Life on the road: TAG Heuer and Patrick Dempsey

For actor and TAG Heuer ambassador Patrick Dempsey, racing is more than just a hobby. Here, he details his love of watches and driving

Watches & Jewellery 23 Apr 2021

Patrick Dempsey says you can tell a lot about a man from what he drives… and wears on his wrist. ‘There are things you clock right away: shoes, glasses, watch and, of course, the car. If someone is wearing a TAG Heuer chronograph you usually connect. It’s a fraternity… very similar to the car community; it shows an appreciation of engineering, style, function, history and heritage.’

The Hollywood actor can trace his interest in cars to his dad. ‘He was an insurance salesman, on the road all the time. Friday nights he would bring me back a Matchbox car, and I’d look forward to that. The older you get, the more exotic your taste gets. The toy cars just start getting more and more expensive.’

These days, Dempsey is a qualified race driver and runs a TAG Heuer-sponsored Porsche racing team. ‘It was always there,’ he explains. ‘Ski racing was my first passion; racing cars was a natural progression.’ And then there was his old man again: ‘My father owned a short track team in the South in the 1950s and 60s. There were rumours that he was a moonshine runner…’

It’s a world the actor feels comfortable in – ask him to choose between racing and acting and there’s no hesitation: ‘Racing. It’s pure passion. Acting is the day job. A different thing. If you’ve ever been behind the wheel at a track you’ll understand. There’s no greater exhilaration. It’s extraordinary.’

He talks of the camaraderie on the race circuit, of the ‘heightened sense of life when you’re racing’, and the ‘internal battle’ where ‘you handle the fear and anxiety’. He cites another TAG Heuer ambassador: ‘Ayrton Senna said that emotionally you want to be bouncing off the rev limiter but you don’t want to hit it. Mental emotional control is the key. In many ways it’s a metaphor for life. But then most sports are.’

For Dempsey, Porsche has special appeal: ‘They’re all about racing; they build cars to go racing. And they’ve never lost their identity. Maybe they get a little bigger, but you can still see the heritage. That’s very similar with TAG Heuer. They understand their roots and their DNA too, and they build on it. They just keep refining.’

He first discovered TAG Heuer through playing with model slot cars in the 70s. ‘It was through the logos on those toy cars, so I always saw it as a brand associated with motorsports.’ It’s the tradition and heritage of motorsport that is the attraction, he explains. ‘Jack Heuer’s passion for motorsport was authentic. I’ve spent time with him, listening to his stories and experiencing his passion for engineering.’

The TAG Heuer Carrera is, says Dempsey, a great expression of that. ‘I love the classic nature of the dial, it’s really elegant, with excellent visibility. That’s how to improve your results in racing and rallying: by capturing time. Racing is all about saving time.’ He has a new black and gold Carrera Sport Chronograph on a black alligator leather strap: ‘The 42mm is a great size on me, really comfortable and it feels so classic and timeless, it won’t go out of style; like a great quality sneaker.’ But his dream would be a gold second-generation Carrera from the mid-70s on a gold mesh bracelet (model 1158CH), the style that was owned by Swedish F1 driver Ronnie Peterson.

He’s also a fan of vintage Porsches. ‘Porsches are just so much fun. My first was
a 356 from 1963, a cabriolet in black. I still have it. The handling, the mechanics, the sound, it just makes you feel good. It’s so simple, so dependable, you trust it. Performance, reliability and classic, timeless style – that’s Porsche. I’ve got a 911 Carrera T in orange from ‘72 – my wife’s favourite – and a safari car from ’82. I’m trying to get one from every era. I even have a Porsche tractor for the farm.’