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Home Car Culture Watches salute racers who became secret agents in World War II

Watches salute racers who became secret agents in World War II

Trafford Watch Company recalls an era of “racing, spies, bad guys and glory”

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You have to admit, the tag lines for the S.O.E. Roadster are intriguing: “A moment in time worth celebrating” and “Racing, spies, bad guys and glory.”

The S.O.E. Roadster isn’t a car. It’s a watch, actually a new series of timepieces from the Trafford Watch Co. of Austin, Texas, which this week launched sales through the Kickstarter website.

The watch designs celebrate the careers of three auto racers who became involved with the British effort in World War II through the Special Operations Executive, also known as Winston Churchill’s secret army sabotaging Nazi military operations on the European continent.

The racers involved included William Grover-Williams, Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist. 

Grover-Williams won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929 and recruited Wimille and Benoist to join him in the S.O.E. He was captured, spent two years in a prison camp and reportedly was executed three weeks before the war ended. 

Wimille was a two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After the war he returned to racing until he died in a crash in Argentina in 1949. Benoist was a fighter pilot during World War I, won at Le Mans in 1937. He had several harrowing escapes from the Nazis before being caught in 1944. He was executed three months later. 

‘For William Grover-Williams, Robert Benoist and Jean-Pierre Wimille, it was an easy decision to make,” Trafford Watch says on its Kickstarter page. “On the race track these men were rivals, living life on the edge in small, metal death machines where one wrong turn could be devastating. But when the war effort called, they were bound by a secret connection that would forever change the course of the world. 

“Their stories are filled with daring escapes, cunning sabotage and quick wits, making them heroes in the most real sense of the word. Join us as we celebrate this moment in time through the medium of watch making.” 

The Kickstarter program starts at $250 and includes the watch of your choice, and a book about the racers turned secret agents, with deliveries starting in August.

As for the watches, the design was inspired by the Bugatti Type 35, Trafford Watch reports, and are available in the racing colors of the three drivers. The case back salutes the S.O.E. 

More information is available on the Kickstarter website or on the Trafford Watch Co. website.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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