As the Geneva motor show opens its doors to the press today, Range Rover will unveil its latest novelty, the Velar. This medium sized SUV is destined to bridge the gap between the Evoque and the Sport models. We might as well advise immediately, the latest member of the family will cause a sensation. Featuring flush, deployable door handles, a floating roof, Matrix Laser-LED adaptive headlights, and two enormous 10-inch touchscreens serving as command and infotainment systems, the Velar’s design and minimalist luxury are set to open a new era.
Simultaneously, the Zenith watchmaking manufacture presents the Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Velar Special Edition, the most recent creation of the Zenith-Land Rover partnership and official watch of the Velar.
You might remember that last autumn we had already met and interviewed Jean-Claude Biver, LVMH’s Head of Watchmaking, as this partnership was announced in Paris (click here to read). This coming together illustrated the encounter of two iconic products, the El Primero Chronograph and the Range Rover, both of which were born in 1969 and immediately identified as pioneers in their respective industries. At that moment, the manufacture from Le Locle and the car manufacturer presented what they perceived as a common heritage. As of now, they will celebrate together a common vision of the future, made of luxury, durability and outstanding performance.
A ceramised aluminum case.
From the word “go”, Gerry McGovern, Range Rover’s Head of Design, expressed his desire to create a watch that resembled his cars. So obviously one of his first concerns was weight: in order to offer increased performance and optimal comfort of driving, the car manufacturer constantly seeks to make his vehicles as light as possible. And so should it also be for the watch, where the usage of an aluminum case appeared to be the ideal solution. However, this material was not approved by the Zenith engineers since aluminum is too soft and scratches too easily. After several tests and some research, the Zenith watchmakers remembered the famous Magic Gold, a revolutionary material invented by Hublot that combines gold and ceramic. Applying the same assembling principles as for the Magic Gold, they embarked on the development of an alloy made of aluminum and ceramic. The tests were more than successful and the new alloy rapidly came to life.
Performance, sobriety and durability.
Filled with Range Rover’s elegant and streamlined DNA, the new Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Velar Special Edition expresses the same refinement as the interior of the car. On its grey-brushed dial, the copper-colored elements such as the baton indexes and the SuperLuminova treated facetted hands just beautifully stand out. The spirit of the iconic El Primero Chronograph is to be found in the three sub-dials, reminiscent of the classic configuration of most watches linked to the car making history. The watch also features a date window at 6 o’clock as well as a tachymeter scale on the dial.
The 42mm ceramised aluminum case houses the El Primero 400B automatic movement beating at a rhythm of 36’000 vibrations per hour and therefore allowing a power reserve of about 50 hours.
The black rubber strap is coated with black-toned perforated calfskin, the exact same we can find in the interiors of the Range Rover cars. The closing system is a black DLC-treated titanium triple folding clasp.
In order to gain an even better understanding of what motivated this partnership, but also to gain some insight on the avant-garde spirit behind the new Range Rover models, we had the chance to meet up with Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s Head Designer. Please find his interview here below.
INTERVIEW DE GERRY MCGOVERN
You don’t create an icon that’s the first thing. Icon is a status that you arrive at over time. The term icon has been used very liberally, however having said that El Primero is an icon so is the Range Rover, you don’t design it to be an icon, you just do what you do best and try to design something that has impact and can resonate with somebody on an emotional level whether it’s a watch, a car, a building, a pair of shoes, whatever it is. People don’t need these luxury things, you don’t need that lovely watch, you don’t need beautiful cars, but we desire them. Design is everywhere, rational design, emotional design, when it comes to luxury and premium things it has to talk about emotions, and for me there is only 3 questions to ask. When I look at it, do I desire it? Once I’ve got it, does it perform? And after I used it do I still desire it, does it continue to behave and work, can I have a lasting relationship with it? Great pieces of design you don’t want to sell them you want to keep them for life, they are product people love for life. That’s my vision of an icon.
How do you manage to create new designs, while you know people always relate to the old « iconic » design?
We have a brand architecture, Land Rover is a master brand, distinct families: Range Rover represents luxury and refinement, Discovery represents versatility, and eventually Defender represents durability. The most important, all these vehicles, they are all differently shaped and have their own personalities, everyone of those vehicles needs to be the optimum in term of design, capability engineering and technicality. When it comes to design vehicles you have to look forward because you have to handle the latest technologies and connectivities. The legislations are also naturally moving the vehicles to more safety. All these things are stopping moves regarding design and we have to skirt around or find a way to integrate them.
Scale. In the watch world, you are more restricted, you have to rethink the work ergonomically. There is a real miniaturization because of the scale, the level of precision, and also the facilities. The factories to produce vehicles are huge, it’s really a different thing. There was also this thing about reduction. Interiors get more and more complex because of connectivity and all the information you get, we try to reduce those to be more relaxed. Personally, I would not like a complicated watch, and I always look at the design classics. I would go for the simplest version because as the complications go, it can be more complex. I know from a pure watch making point of view it brings more prestige more pedigree, etc. But from a pure visual one, they go out of balance, there’s too much going on for a small object. I wanted to keep this concept in the Range Rover El Primero design.
We do a lot of market research; I listen a lot to women’s needs. When we designed Evoque, I made sure this would happen because we created a concept car in 2008 called the LRX and this was when the company was owned by Ford and they didn’t want to do that car, and I forced that car to happen. And you know 60% of people who buy the Evoque are female. I knew it would be appealing to female because of its compact nature, which is convenient for the city, you felt secure, you sit a bit higher, we deliberately did a higher waistline to emphasize that dramatic look but it is actually quite muscular. Women like men generally, and since it’s a combination of those things that were appealing to women. Even if women are not buying the car, they have a strong influence in the decision process. This brought us to encourage a lot women’s design within the business. There’s a lot a female view going into the design, and more and more ladies are joining the design team.
Most of the watches are much smaller versions of the male ones or very feminine ones, but actually I think it’s not what women desire anymore. Six years ago we collaborated with Victoria Beckham on the Range Rover Evoque Vogue model. When I met her, I noticed straight away she was wearing a rose gold Daytona, this was a big watch on a very feminine wrist, but it suited her perfectly. I think women do not want small watches anymore, they want men’s watches that can look feminine, it’s more about the materials, colors, finishing you add to the watch than a special dimension.
I wouldn’t say I am a real watch aficionado, but yes I do like nice watches and i particularly focus on the design. In terms of the inner works, when they start talking about tourbillons, and all the mechanics inside the watch… I am lost. That’s not my expertise.
Lots of things! That’s the opportunity; this is just the start. If you go back to Land Rover, Range Rover, Discover, Defender, all these vehicles with a unique personality, we are going to launch a lot of new cars. The insatiate appetite people have for bespoke, to make something they call their own. But even in the basic form, I never wanted this to be just a watch, it needs to be a genuine collaboration. Said that, when we started doing this, the first question I had was one of the thing we do in our car is weight; our big vehicles are on aluminum platforms to make them lighter, so could this watch be lighter? That’s how we came to the Aluminum case. There are sports cars and formal cars, same for the watch, the El Primero is a sports watch, what about making a formal one? What’s the discovery watch, what’s the most versatile watch we could design? And when you go to the Defender, what is the more durable watch you can design? To me there is so much potential to this partnership as we share customers. People who buy Range Rover buy a luxury watch. And then we also share this desire to be innovative, to do things differently, push things out. There are a lot of synergies between Zenith and us.
- What was your first watch? My first good decent watch was a Rolex submariner, the classic silver one. I let my brother wear it.
- When was the last time you did something for the first time? To go swimming.
- Are you team cat or dog? Dog.
- If you could travel in time, would you go to the future or past? That’s a good one. I would be tempted to go to the future.
- Do you own a connected watch? I do have an apple watch.
Thank you Gerry!
– Macha Vananty