Off to the Races: Watches for the Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby Origins

When it comes to American heritage, the Kentucky Derby is an important part of our country’s cultural history. It’s the longest running sporting event in the U.S. with a legacy that spans 144 years. In the late 1800s, the grandson of William Clark – yes, of Lewis and Clark – spearheaded the creation of the event. Along with his uncles, John and Henry Churchill, Clark raised funds and secured land for the racetrack. Here, they organized the Louisville Jockey Club who sponsored the first Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875. Only three horses participated in the first race, but the event attracted around 10,000 spectators.

kentucky derby race

Kentucky Derby Traditions

There are a few other milestone moments that led to the Kentucky Derby as we know it today. In 1883, the name “Churchill Downs” was first used to landmark the racetrack. Today, it’s on the registry of National Historic Landmarks. Then, just twenty years after the first Kentucky Derby, the now-iconic Twin Spires became part of the grandstand. For years, the winning horse and jockey received roses. Then, the red rose became the official flower of the race in 1904. Just over two decades later, a sports columnist coined the phrase, “Run for the Roses.”

Kentucky Derby Fashion

Derby Hats, Photo Credit: PEO AWCA, Flickr


It took time for many of the famous Kentucky Derby traditions to emerge. However, one has remained true through the years. Fashion has played an important role in the race since its beginnings. It’s hard to separate the Kentucky Derby from the opulent hats worn there by women and men alike. However, this bold accessory isn’t the only fashion element. Spectators come to the event dressed to the nines from head to toe. Of course, nothing completes a luxury look like a watch. So, we’ve rounded up some models that would pair perfectly with a mint julep and a day at the tracks.

Kentucky Derby Watches

Longines Heritage Chronograph

Longines has a longstanding history with the sport of horseracing, dating back over 140 years. They secured their first partnership in the sport in 1912. Today, they continue their work with events like the Kentucky Derby. Longines is both the Official Timekeeper and official watch of the event. Each year, the winning jockey, trainer, and owner receive watches from the brand’s collection. So, of course, a Longines would make an equally perfect companion for those attending the event or a viewing party. We chose the Heritage Chronograph for its sporty yet sleek design. Plus, the chronograph function comes in handy if you want to clock your favorite horse. 


Rolex Datejust


Like Longines, Rolex also has a history with the sport of horseracing. Up until 2017, the brand served as a title sponsor of the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. The competition is one of only six annual four-star equestrian events in the world. It serves as a qualifier event for both the Olympic Games and World Championships. You can never go wrong with Rolex, but the brand’s ties to horseracing and Kentucky make it even more apropos. For your Kentucky Derby get together, we recommend a crisp, classic Datejust. This all-silver variation is perfect for sunny, spring weather at the tracks or your backyard viewing party.

Tudor Heritage Black Bay

The rose is symbolic for both the Kentucky Derby and the Tudor brand. About 30 years after the rose became the official flower of the race, the rose of the Tudor dynasty first appeared on the dial of a Tudor watch. For Tudor, the flower symbolizes the elegance and grace of the brand’s designs. We have to imagine it has similar implications for the “Run for the Roses.” The winning horse and jockey receive an ornate garland of roses for their victory. It’s a stunning display of the heart behind the race. Sport the Tudor Heritage Black Bay at your Kentucky derby gathering. It’s a smart and subtle way to give a nod to this iconic tradition.

Hublot Big Bang Chronograph

For die-hard fans of the sport and those placing bets, function is just as important at the event as fashion. Maybe you’re pre-gaming for the big day by watching the livestream of the contenders’ workouts. Even at the main event, you want to be prepared. A chronograph function is the perfect way to start clocking your favorite horse. The sporty yet stylish Hublot Big Bang Chronograph is an excellent choice for the race. The rubber strap gives it a distinctly athletic aesthetic. Plus, the all-white design pairs with any Kentucky Derby ensemble. All you need is a bit of luck, and you’re set for the race.

Cartier Pasha C Big Date


If your Kentucky Derby day is strictly about fashion, the perfect watch to punctuate your outfit is key. Nothing quite says opulence and elegance like a Cartier. Our model of choice is the Pasha C Big Date. The whimsical design of the Arabic numerals along with the bold blue dial of this particular model exudes spring. With easy legibility, you can seamlessly keep track of time so you don’t miss a beat at the race. However, this model’s modest size won’t detract from the statement hat you sport on Derby Day.


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