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WATCHES

Ex-F1 driver Mark Webber reveals his personal watch collection

Words by Rob Chilton

The Australian motorsport champ chooses his timepieces carefully

“G’day, mate!” smiles Mark Webber on a Zoom call from Brisbane. The ex-F1 driver is in good humour with the 2021 Formula One season underway. As a motorsport nut, Webber is delighted to follow the races around the world in his role as a TV pundit.

Webber clocked up 215 races during his 11-year career, winning nine times and reaching the podium on 42 occasions. Although he never won the title, the talented Australian finished third three times with Red Bull Racing. When the affable Webber joins the F1 roadshow, on his wrist will be his beloved Rolex Daytona with Oysterflex bracelet. “Believe it or not, I’m not big on jewellery,” he winks, “but watches give men the chance to wear something special that give a sense of occasion.”

Webber seems almost embarrassed to admit he has a “small collection of Rolexes” including Deep Sea, Sea-Dweller and GMT models. But with his motorsport background, it’s clear the Daytonas in Webber’s collection hold a special place in his heart.

“Drivers have this fascination with the Daytona, it’s the iconic watch for us,” explains Webber of the watch that was launched in 1963. “The DNA of the Daytona is in racing, precision and timekeeping.”

Rolex Webber and one of his beloved Daytonas

“I love wearing my Daytona Oysterflex,” he continues. “It’s extremely comfortable, which is good for me because I’m a sporty guy. I sleep with it and shower with it, I very rarely take it off. My buddy [former pro tennis player and US Open champion] Pat Rafter sometimes surfs while wearing his, which gives you an idea of how easy it is to forget you’re wearing it.”

DRIVER GOSSIP

When he was driving in F1, Webber said drivers often used to chat about watches and in particular which ones would be handed out as prizes. “Stuff the trophy, they’re excited about the watch!” he laughs. “Whether it’s the Le Mans 24 Hour race or the Daytona 24, every single driver asks, ‘What watch is it going to be this year?’ I know drivers who have these watches in their wills, they’re seriously important to their achievements.”

Webber had to wait until he was 32 for his first Grand Prix win. It came in 2009 at the Nurburgring in Germany in his 130th race, with his father Alan watching proudly from the pit lane. After such a long wait, Webber wanted to mark “the biggest day of my professional career” with a watch and bought a Rolex GMT.

Rolex Webber bought a Rolex GMT when he won his first Grand Prix

“It’s a clean, traditional watch that will age beautifully,” he says. “I had my eye on one for a long time so I just needed the tipping point to convince myself. I bought it at an airport in Germany a week after the race and nobody had a clue who I was. It’s a very sentimental watch for me because of the journey I went on. I’m not a materialistic guy but to have something I know is going to last my lifetime and stay in my family is special for me.”

A long-time admirer of the brand, Webber was humbled to become a testimonee for the brand in 2017. A visit to the Rolex manufacture cemented the love affair.

“I thought I’d seen some pretty clinical environments in my time in F1 but the Rolex HQ took it to a different level,” he says. “Double locking doors, air-sealed rooms, dust-proof rooms… the level of microscopic detail I saw was absolutely mind blowing, I was speechless. I was supposed to be there for 90 minutes but I spent hours there – I definitely outstayed my welcome!”

Rolex has strong links to motorsport, stretching back to 1935 when Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record while wearing one. Since then, it has partnered with storied motoring events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the 24 at Daytona and the Goodwood Revival.

Rolex Mark Webber and his mentor Jackie Stewart

PASS IT ON

Webber’s fellow testimonee Sir Jackie Stewart won three F1 world titles and has been associated with Rolex for more than 50 years. “Jackie’s like a second father to me in many ways,” says Webber. “He’s been through a lot in his racing career and afterwards so he’s inspiring. You learn a lot being with Jackie. He’ll hate me for saying this phrase but ‘at his age’ he has the right to back off a bit, but he doesn’t. His enthusiasm is something we can all look up to.”

Aware of how valuable a mentor can be, Webber has been passing on his knowledge to up-and-coming Formula 2 driver Oscar Piastri. “He has an Italian surname but he’s a ‘true blue Aussie’ as we say down here,” smiles Webber. “I hope he has an opportunity to race Formula One soon, which would be awesome.”

Rolex Webber is fascinated by the relationship between horology and motorsport

Before wrapping up, we ask Webber if he has his eye on another watch to add to his collection. “Hmm, well, I’m really stoked with what I have already so I need to take my time on the next one,” he explains. “I don’t rush such things, it has to suit me and I have to really, really like it. I don’t get Rolexes willy nilly, only for significant points in my life that are extremely special to me.”

Now 44, perhaps his 50th birthday would be a good time to go shopping? “I have lots of things on that list already,” he laughs, “and a Rolex would certainly be right up there. I need to hide that list from my wife!”

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