The majesty of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique
Think of motorsport, and you think of Monaco. The country’s association with fast cars and daring drivers dates back to the birth of motorsport, when the first men descended onto the Cote d’Azur through the Southern Alps in 1911 to complete the inaugural Monte Carlo Rally - and continues today with both the Rally, and the annual Grand Prix firm fixtures on the motorsport calendar.
Monaco’s history is inextricably linked to motorsport. The Grand Prix was first held there in 1929, it was one of the seven races of the very first F1 season in 1950, and remains the most challenging and prestigious races of the current calendar.
History is etched into the tarmac everywhere there. It is where Alberto Ascari cartwheeled his Lancia D50 into the harbour during the1955 Grand Prix just four days before his death at Monza; it’s where Graham Hill dominated the event in the 1960s and earned him the nickname Mr Monaco, and it’s where Ayrton Senna cemented his reputation as an unrelenting and unparalleled talent, winning the race six times. Ask any driver current or past which event they’d most like to win, and the Monaco race is it.
Ascari, Hill and Senna may be long gone but their names live on in the biennial Grand Prix de Monaco Historique which celebrated its 10th year this year. The event draws together the very best historic racing machines and drivers from around the globe and pitches them head-to-head over two days of intense competition. It’s an incredible event, and gives racing fans a chance to experience the sights and sounds of the golden age of motorsport.
Chopard began its association as official timekeeper for the event in 2002, and has remained a key partner of the Historique since. The company is headed by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (pictured below) and his younger sister Caroline - and it’s Karl-Friedrich’s passion for classic cars that led to the involvement with the Monaco event.
“It started with the Mille Miglia in the 1980s really,” Mr Scheufele told Esquire Middle East. “I was always a car fan but I started to really become a serious car collector then. That’s when I discovered the Mille Miglia [a regularity race for classic and vintage cars built before 1957 and run between Brescia-Rome-Brescia]. I went to see the organisers and somehow we had a very good contact.
“My idea was to produce a watch under the name of Chopard Mille Miglia and create this partnership where every participant would receive a watch instead of a big sponsorship package.”
“They were right with me in the beginning and that’s how I discovered the great combination between classic racing, classic cars and classic watches. The rest is history, but the nice thing is that we’ve kept close to classic cars - the only exception is our involvement with Porsche motorsport, which I also consider classic because Porsche in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is incredible and really the development came naturally over many years,” he explained.
Chopard designs a new watch for every Mille Miglia and Monaco Historique event, and Mr Scheufele is personally involved in the design of every single one of them.
“In my mind I always have the dashboards of the racing cars, and over the years we managed to do a lot of interesting combinations - but the inspiration is always the cars.
“The bracelet on the Mille Miglia watch is an example. I was lying in the grass next to the Porsche Spyder and I was looking at the Dunlop tyre with this characteristic design, and I thought that we should make a bracelet like this - a rubber bracelet. That was in 1989 - and ever since, it’s become a trademark of the Mille Miglia collection. So everything we did has taken inspiration from these beautiful cars.
“Now, there are those that know us for our sports watches only. On the contrary to the modern sports cars like Formula 1, you really get in touch with people who have a taste for motorsport. Classic cars fascinate everyone - every age, so I think it’s stylish, sporty, elegant - that passion comes through very clearly with what we do.”
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Chopard’s 2016 Grand Prix de Monaco Historique Race Edition was realised to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the race. Made from stainless steel and titanium, the watch is designed to echo the handcrafted bodywork found on vintage racing machines. The perfect blend of technology, craftsmanship and aesthetics, the subtle design is a tremendous homage to such a legendary event.