“Ciao come stai? Tutto Bene. Fammi un martini secco per favore! Grazie!” If you’re bellowing this through a loudspeaker to the staff at the Capri Palace as they watch in slack-jawed awe as you — still resplendent in your silk shantung dinner jacket and soft-collared tropical-weight Marcella evening shirt — enact a perfect 10-point swan dive from the skid of your helicopter hovering above the pool, in homage to Gianni Agnelli’s famous entrance to the legendary Hotel du Cap, then this watch is for you.
If this summer you plan to live libidinously to an internal soundtrack of Renato Carosone’s Tu Vuò Fa L’Americano and on a steady diet of Aperol Spritzes, Cohiba Talismans, vitamin B12 injections and the open-mindedness of dewy-eyed haut monde demoiselles, then this watch is for you. If you long for the era when the rakes of the Riviera — Agnelli, Porfirio Rubirosa and Aly Khan — did battle for the affections of the most prominent beauties that glittered along the southern coastline of France like concupiscent diamonds igniting a décolletage of deepest Yves Klein blue, then this watch is for you. If your Holy Trinity consists not of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but Gunther Sachs, Gigi Rizzi and “Baby” Pignatari, and you think women reached an apogee of Botticellian physical perfection in the 1960s as represented by Ursula Andress, Brigitte Bardot and Raquel Welch, well sir, this watch is for you.
(Left to right) The TAG Heuer x The Rake and Revolution Carrera Chronograph “Blue Dreamer” on its original blue leather strap; on blue textile NATO strap with a jaunty white stripe; and on sky-blue leather strap.
It is crafted to address all your timing needs this summer, whether ensconced upon the Riviera or not, so that you are able to lay command over the kitchen staff at the Pellicano, Marbella Club or the Gritti Palace to execute the perfectly timed three-minute egg enhanced with generous lashings of black truffle and ingested by the dozen to replenish your priapic powers. You may choose to use it to time the duration of your Behike 54 as your postprandial genuflection, reflecting on its creator Norma Fernandez’s stroke of inspiration to utilize the sun-kissed Medio Tiempo leaves to create the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of cigars. And should you decide to re-enact the famous Slim Aarons photograph, picture-perfectly titled Keep Your Cool, of a couple playing backgammon in a swimming pool in Acapulco, you will be delighted to hear that your limited-edition TAG Heuer for The Rake and Revolution Carrera Chronograph, upon which we’ve bestowed the sobriquet “Blue Dreamer,” is water-resistant to well… at very least swimming-pool depth.
Ursula Andress in the first James Bond film Dr. No; Stavros Niarchos helming his luxury vessel Creole, the largest private schooner at the time.
While all this is meant in good humor, the point is that there are far better, more qualified and handsome individuals than I to illuminate the history of the Heuer Carrera, such as the mighty Jeff Stein who writes the accompanying piece to this. And ultimately, the point of my collaboration with TAG Heuer has not been to take direct inspiration from any historic timepiece, but rather to come up first with a personality.
Let’s call him “The Rake,” an amalgamation of Fleming’s Commander Bond, Cary Grant’s John Robie and the glorious litany of playboys, adventurers, aristocrats and lovable scoundrels that breathed life into the Riviera and inspired the creation of our sister publication The Rake… and then create a watch for him.
While being interviewed by my friend Ben Clymer for Talking Watches on his seminal website Hodinkee, I openly admitted that I was profoundly inspired by his amazing Skipper watch created in collaboration with TAG Heuer. And that was absolutely true. I am of the firm belief that Ben’s Skipper and my buddy Raynald Aeschlimann’s “Speedy Tuesday” tribute to Alaska III are the two watches that irreversibly changed the game, demonstrating the incredible communicative power of the web and Instagram in terms of disseminating information about a watch.
For my first collaboration with TAG Heuer, once given the go-ahead by Jean-Claude Biver, the watch industry’s greatest living genius and capo of LVMH’s timepiece division, I beat a hasty path to TAG Heuer’s incredible museum, situated at its La Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture, presided over by the brilliant Catherine Eberlé-Devaux. Together, we pored over the museum’s stunning collection of Carrera watches. Together, we examined innumerable models, eventually focusing on the first generation 36mm models (1963–1971).
Carrera 45 Dato “Indy 500” and TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper for Hodinkee.
The brief was that our watch should fit the basic parameters of the modernized iteration of this family, being reintroduced in 2018. But no matter how many of the iconic models we studied — the tri-compax Carrera 12, including the super-cool Seafarer models; the Carrera 45; the Carrera 30; the Carrera Dato, including those with the cool emblems made for Indy Speedway (I was tempted) — nothing stuck. First, I didn’t want to create a facsimile of a pre-existing vintage model and second, Ben and his vintage expert at the time, Louis Westphalen (now at Breitling), had already brilliantly paid tribute to the most visually dynamic vintage model: the Skipper.
It was in discussion with Eberlé-Devaux that an idea began to coalesce. She said: “Maybe you should visualize the man that is going to wear this watch, the life he leads, how he’ll wear it.” And immediately I was struck with the idea of creating the ultimate Riviera-chic chronograph for The Rake — a man that loves style. A friend of Agnelli’s, Taki Theodoracopulos, recalls: “Gianni cared immensely about style — things had to be done the right way.
Gianni Agnelli, a core protagonist of the 1950s jet set whose lifestyle was resolutely committed to that of a playboy — carousing nights, fast cars, an endless string of romances and, naturally, a sprawling mansion on the French Riviera.
His one great fear was lacking style. Everything had to be done stylishly. And that’s a big fear when you think of it, you know, to always get it right, instead of saying: ‘Oh, fuck it!’ once in a while. He was very concerned with that, which I think is a great burden. He kept you there in awe. He had to keep up the image and mystique.” Immediately I thought of the signature flourish of our Carrera being the minute subdial counter, which is divided into three 10-minute sections as in the Skipper. But, if it was up to a man like Agnelli, he would compel the colors of the dial to complement rather than contrast while still remaining distinct.
TAG Heuer product director Marc Walti — who led the charge on the project — and I also decided not to call the watch a “Skipper” as it lacked the five-minute segments in the minute counter that are normally associated with a regatta chronograph. Also, I very much wanted a simple bi-compax (two-counter format) as I thought the design would be more Zen-reductionist-cool this way.
Living in the moment
Furthermore, I can’t think of any Rake who has more than a passing interest in the date, preferring to live perennially in the moment. While a watch to signal the onset of a discrete tryst would be invaluable, this necessitated a modification of the movement that took a bit longer than anticipated. Says Walti: “If the movement is not modified you will have a dead spot when you pull the crown out for where the date adjustment used to be.” And that was not acceptable to either of us.
Then came the question of a prevailing color. It dawned on me the most recurring shade found in The Rake, and in particular during our pioneer year of E-Commerce where everything we retailed was created uniquely for us, was blue. Our collaboration with Savile Row’s most glamorous firm Huntsman involved them weaving a blue nocturnal-themed tweed at the oldest mill in Islay for our 1970s-themed Colin Hammick homage hacking jacket. Our first shoe collaboration was a hand-patinaed suede Corthay loafer inspired by the palimpsest of blues found in Marc Chagall’s painting Blue Lovers, while our project with my dear friend Giuseppe Santoni yielded a pair of blue suede Santoni camouflage double-monk-strap shoes.
Slim Aaron’s Keep Your Cool; Gunther Sachs and Brigitte Bardot laze by the pool, circa 1967.
Depths of blue
At the same time, I like the internal dialogue conjured by blue. It invokes warmth and coolness, passion and repose all at the same time. My favorite album is Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. My favorite Picasso paintings come from his Blue Period. In addition, blue conjures up memories of sun and water on tanned skin and the sonic opiate of water lapping languorously against the edge of a dock or swimming pool. It was settled that it would provide the prevailing tonal universe from which we would work. Soon after my design team and I identified four shades of blue. Yves Klein blue for the dial, Ultramarine and Sky or Cerulean Blue for the subdial. For the dial, the selected blue closely approximates that of Yves Klein’s painting Blue Monochrome from 1961. Klein described this color as “an open window to freedom as the possibility of being immersed in the immeasurable existence of color.” And so, the name “Blue Dreamer” is in deference to Klein’s evocative description.
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For an added touch of panache and sartorial variability, we’ve included two additional straps from our friends MisterChrono. The first is a blue textile NATO strap with a jaunty white stripe. The second is a sky-blue leather strap, which is my personal favorite as it perfectly matches the sky-blue segment within the minute counter. The stainless-steel case is 39mm in diameter and it is powered by TAG Heuer’s caliber 18, which beats at 28,800vph and has a 40-hour power reserve. It features a glass-box sapphire crystal that evokes a vintage acrylic crystal, and has a lug width of 19mm. It is water-resistant to 100m, which should be adequate for playing backgammon in any swimming pool. The “Blue Dreamer” will be made in just 100 examples.