You Are There: The 167th Prix De Diane Longines In Chantilly, France
Horse racing is really about elegance – the way the animals move as they gallop, the dressed up day out for the spectators, and of course the hats.
France, as you may imagine, takes this sort of thing to a whole new level. I have attended horse races in other countries and I can attest that they are not usually the luxurious spectacle as the Prix De Diane I witnessed in Chantilly recently, with the breathtaking backdrop of the famous castle emerging in the background.
As Juan-Carlos Capelli, vice-president of Longines, said during the event to which I had most graciously been invited, “This may not be the most ‘important’ horse race in the world, but it is surely the most glamorous.”
Longines is now the most important sponsor of professional equestrian events in the world. The brand is present at the top 36 global flat horse racing events (in addition to numerous others in the disciplines of show jumping, dressage, and so on), which range from the famous Kentucky Derby through the Belmont Stakes, Prix de Diane, Royal Ascot, and beyond – in every country where this traditional sport takes place.
In all, Longines sponsors and takes part in more than 400 events per year.
Prix de Diane
While the Prix de Diane may not the most important horse race in the world, it is certainly the most important for professionally racing fillies – yes, this event is open exclusively to young female horses. Which explains the name of the event: “Diane” after the Roman deity Diana, goddess of the hunt and the moon.
First run in 1843, the race rewards the fastest three-year-old filly over a classic distance of 10.5 furlongs. One furlong is equal to 220 yards / 201.17 meters, making it a little longer than two kilometers.
Race day, which took place in 2016 on June 19, comprises nine different races, the most important of which is the Prix de Diane Longines, boasting the largest purse: one million euros; the winning filly’s team receives €571,400 of this.
The winner in 2016 was La Cressonnière jockeyed by Christian Demuro. As part of the prize-giving ceremony Demuro, the horse’s owner Antonio Caro, and trainer Jean-Claude Rouget all received watches from the Longines Master collection.
“We share so many values with the Prix de Diane,” said Capelli. “We are a perfect match. This is the only sport where the spectators wear hats and suits. This is not snobbish; this is timeless and elegant.”
For many at Chantilly, the day is more about fashion in the grandstands than the jockeys and fillies giving it their all on the track.
While a watch is perhaps only nominally important to a truly elegant outfit, the types of watches that Longines makes do fit quite wonderfully with horse racing style – particularly the Dolce Vita with its art deco design, a non-intrusive, classic way to add a timekeeper to an outfit that is generally overshadowed by a flamboyant hat.
Among its guests, Longines searched out the most elegantly dressed woman with hat to become the “Mademoiselle Diane par Longines.” I took a look at all the prominent hats in the large VIP tent, wondering if I’d be able to pick out the eventual winner.
As it turns out, I didn’t predict the winner (though I did win €64 at one point by betting on a winning horse using a very non-scientific approach). Alexia Masseron, who won the competition, received a Longines Dolce Vita encased in stainless steel and decorated with diamond setting. But I’ll bet she wasn’t counting on receiving it from the hands of Chinese heartthrob Eddie (Yuyan) Peng – which she did.
In the words of Capelli, the Dolce Vita model celebrates elegance. “Everything we do is about elegance; we think elegance.”
Developing “Elegance is an Attitude” as its tagline in the late 1980s, Longines began to focus on sponsoring elegant, emotionally charged sports such as gymnastics and equestrian competitions. This makes complete sense as Longines is one of the rare watch companies that equally targets both male and female watch wearers with timepieces, marketing and selling 50 percent of its estimated one million watches per year to men and 50 percent to women.
“And this is not a new strategy for Longines,” Capelli stated. “Right from the beginning we have done 50-50 percent. We are one of the rare Swiss watch brands that does so much of our business with ladies’ watches.”
To underscore this, he explained, “Show jumping, for example, is one of the rare sports where men and women even compete together! You see the same amount of ladies and men as spectators; equine sport is for both men and women – and very often the women are even better and faster than the men in these sports.”
Both recent statistics and my short talk with Capelli confirm that this strategy continues to serve the brand well; Longines remains one of the top-selling Swiss brands today despite the well-publicized downturn in sales that Switzerland’s luxury watch industry has been experiencing.
According to Statista.com, one of the world’s largest statistics portals, Longines was the fifth most valuable Swiss watch brand of 2015, right behind Rolex (#1), Patek Philippe (#3), Chopard (#4), and Swatch Group sibling brand Omega (#2). That is quite an impressive figure, especially when you consider that Longines’ price points are considerably lower than the other four brands listed.
“We will be 185 years old next year; we are not trying to be a fashion watch or brand,” Capelli disclosed the reason for this success. “A Longines watch is for yesterday, today, and tomorrow – and this is something very important. Hopefully we will still be here in 185 years!”