That watchmakers have long taken design cues from the world of the race track is not surprising, after all, it could be said that accurate timekeeping, if not time itself, is the beating heart of Grand Prix racing. Almost everyone here at CW is besotted by the world of motorsport (check out our free prize draw to win 2 VIP tickets to the 2013 British F1 GP). The excitement and technical innovation of the race track have influenced some of our most significant releases – Brooklands, British Racing Green and Vanwall have all become design cues for our watches.
But sometimes it is those personalities, particular to elite motorsport, who, by their quiet determination in pursuit of excellence are truly inspirational.
Michèle Dubosc, the most famous timekeeper in F1 from the late sixties until the early eighties was such a personality. In a sporting industry where a fresh faced twenty-something can earn a million Euros for an afternoon’s work, it seems incredible that it was not until 1965 that Mme Dubosc became the first professional timekeeper in Formula 1.
Michèle Dubosc, with Jim Clark and Graham Hill, Antibes 1968 © Sport Auto
Introduced to motorsport by her godfather Robert Brunet who raced before the war, she was a successful rally co-driver in the early sixties before first learning, and then mastering the skills of the race timekeeper with Ken Tyrell and Gerard Crombac, who had worked to standardise motorsport timekeeping. In 1965, Michèle Dubosc had developed such a reputation for precision under the intense pressure of race days in that pre-computer era, that she became timekeeper to Matra, finally progressing to Formula 1 in 1968.
Her position with Matra’s sports car team famously led to several sleep deprived stints timing and lap-charting the entire Le Mans 24 Hours and, throughout the sixties and seventies, she became a trackside icon. An energetic, professional and, it must be said, extremely stylish expert in her field, Mme Dubosc’s most significant achievement came in 1978 when she was employed by Ligier. At the 1978 United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach, a perfect storm of error and mis-management meant that the 20 timekeepers who had been employed by the race organisers could not agree on the final grid.
Michèle Dubosc was so highly regarded that it was her timings which became ‘official’ and which were used for the final race classification.
She would go on to work with other F1 teams After Matra withdrew from F1, still performing her peerless role at the pits of teams like Tecno, Hesketh and finally Ligier. Named by the French motorsport press, ‘La Reine des Chronomètres, Maîtresse des Temps’, Michèle Dubosc remains, even after her passing in 2005, an inspirational icon of the racetrack, truly the Queen of the Chronometer.
Marie-Claude ‘Beaumont and Michèle Dubosc racing in their Chevrolet Camaro V8 in 1968. © Racing Sport Auto, Top image © Jean Dieuzaide