When Ayrton Senna da Silva crashed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, he was immortalized as one of the greatest Formula One drivers in history. He was leading the pack at the time of his crash—a poetic death that honors his dominance of the racing sport. To this day, he’s still the only F1 world champion to die while racing an F1 car.
Senna started racing karts as a young boy growing up in Brazil. He made his F1 debut in 1984 at the age of 24. By 1988, he won his first Grand Prix world championship. Over the next six years of his short-lived career, he had a total of 41 Grand Prix wins—a record that, at the time, was only second to his rival Alain Prost, who had 51 wins. Senna’s life and groundbreaking career make him one of the greatest F1 drivers in the history of the sport.
Watch enthusiasts share a love for Senna as well. He built a relationship with TAG Heuer from 1988 to his death, and he owned two of the brand’s chronographs: a TAG Heuer S/EL Chronograph from the early 90s and the TAG Heuer 6000. His S/EL Chronograph sold at Bonhams in 2007 for $69,000.
TAG also used Senna as part of its 1991 “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” campaign. Fitting, since earlier that year, he won the Brazilian Grand Prix with a failed transmission and finished his final laps in sixth gear.
Unfortunately, the brand was only able to work with Senna to design one watch before his untimely passing. TAG Heuer planned to debut the 6000 Senna Limited Edition just two days before the infamous race that took Senna’s life. After his shocking death, the launch came to a halt. It wasn’t until October 1994, five months after Senna was killed, that TAG Heuer finally released the watch.
Even after Senna’s death, TAG continues to perpetuate his legacy. In the period between 2001 and 2004, it has produced a number of limited edition timepieces in his honor. In 2015, the Senna series made a comeback with a new Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph and a Formula 1 Senna edition. A year later, TAG added two updated Formula 1 models to the Senna collection along with a 3-hand watch and a chronograph.
Senna’s legacy endures today through both the watch industry and F1 racing. The timepieces in the Senna series preserve the memory of one of the most beloved athletes of our time. Williams Grand Prix Engineering Ltd. also honors Senna with a tribute on every F1 car. Since his death, each Williams F1 car features an image of his face to commemorate his life and dedication to the sport.
Senna’s memory and spirit will continue to live on for generations to come through both mediums—his watches and his beloved cars.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 7, 2012. We have updated it to include more information.
Image Credits: Header, 1; Getty Images. 2; Bonhams. 3; Collector Studio. 4; TAG Heuer.