As the official timekeeper and title sponsor for Red Bull Racing respectively, TAG Heuer and Aston Martin make for a natural pairing. Their partnership has produced mutually inspired special editions such as the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera TAG Heuer Edition and corresponding Carrera collector’s timepiece, but to fully appreciate the work that went into these mechanical marvels, one would need to be at the source. Fortunately, the British luxury automaker is not averse to opening its doors for a bout of engineered soul-searching.
Located in the quaint village of Gaydon, Warwickshire, the global headquarters of Aston Martin is a state-of-the-art compound where the company plans, designs and builds its cars. Various Vantage models prowl the grounds, perched atop rocks or on water surfaces to greet guests. Inside, a collection of sports cars (including a Red Bull racer) fills the lobby and just past the historical timeline and legacy line-up is the main event – the production floor.
Every workshop buzzes like the backstage of a theatre, but the Aston Martin facility thrums steadily in its cavernous arena. Time factors differently here – a new Aston Martin is started every 26 minutes, compared to mass manufacturers where it is a matter of seconds. Production is deliberate, with an average 200-hour build process scrutinised at every stage before the final inspection. The factory floors are pristine, and the air is free of industrial cacophony.
Things are done traditionally at the Gaydon facility – hand over machine assembly – and many of the Aston Martin workers are skilled generational tradespeople. Handmade does not preclude the use of machines – that is simply not efficient construction. Seamstresses work alongside computerised sewing machines; men wrangle car parts into chassis that have been precision-bonded by robots; mechanised beasts of burden transport heavy loads autonomously.
Every stitch, beautifully expressed line, and stirring noise of engine culminates at the end of the production line. If the timing is right, there might even be something truly spectacular waiting in the wings, such as the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera TAG Heuer Edition. The so-called “brute in a suit” celebrates Aston Martin’s partnership with TAG Heuer and is a testament to the fact that beauty is no longer subjective when the design is indomitable, the meticulous man-hours coupled with real leather and wood.
Finished in exclusive Monaco Black paint with red accents, each of the 50 special edition supercars is personally inspected by Aston Martin’s president and group CEO, Andy Palmer, before leaving the factory.
Shifting gears, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing factory at Milton Keynes operates at vastly superior speeds. Every year, a brand new race model has to be designed and built here, with only passing resemblance to its predecessor. So while Formula One drivers like Max Verstappen are the face of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, the industrial estate is undoubtedly the strong body that carries the team.
Three main buildings house the various organs of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing factory. The Technical Office is the beating heart that pumps lifeblood in the form of continuous design updates. The Data Centre is the brain that runs countless virtual simulations on aerodynamics, with a wind tunnel situated 30km off-site for physical testing. The machine shop cultivates car components on-site, while the paint shop turns bodywork application into a precise science.
The race bays and simulator provide practical experience for pit crews and drivers, and the AT&T operations room offers real-time support to any track in the world. There is no room for mistakes in the high-stakes game of Formula One racing, so all of these parts must work together as an industrial gestalt to bring victories and podium places for the Red Bull Racing team.
The newest addition to the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing factory is an event space called MK7. Displaying both racing history as well as the entire fleet of Red Bull racing cars, it is an exhilarating hall of fame that complements the tremendous wall of trophies at reception.