. Within the space of 12 months, the watch that I suspected he wore (Enicar) went up in price from around £1,000 for a stunning example to (in some cases) 5x or 6x times that price. It is now known as the Enicar Sherpa Graph (Jim Clark).
What would you say is your grail watch? Something that seems almost impossible to own but you’d just love to add to the collection?
There isn't just one, there are a couple, but after my Autavia experience one thing stood out to me. As much as I loved it there wasn't enough contrast on the face for me to simply glance at it and tell the time. Essentially I couldn't tell the time which is quite important, as I’m sure you would agree!
This changed my view on what I look for in a vintage watch. Having driven many racing cars over the past 30 years, some fantastic, some good and some not so good, one of the most important aspects from a driver's perspective is the ability to quickly scan the various dials on a car’s dashboard for required information quickly and easily.
In just about every contemporary racing car, a driver is confronted with a digital readout with the button that enables him to scroll through various pages on the dashboard to get the information that he needs. Sure it’s not as iconic or pretty as analogue but certainly very efficient.
More recently my eye has been taken with the Heuer Montreal that Stefan Bellof wore, this watch is not everyone's cup of tea but for me, it ticks a lot of boxes. It has that retro design, it’s easy to read and has enough little details to make it unique.
An obvious choice is the Enicar Sherpa Graph (Jim Clark) and a final one is the Breitling Navitimer 806 which happens to be another watch worn by Jim Clark in his latter years.
Any watches you sold that you massively regret?
I don't regret selling any of my watches. I did have an Omega Seamaster that I sold to buy my wife her first proper mountain bike so to see her enjoying the bike outweighed the ownership of the watch.
How about any watches you had the option to buy, passed on and have since regretted?
Easily the Enicar Sherpa Graph. It was pristine, with box and papers for £1,200. What an idiot I was!
If you could only scale your collection down to just one watch, which watch would it be? And probably, more importantly, is that aggressive scale something you would even be able to do?
Not really, some of my watches have sentimental value which would make it extremely hard to scale down to just the one. For example, the Seiko 6138 that my Dad gave me and the black-faced Wenger with orange indices and hands that has been with me in more racing cars than I care to mention.
To me, they hold value far greater than the watches physical value alone.
What watch do you wear ice driving?
All of us wear our 80's Retro Timex Indiglo in Norway because we work to a very tight schedule and timing laps and driver sessions to the second is really important. My wife bought each of us one of these for Christmas a few years ago as a bit of fun, but as it turned out it has become a valuable piece of equipment.
Some of these choices might seem a little bit odd and quirky to people, but that is our family all over.