Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance presented by Rolex

Sir Jackie Stewart with son Paul Stewart

If it sounds simple it is, but what Jackie has done is clearly elaborate on an important test for designers when trying to improve their products. He has also given a wise lesson to aficionados on how to explain whether or not a design is good or not. If there is anything I admire about British (or Scottish) connoisseurs, it is that they always have a reasonable, explicit, and irrefutable reason to explain everything they like, and all that they don’t. Here Sir Jackie Stewart has just epitomized that ideal.

Often seen in a plaid hat (and often matching pants) Jackie is a walking patriot of his come country. In 2001 he was knighted and henceforth known as “Sir” Jackie Stewart, and I felt like being a stupid American and asking, “what exactly do you get along with being called ‘sir’ when receiving a knighthood.” Jackie has to think about it which leads me to believe there isn’t some special club or phone number they can call when in need. Apparently being a knight helps get you preferential treatment at hotels and restaurants, as well as an overall heightened sense of prestige. I don’t think knights are required to defend the realm, and they certainly don’t acquire vast estates and lands to care for. However, there is something interesting that they get – a family seal.

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This was quite cool to hear about and Jackie showed me his ring with the crest he designed along with the knighthood committee (I don’t know exactly what they are called). Jackie explains that his ceremony was in Edinburgh, and they worked with him on the design of a unique seal made specially for his family, that he can pass down. The seal represents various achievements in his life from his victories in Formula 1 to his children. Jackie is represented on his own seal as watch-style gears – no joke.

Sir Jackie Stewart isn’t just enthusiastic about the cars he grew with during his career, but is curious about modern automobiles. He is quick to point out that so many now vintage cars are so beautiful because they were built specifically for a particular customer – at least the ones on display at the Quail Lodge or at the Concours d’Elegance are. Clearly, these are cream of the crop creations, but it makes you think about what automobiles of today will be exhibited on these sacred greens 50 years from now. Of course, there are cars specially made for select customers today, but so many of them are based on other existing automobiles. The custom coach market seems to have vanished long ago, but many luxury brands do produce unique cars for special clients. Though it has yet to be seen how “elegant” many of these lime green Rolls Royce monsters will be years from now.

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Nevertheless, there are plenty of cars which pass Jackie’s muster. In particular, he commented on appreciating the work of the talented Callum brothers (Ian and Moray Callum), who currently (or have in the past) design for brands such as Jaguar, Aston Marin, and Ford. Changing gears, he feels that brands like the Rolls Royce of today is something extremely finely made but has too many impractical features, and that too many cars lack a unifying design vision that is usually the product of a single dictatorial designer or owner. Fanatically passionate people tend to be those that create the most interesting and beautiful items because they are producing them for themselves. As the market place for small automotive makers who don’t focus on restoration or modification is rare, the ability for an automobile designed to satisfy just one person is also rare. Though, a few exist, and they are highly celebrated.

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Spending time with a person like Sir Jackie Stewart is invigorating. He’s like the cool-spoken high-achieving grandfather most people want to have, and his stories and lessons are impressively fantastic. Is Jackie Stewart a living personification of many of Rolex’s values? That is an interesting question about watch branding for another day, but it does feel like Sir Jackie is so much more than an ambassador of the brand; it feels like his contributions to the character of the brand actually make him part of it. The best watch companies of today aren’t good only because of the products they produce, but also because of the meaning behind their name and the lifestyle that goes with the ownership and design heritage of what they offer. Jackie Stewart has helped influence what the Rolex brand of the last few generations has meant, and that has woven itself not only into the partnerships they have formed, but also the products they have released. It is actually an interesting question, and in this case, it all started with a talented young Scottish race car driver in the mid 1960s who wanted to feel his worth and bought his first Rolex watch from a jeweler referred to him by his then boss in Texas.

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