The Horological Reason Behind The Rise Of The Super SUVs (Satire)
by Martin Green
There was a time when the walls of many children’s rooms were decorated with images of iconic supercars cars like the Ferrari Testarossa, Porsche 959, Lamborghini Countach, and McLaren F1.
Sleek, beautiful machines that seated two, or in case of the McLaren F1 three, devoted to delivering the most exhilarating ride. They were the stuff of dreams – or that’s what they used to be.
Today those same walls in the rooms of a new generation of kids are decorated by a completely different type of car: the super SUV.
How did this happen?
What not many people know is that the rise of this type of car has a horological cause. Just after World War II, the only type of people who could afford a collection of well made watches were of old money. They lived in stately homes, had posh names, and were in need of cars able to transport their watch collections when they moved from their summer homes to their winter retreats and vice versa.
Despite their noble backgrounds they were often practical people, so they needed cars both large enough to carry their entire collections and outfitted with the ability to maneuver on the muddy roads leading to their manors in the Scottish highlands (as well as driving up the slippery, snowy mountain to their chalets in Gstaad).
While these people liked being pampered, the cars should by no means look overly luxurious. Centuries of bloodshed have taught nobility that if they show off too much, the common folks might get upset and heads will roll. And enjoying a watch collection without a head is challenging to say the least.
While the Landrover Defender would be an excellent choice, blue bloods found it to be too much of a utility vehicle; they couldn’t possibly drive the same automobile as their gamekeepers. Enter the Range Rover. This car met all the requirements and could even haul a trailer carrying thoroughbreds. The Range Rover was therefore embraced by generations of the upper class.
Then Porsche dropped the Cayenne bomb and the world collapsed
In the post-World War II world, the establishment found it increasingly difficult to hang on to its money. Year after year, common folks got more rights and, worst of all, they started to make money, lots of money.
Now every Tom, Dick, and Harry from the mining district could pick up a microphone and sing himself to fame and fortune. As these people hadn’t inherited their wealth, they were admired for it and became an inspiration for those aspiring to the same lifestyle.
This made it easier to put wealth on display without offending, and cars and watches were the prime means of doing so.
As the middle class became increasingly wealthier and a whole new generation of (very) affluent artists, entrepreneurs, stockbrokers, bankers, and CEOs emerged, they created an entirely new market for watch brands to focus on.
After a little bump in the road called the quartz crisis, the Swiss brands in particular had found the clientele they needed to fund a renaissance in mechanical watchmaking. Nearly forgotten, and quite useless from a practical point of view, complications such as the tourbillon and minute repeater suddenly became the thing to have.
It was a world in which Gérald Genta became the alchemist able to turn gold into steel. Fortunes were invested in further developing the obsolete technology of the mechanical wristwatch, and even greater fortunes were made in selling them.
Limited editions were the thing to get, even though some brands made so many of them that their regular, non-limited models became far rarer. But getting them could prove to be a challenge. It quickly became the most predominant challenge of the middle class: how to get that limited edition at all. But more preferably how to get it first!
Porsche took note of all of this, recognizing the struggles of the middle class. After all, its iconic 911 is nothing more than a streamlined version of the ultimate car of the people: the Beetle.
In 2003 Porsche introduced a car unlike any other: the Cayenne. Like the moderately hot chili pepper of the same name, it spiced things up.
Suddenly, the upper class had no advantage. The middle class was also able to put the pedal to the metal in nearly all kinds of terrain, plot its way through traffic thanks to the high seating position, and out-accelerate nearly every sports car, ensuring that they were at the front of the line at the watch dealership making a significant down payment on the latest must-have limited edition.
Birth of the super SUV trend
The Cayenne became an immediate success, playing a vital role in not only doubling the number of cars that Porsche makes in a year but also significantly increasing the production of black rims.
The Cayenne also proved to be a wise lesson for the middle class, as it finally dawned on them that to have even the slightest chance of adding the most desirable watches to their collections, they must own a car that can do it all.
The ideal car must be able to carry four people so that you can drop the kids off at the overnight daycare, which is also open on the weekend just in case you get the phone call concerning that Nautilus 5711/1A that just arrived at the Patek Philippe dealer in Lech am Arlberg, Austria.
The ideal car would accelerate faster than the automobiles of competing collectors who still think that a sportscar must have only two doors. It must be able to come close, or preferably go over, 300 km/h when you fly across the autobahn, Autostrada, or Route National as you chase your heart’s ticking desire (and need to get there first).
Last but not least, the ideal car would be able to go just as easy through the rough, just in case you have to take a shortcut to outsmart the competition. Only then would you ever have the slightest chance of being victorious in your quest.
Now for those of you who have never done such a thing, this is hard work! You have to be concentrated for hours at time, as even the slightest mistake can mean that that highly desirable watch is never going to be seen on your wrist and you will be marked as a loser for life no matter how much more money you make.
To maintain such a high level of concentration and ensure that when you get out after hours of driving you are still able to walk into the watch dealer’s store, you need more than just a sophisticated climate control system to keep you fresh.
You need, at the very least, heated and cooled seats with massage functionality that ranges from hot stone relaxation to a “beech branch thrashing” function. You need a heated cup holder to keep your diet non-fat latte with your initials sprinkled in cocoa powder at just the right temperature and a mini refrigerator to keep your Red Bull cold for when the going gets tough.
You also need leather on every imaginable surface, alternated with a touch of carbon fiber, and of course more touch screens that the local Apple store to set every imaginable preference individually – in particular the mood lighting – just to kill those hours driving 275 km/h on the autobahn on cruise control.
We can do this better!
As Porsche proved that helping the middle class realize their dreams was seriously good business sense, other car brands looked into their hearts and decided to make the same kind of commitment.
They were helped in this by Swiss watchmakers, who not only increased the number of limited editions they introduced throughout the year but also limited the supply of those highly desirable, stainless steel sports models to the extent that the poor suckers were the ones who ended up with the gold models.
Auction houses also picked up on this, finding the rarest models nobody had ever heard of, preferably owned by well-known celebrities, all of which have achieved record-breaking prices.
Even the middle class couldn’t get into those auction rooms if they wanted to because those spaces were ruled by even richer collectors who don’t need a super SUV to go over obstacles; they simply avoid them altogether in their Learjets.
But even auction houses have recognized the need for the middle class to play along, even if only to make modest bids raising the prices ever higher, so they also began accepting bids by phone and internet and instituting easy pre-registration with credit card!
So a super SUV without a high-speed internet connection, needed to access any of the 16 touchscreens throughout the vehicle, has no chance of ever becoming a hot seller.
What do we want? What do we (think we) need?
What the middle class wants, or thinks it needs, is a car that can do it all. For this, engineers had to overcome contradictions like how to make a brick-shaped car go 300 km/h or how to make a small tank corner with any agility on winding mountain roads without making the driver or any of its passengers ill.
As more car manufacturers solved this complex puzzle, they had to find ways to stand out among their peers.
Rolls-Royce has a popup picnic seat that comes out of the back, allowing you to comfortably sip your well-earned Cristal and savor Beluga caviar while watching the carnage among those collectors in less capable cars who missed out on getting their hands on the Rolex Batman GMT-Master II on a Jubilee that is now on your wrist.
Mercedes offers its new Maybach GLS 600 with an exclusive Air Balance Package that matches the scent in your car to your mood, ensuring that it’s not just the speed metal coming through the 124 speakers of the Burmester surround-sound system keeping you alert with your eye on the prize at all times!
Bentley thought of a different way to draw in its clientele: by joining forces with Breitling and offering a diamond-set clock with tourbillon as an option for the Bentayga.
The brand-new Aston Martin DBX is even available with a solid aluminum cabinet with an integrated safety lock in the back. This comes in handy when you are one of the lucky few able to get their hands on more desirable watches in a single run than they have wrists. Or when you want to drop off one of your prized possessions for service at the same time.
As the craze for haute horlogerie watches doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, neither will that of super SUVs. We have the joy of looking out for the next generation as some of the models on the market are nearing the age of replacement.
Porsche has already shown us that these machines can still get bigger and better. Where once sportscars were the nec-plus-ultra of the automotive world, this position is now in the hands (tires?) of the super SUVs as they can do it all, and do it well, in a single product.
Note: For anyone who hasn’t caught on yet, this story is satire, meant as an enjoyable read and by no means based on fact or the author’s opinion.
* This article was first published on January 6, 2020 at The Horological Reason Behind The Rise Of The Super SUVs (Satire).