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Drive Time

High-Performance Cars and Watches Team Up for Fast Times
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

(continued from page 1)

"We think that a Bentley owner appreciates what is 'under the hood' so to speak as far as the mechanics of the watch. So it makes sense having a tourbillon movement," says Lisa Roman, marketing director for Breitling USA.

Rather than use established movements, the watch firm of Parmigiani created a completely new one this year for its surreal looking Bugatti Type 370, a watch named for a new model from Italy's automobile legend. Even while the car is still not on the road, a number of these special watches have made their way to the market. About 50 are made a year for about $200,000 each. It is strange looking, to say the least, with an open-faced movement placed where a normal watch has its dial. The dial is on the side, so a driver can tell the time while driving at high speed.

It is an amazing watch, but one has to ask: Are the Bugatti Type 370, Breitling Bentley or any other car watch simply gimmicks to sell expensive watches? Watch manufacturers say no. "The synergy really works," insists Roman, who says Breitling USA has attracted many new customers with its Bentley range. "It's a given that the person who buys a Bentley is interested in the watch. They appreciate the watch with its new styling for Breitling, which until now has been associated primarily with airplanes and pilots."

Perhaps the watch company with the most straightforward reason for producing a car watch is Chopard. The company's co-president, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, is a keen driver and car collector. So, Chopard has been making a watch to commemorate one of the world's most famous vintage car races— Europe's Mille Miglia. Scheufele participates in the race every year, and this year's edition is made in conjunction with Alfa Romeo.

The Italian firm's cars are not even marketed in the U.S., yet the watches are already in great demand. "There has been a waiting list," says Alexis Przybylski of Chopard in New York. The Mille Miglia GMT Alfa Romeo became available in the United States in October and starts at about $4,674 for the stainless steel edition. "Even if the Alfa Romeo cars are not sold in the U.S., car collectors and enthusiasts know very well about the particular brand and have always been intrigued by things European."

Americans do seem intrigued. As they should be. The United States is the key market for high-end European cars as well as watches, which both industries well know. Laurel Saville, a marketing consultant for Jaeger-LeCoultre, confirms that idea: "At the end of the day, it's a great way for both Jaeger and Aston Martin to develop new clientele, in that the JLC customer is in turn the AM customer and vice versa."


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