As one of the most respected and capable racing and sports car architects of the last several decades, you might think that Gordon Murray would wear a truly incredible watch. With his background in Formula One and his focus on cutting edge materials and lightweight design, maybe a Richard Mille or even a classic Daytona. Murray, who is likely best known for being the man behind the now legendary McLaren F1, recently premiered his next supercar: the Gordon Murray Automotive T.50. Through the extensive coverage, I took some time to track down the watch seen on his wrist – which happens to be a late-model TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 5 Automatic.
While perhaps a more bland watch than we might expect from the man that brought us the Rocket, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, and the fastest naturally-aspirated car ever made, it’s actually a rather natural choice for Murray. Allow me to explain.
The backstory here takes us to the early ’80s, with a brand called Techniques d’Avant Garde (aka TAG), TAG’s CEO Mansour Ojjeh, and a Brit named Ron Dennis. TAG had been very present in Formula One, and Dennis had been running the show at McLaren Group since he founded it in 1981. In 1983, Ojjeh partnered with Dennis to form McLaren International, the next stage in what would become one of the most successful Formula One teams of all time (and later, form McLaren Cars).
We then jump to 1985 when TAG and Dennis acquired Heuer and created TAG Heuer. In an attempt to keep a complex story as simple as possible (McLaren has gone through several confusing re-alignments over the years, not to mention TAG Heuer), in 1987, Ron Dennis brought on a new technical director for McLaren – none other than Gordon Murray (surprise!).
While certainly born of Murray’s mind and incredible talent, the F1 came to reality via a team of four men, including Murray, Mansour Ojjeh, Ron Dennis, and McLaren’s Head of Marketing, Creighton Brown. It is said that the four came upon the idea of making the ultimate road car while stuck in Milan’s Linate airport on an extended layover in 1988. Then, just a few years later, McLaren Automotive would bring the wonderful McLaren F1 to life. While you can read (a lot) more about the F1 in my piece for HODINKEE Magazine Volume 5, the car has become an icon of its own era and, given its incredible engineering, exceedingly limited production, and considerable racing success, the F1 commands an incredible value among collectors. But now, Murray has a new car.
The T.50 is something of a spiritual successor to the McLaren F1, with the philosophy of being a pure driver’s car with minimal digital interference. While I suggest interested parties watch and read at the links included in this post, the T.50 is a three-seat (driver in the middle) 2,174-pound supercar with a mid-mounted 654 hp 3.9-liter naturally-aspirated V12, a six-speed manual transmission, fan-enabled active aerodynamics, and a redline of 12,100 rpm. Only 100 will be produced, and it costs around $ 2.6 million. If those two sentences don’t give you goosebumps, I won’t take any offense if you bail now for one of Jack’s recent, excellent, and delightfully odd-ball posts.
For those that have stuck around, with just a summary of the Murray-TAG-Heuer connection highlighted above, let’s get to the watch. The global launch of the T.50 was covered by every single automotive outlet on the planet (give or take), and Murray’s Calibre 5 TAG Heuer can be seen in much of the resulting coverage (not to mention GMA’s own press photos, included left). Should you want to see for yourself (and learn a lot more about the T.50 than I can share here), be sure to check out this extensive overview from Henry Catchpole at Carfection and this similar but more historical film from Jack Rix at Top Gear. Throughout the coverage, Murray can be seen wearing a modern TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 5 on a brown leather strap that appears to be the 39mm reference WAR211B. This generation of the Carrera was launched at Baselworld in 2014 and has been a staple of the brand’s considerable lineup ever since.
Given Murray’s connections with McLaren, TAG, and TAG Heuer (not to mention the TAG Heuer LE made for the F1), it’s not exactly surprising to see him sporting a TAG Heuer, even considering that Dennis and Ojjeh sold their interest in TAG Heuer to LVMH in 1999 and Murray left McLaren in 2004. While I know this is conjecture, and this certainly isn’t the watch I would choose for Murray (the model strikes me as loosely inconsequential), but I do think the brand is intentional and notes Murray’s past with TAG.
If you are even remotely interested in cars, Murray’s story is fascinating and his effect on the industry, especially at the top levels, is not something to be taken lightly. As a nearly life-long F1 obsessive, I am thrilled to see Murray back in the game with the T.50 and can’t wait to see more as the car continues into production.
Lead image credit: Top Gear’s video interview between Gordon Murray and Jack Rix – seen here.