Cars & motorsport

Attending (and winning) at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este

I have been attending the Concorso many times, but this year, things went a slightly different way. Why? For two very enjoyable reasons…

By Watchonista

Amongst all the Concours, the Concorso d’Eleganza in Villa d’Este is for sure the most beautiful. Occurring almost continually since 1929, this aristocratic car gathering presents the most splendid, rare, and fine automobiles throughout the years. The shores of Lake Como burst with scenic vistas that are astonishingly beautiful and backdrop of the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este is just breathtaking.

When you arrive in Lake Como, you have a sensation that somehow time has stopped and you’ve been transported years back in time when a happy few didn’t count their spending, threw amazing parties, and automobiles did not have pollution restrictions. 

At the Concorso, only 50 exceptional cars can compete in 8 classes. You will only see the spectacular, unique, or iconic. From an amazing Alfa Rome 33/2 Stradale, the mythological 1962 Ferrari GTO, the original James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, and a very unique Lancia Stratos Zero (by the way, - Make Lancia Great Again! -Thanks @automobili_amos).

The invite finally came from Germany!

Early May, an email popped up on my computer screen asking if I would fancy attending the Concorso as guest of A. Lange & Söhne. Knowing the passion for mechanics of Mr. Wilhelm Schmid (A. Lange & Söhne’s CEO) and anticipating privileged moments with the man, its team and few guests (including esteemed colleagues), I had to say yes! I think my exact words were, “Let me catch a flight to Europe and I will be there on time”.

At the moment I stepped in the Grand Hotel Tremezzo I immediately sensed a very Germanic organization of things. Everything was impeccably prepared. 

I only had a brief time to go to my room to change and then off to meet the team to receive a special watch. Prior to the weekend, being in a sport-chic mood, I pre-selected the Datograph Perpetual to wear throughout weekend. I must admit, the watch did NOT disappoint, despite normally wearing only white metals. With its white dial and rose gold case with matching brown strap paired perfectly with the environment I found myself in. 

I’ve always been a “PP” guy, and this was my first real “test drive” with a Lange and I liked it.

Ok you will tell me it’s an easy pick because it’s among the sexiest references the brand has… But I will simply reply that you are absolutely right! The movement is spectacular (a small city viewable under the sapphire caseback), the dial is neat and easy to read. The Datograph Perpetual boasts a chrono, and perpetual calendar with a big date all displayed in an outrageously readable way.

Having the watch on my wrist day and night, gave me the time to think about the brand, its origins of non-Swiss high-end manufacturing. Lest we forget the brand’s latest amazing results at charity auction. Another thing that really attracted me is the fact that the overall low production numbers makes Lange’s timepieces even more desirable.

Why Lake Como is a Perfect Fit for A. Lange & Söhne

How does one profile the clients of A. Lange & Söhne? Spending time in Italy among real Lange collectors made me understand the wide variety of “friends of the brand.” From a very cool (and young) venture capitalist from Silicon Valley (and serious “Burner” btw - a guy who really know how to live Burning Man) to an important and very classic collector from Singapore. But also, a German gentleman living on Lake Como or a renowned British racing driver. These various and unique profiles (and probably lifestyles) all but gave me a unique explanation of “why Lange”. The one common element is that these gentlemen (and ladies!) all share the same common attraction to beauty and rarity.

Then came the The Sicilian Miura (or how to experience the Concorso as a lucky insider)

The second (amazing) reason why I attended the festivities in Lake Como wasn’t to be a spectator. Later in the weekend, the event took an all different flavor. I have the chance to be close to a young and familiar car collector, a keeper of hidden treasures. The gentleman driver is @ROSSOMIURA and once again he brought the Bull out for a very stylish ride. 

I may be biased, but this is probably the most incredible example of Lamborghini Miura P400 SV you can see out there. Completely preserved. Untouched. Nothing has been replaced or restored. Produced in 1971 and first sold in Sicily, only the passing years have gently added a very sexy patina to the car. This car is so special that it got prizes in Pebble Beach and won Best of Show at the Concours d’Elegance Suisse in 2016.

After the car was reviewed by a team of international judges on very specific criteria (the Miura participated as #76 in the 80 years of Automotive Archaeology) you patiently wait (having an uncertain number of Negronis in exquisite company) for the moment when you have to line up and drive in front of the judges and spectators. I must say that it’s quite emotional to be in the car looking at the crowd applauding, getting their pictures, and the most passionate getting closer to congratulate you from the open window.

While the car drove on the terrace of the hotel toward the judges stage we hear at the microphone, the one and only Simon Kidston hosting the show with his inimitable style and announcing “here come the brothers!” and announcing that the car won the Design Prize 2018 (Only seven of the 50 cars participating Saturday got a prize). 

As a car enthusiast, I can clearly understand the thrill of participating in such an event. There is for sure a part of pride (I don’t mean to show-off! Believe me you will always find somebody next to you that owns an unreachable unicorn so…) in having your machine on the lawn of Villa d’Este, but it’s also about sharing your passion of mechanics. 

All this is very close to horology don’t you think? Even if I did not attend the full program for entrants, I could experience something quite unique. 

Being part of the show and winning a prize? Priceless.

A privileged weekend on Lake Como (along with many good laughs and Negronis)

I didn’t expect to have a chilled-out weekend. The schedule was just full but the rhythm ended up being very enjoyable. The welcome aperitivo at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo was a beautiful warm up. The occasion of saying hello to friends and to our hosts of course was a delight.

Saturday is the day! Early wake up, an anti-hangover treatment and I get on the boat bound for Villa d’Este. Tremezzo is not really close but the ride was just beautiful. Another good time to make new acquaintances. The day passes so fast especially if you want to see all the cars from close. 

On Saturday night, we had the privilege to open the Villa Sola Cabiati for a beautiful Dolce Vita dinner. At this amazing property, once again, you can only imagine how the wealthy families lived back in the day. 

Sunday, after a morning visit to Villa Erba and a fantastic boat ride to the hotel, I had the chance to sit for a privileged discussion with Wilhelm Schmid. I wanted to know more about the brand, the projects and of course the sponsorship of the Concorso. Very pleasant. The man has a great knowledge of the brand and a clear vision for its future. He further explained to me why Lange is so special to him and to the brand’s clients. I invite you to read to full interview here

For the closing gala of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, a white metal was needed, almost necessary (it was a black-tie affair). So, I exchanged my Datograph Perpetual for a more dressed up Lange 1. What an evening! A sudden storm with rain and hail. Imagine the terror of the owners and their finalist cars outside with ice coming down from a black skies!? The storm stopped but the suspense was rising. Who is the 2018 Best of Show? The winner was the amazing 1958 Ferrari 335 SPORT #60! Astonishingly restored. Another unicorn only seen at Lake Como…


So how can I wrap up this amazing weekend? I should say that, participating at the Concorso in Villa d’Este with an Italian iconic car, getting a prize from a British gentleman, and having a German brand hosting me in Italy with a Saxon timepiece on my wrist is just proof that passion for mechanics has no boarders. Now I better understand why, year after year, A. Lange & Söhne is actively participating in this very unique event. And I am glad that I could better understand the beauty of Saxon horology. 

And… just for the record, my best pick was for the 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB in Grigio Conchiglia #50 belonging to an American collector from Chicago.

A big thank you to A. Lange & Söhne, the team of course to @rossomiura for sharing his passion and dedication to incredible automobiles (and for taking good care of them).

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