STYLE PAIRING

« Rallye des Caprices » : Lady drivers and their watches

4 November 2016
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Photo: Pierre Vogel

The similarities between watchmaking and the world of cars are relatively obvious and many of the big watch brands have partnered repeatedly with the biggest actors in the automobile industry with the view of targeting (and seducing) potential buyers attracted by impressive mechanics. However, when one asks the “Lady Drivers” to freely associate their watch to their car, it’s not anymore a question of marketing research or brand positioning, but rather a question of emotions and stories. Let’s now discover these car-watch associations proposed by the participants to the “Rallye des Caprices”, a 100% feminine historic car rally that recently took place in Switzerland and where we formed a Watch-Her team.

An impressive selection of nice cars lined up on the starting grid of this 2016 edition: Porsche, Ferrari, Mercedes…all dating from the 1960s to 1985. The Watch-Her team was driving the eldest of all, a 1965 Porsche 911 2 L. At my side – Yep, I was the driver – Sofia Clara, our artistic director that took on the role of the co-pilot to navigate me through the winding Swiss roads. A responsibility that she assumed brilliantly since we both came home with first prize, a Girard-Perregaux “Circuito” Chronograph. A beautiful titanium piece that we will take great pleasure and pride to drive around with us in the 911, hand on the steering wheel for me, hand on the trip master for Sofia.

The Watch-Her team claims victory !

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The «Rallye des Caprices» is a regularity trial. For the uninitiated, this is a type of race where the objective is not pure speed, but rather consistency, meaning that the participants should respect as closely as possible a given speed average. Both early and late arrivals are sanctioned with a penalty that will, in turn, affect the team ranking. Timekeeping is therefore of paramount importance in these types of rally races, since the regularity of the cars is measured down to the second. In our current “smart phone and application era”, do we choose our watch only according to aesthetic considerations…or is its reliability and faculty to serve as a precise chronometer still an important factor?

Audrey, the driver of the 1972 Porsche 911 2,4L, went for an obvious combination of aesthetics and precision by wearing a Rolex Daytona. A classy and appealing choice, featuring a yellow gold case and brown leather strap; an unmistakable reference to the car racing universe and a perfect match with the orange colour of her Porsche. But the story behind the watch of this pretty fashionista also deserves a mention since it was a gift from her grandfather on her 24th birthday. A more than legitimate choice to accompany her in her first rally in a Porsche.

 

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Chimène, yet another very « chic » Lady Driver and pilot of the 1970 yellow Alpha Romeo, was chosen by the Rally organizers for the “Elegance” award. On her wrist, a yellow gold and diamond set Patek Philippe Twenty 4. Launched in 1999, the Twenty 4 was the first ladies watch introduced by Patek Philippe. It had been imagined to accompany the 24 hours of an elegant and active woman with a distinguished taste for beautiful watchmaking. A truly stunning piece, which in this case again, was chosen by a man (her husband), as a gift for her 30th birthday. This charming watch aficionado living in Münich confessed that she only wears the watch on memorable occasions and when she feels well accompanied. Elegance was definitely not only to be found on her wrist, but also in her personality.

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In the category of prestigious Italian cars, the 1980 Ferrari 308GTS driven by Nathalie deserves a strong mention. On the driver’s wrist, a very feminine model by Girard-Perregaux, the Cat’s Eye Bloom. Beautifully set with diamonds and decorated with a floral peony theme on its dial, the oval-shaped watch is a souvenir of her win in the 2015 edition of the “Rallye des Caprices”. A car-watch association that also reminds us the Ferrari chronographs produced by Girard-Perregaux around the year 2000, before Hublot took over the position.

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A bit further down the grid, the sky-blue 1964 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider driven by Marie-Thérèse and Elody retained all our attention. The team admits wearing Rolex watches on a daily basis and Elody only swears by her Lady Datejust, a watch acquired to celebrate here return to Paris from the US. She just loves its practicality, resistance and small size and simply never gets tired of wearing it. Marie-Thérèse usually also wears a Rolex Datejust, a gift from her husband for the birth of her daughter. But for instance, the highly exclusive Audemars Piguet skeleton tourbillon in titanium bejewelling her wrist throughout the rally was a loan by her sponsor. A limited edition Royal Oak produced in only 25 pieces which confirms the generosity of this very nice partner. And to a certain extent, a rather Italian Alfa-Royal Oak “duo” that reminds us of the difficult birth of the famous model.

Indeed, the impossible mandate given to the designer Gerald Genta on the eve of the 1971 Baselworld exhibition was to create a sporty-luxury watch for the Italian market. Even though the first sketches immediately seduced the brand’s high-level clientele, its arrival on the market remained nonetheless quite chaotic. Excessive price positioning, stainless steel instead of gold, quartz crisis, etc. were only some of the negative factors that prevented the sales of the Royal Oak to really take off. It was only three years later that Gianni Agnelli – the big boss of the Fiat group – brought it into the spotlight. The watch suddenly gained incredible popularity and this marked the beginning of many successful years for an emblematic model.

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Joana and Cecilia, driving a Mini Cooper, formed team nº8. Whereas Joana, the co-pilot, chose to time the course with an Apple Watch mounted on a milanaise bracelet, Cecilia, the pilot, wore one of the most famous trendy watches, the Chanel J-12 in black ceramic. A model that was designed in the year 2000 by Jacques Helleu, an amateur of classic cars and who actually had in mind to create a sporty and resistant watch for himself. Available in two different colours, black and white, this ceramic watch with a high-tech appearance witnesses an immediate commercial success and positions itself as a unisex reference. A sporty and elegant choice perfectly in line with the cosmopolitan personality of its owner, Director of a communication agency living in between Switzerland and St-Barth.

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In the midst of this display of luxury timepieces, one “intruder” was to be found or, put differently, one outstanding “Lady Driver” displayed a slight eccentricity. We had long noticed the fiery temperament and permanent good mood of Lisa-Maria, not to mention her Toyota Sports 800 with Portuguese number plates, when our eyes were attracted and literally froze on what she was wearing on her wrist: a flashy, orange-coloured Swatch! But at the same time, she wore it with such coolness and elegance that we might as well have just moved on, not even questioning the reason for it being there. But we did nevertheless get to the bottom of the story: Lisa recently suffered a burglary and all her precious watches were stolen. We’re really sorry for her…but we do know that she has already started rebuilding her collection with some of the biggest brands. But still, I do think that this orange Swatch suited her extremely well.

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Finally, the Watch-Her team. We had decided to measure time with our Zenith chronographs. In my case, a 1969 El Primero and for my co-pilot, Sofia, an El Primero Chronomaster Lady with an oval-shaped bezel set with diamonds. As a passionate “Lady Driver” of classic cars, the most precise mechanical chronograph in the world appeared as my best bet to check from time to time my co-pilot’s calculations (I know, I am a bit of a control freak).

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All this to show that, apart from being a fashion accessory, a mechanical watch is perfectly capable of precise timekeeping in the context of car racing time trials. Enough to momentarily renter the faithful smartphone into an insignificant object? Indeed, each and every pilot of the “Rallye des Caprices” proudly displayed a timepiece on her wrist, and apart from the Rolex Datejust, all were different. This proves, once again, the beautiful diversity of the ladies’ horological offer. These ladies’ choices, which we witnessed first hand during the course of this race, also confirm a close link between the watch and its owner’s personality. In the past, ladies might only have been occasional consumers, moreover displaying greater emotional purchasing behaviour than men. But watch out…the trend is gently reversing!

Upon these words of wisdom, I must leave you…a Champagne magnum is waiting for me to duly celebrate our victory!

Photos credits: Sofia Clara

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