You Are There: Monterey Car Week 2019 With Singer Reimagined And H. Moser & Cie
It was 1994 when I first made the pilgrimage from my then-home in Chicago to the wonder that is the annual August car weekend on the Monterey Peninsula of California. And in the 25 years since, I’ve been back something on the order of 20 times to meet up with friends and enjoy the array of cars and, more recently, watches on display.
While in recent years our group has focused on the “big” (and expensive) events at The Quail and Pebble Beach, this year we decided to add some variety and go off the beaten path a bit – with satisfying results.
My first stop upon arriving on Thursday was at Spanish Bay for a meeting with CEO Edouard Meylan and members of his H. Moser & Cie team.
In the midst of catching up on recent events, I also had a chance to take a closer look at some of the brand’s 2019 introductions including its latest Vantablack-dialed watch and the aptly named Heritage Tourbillon Funky Blue with its Moser-style fume dial enhanced with large, raised Globolight Arabic numerals infused with Super-LumiNova.
You either like this pilot style on a Moser or you don’t, but I found it eye-catching and comfortable on the wrist.
From Spanish Bay I made my way into town to meet up with car pal Joe and some of his friends at the RM Auctions/Sotheby’s preview, which is open to the public for a nominal fee.
In my view, RM had a very solid assortment this year. One car that really stood out both for its history and its audacity was the Ferrari 375MM Coupe Speciale Ghia that carried an auction estimate between $5 and $7 million but went unsold with a high bid of $4.7 million – more on that and other auction results later.
For the second year running, we spent Thursday evening at the Singer Vehicle Design event courtesy of our friend, Singer Reimagined watch chief Marco Borraccino. As in past years, the event was held at a “secret” remote location – and this year’s spot was a particularly remote, but also stunningly beautiful, hilltop estate with lavish horse stables and sweeping views of the surrounding hills and vineyards.
Along with the opportunity to check in with Borraccino, we were treated to displays of various Porsches touched by Singer’s magic and chatted with other watch and car pals until it was time to wind our way back into town for the night.
We had planned to get out to Laguna Seca bright and early on Friday for the historic race’s practice sessions, but made a last-minute decision at breakfast to head out to the Werks Reunion, an event organized by the Porsche Club of America and open to the public with a relatively modest parking fee of $20 per car and free access to the show itself.
As a Ferrari enthusiast, I’ll just note that if long, long lines of 911s in various colors and shapes are to your taste, you’ll love this event – but for me it was a festival of sameness. Even the occasional Barney-purple example (by the way, this color seems to be very much the rage these days, across marques, for reasons not entirely clear to me) didn’t keep me from agitating ever so gently to get out to the track.
While many visitors to the Monterey car week confine themselves to the various car shows and auctions in town, I think they’re missing something if at some point they don’t make their way out to the track to see and hear the historic racers at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
I’d never been to this event on practice and qualifying day, and for me it was perhaps even better than going on one of the weekend race days as the crowds were smaller, access to the cars easier, and we still got to see each class thundering around the track at full speed.
The track action is cool, but for me the real highlight is the opportunity to work your way up and down the rows of racing cars in the paddock, seeing the history of motor racing unfold before your eyes and stopping to drool over gems like an ex-Andretti Lotus Formula 1 car.
Given the name of the event, it should come as no surprise that Rolex signage was pretty much everywhere. The brand had erected a large, elegant, and very private temporary facility near Turn 3 and I repeatedly asked myself why I hadn’t tried to negotiate access before heading to the track. Ah well – next year!
Friday evening it was off to the Gooding auction, where among the top lots was another Formula 1 car, this time an ex-Niki Lauda Ferrari 312T that sold at the low end of the estimate range of $6 to $8 million in a surprisingly subdued bidding in the room – if, that is, you can call any auction that brings in that much money subdued!
I wasn’t in any position to bid on any of those lots, but I thought it might be my time to pick off an example of a car that has held my attention for at least a dozen years: the Fiat Jolly. The Jolly design was based on a Fiat 500 with a chopped body, wicker seats, and fringed top, and was developed for use as hotel-to-beach transport at Italian coastal resorts.
I thought that the perfectly-restored example at Gooding might just be worth its $75,000 low estimate but went away shaking my head after it achieved an eye-watering total price of $156,800. I hope that the buyer enjoys tooling down to the grocery store in it as much as I would have!
In the aftermath of the auction, Gooding issued a glowing report citing the sale of a number of landmark vehicles, including the Lauda car and a mouth-watering 1958 Ferrari Tour de France 250 GT Berlinetta that went for $5.1 million.
But it left out the fact that sales declined 35 percent from last year and that total revenue number includes several lots that did not achieve their reserve prices at the auction itself but were sold through private treaty afterwards.
For me the Gooding auction turned out to be a net positive, though, as I left without spending a dime and enjoyed the car – and people – watching, including a sighting of everyone’s favorite car guy, Jay Leno.
Saturday’s main event was the Concorso Italiano, a longtime favorite of mine and an event from which I’ve taken home a few trophies over the years. But first we dropped in on a more free-spirited event, the Concours d’Lemons.
This free event in downtown Seaside is the place to go if you want to see some truly awful cars, people having fun with them, and have a few laughs of your own watching the entrants vie for awards including “A Sight for Sour Eyes,” “Slightly Better Than a Go Cart,” class honors including those for “Unmitigated Gaul” and “Der Self-SatisfiedKrauttenWagen,” and the always popular Worst of Show.
For me the Karmann Ghia pictured above was the most remarkable car on exhibit, but judges also had to consider the human element, with many of the owners costumed to complement their vehicles.
We did eventually make it over to Concorso Italiano, a mostly higher-toned event with a great assortment of Italian vehicles. We were a bit disappointed that on the fiftieth anniversary of the Ferrari Dino there were few examples of that car on display. But the volume and quality of cars from Alfa to Zagato were, as usual, worth a few hours of pleasant wandering, and the food trucks on the grounds were a big improvement from the meager options available in years past.
Of course, if you’re going to have an Italian car event, you have to let in the Lamborghini owners, which brings some interesting cars into the mix and also some flamboyant displays including the purse-and-heels combinations perched on some of the cars by “Lamboprincess.”
After Concorso it was time for another free event back in Seaside, the annual Exotics on Broadway. The tone here is very much a tuner vibe, which provides another perspective on the car passion but, like the aftermarket alteration of fine watches, is often not to my taste.
Skins and body kits abounded along Broadway; here’s an example of the use of both that I won’t be selling off my watch collection to buy.
After a full and varied day of car events, it was enjoyable to close out the day with friends at an event at a local watch dealer who focuses on new and vintage Rolex pieces. It was there that I met up with my pal who had just taken delivery of his gorgeous red-gold-and-black-enamel Chronomètre Contemporain from Rexhep Rexhepi of Akrivia.
His verdict, delivered several times: “Extremely satisfying.”
As Sunday dawned, it was a bit of relief that I’d decided to skip the Pebble Beach Concours this year! Among other things, it gave me an opportunity to pick the brain of my car auction expert buddy on the weekend’s results on that front and to think about potential implications for the upcoming round of watch auctions.
Some things I think we learned:
- Trees don’t grow to the sky: it seemed that most of the car auction houses expected that prices across categories would continue their recent upward march, and as a result estimates and reserves were very often set too high.
- When markets soften, there is a flight to quality: some of the very top lots did perform at least at their low estimates and a few records were set at the high end, but many of the more modestly priced lots and some of the less prestigious auction operators suffered badly. For instance, at Russo and Steele on Friday night, only three of the final 32 lots of the night sold.
- A generational transition is underway and with it more contemporary cars are finding the spotlight – but at the same time, super-vintage cars from the early part of the 1900s continue to perform well.
- Auctioneers and their support teams can make – or break – auctions: Charlie Ross at Gooding put lipstick on more than one pig this past weekend, while the hapless chap at RM/Sotheby’s charged with selling the much-hyped “Porsche” Type 64 was a victim of his own poor enunciation as his garbled calls of 13 through 17 million dollars were displayed, uncorrected, as 30 through 70 million before being caught, much to the dismay of the booing crowd, many of whom walked out before the lot was eventually hammered, unsold. Quite the counterpoint to Phillips’ auctioneer Aurel Bacs’ lightning reaction to the startling $10 million jump bid on the “Paul Newman” watch in 2017!
It will be very interesting to see whether some of these same trends play out in November in Geneva. If so, we might expect continued strength on classics like the Patek Philippe Reference 1518, some increased interest in contemporary independent pieces of highest quality, and a bit of a slump elsewhere in the catalogues favoring buyers rather than sellers.
Time will tell. But in the meantime, I’ll look forward to staying in touch with my car buddies as well as my watch pals and preparing for events to come.
Quick Facts H. Moser & Cie. Tourbillon Funky Blue Reference 8804-1200
Case: 42 x 11.1 mm, stainless steel
Dial and hands: “Funky Blue” fumé dial with sunburst pattern; Globolight applied numerals containing Super-LumiNova; sword-shaped hands coated in Super-LumiNova
Movement: automatic Caliber HMC 804, 72-hour minimum power reserve; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency; double hairspring; modular one-minute tourbillon at 6 o’clock
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: CHF 49,900
Quick Facts Singer Reimagined Track 1 Geneva Edition
Case: 43 x 15 mm, 1N yellow gold
Dial and hands: multi-level gold disks with matte black coating; orange hands
Movement: Caliber Singer Reimagined 6361, automatic winding with peripheral rotor under the dial; AgenGraphe developed with Agenhor; exclusive 3×60 indication central chronograph; power reserve minimum 60 hours; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours and minutes on peripheral disks, instantaneously jumping chronograph hours (60) and minutes (60) and sweeping chronograph seconds hand
Price: CHF 76,000