In 1964, Peter Brock’s creation of the iconic Shelby Daytona Cobra Coup earned him recognition as one of the greatest automobile designers in our lifetime. In celebration of this legacy, Baume & Mercier invited Mr. Brock himself to be part of the next evolution of their partnership with the Caroll Shelby Company, which began in 2015. COUTURE was able to connect with Mr. Brock for a Q&A that offers a little insight into the design process of the Clifton Club Shelby Cobra CSX2299, and the similarities between finely crafted machinery, and exquisite timepieces.
COUTURE: Can you tell us a little bit about the design process? Did you and Alexandre Peraldi work together in the same physical space or were you working remotely? I am curious about how that collaboration worked in practical terms!
Peter Brock: We did both, actually. Alexandre and I first met at the Spring Mountain Racing Circuit near Las Vegas a year before I was asked to design a watch based on my Daytona Cobra Coupe. Alexandre had just completed his design for the Capeland Shelby® Cobra, based on the racing Cobra roadster. There, I also had the pleasure of meeting Alain Zimmermann, the CEO of Baume & Mercier, who had become intensely interested in Cobra history. When he learned I had designed the Daytona Cobra for Shelby he asked if I’d be interested in designing a new watch. I love the challenge of working on something new, especially a piece of such quality and world-renowned reputation. I knew that working with Alexandre would be easy, as his experience wouldn’t let us make any mistakes! We made plans to meet at Baume & Mercier’s headquarters in Geneva later in the year after Alexandre and I had some time to think about the design. It was a very educational visit for me as I learned their process for watch design and manufacturing.
COUTURE: What concepts of car design were you able to apply to this design process?
PB: Racecar graphics are almost as essential as its overall form, as that is what the public first sees and remembers. The Daytona Coupe’s form, when introduced back in 1964, was considered radically different, as it didn’t follow conventional or accepted thinking. The form and the car’s bold graphics, which I also designed, became its “signature” which we agreed should be the focus of the watch – specifically the “split cove” on the back of the car. I wanted something that could be identified from across a room. Using the Coupe’s split cove graphics for the dial of the watch achieved this.
COUTURE: What were some of the challenges in designing something on this scale in comparison to your previous experience in designing automobiles?
PB: Had we been trying to minimize the Daytona’s unique form that might have been more difficult, but since we’d agreed to prioritize on the graphics that made it easier. Alexandre, of course, was still interested in overall form and it became even easier when, separately, we both saw the advantages of using the smoother form of the Clifton case. Before meeting in Geneva, I’d gone to my local Ben Bridge jewelry store here in Las Vegas to examine as many Baume & Mercier watches as possible to see what forms might be interpreted. I immediately saw the possibilities of using the Clifton case. When I later met with Alexandre in Geneva, he’d already come to the same conclusion. As designers, we have very similar tastes.
COUTURE: The cars you have designed are iconic, and specific elements of your designs are still mimicked in automobile designs today. What specific elements of the Clifton Club Shelby Cobra CSX2299 do you feel are iconic?
PB: Traditional esthetic form for high-end automobiles has always been to follow the form of a raindrop, with a long tapered “streamline” tail. Since the late 1920s, almost all exotic coupes and racing GTs followed this form with some of the most beautiful examples created in the late 1930s in France. Racing, however, is about efficiency and it was later discovered that long graceful tails were not only inefficient but impractical as the “ideal” aerodynamic taper could not be practically applied to an automotive form. Instead, the initial line of that form was retained and chopped off at the optimum point to achieve maximum efficiency while still keeping a practical and efficient shape. At first, this idea was met with much esthetic resistance from the public because it didn’t look “right.” But our team’s immediate racing success with the Daytona Coupe changed the public’s perception of efficiency. It won race after race while setting lap records wherever it ran. It took a few years, but slowly the flatter roof form with a chopped off tail began to be emulated by designers all over the world –Even today a mundane Toyota Prius has the basic shape of a Daytona Cobra Coupe! This is what is so iconic about the Daytona Coupe and now, the Clifton Club Shelby® Cobra.
COUTURE: Were you a watch aficionado prior to this collaboration? If so, when did you get the watch “bug” that gets so many collectors?
PB: In my 20s I inherited a gold watch from my grandfather, E.J. Hall, who co-designed the Liberty engine at the end of WWI. It held great sentimental value for me but it didn’t spur any particular interest in watches in general. As my automotive career blossomed, I found that most people involved with fine machinery and good design also have an appreciation for fine watches. As a designer of racing cars, I’ve always been around beautiful, fast machinery. We all love seeing and wearing great “equipment.” You can’t be involved in competition of any type without being aware of good watches. Watches are about time and that is the essence of racing. This collaboration with Baume & Mercier has opened another world to me.
COUTURE: Why was a partnership with Baume & Mercier a good fit for you?
PB: That’s easy… quality, reputation and the people. Quality and reputation are not gained easily. Wearing a Baume & Mercier watch sets you apart from the norm. Even so, the integrity of the people I work with is even more important to me. Zimmermann is a consummate gentleman, enthusiastic about quality and innovation and a great leader for the people at Baume & Mercier. Peraldi is a “character” in the best sense of the word. He is adventurous and an inventive risk taker who always keeps the goal in mind.
COUTURE: Have you been to COUTURE before? What are you most looking forward to?
PB: No, but I did attend SIHH in Geneva earlier this year for the introduction of the Clifton Club Shelby® Cobra and was incredibly impressed with the spectacular displays from all the world’s finest producers of high quality timepieces. Just an amazing show…even larger and more impressive than any international automotive salon I’ve ever been to! At COUTURE, I first look forward to seeing my acquaintances at Baume & Mercier. Next, I look forward to seeing the reaction to the Clifton Club Shelby® Cobra watch and then I will enjoy seeing the rest of what the current world of watches has to offer.