Concours d’Elégance Suisse
Cars & motorsport

A Look Back at the 2018 Concours d’Elégance Suisse

Breitling was the partner of the third edition of the Concours d'Elegance Suisse, which was held at Coppet Castle. The event, supported by Watchonista, turned out to be a genuine success! Further proving that the show is getting better and better. The happening has made it onto the calendars of all major competitions, right between the Villa d'Este and Pebble Beach.

By Frédéric Brun

Breitling dropped its wings, but it has found its wheels again. And the watchmaker's presence for the third edition of the Concours d'Elégance Suisse (Swiss elegance competition) is just another sign. Breitling is obviously seeking to reposition itself.  In just under a year, the brand has brought on new owners and investors, and as part of the revamp efforts, the Breitling logo itself has been modified, giving greater prominence to the historic "B" and dropping the anchor and wings. At the helm is none other than Georges Kern. And navigating these roads is not being done with a joystick alone, but also with a steering wheel. Breitling will no doubt continue delving in aviation and sailing, but this season, focus was on exploring the brand's heritage in the world of automobiles.

The Breitling Connection to Motor Cars

This deliberate affinity between mechanical sports and a watchmaker whose specialty is the chronograph is not really new, but it was kept on the back burner these past years. Breitling, an official timekeeper of numerous races and other sports meets during the 1950s, can be proud of the fact that its watches were carried on the wrists of some of the most illustrious race drivers, like Formula One champion Jim Clark, and at a time when they were not fettered to brands by contracts, ambassadorships, or advertising.

You don't have to be psychic to bet on a growing trend in the market for those coveted chronographs of the late 1950s and 1960s in the Chronomat or Chrono-Matic class. There are numerous variations of these watches, but they come in fairly limited editions, which makes them all the more desirable. Few companies can avail themselves of such historic roots in the auto scene, particularly since names like Gallet and Enicar have vanished. Enter Breitling.

On this occasion, the famous Austrian collector Fred Mandelbaum presented an impressive selection of venerable timepieces with a definite aura of vintage and racing, some of which could surely serve as inspiration for future collections.

Naturally, Breitling was at the forefront, and even decided to exalt, once again, its special connection with Bentley during this beautiful car-themed spring weekend on the shore of Lake Geneva. So, taking advantage of the "Tour d'elégance," a very exclusive rally for the owners of cars entered into the contest, Breitling invited a few VIPs to take seat in vintage Bentleys. Then, while the participants were heading towards Coppet Castle after lunch, in order to set up their cars on the lawns of Madame de Staël's former residence, the Bentley-Breitling stable was racing along to give a private tour of its watchmaking installations. It was a smart moment to give a (re)presentation of the new Navitimer 8 collection, the first spearhead in the Kern era.

Because to stand out, you must know how to navigate skillfully between modernism and nostalgia. The same applies to events involving cars.

The 2018 Concours d’Elégance Suisse

For sure, competitions featuring elegant cars have proliferated over the past five years, restoring and updating this type of event, which was very popular from the 1930s to the great thirty-year period stretching from 1945 to 1975. The most eminent places, from Great Britain to Luxembourg, passing occasionally by Chantilly, want to have their own competition these days.

The special spice in the Swiss event is its spirit. A happy marriage of necessities and the avant-garde. On the one hand, there are the strict norms of international assessment for the qualification of the cars. The rules are strict and overseen by a recognized international organization, the ICJAG, which lets the judges evaluate the vehicles according to precise – and therefore particularly objective – criteria. Adolfo Orsi, the highly experienced president of the jury, is scrupulous about this. Even at the risk of generating some frustration for the spectators, like the time the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta missed the mark in 1962. It was a unique vehicle, with a short wheelbase, designed by a very young Giorgieto Giugiaro for the personal use of designer Nuccio Bertone. And yet, a few little errors in the car's restoration did prevent this queen of the Geneva Salon 1962 from being crowned again.  By contrast, its predecessor, the first Jaguar Type E, unveiled at the Salon de Geneva 1961, once again shined at Coppet.

On the other hand, as a complement to the strict rules for judgement, the actual choice of categories for the competing cars has become modern as well. This is the little extra introduced by Mathias Doutreleau, the creator of this meet, which has now become so well established on the international calendar of events, between the Villa d'Este and Pebble Beach.

Few contests manage to make such great space for cars that generate emotions and longings on the part of younger generations. We are speaking of those "future classics," rare, lavish, and exotic vehicles from the 1970s and 1980s. At Coppet, the Lamborghini Countach, Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9l, or the Lagonda V8 limousine recuperated their moment of glory. It's an emotional approach to the subject matter, which does reveal a bit of justifiable sentimentality for Swiss cars. For many visitors, the Monteverdi 375 High Speed or the Alvis with Graber bodies did have a particular flavor. In addition, the elegant signature of the Swiss body specialist, Hermann Graber, who works in Witrach, near Bern, was visible on the body of the Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 BMM from 1939, which earned the Best of Show title at this third and very successful edition of the competition. So, happy trails and until next year….

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