It has already been well covered in leading online watch blogs Perpetuelle and Hodinkee, but as I have a keen interest in the automotive as well as the horologic, it would be remiss for me to let this announcement pass by without marking it in the columns of The Watch Press.
It is only just over three years since it was announced that Ferrari's new partner in time was to be it's illustrious compatriot and revered watch brand Panerai. This, it would have seemed, was a marriage made in heaven - the consummation of which, between two iconic Italian names after all, sure to create a lasting heritage and a long and mutually beneficial relationship. That beautiful babies would follow was never in doubt.
However, it turns out that there may have been an element of mongrel somewhere in the mix and the fruit borne of such royal loins would sadly possess few of the aesthetics one might expect from such parentage. After the predictable scramble in the first weeks and months of the joyous news, something peculiar happened. Within a year, new and unworn pieces had begun to find their way onto the internet, and at considerable discounts too. This was not a good omen, as one can neither buy an unused year-old Panerai nor Ferrari at any discount worthy of the name, never mind a discount of up to 50%! In fact, it is far more likely that you will have to get on a waiting list to enjoy the experience of ownership of either marque. Unthinkably, the Panerai Ferrari Scuderia and GranTurismo collections had lost their appeal - or worse, had been born without it in the first place!
Of course only time will tell if these Panerai Ferrari watches really were so deserving of their fate, or if indeed the knock-down values at which they can be found today represents a fine opportunity for enthusiasts of either brand to acquire an appreciating piece of potential historical importance. It could happen. Twenty years down the line is too far away to rubbish that notion. However, based on the values of Ferrari's previous Official Timekeeper collection, with Girard Perregaux, the chances of buying one now and hoping it would make a sound investment in the future are slim.
I think that this is jointly down to the placement of these collections among the catalogues of Panerai or Ferrari. Just where were they supposed to fit in? Although sure to be fine watches, the Panerai-Ferrari pieces resembled no existing Panerai, and so without being released in Panerai fashion (typically not enough pieces to satisfy demand) as low-number limited editions within the Luminor or Radiomir collections, they didn't find acceptance among Panreristi, excepting the completist collector.
The same 'fitting in' argument applies to Ferrari as well. Apart from being a costly piece of merchandise among the hundreds of trinkets available from Ferrari, the watches did not have sufficient appeal to stand on their own, and I don't know, I don't own one, but if you owned a Ferrari car, would you feel the need to advertise it by wearing a slightly cheesy Ferrari branded watch? Wouldn't the keyfob say more than the watch, in a much classier way? No, to me, if you need a watch to tell the world that your car's a Ferrari, then there's something wrong with your PR. Of course, if you don't actually own a Ferrari but you'd like the world to think you do....... Ahh! That would be the catchment market perhaps?
Mind you, owning a Ferrari is no indication of possessing class either I suppose! Money is not always a guarantee of good taste.
And so, earlier this year the marriage was dissolved with little or no fuss.
A time for reflection, a little remorse perhaps? Tears, I'm sure.
Not bloody likely!!
Because Ferrari have only invited eccentric watchmaker Cabestan straight into it's boudoir for a little bit of canoodling between the sheets and already the result is breathtaking! For Cabestan are not so much the respectable society wife with a photo album spanning back decades and recounting great occasions. Rather, and especially when compared to the Panerai-Ferrari watches, Cabestan are like the new, younger, up-all-night party-mad girlfriend, whose photos are more likely to be seen on her Facebook wall, doing things Daddy wouldn't approve of!
Hang on a minute - that sounds much more fitting with the Ferrari image than the sober, well-heeled, socially upstanding madame! Because Ferraris don't look ordinary - you don't have to get close enough to it to see the badge, you know what it is from 500m! You are supposed to hurt your neck when you whip your head around at the bark of the exhausts as one plants it in a nearby street. They are a splash of noise and colour and only meant to be witnessed in a blurred instant.
And so the same can only be said of Cabestan. The brand's legend "l'art horologer pousse a l'extreme" does well to encapsulate the philosophy behind Jean-François Ruchonnet's Cabestan marque. No purveyor of time-honoured traditional watchmaking techniques, the creator is thinking about his watchmaking in the same way as Enzo thought about his automobiles - differently to the rest.
The first product of this partnership is the Scuderia Ferrari One. A fantastic, futuristic timepiece whose construction resembles no other watch, just like the car it represents. This watch, unlike it's predecessors is as much a talking point as is the Ferrari itself, it surely represents the same ethos of pushing the boundaries of technology and exotic design and moreover, it is only intended for sale to clients of Ferrari - with a production of just 60 pieces, and at an expected €300,000 to boot! So I wouldn't expect to find this one being knocked out at half price later this, or indeed any year soon.
Kyle at Perpetuelle has his reservations as to whether this watch will sell - even within the rarified catchment of the Ferrari owner, but I think that this one breaks with previous tie-ins. The Scuderia Ferrari One is as technically advanced, wild and unusual as the cars themselves, and I don't think that it would be a hard sell to the already moneyed clientele as they are finalising their purchase of their new Ferrari at the dealership to have a Cabestan Scuderia Ferrari One brochure dangled in front of their eyes, particularly with the knowledge that with just 60 pieces in each colour it's exclusivity is assured and it isn't going to be found all over the internet next year!
I have taken the following excerpt from the Cabestan press release to allow them to describe their Scuderia Ferrari One:
"Cabestan creates an exclusive limited edition timepiece to celebrate Ferrari’s racing history
Geneva, 5 May 2010 - Cabestan, the prestigious creator of exclusive Swiss timepieces, announces a partnership with Ferrari to jointly design and produce a limited edition luxury timepiece to celebrate the Prancing Horse’s Formula 1 racing history.
The Scuderia Ferrari One by Cabestan is deeply inspired by Ferrari race car technology and design. The result is a watch like no other seen before: 8 cubic centimetres of pure mechanical perfection and exacting design.
Jean-François Ruchonnet, with 25 years of experience in creating exceptional timepieces, passionate about high performance cars and races, created this watch to embody the excitement, the innovation, the technology, the style and the attention to details of Ferrari.
A magical collaboration: Ruchonnet & the Ferrari design team
Starting with the revolutionary motor he developed to power the Cabestan Winch Tourbillon Vertical, Ruchonnet created a high performance timepiece with an elegantly sleek and racy design coupled with the high tech materials found in Ferrari's Formula 1 race cars. To reach deep into Ferrari DNA, Jean-François Ruchonnet teamed up with the Ferrari design team in Maranello, led by Design Director Flavio Manzoni. The two worked together to identify elements in Ferrari's Formula 1 race cars that would become the basic design components of the new Scuderia Ferrari One by Cabestan. Every part had to serve a specific purpose. Every material was chosen to enhance performance.
The case of the Scuderia Ferrari One by Cabestan embodies speed, power and aerodynamic perfection, and is made of a titanium alloy created for components of Ferrari Formula 1 cars. The single crystal, surpassing the edges of the case, enhances the distinctive visual lineage that is unmistakably Ferrari. On the sides, a special magnesium alloy was used to create likenesses of race car wheels and the lug nuts that are emblematic of pit stop tire changes during Grand Prix races.
By design, the revolutionary vertical gear-train of the motor is perfectly visible under the crystal, showcasing the large wheel inspired by the F1 world. The rotary drums, made of lightweight aluminium, are engraved with numbers that are the same as those on the instrument panels that provide real time data to Ferrari's Formula 1 drivers. In the centre, there is a block of carbon composite material created by Ferrari for use in high-performance car parts where a high tensile strength, low weight ratio is required. Finally, the leather strap, recalls the Daytona leather seats of Ferrari automobiles.
A high performance motor inside
The nucleus of the motor, engineered by renowned master watchmaker Eric Coudray, is its vertical tourbillon, an exceptional technology designed to compensate for variations in the amplitude of the balance due the effects of the Earth's gravity. To take the precision of this timepiece to a higher plane, the energy delivered to the movement is transmitted by a miniature chain and fusée that perfectly compensates the torque curve of the mainspring, using a 6-speed automatic transmission to deliver a constant force to the tourbillon. The result is a mechanical watch engine that is amazingly accurate: ± 1 second per day.
Ferrari is synonymous with excellence and innovation, and constantly strives for perfection also in the selection of its partners: Cabestan shares with Ferrari the same passion, excitement and performance. For Ferrari and Cabestan this is the beginning of a long term collaboration.
The Scuderia Ferrari One by Cabestan, is an exceptional timepiece, perfectly embodying the Scudiera Ferrari DNA.
Jean-François Ruchonnet, "Of all the timepieces I have created over the years, this one has a truly special meaning. Ferrari is a mythical company, a company that builds dreams, a company that sets the standard in the car industry and in Formula 1 racing. I am honoured to be part of this exciting adventure with Cabestan and Ferrari. Together we have created something enduring."