The Splendor of the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, Rolex-Style
Cars & motorsport

The Splendor of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Rolex-Style

Hosted by the title event sponsor, Rolex, Watchonista got an insider, driver-eye view of the elegant proceedings of what most enthusiasts consider to be the pinnacle happening in elite car culture.

By Mike Espindle
Executive Editor

From the kick-off parade of classic cars along the legendary 17-Mile Drive to the official Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Best of Show presentation hosted at the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Links golf course, what has become known as Monterey Car Week (or, more simply, “Pebble Beach”) presents an unforgettable experience for those who love automobiles.

History, design, technology, racing, performance, provenance, and the future of motoring all coalesce on the Central California coast and have been doing so since the Concours’ first year in 1950.

No Waiting

Let’s cut to the chase. The Best of Show winner of the Concours this year was a one-of-a-kind blue-and-black 1932 Dusenberg J Figoni Sports Torpedo owned by Lee R. Anderson, Sr., of Naples, Fla.

This car’s body was designed by the legendary Guiseppi Figoni but was cut in half (horrors!) at one point by an owner who wanted a different fender design. The two halves found their way onto two other Dusenberg autos. Then, after three years of work, the cars the halves had been attached to were found, and RM Sotheby’s was able to reunite the full body on the original chassis, much to the delight of the current owner (and us!).

Rolex & Speed

Rolex’s connection to motorsport dates back to Sir Malcolm Campbell’s land speed record successes in the 1930s. Today, the brand’s portfolio is much larger, including involvement with the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the F1 FIA World Endurance Championship. And that is to say nothing of its other auto-related partnerships and its many Testimonee relationships with top drivers.

Rolex began its close ties to Pebble Beach at the turn of the recent century, but since 2010, it has been an official title sponsor of the Monterey Car Week events.

A Fun-Loving Gathering

Started in 2003 by automotive industry icon Gordon McCall as a kind of more-casual, lifestyle-friendly counterpoint to the tradition and formalities of the official Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, has become the social don’t-miss event of the week.

Held on the grounds of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club (famously owned by car-enthusiast Sir Michael Kadoorie), booths from other luxury lifestyle brands, like private jets to spirits, abound, but the heart of The Quail beats to the tune of high-octane engines.

The show has expanded its real estate every year. And, in a kind of high-end auto show pivot, this year’s Quail saw no less than 19 new product unveilings from the likes of Bugatti (the 1,600hp W16 Mistral), Porsche (the colorful new 911 GT3 RS), and many other top automakers.

Although the vibe of The Quail is less formal, there are still awards to hand out. And the field of rare metal in the form of more classic “working car” examples and modern super- and hyper-cars is as stunning as it is up-close and personal. You might spot anything from a custom one-off pick-up truck made by Alfa Romeo (in very original condition) to an exquisite aerodynamic white 1956 Jaguar D-Type (which ended up winning the Quail’s Best of Show crown).

A Day at the Races

Under the umbrella name of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the week-long races at the historic WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca racetrack (so famous for its back-field, downhill Corkscrew descent and double-apex Andretti Hairpin) see 500 vintage cars across 14 categories pit head-to-head in thrilling competition.

Additionally, with the 100th Anniversary of Le Mans being a key theme at Pebble Beach this year, there was a particular focus on those cars. For instance, the familiar light-blue-and-orange Gulf liveries and bold racing red and green colorways of past historic Le Mans-winning vehicles was prominent both on the track and in the paddocks.

The driver, nicknamed “Mr. Le Mans,” was nine-time winner Tom Kristensen (who also happens to be a Rolex Testimonee). And he served as our host while giving us his unique insight on the races, his new role as Grand Marshall for the event, and his behind-the-scenes take on racing preparation and victory.

The Big Day

The whole event is steeped in tradition. One example is “dawn patrol,” which is the de rigueur ritual of watching the competing show cars move from parking storage to the display lawn (and sometimes not making it!).

Another example is the wearing of straw hats and blazers. And yet another is wearing fancy hats called fascinators (think Kentucky Derby) and vintage fashion.

Basically, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has to be experienced to be believed.

While each year’s Concours carries a few special themes (the 100th anniversary of Le Mans being this year’s, plus a focus this year on the centennial of Lincoln’s luxury cars), those emphases generally have little to do with the full spectrum of category awards. Nor do they have great impact on the ultimate Best of Show winner, which caps the week’s event.

Yet, despite the races, fun traditions, and overall celebratory atmosphere, the vehicle evaluation and judging are as deadly-serious as it gets. The winning Dusenburg mentioned above not only had to pass the judge’s exacting examinations and compliance guidelines, but the heartfelt story of its creation and re-creation may have pushed it over the top.

The Winning Car? What about the Winning Watch?

In addition to the pomp, bragging rights, and attention the winner of Best of Show gets, the owner of the top car at Pebble Beach is also awarded a special Rolex timepiece.

And this year’s Best of Show winner is now the proud owner of an exquisite Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust, featuring bi-color Rolesor in steel and yellow gold, a gold “pie-plate” bezel, a champagne-gold dial, and a Jubilee bracelet. Plus, it (of course) has a one-of-a-kind caseback engraving that commemorates the win.

As racer Tom Kristensen, who has been awarded a few Rolex watches over his racing career, confessed to us during the event: “You might love all your Rolexes, but the best Rolex is the Rolex you win!”

Pricing & Availability

Of course, though it would take years of collecting and dedication to earn the engraved Best of Show Rolex at Pebble Beach, you can pick up a pretty good simulation of this year’s awarded watch in the form of a 41mm Datejust with similar materials and specs for about $13,550.

Visit Rolex’s website for more information on its timepieces and automotive involvements.

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