Rolex Unveils Two Bespoke Instruments (Speedometer & Chronograph) Exclusively Developed and Manufactured for BLOODHOUND SSC, the Supersonic Car

Rolex, the leading luxury watchmaking brand, has revealed the two bespoke instruments it exclusively developed and manufactured for BLOODHOUND SSC, the supersonic car. True to its philosophy, Rolex has combined world class technology with exacting standards of precision and reliability to create these highly accurate instruments that will be installed in the cockpit of BLOODHOUND SSC as it aims to set a new World Land Speed Record of 1,000 miles per hour (1609.34 km/h) in South Africa in 2015/2016 and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Rolex joined the BLOODHOUND SSC project in 2011 as the Official Timing Partner and thanks to its in-house engineering expertise, was in the best position to meet BLOODHOUND SSC driver Andy Green’s needs for two key cockpit instruments: an analogue speedometer and chronograph.

These two vital instruments, with characteristic Rolex analogue dials, will sit either side of Andy Green’s hands on the left or right of the dashboard. The speedometer and the chronograph will be essential and independent complements to the central electronic screens that will display data during BLOODHOUND SSC’s runs.

Building on Rolex’s legendary reliability, these highly accurate instruments will provide a necessary visual reference and fail-safe back-up for some of the on-screen readouts during the two critical phases in the record bid: assisting precision braking from 1,000 mph on the 20-kilometre track and for timekeeping during the turnaround in-between the two mandatory record runs.

BLOODHOUND SSC will be fully assembled by mid-2015 and will then start running in the UK and South Africa ahead of its World Land Speed Record attempt in 2016.

From his experience with past land speed re-cord attempts, BLOODHOUND SSC’s driver, Andy Green, knew he needed a speedometer with fail-safe reliability for his 1,000 mph drive. After Rolex and the BLOODHOUND Project joined forces in 2011, he asked the maker of precision chronometers if it could create one for him. As a result, BLOODHOUND SSC will be equipped with two exceptional instruments specially made by Rolex to help Green through the 1,000 mph barrier and back.

The speedometer and the chronograph, with characteristic Rolex analogue dials, will flank Green’s hands on the left and right of the dashboard. They are essential, autonomous complements to the central electronic screens that display data during BLOODHOUND SSC’s runs. Building on Rolex’s legendary reliability, these highly accurate instruments will provide a fail-safe back-up for mission-critical information: speed and time.

Their functions and accuracy will also be central to two critical phases in the record bid: assisting precision braking from 1,000 mph to the complete stop of the vehicle on a distance of some 6 miles and for timekeeping during the one-hour turn around between the two mandatory record runs.

BLOODHOUND SSC needs to stop harder than it can accelerate in order to complete its World Land Speed Record attempt. Both instruments are in full view of the cockpit cameras which will provide live video during BLOODHOUND SSC’s record attempts. True to the philosophy behind Rolex’s peerless timepieces, these professional instruments respond to real-life conditions.

BLOODHOUND SSC needs to make two runs, one in each direction, within an hour to enter the official record book. Under the rules overseen by motor sport’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), a mile-long (1.609 km) stretch – the measured mile – in the middle of the course is timed and the average speed is calculated from the two readings. An ideal run would last just two minutes. After accelerating from standstill for about 55 seconds, BLOODHOUND SSC should take just 3.6 seconds to complete the measured mile at top speed, leaving Green about a minute to decelerate and stop before the end of the track.

The critical nature of this phase of the land speed record bid is underscored by the physical constraints of such speed on land. Once it reaches 1,000 mph, BLOODHOUND SSC will have 5.5 miles or 8.8 kilometres of track left. Immediately after the car passes the measured mile, the engines must be shut down. With the help of his dashboard screens and highly legible analogue Rolex speedometer, Green must then deploy different types of braking systems at precise speeds from 800 mph downwards: air brakes and the disc brakes on the wheels, as well as a parachute if necessary.

Too fast and the braking systems might be destroyed with catastrophic consequences. However, if BLOODHOUND SSC’s driver is too late with one of these braking points, he will run out of track.

Andy Green needed reliable instruments that could be read at a glance to control and monitor the car with split-second accuracy. They combine the BLOODHOUND Project’s and Rolex’s exacting specifications.

The crucial role these fail-safe Rolex instruments have to play is highlighted by Green’s experience on his way to becoming the world’s fastest driver. During previous land speed record attempts in the 1990s, he had experienced power failures and problems with pitot tubes – the external sensors used to measure speed through the air.

Although Green had no back-up reading on those attempts, notably up to supersonic speed on Nevada’s Black Rock desert, he had plenty of room to stop. However, at speeds more than 250 mph faster on the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa, BLOODHOUND SSC is entering another dimension, with little or no margin for error.

This time he needed an independent system that was “massively reliable” and accurate. For Wing Commander Green, an experienced jet pilot, a traditional analogue dial was the obvious choice, an instrument that could be glanced at in a fraction of second and immediately give an idea of the speed displayed. Alongside its support for the BLOODHOUND Project as the Official Timing Partner, Rolex is therefore providing an active technical contribution to the Project’s success, thanks to its know-how and in-house engineering expertise – the product of a century long experience in developing and producing accurate and reliable timepieces.

In keeping with the finest traditions of the brand, Rolex harnessed the optimum technology to measure and display the most extreme speed on land, in real time, with precision and reliability in the harshest conditions. And, in doing so, designed the analogue speedometer and chronograph to match Andy Green’s exacting ergonomic needs.

Developed, engineered and assembled in-house by Rolex in Geneva, the instruments are connected to BLOODHOUND SSC’s power system. However, internal batteries were incorporated inside each instrument assembly to ensure that the speedometer and the chronograph still function if there is a power failure on board the car.

The instruments are also independently linked to GPS (Global Positioning System), through a compact satellite antenna. On the speedometer, this ensures the highly accurate speed reading that will be crucial when BLOODHOUND SSC covers one kilometre in two seconds. The chronograph and its clock take advantage of the GPS signal to provide supreme accuracy.

Visually, these instruments combine the technical attributes of aeronautical-standard legibility and backlit markings with the soul of a Rolex watch. Signature design cues such as a stainless steel bezel and the logo with the green script and gold crown on the dial immediately identify them as Rolex precision instruments.

The BLOODHOUND Project’s exceptional request was taken up by a team at Rolex’s Special Equipments department in the first quarter of 2012. This department develops strategic precision equipment in-house for Rolex R&D and manufacturing operations, as well as many of the clocks and other displays used at public events sponsored by Rolex: including the Wimbledon clocks, the timers for the Australian Open, and the 24-hour race countdown timers for Daytona and Le Mans.

In close collaboration with their counterparts on the BLOODHOUND Project, the Rolex engineers swiftly adopted a proven electro mechanical configuration for both instruments to meet the requirements for extreme reliability, accuracy, an analogue dial and self-contained operation, all at high speed and in high temperatures.

The whole of BLOODHOUND SSC’s cockpit has been designed around Andy Green and laid out like his familiar working environment, the cockpit of the supersonic fighter jet. His requirements for an aviation-style, white-on-black face and aviation-standard diameter formed the basis for the appearance of the analogue instruments. Despite these technical constraints, from the outset there was a common desire to preserve a characteristic Rolex look. A special mounting was developed to allow polished stainless-steel bezels to be fitted around the dials of the Rolex speedometer and chronograph, resembling the iconic finish of Oyster watches.

Both instruments are equipped with backlit dials to ensure the markings can be read at a glance in the shadows of the confined cockpit, and highlight the characteristic green and gold Rolex crown emblem and the inverted triangle at the zero mark on the chronograph.

Strong safety margins were adopted in the specifications. Both instruments underwent rigorous development by Rolex to ensure reliability and precision despite the extreme temperature variations in the Hakskeen Pan desert and the severe vibration expected at supersonic speeds. They were tested to temperatures of 65 degrees Celsius, above the Project’s required maximum of 50 degrees for cockpit equipment. The finished speedometer and chronograph received an enthusiastic welcome from Green and the BLOODHOUND Project’s engineers when they were unveiled in Bristol in April 2014


The white on black dial of the speedometer is graduated from 0 to 11 in 100 mph increments, with a special marking to indicate Mach 1, the speed of sound (approximately 1,225 km/h, 761 mph at sea level). Along with the aviation style, white main needle, the speedometer also has another needle painted in a characteristic Rolex green – a memory hand.

In full sight of the cockpit webcams, this distinctive, supplementary hand will indicate the highest speed reached by BLOODHOUND SSC on each run and remain at that position until it is manually reset by the driver. This unusual feature was inspired by a classic sports car seen by Andy Green and the BLOODHOUND team at the Goodwood Revival in the United Kingdom.

The independent GPS link feeds the speedometer directly with 20 positional measurements per second (20 Hz), ensuring a highly accurate reading even at top speed. If there is a power failure on BLOODHOUND SSC, the speedometer’s battery has enough power for 30 minutes, substantial enough to allow Green to bring the car through its critical braking procedure to a safe halt from top speed.

Instantaneous speed reading up to 1,100 mph
Memory hand to record maximum speed
GPS: 20 Hz sampling(20 readings per second)

2 independent motors,1 per hand
BatteryAutonomy: 30 mins

Plexiglas, backlit

Satin finished stainless steel

Diameter: 95 mm
Length: 200 mm
Weight: 1.6 kg

With its combination of a clock, on a sub-dial, and a stopwatch, this Rolex instrument fits the true definition of a chronograph, which measures minutes and seconds. The seconds hand also displays the near seamless movement of its counterpart on a mechanical Rolex watch, ticking in increments of one-eighth of a second. The 60 minute graduation is tailored to the maximum duration of BLOODHOUND SSC’s turn around. With four electronic motors in all, each hand on the stopwatch and clock has its own dedicated motor to maximize reliability.

The time signal provided by the GPS receiver allows the chronograph and its clock to achieve supreme accuracy. Green will operate the chronograph during the turnaround using the start, stop and reset buttons on the dashboard. One key task is to time the rundown phase for the powerful EJ200 jet engine after its burst of full thrust, as the highly complex engine requires a precise timing to cool down without damage. In combination with the speedometer, it would allow Green to complete his mission should all other instruments fail.

Stopwatch with seconds and minute hands (main dial)
Clock (subdial)
GPS: Time signal provided by GPS

4 independent motors, 1 per hand
Battery Autonomy: 30 mins

Plexiglas, backlit

Satin finished stainless steel

Diameter: 95 mm
Length: 200 mm
Weight: 1.6 kg

The speedometer and chronograph highlight Rolex’s commitment to the BLOODHOUND Project as an active partner providing technical support. Both instruments reflect the chronometric precision, reliability and engineering know-how that have formed the backbone of Rolex Oyster watches for nearly a century.

Rolex’s passion for speed stretches back to the 1930s when the brand was associated with Britain’s Sir Malcolm Campbell, nine-time World Land Speed Record holder and the first man to break the symbolic 300 mph (483 km/h) barrier, at the wheel of his speedster, Bluebird. This fervour was fuelled by a pioneering heritage of record-breaking, and has turned into an exploration of the frontiers of technology as BLOODHOUND SSC prepares to challenge the 1,000 mph (1,609 km/h) barrier.

The BLOODHOUND Project owes its existence to its predecessors as World Land Speed Record holders, Thrust2 and Thrust SSC. In 1977, with little experience or budget, but a hefty determination worthy of the early speed-racing pioneers, Richard Noble created Thrust2 and announced his intention to challenge for the World Land Speed Record. The dream was to bring it back to Britain.

Richard Noble, Project Director BLOODHOUND SSC

At Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, in the United States, in 1981, Noble encountered a series of incidents running on metal wheels on the salt surface. Thrust2 managed only one 400 mph run, then the rain came the next day and shut down the project for the year. After relocating to the Black Rock Desert, in Nevada, in October 1983, 13 years after the previous record had been set; Noble set a new World Land Speed Record at 633 mph (1,019 km/h). The experience the team gained would be of vital importance in the future. When, in 1990, he learned that the Spirit of America was planning to challenge his record, Richard Noble decided to fight back and raise the stakes by designing the twin-jet car that would take his team through the Sound Barrier on land seven years later: Thrust SSC, driven by Andy Green.

The quest for absolute speed was the first form of motor racing and remains the purest expression of motor sport, distilled to its most fundamental elements: distance versus time. At the dawn of the 20th century, it brought together an inspirational trio of drivers at the world’s first purpose-built motor-racing circuit, Brooklands, in south-east England, which opened in 1907. The “Brookland boys” – John Cobb, Henry Segrave and Malcolm Campbell – would be among the dominant World Land Speed Record-breakers for the next three decades.

Over the years they set the pattern that remains a consistent part of top land speed record attempts to this day, including the BLOODHOUND Project. Each built their own, one-off, purpose-built, record-breaking car with the most powerful engines of their time and carefully refined aerodynamics. They swiftly adopted new but proven technology and sought out ever longer tracks around the world as the frontiers of speed expanded. These daring pioneers were pushing back the limits in a constant quest for excellence, in the same era that Rolex emerged and started pioneering technical innovation to produce groundbreaking, high-performance wristwatches.

When their cars became too fast for the concrete, banked oval at Brooklands, the British speedsters turned to the flat, straight-line beaches or desert lake beds. First at Pendine Sands and Southport in England or other ideal locations in South Africa, then Daytona Beach in the United States. By 1919, American rivals had already overtaken them on Daytona’s long expanse of sand, turning the Florida town into the world capital of speed for the next 15 years.

In the beginning, the battle was between different types of propulsion. As speed increased, the early record-breakers adapted aircraft engines – the high-technology propulsion of the era – to power their cars. Campbell broke his first World Land Speed Record in 1924. By the late 1920s, Campbell and Segrave had each built a vehicle capable of exceeding 200 mph (321 km/h), a speed only reached by aircraft at the time, and were locked in a tussle for the world record. In 1927, Segrave was the first past the new barrier, and he ultimately reached 231 mph (372 km/h) on Daytona’s measured mile two years later, before his death in 1930 during an attempt to capture the world speed record on water.

Sir Malcolm Campbell then became the uncontested king of speed, beating his own world records in Daytona year after year with ever more powerful versions of his car Bluebird, as well as breaking the next symbolic barrier, 300 mph (483 km/h) at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1935.He was a pivotal figure for Rolex. From 1930, Campbell wore a Rolex Oyster watch, making him the first Rolex Testimonee in motor sport. In the advertisements of the era, Campbell attested to the Rolex Oyster’s exceptional resistance to shocks and vibrations – without ever accepting any remuneration from the company.

The record-breaking on Daytona Beach also set the foundations for Rolex’s durable association with one of the world’s fastest motor-racing circuits, Daytona International Speedway, from the late 1950s, as well as with motor sport. These durable ties are celebrated in the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, the brand’s innovative chronograph and one of its most iconic watches. Over the decades Rolex’s ties with the sport have expanded and deepened, culminating, in 2013, in its association with Formula 1®, the pinnacle of motor sports.

By the late 1940s, the quest for new frontiers in speed had turned towards the skies and the most mythical barrier of them all: the Sound Barrier. Barely 12 years after Campbell captured the imagination by powering through the symbolic 300 mph mark, an unfamiliar, loud bang resonated around the western US desert on the morning of 14 October 1947 as an experimental Bell X-1 aircraft exceeded Mach 1, the speed of sound, for the first time, reaching 807 mph (1,299 km/h). On board the rocket-powered aircraft as it broke through severe buffeting, the pilot was wearing a Rolex Oyster watch.

As space flight gained ground, the ultimate record was set on 3 October 1967. US test pilot William J. Knight was wearing a Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master when he reached the highest speed ever recorded in a manned aircraft, Mach 6.72 or 4,520 mph (7,274 km/h), on board an experimental X-15 flying at an altitude of 19.3 miles (31.1 kilometres).On land, the vast expanse of the Bonneville Salt Flats became the preferred venue for attempts and was home to nearly all records between 1935 and 1970. As technology progressed, thundering aircraft engines were dismissed to the pages of history by the more powerful turbojet and rocket engines in the 1960s. Thrust2 was the first of the modern era contenders to choose the Black Rock Desert or its record attempt in 1983, returning in 1997 with Thrust SSC.

Half a century after humankind first reached the speed of sound, the sound barrier was broken on land. On 13 October 1997, the first sonic boom generated by a car – Thrust SSC – resonated around the Nevada desert. Two days later, Andy Green officially guided the vehicle to an average 763 mph (1,228 km/h) over the measured mile, setting the World Land Speed Record that stands to this day. At the time, Green, and other members of that team who are now on the BLOODHOUND Project, felt the 1,000 mph barrier was an impossible target.

Andy Green, Driver of BLOODHOUND SSC

The inspirational pioneering heritage and indomitable spirit embodied by Sir Malcolm Campbell nearly 90 years ago are shared by Rolex and by the BLOODHOUND Project as it seeks to challenge the frontiers of known physics by breaking the 1,000 mph barrier on land.The endurance, precision, engineering excellence and innovation that have always been needed to push back the limits are fundamental to the Rolex way and are harnessed today in all of the brand’s Oyster watches.

BLOODHOUND SSC (SuperSonic Car) is a jet- and rocket-powered vehicle currently under development in the United Kingdom with the aim of setting a new World Land Speed Record and breaking the 1,000 miles per hour (1,609 km/h) barrier. This high-technology project is driven by an educational challenge: to stimulate interest in science and engineering around the globe in the same manner as the Apollo space programme and other technological feats inspired a whole new generation of scientists and technicians.


  • 135,000 bhp (Equivalent to 180 F1 cars)
  • 3 engines: Jet: 9 t of thrust, Rocket: 12 t of thrust & V12 engine: 750 bhp
  • Speed: 1,050 mph (1,690 km/h) (Mach 1.4)
  • 3G: Deceleration force, equal to 66 mph to 0(106 km/h to 0) in one second
  • Acceleration: 55 sec from 0 to 1,000 mph, 17 secs from 500 to 1,000 mph

The two fastest men on land are leading the BLOODHOUND Project: Richard Noble, Project Director and former record holder, and Andy Green, driver and current record holder. Between them, they have held the World Land Speed Record for over 30 years.

Based at the BLOODHOUND Technical Centre, a 2,000 square-metre facility in Bristol, the team will conduct low-speed runway testing on the vehicle in the UK once the manufacturing and assembly are completed, before travelling to South Africa for further testing ahead of the World Land Speed Record attempts scheduled for 2015 and 2016. The chosen ‘track’ is in South Africa, on the Hakskeen Pan. A 20-kilometre (12 miles) long strip has been cleared on this 20 square-kilometre hard and flat area of desert.

75 people work full time on the project, 46 of them building the car; 550 volunteers work on the education side; 20,000 people have put their names on the fin. The project has 233 product and financial sponsors.

The BLOODHOUND Technical Centre is located just 800 m from the River Avon, which, at 15 metres, has the world’s second highest tidal range. At high tide the ground on which the building is situated rises and falls by a few millimetres. To ensure the BLOODHOUND SuperSonic Car is built with absolute precision, the team uses a state-of-the-art laser tracker, accurate to 10 microns (1/10th of a hair’s breadth), to locate every single component in a three dimensional space as they assemble the car.

BLOODHOUND SSC’s slender body is almost 14 metres long with two front wheels within the body and two rear wheels mounted externally within wheel fairings. This pioneering blend of car and aircraft technology weighs nearly eight tonnes fully-fuelled, and harnesses the power of three engines – jet, rocket and internal combustion – that produce more than 135,000 horsepower – the equivalent of 180 Formula 1® racing cars. Cutting-edge technologies and materials were deployed in its design and manufacturing.

The front section is formed by a carbon-fibre monocoque like a Formula 1® car and the back by a metallic framework with panels like an aircraft. The pointy nose contributes to the overall aerodynamic efficiency of the car. The underside is virtually flat all the way to the tip, which gives the car the best shape. The nose is attached to the carbon-fibre front section, which provides the driver with a very secure, rigid safety cell and is also the most efficient way to form the complex curvature that is needed for the leading surfaces of the car.

The rear is a metallic fabrication split along its centreline. The upper chassis is a typical aerospace construction made of aluminium and titanium, which reduces weight while maintaining stiffness. The Eurojet EJ200 engine, the air brakes, the intake duct and the fin are mounted here. The lower section consists of a series of aluminium frames and bulkheads that are skinned in steel. It carries the Auxiliary Power Unit, the jet fuel tank and the rocket system, as well as the rear suspension mounts and the parachute cans.

The spectacular fin is essential for the lateral stability of the car, keeping BLOODHOUND SSC pointing forwards at all times. The fin ensures the centre of pressure is in the right place behind the car’s centre of gravity.

The engines providing power for BLOODHOUND SSC are not regular power units, but engineering wonders of the 21st century – a jet engine, a cluster of hybrid rockets to propel the car to the 1,000 mph target and an auxiliary power unit – a 750 bhp racing car engine – to pump the oxidizer – fuel – into the rockets. The jet engine is a Rolls-Royce Eurojet EJ200, a highly sophisticated turbofan normally mounted on a Eurofighter Typhoon. It provides approximately one-third of the thrust of BLOODHOUND SSC and it will be the first engine kicking in to take the car from 0 to 350 mph (563 km/h).

At this stage, the auxiliary power unit drives the rocket oxidizer pump which will supply 800 litres of high-test peroxide (HTP – a concentrated hydrogen peroxide) oxidizer to the cluster of hybrid rockets in just 20 seconds (40 l/s). Then the hybrid rocket cluster designed by a specialised, Norwegian company, Nammo, kicks in to boost the car up to 1,000 miles per hour (1,609 km/h) in combination with the jet. Nammo, whose rockets are used by the European Space Agency, joined the project in 2013 to further develop a new family of powerful, yet compact hybrid rockets. They are generally simpler, safer and less costly than traditional liquid or solid rockets.The jet engine will provide nine tonnes of thrust and the rocket will add another 12 tonnes. The combined power is the equivalent of 135,000 bhp.

Richard Noble, born 6 March 1946; a Scottish entrepreneur and adventurer who broke the World Land Speed Record in 1983 with Thrust2. Noble qualified as a pilot during his college years and has pursued several ventures – the best-known being the Thrust2 programme (which brought the World Land Speed Record back to Britain in 1983 from the United States after achieving 633 mph [1,019 km/h]) and Thrust SSC (1997), the first ever supersonic land speed record programme. In 2008, alongside Andy Green, Noble set the wheels in motion for another World Land Speed Record challenge: BLOODHOUND SSC.

Andy Green, born 30 July 1962; studied at Oxford University gaining both a love of flying and a first-class honours degree in mathematics. After graduation, he qualified as a fighter pilot and now serves as an officer in the British Royal Air Force. Green became the World Land Speed Record holder in 1997 when he reached 763 mph (1,228 km/h), breaking the sound barrier with Thrust SSC, a project led by Richard Noble. Their partnership began in 1994, after Green read in the newspaper that Noble was looking for a driver.

Mark Chapman, born 10 March 1968; graduated from Bath University, England, in 1992 in aeronautical Engineering and pursued a career with major aerospace firms, including Boeing in Seattle, Rolls-Royce in Bristol and almost four years on the design team for vertical take-off and landing system for the F-35 Lightning II. Having worked with Richard Noble on previous ventures, Chapman was delighted to say “yes” when he received a call inviting him to join a car-based project. Although passionate about cars, BLOODHOUND is one of his first motor sports Ventures.

An engineer since 1950, Ron Ayers began his career as a young apprentice, studying for a degree in aeronautical engineering whilst working on aircraft. In 1956, Ayers joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company as an aerodynamicist. Later, during a period of voluntary work at a museum, he came across several wind tunnel reports from the 1920s and 1930s detailing research conducted on the great pre-Second World War speed record cars. This started his interest in record breaking. In 1992, Ayers met Richard Noble and they joined forces to break the World Land Speed Record with Thrust SSC.

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