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The unsung automotive pioneer who inspired our brand - Alexander Winton

As well as watches, both Simon and I are both crazy about cars - the more obscure the better - and that's how we stumbled across Alexander Winton.

You'd think that someone who sold the first American produced car, was the first to drive coast-to-coast, held land speed records, built and raced his own cars internationally, and built one of the first Diesel engines would be well known; however, few people - even those in the motor industry - have heard of this British-born engineer.

Born in Grangemouth in 1870, and having trained as a marine engineer (following in his father’s footsteps), Winton emigrated to the United States at the age of 19. He worked at sea for a few years, then at an ironworks in Cleveland, Ohio, when he spotted the popularity of bikes and set up the Winton Bicycle Company.

The company grew successfully, but it was the newly emerging self-propelled vehicles that excited him. He read every book he could find on the subject and, following a foray into petrol-powered bicycles (using his own engine), Winton launched his first 'motor wagon' in 1896. He created the Winton Motor Carriage Company the following year, when he drove from Cleveland to New York City to show the car's endurance.

In 1898, he sold his first Winton Six - the most technologically advanced car of its day - which many see as the first American produced car to be sold. That same year, in a stunt worthy of P.T. Barnum himself, the Six was the first car to cross the United States from coast to coast.

As with Winton Watches, the customer was always at the heart of the purchase (and Winton shied away from the production line techniques of his rivals). As a result, he ended up designing the first car transporter to deliver vehicles to customers - which was also the first articulated vehicle - and was even sold to rival companies to deliver their cars!

Winton was also a racing pioneer, recognising the important part it could play in promoting the brand, as well as driving innovation. In 1901, this saw him race against Henry Ford and lose, which also meant he missed out on the investment that Ford then used to create his motor company.

Alexander Winton and his 'Bullet No.3' racing car in 1903

A prolific inventor, Winton held more than 100 patents relating to motor cars and engines (as well as bicycles). And, despite being very commercially minded, he allowed the free use of any patents related to safety.

Despite this, and his role in the early days of the motor industry and motorsport, Alexander Winton has remained largely forgotten, only being inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2005 and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.

We love to recognise unsung heroes and pioneers, and Alexander Winton is the inspiration behind the company name and the Winton Watch Company brand...

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