Last month the largest Rolex store in the Southern Hemisphere opened in Sydney.
Since then, the watch shop has basically run out of stock and every day there is a long queue of clock heads outside the door who just want to put some money on the table in the hope they might get a piece of Swiss metal in a year or so. Rolex are the Ferrari of the watch caper.
Hans Wilsdorf started off his career as a watch winder. You know, he walked round the clock factory turning the windy bits on the top of hundreds of pocket watches every day. No wonder he was an early inventor of automatic (no windy bits) timepieces. Early on he saw the future. At the time, around 1903 (the same year Sultan Michael McMichael and race coach Phil Alexander were born), pocket watches were the go. They weren’t all that accurate (but they were right twice a day) and — how can I put this wokely? — wristwatches were things women wore. Anyway, Wilo not only got men persons wearing them and made them work underwater but he realised that the best form of promotion was anything related to cars and motor racing.
During half-time between the first big one and the second big one Wilo sponsored Mercedes (as in the car if it’s a bit early in the morning for you to pick up the reference) Gelitze to be the first English woman to swim he channel. Naturally she wore a Rolex (and was helped by other sponsors, including Paddy Whiskey and Kellets’ corsets). Then Wilo got Mal Campbell to wear one of his watches while Mal drove his 1715KW, 36.7 litre supercharged Rolls Royce V12 Blue Bird at 445.5km/h along the sand at Daytona Beach. (Spoiler alert: keep the beach name in mind for the surprise ending of this long-winded yarn.) But Mal wanted to break the 300mph (482 km/h) barrier, which he did later that year at Bonneville in a Kellet corset.
OK, fast forward to 1972 when, according to whom you believe, Paul Newman (also a thespian like Steve McQueen) took up motor racing. Wife and fellow thespian Joanne Woodward gave the Newster a Rolex Daytona which probably cost her all of $200. He got a few others with the special dial, maybe because no one else liked them. They really were slow sellers. Not any more! In 2017 a willing punter paid $23m for Paul’s 1968 Daytona and three years later paid $7.2m for his 1980 Big Red Daytona. Today new Daytona prices start at $20k but you can’t get one anyway so don’t worry about saving up.
Want to buy an SUV? Get in the long queue of petrol (and diesel but not electric) heads who are outside the balloon and pumped up bendy persons-infested showrooms where overseas manufacturers have told their local dealers: “No SUVs for you” as they allocated what they had from their corona-infected factories to (what California’s most famous weightlifter called) Northern Hemisphere corset-wearing girly men. Surprisingly BMW seems to have plenty on the floor. Want to buy a near-used SUV? Minimum $10K lift in price.
In the classic car caper we’re seeing the same thing. Hagerty (the classic car price bible/Torah/etc) just released its “10 Classic Car Sale Prices That Exceeded All Expectations in 2020”. How about a 1972 Bentley Corniche ($100K on the best day of its life) selling for $285K? A 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Speciale? Great car, $3m any day of the week. In September Goodings get nearly $6m for a metallic gold one. Finally, the one-owner red 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL that was an expensive buy at under $50k goes at Historic Auctions for $125K! Not in the top 10 but a world record price was Gooding’s sale of a 1926 Bugatti Type 37 Grand Prix owned by Tony award-winning set designer the late Peter Larkin for more than 60 years, which went for an auction world record $1.2m against an estimate of $900k. But wait there’s more madness. Remember I’ve been telling you E-Type prices have plateaued and are softening? Well, they are but not their younger sisters. This week RM Sotheby’s sold the breathtakingly beautiful, ex-Bernie Ecclestone factory red 1955 Jaguar D-Type for $8m. At the same auction, the second highest price was for a very rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Tourer by Corsica, one of eight examples bodied by the coachbuilder and one of just two examples with four seats, which brought $6.1m.
Closer to home is the Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth Group A which broke the Bathurst lap record in 1990 with Tony Longhurst at the wheel. Online auction house Collecting Cars says this is “the last of five Sierra RS500s campaigned by Tony Longhurst Racing, the only car to have been built entirely in Australia, by Frank Gardner and Jim Stone. It was purposely constructed in left-hand drive to win at the Mount Panorama Circuit — an anticlockwise track — where LHD inherently helps with weight balance in corners’’. Rebuilt without regard to cost, bring it back to Australia from the UK for around $250K.
And related to nothing, a big shout out to reader Tim Fatchen. If you don’t know Tim or his music you should. Tim Fatchen is an Australian songwriter/composer, a master pianist who writes and performs classical and neoclassical, neo-Celtic, and New Age original music, using acoustic and digital pianos and keyboards, also with layered and midi-supported orchestral interpretations. His alter ego and associated band, Flying Tadpole, specialises in scurrilous satire. Must be why he reads this column. Anyway Tim has just driven the soon to be tarred Strzelecki Track and written a tune about it: youtu.be/chJcQNaRnos.
Finally, apologies, I have been swamped by your emails. If you haven’t heard back from me send me a (polite) reminder.