The watchmaker's involvement with the horse race unifies elegance and equestrian sport heritage within the periphery of a glamorous event.
THE chilly spring air was positively brimming with electricity and excitement at the Royal Randwick racecourse in Sydney when It’s A Dundeel crossed the finish line and wins the 2014 edition of Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“It’s A Dundeel has run to the front. He’s hanging on grimly...It’s A Dundeel beats Sacred Fall!” the commentator declared over deafening roar from the 26,000-strong crowd as the dark stallion and its Kiwi jockey James McDonald strode forward to the finish line of the world-class racecourse in the Eastern Suburbs of the beautiful harbour city.
It was indeed a jubilant moment for Longines who sponsored the richest race of The Championships under a five-year deal. The Swiss luxury watchmaker also served as the Official Watch and Official Timekeeper of the Australian Turf Club.
“The Queen Elizabeth Stakes is a race with a very long tradition and at Longines, we have an appreciation for tradition,” says Longines vice president Juan-Carlos Capelli.
The partnership also has some savvy business consideration to it.
“Longines is one of the biggest brands in Australia’s watchmaking industry and our market share here is very huge, making the region an important market for us,” Capelli says.
Touted as The Championships’ showpiece, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes is worth a staggering AU$4mil (RM12mil) prize money. Since its inception in 1851, the race has drawn some of the biggest names in world racing.
“Our brand is 182 years old and one of the oldest sports around the world is horse racing and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes is a day of elegance in the Australian horse racing industry. That makes the race a perfect match for Longines,” says Capelli.
Known for the exquisiteness of its timepieces, Longines has been based at Saint-Imier in Switzerland since 1832. The company’s keen eye for performance has garnered it generations of expertise as official timekeeper of world championships and as partner of international sports federation.
Longines’ involvement with equestrian sport dates back to 1878 when the company produced a chronograph engraved with a jockey and his mount. Worn at the New York racetracks as early as 1881 and a perennial favourite among jockeys and horse lovers, the watch enabled its user to time performance to the seconds.
Today, the brand is involved in show jumping events, flat racing and endurance competitions. Apart from its partnership with the Australian Turf Club, the brand is also involved in some of the most prestigious racings events in the world such as the Prix de Diane Longines, the Dubai World Cup and the Longines Grosser Preis von Baden to name a few.
“The DNA of the brand is elegance. When we ask our designers to do a new product, that’s the first thing we look for,” says Capelli.
Surely, it’s only natural that such an abstract brand philosophy warrants the question: What quality personifies elegance for Longines?
“Elegance means a lot of things for different people. For some, elegance means beauty and fashion. A survey we did 20 years ago revealed that elegance holds different meaning in different countries. For Longines though, it means attitude,” explains Capelli.
The brand’s principle was clearly evident from the glamour injected by the stylish crowd who dressed to the nines at the event. If anything, the sunny raceday was the perfect platform for some of Australia’s most stylish individuals to showcase their sartorial inclinations. Women were simply stunning in their eclectic fascinator hats while the men charmed with their dashing suits and sunglasses.
The day’s allure was further elevated with the presence of Longines Ambassador of Elegance Simon Baker. The lead of hit television series The Mentalist caught the race from one of the racecourse’s upstairs ballrooms, next to the one which housed Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.
Earlier in the day, the 44-year-old actor said that he’s delighted to have Longines present at his home city.
“I get to see my city put its best foot forward and see it in a great light. That feels really really cool,” he says.
“You get to see how festive Australians get because they really embrace the idea of having a good time. We’re kind of professional at it,” he adds.
However, the Tasmania native was there for more than just a flutter on the horses. Baker presented Melissa Hann – winner of the Longines Award of Elegance competition – with a precious timepiece from the Conquest Classic collection. The 31-year-old Hann was one of six finalists and hailed as the most elegant lady at the race.
The raceday was also the perfect occasion to be acquainted with the Conquest Classic, a collection dedicated to the world of horse racing. As a matter of fact, the event’s Official Watch was a steel chronograph from this line.
Since it was patented in 1954, the Conquest Classic name has been used for many successful models manufactured by Longines across the years. Today, the line comes in three sizes for men and women.
With a diameter of 41mm, the chronographs are fitted with an L688 column-wheel movement specially developed and produced for Longines – making it a truly exclusive addition in any horse racing aficionados’ timepiece collection.
“When it comes to horse racing and betting, there are two simple rules. If you lose, that’s your problem. If you win, that’s my victory too,” Capelli jokes during a luncheon hosted by Longines on the raceday.
But if the success of the company’s inaugural presence in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes is any indication, there’s no sore loser in this elegant equestrian deal.
Simon Baker, the practical man