concours elegance 2017

Concours d’élégance Suisse: the big event

Smoking hot! The second edition of the Geneva-based show, partnered, once again, by Watchonista, saw temperatures and pulse rates rise as this major event devoted to the art of mechanical engineering and all things elegant showcased a number of rare and exceptional automobiles.

By Frédéric Brun

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele has got it absolutely right. Finding time between trips, Chopard's co-chairman made sure he was the one presenting the prizes to the winners of the 'Mille Miglia Classic Car' category at the Concours d’élégance Suisse. Barely off the plane, he literally jumped into the seat of one of his favourite pre-war Bentleys and headed for the splendid Château de Coppet. Madame de Staël's former home, langouring on the banks of Lake Geneva, played host to the second edition of the Concours d’élégance for automobiles, whose reputation is already well established.

The buzz generated among enthusiasts of the many marvels of mechanical engineering on display, be they cars or watches, prompted double the amount of participants as last year, and many more visitors and sponsors. A surge in popularity that can only delight the event's founder.

Mathias Doutreleau has thus seen his dream come true. The Concours d’élégance Suisse is now an important date on the international calendar for events of its kind, after the Villa d’Este in the spring, and before Pebble Beach, Chantilly and Hampton Court, which mark the summer to autumn transition period.

On the podium, the Ferrari 750 Monza stops for a moment to show off its streamlined profile. Born to race, born for the road. It has shone in many competitions including the Mille Miglia, the "most beautiful race in the world". Karl-Friedrich Scheufele watches with an expert eye.

Chopard's head honcho, directly involved in the race, is an experienced driver and a seasoned collector. Visibly glowing with pride, he hands over the prize to the winner of this category, a watch from the Mille Miglia 2017 collection, as this year marks the 90th anniversary of the great Italian road race. Spirits are high and the mood is just right.

The event was blessed with exceptionally clement weather, prompting a warming remark from the organiser at the lavish gala dinner held in the lounge area of Geneva's Hôtel des Bergues. Indeed, after the stormy weather accompanying the show's first edition, this year's heatwave only served to underline the extremely demonstrative nature of a competition that revels in excesses.

The gargantuan AMG powerhouses wisely nestling in the shady parkland surrounding the Château de Coppet were excessive on more than one count.

Often souped-up and superlative in every sense of the word, these German racing titans represented the quintessence of the "future classics" category. In fact, it was all part of the Swiss event's bold plan and specific approach to call on models from the 70s and 80s to also compete, thus echoing the triumphs and fantasies of a not too distant era.

An approach that paid off, since they found their natural place alongside more classic gems, including iconic GTs from the 50s, 60s and 70s, one-off commissions or one-of-a-kind creations, post-war sports cars, and luxury touring vehicles, following the example of the prestigious Hispano-Suiza roadster, their radiator-grilles emblazoned with the Swiss colours. But it was France who saw its flag flown high by the international jury presided over by Adolfo Orsi, the man whose family saw to the rise of Maserati, and Ed Gilbertson, the highly respected and renowned chief judge of Pebble Beach.

Best of Show therefore went to the rare 1935 Avion Voisin C 25 Aérodyne belonging to the Fondation Hervé. Inspired by the architectural principles advocated by Le Corbusier and Mallet-Stevens, this unconventional car is one of the great creative masterpieces designed by Gabriel Voisin.

His six-cylinder sleeve valve Knight engine was nothing extraordinary, but many of his technical solutions were highly innovative, such as the six-speed automatic transmission controlled from the steering wheel. Gabriel Voisin's Aérodyne started out as an experiment and proposed some extremely avant-garde solutions for its time: the collapsible rear seat, a fully-opening, automated sliding sunroof powered by vacuum pump and an electrical system and adjustable shock absorbers controlled from the dashboard.

A sweet piece of engineering: only seven of the twenty-eight C25 chassis made received the Aérodyne treatment. This fact alone was sure to spark particular interest among an audience that included watchmakers and designers visiting over the weekend, such as François-Paul Journe and Davide Cerrato.The Concours d’élégance Suisse, which sets out to inject this type of event with a modern twist and a more contemporary approach, is well on its way to becoming a tradition. It's already the most elegant of its kind.

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