Personal Wristwatch Of Bugatti Founder Ettore Bugatti: Made By Mido And Now Up For Auction
by Martin Green
There is always a certain amount of pleasure for watch enthusiasts in knowing what watch, or watches, certain famous people have worn.
In these days of “Insta-everything” this information can be relatively easy to track down. But the further you go into history, the more difficult it becomes. There are exceptions, such as Rudolph Valentino, who wore his Cartier Tank in the movie The Son of the Sheik, or Caroline Murat, queen of Naples, who ordered the world’s first wristwatch in 1812 as recorded in the ledgers of Abraham-Louis Breguet.
However, for the vast majority of famous people who have long since passed, their choices of watch remain unknown and hard to track down.
Historians can be certain that he wasn’t wearing a Parmigiani or a Jacob & Co when he passed away in 1947, long before either of those brands would (later) enjoy a close relationship with the Bugatti marque.
A fanatic of details and with the mind of a sculptor, Bugatti never left much to chance. His visions on four wheels still grace the most elite concours d’elegance around the world.
Between 1925 and 1932 he had a close relationship with Mido, a Swiss brand he commissioned to make several watches. Their designs, inspired by Bugatti’s famous radiator shape, were crowned by the initials of Bugatti, EB, at 12 o’clock, often in enamel.
That makes Bugatti most likely to be the first car brand with a line of branded wristwatches, although Ettore Bugatti never intended them to go up for sale. Instead, he gave them away to family members, trusted employees, and his drivers.
This fact alone makes these watches rare and very desirable, in particular for Bugatti owners. But even here, there is one that tops them all: the Mido Bugatti watch set to be auctioned on April 17, 2021 in Toulouse, France by Stanislas Machoïr in an auction called “Vintage Cars / Vintage Watches.”
This watch once graced the wrist of Ettore Bugatti himself.
Ettore Bugatti’s Mido: a vintage watch in today’s world
At 22.5 x 34 mm (including the crown), by today’s standard this Mido is quite petite, or at least it sounds like it. In reality, the watch’s unique shape gives it quite a bit of wrist presence and makes it look more substantial than one might suspect.
This can clearly be seen on the images here, shot in the Bugatti Royale Type 41, which was the personal car of Ettore Bugatti, uniquely uniting two important possessions of the company founder. His car is now part of the famous Schlumpf collection, located in an old textile mill in the center of Mulhouse, France and a must-see if you are ever in the area.
A unique fact about these Bugatti-commissioned watches is that all of them were fitted with a leather strap except the one for Ettore Bugatti himself, which boasts a gold bracelet. Crafted entirely by hand and combining white and yellow gold in an intricate pattern, it elevates the watch to another level.
It makes the timepiece significantly more precious, not only in the added metal but more so in its appearance, which is also quite fitting with the motif on the silvered dial.
While an important watch per se, having been worn by a man who has left a lasting mark on the automobile industry and created some of the most beautiful and impressive cars ever, I would almost call this watch priceless.
Of course, that “price tag” isn’t going to work when it comes to the auction. Stanislas Machoïr puts an estimate of €80,000 – €150,000 on this lot, and I think that is just to whet the appetite.
For any (vintage) Bugatti owner, let alone collector, this is the watch to have. Unlike Paul Newman, it is implausible that another watch worn by him will come up for auction. And given the deep pockets needed to own and maintain a vintage Bugatti these days, the bidding war might be significant.
As the bracelet of this Mido was custom made for the wrist of Ettore himself, sizing it is not an option. Such a deed would profoundly impact the historic nature of this watch. The good news is that Bugatti didn’t have a skinny wrist, and the bracelet length is 19.5 cm.
Driving your vintage Bugatti on the concours grounds of Pebble Beach or Villa d’Este is already quite an experience, but doing it with the watch of Ettore himself on your wrist has to be a feeling that no price tag can cover.
Ettore Bugatti’s personal Mido watch will be auctioned by Stanislas Machoïr on Saturday April 17, 2021, at 14:30 CEST.
For more information, please see www.stanislasmachoir.com/lot/111441/14693159.
Quick Facts Mido for Ettore Bugatti
Case: 22.5 x 34 mm, 18-karat yellow gold
Movement: manually wound mechanical caliber, maker not specified
Functions: hours, minutes
Year of manufacture: approx. 1930
Auction estimate: €80,000 – €150,000