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Premium Car Collaborations

Premium car marques have partnered with the finest watchmakers for years; as 2023’s A-listers break ground, Peter Frost accents their collaborations.

It’s 1905 and Léon Breitling is standing beside a racetrack. The founder of the famed Swiss watch company that still carries his name is debuting what looks like a small pocket watch. Many around him think it’s just that; after all, here is one of Geneva’s most successful watchmakers. Except it’s not – Breitling, one of the world’s first true motoring enthusiasts, is trying out what he calls his tachymeter. Unbeknown to most of the assembled he is about to change motoring history. The tachymeter will soon be standard in all motor cars, front and centre in the instrument binnacle. It will of course be known as the speedometer.

Bentley Continental GT Speed
Fast forward a century and Breitling’s association with motoring is still front and centre, albeit in the bespoke analogue clock gracing Bentley’s latest grand tourer. The marque’s collaboration with Bentley goes back to Léon Breitling’s grandson Willy, who inherited his granddad’s love of speed and drove nothing else. Ever since, the two precision engineering companies have been collaborating, Breitling creating timepieces such as the Bentley Breitling Tourbillon for memorable Bentley moments. And in 2002 the relationship bore fruit within the car. Bentley commissioned Breitling to create the analogue clock for the then new-to-market Continental GT, a car that would turn out to be Bentley’s brightest star. Star indeed – the latest Continental GT Speed has just won the coveted Auto Car and Sport award for Best Car 2023, the latest in a long line of awards for the handsome grand tourer.

Private Edition’s own recent test of the 2023 GT Speed confirmed Auto’s choice. Outwardly Dirk van Braeckel’s muscular design suggests a grand tourer of the old school, ideal for bespoke, transcontinental explorations, two up, Louis Vuitton soft-sided duffels in the boot. Inside there’s evidence that Bentley are trying hard to marry tradition with current trends. Finishes include piano black or high gloss carbon fibre over the traditional oak or ash veneers, which suggest Speed’s sporting direction, but the rest references Bentley’s ageless elan. Organ pulls for the air vents. That bejewelled analogue Breitling clock. Bespoke needlecraft. Eleven or so of England’s finest hides for the seating and door inserts. It’s a beautiful, cultivated place that manages to be both cosy and spacious at the same time.

Fire up the 12-cylinder engine and there’s a distant throb rather than a roar, the first clue of an understated ethos and the upcoming experience. In the centre console there’s a Bond moment as the carbon-fibre cover rotates to reveal the infotainment screen. Press the ‘screen’ button on the console and the unit rotates again, this time presenting the driver with a trio of antique-inspired dials, one for outside temperature, one a compass and the last a stopwatch, so befitting of those early Léon Breitling days.
Select a drive mode (Sport, Comfort or Bentley), snick the gear lever into D and squeeze the throttle. The muscularity of the four-bank W12 is immediately evident, the 900Nm of torque available at just 1 500rpm. There’s a classic push in the small of your back, hinting at a Polaris missile amount of shove, just under your right foot.

So it proves. Push on and the 2.2 tonne Bentley miraculously sheds kilogrammes, an act of alchemy that is more impressive the faster the car goes. It’s magnificently fast. And lithe too. Indeed, agility only improves as you press on; and here’s what’s new for 2023. A suite of new technologies keeps things tidy, including an active anti-roll system which limits lean so well that it feels like cornering is defying the laws of physics. It means the new Speed is now even easier to drive quickly, that tweaked active suspension a real boon. Easy and satisfying. Which, after all, is what a Grand Tourer should be all about.


Porsche GT4 RS
If Bentley is all about muscular touring cars, then Porsche is first and foremost about performance, whether it’s in the SUV, sports car or electric arena. Along for the ride during much of the company’s history has been Tag Heuer, who first joined forces with Porsche in 1963 when the watchmaker created the now highly collectible Carrera Chronograph to commemorate Porsche’s win at the 1954 Carrera Panamericana. It’s been a rollercoaster since then, signature pieces through the years – and an unforgettable cameo from Steve McQueen – as well as analogue clock options in some of Porsche’s most iconic cars. Today Porsche Design makes its own timepieces and dashboard clocks, choosing to reference its own wins and high points.

One such highpoint is undoubtedly Porsche Design’s Chronograph 718 Cayman GT4 RS, a watch that marked the recent launch of what is being regarded as one of Porsche’s most collectible cars. This ultimate Cayman – a race car in street legal drag – has the muscular 4.0-litre, flat six engine from the 911 GT3 behind the driver’s seat, making it a one-off rarity. On test it proves as exciting as its promise on paper, surprisingly comfortable too. Climb inside and the two-seater interior is roomier than expected and fully kitted out with all the modern conveniences; comprehensive infotainment, configurable digital dials ahead of the driver, jet-fighter centre console bristling with tech. Only the material door pulls and full bucket seats give away the fact that it is a machine meant for enormous speeds. It is, like all Porsches, seemingly hewn from granite and a delight to use, especially the emotive touch points – steering wheel, paddles, gear lever, brakes.

Fire up the engine and the sound is glorious. As the rev counter swings towards 9000rpm the cacophony increases, the 4.0-litre, flat six bellowing behind the driver’s left ear. Yet around town and at middling speeds the mid-engined 718 is certainly more comfortable, arguably more liveable than expected. The new suspension dampers have much to do with this, absorbing the worst of South Africa’s less-than perfect road undulations. There’s also a console-operated front lift system for the nose, so speed bumps are less worrying than might otherwise be. But drop the hammer and the GT4 RS shows its real mettle, hunkering down and bulleting for the horizon. The mid-engined, rear wheel drive layout means that there’s excellent balance in all situations and the fun factor is huge. GT4 RS’s steering, braking and that PDK gearbox are magnificent, razor-sharp, lighting quick with plenty of feel and feedback. Indeed, few cars today manage the effortless speed of the GT4 RS, and even fewer do it with such joie de vivre. Take me to the hills, it seems to say, time to play.

Premium-cars_Aston Martin

Aston Martin DBX 707
All that ability and performance history at Porsche suggests that the company should be in Formula 1, but fans will have to wait until 2026 to see that dream come true. There’s no such tardiness from Aston Martin though. The 110 year-old Gaydon-based outfit re-entered the ultimate racing area recently and marked the occasion with a collaboration with one of the oldest Swiss watch makers, Girard-Perregaux. The Laureato Absolute Chronograph Aston Martin F1 Edition – quite the mouthful – is now seen on the wrist of Aston’s legendary driver Fernando Alonso, the instantly recognisable British Racing Green dial a dead giveaway in the pits. Aston Martin’s signature functional attribute – its side air vent – is incorporated into the watch.

But if Aston’s raison d’être is heritage, it’s contemporary focus is on staying relevant. And for that, cue the DBX, the marque’s first SUV. Launched in 2020, it won many friends but worried the faithful with its less-than-ferocious Mercedes-sourced V8 engine. That was soon addressed this year by Aston’s new boss, Tobias Moers, who personally oversaw the upgrade of the engine and the release of the 707, a faster, sharper version of the standard DBX. Larger turbochargers increased the power dramatically, resulting in a blistering 0-100kph time of 3.3 seconds.

In real life that translates to serious fun. In the metal the 2.2-tonne SUV is Savile Row tailored, subtle even, Marek Reichman’s bonded aluminium, hybrid composite design a class act. Massive Brembo brake callipers behind the imposing 23-inch wheels mark the 707 as superior to its sibling, as do the louvred bonnet blades, gloss black side sills, four exhaust pipes and the double ledge diffuser at the back.

Inside it is magnificent, leather and wool fragrant, hand stitched seats beautiful and supportive, the dashboard a jet fighter command centre. It’s huge in there, entirely unsportscar-like, the individually tailored rear seats offering plenty of legroom. Out on the road it is immediately obvious that there’s plenty of power on tap, and the superb chassis and steering keep things true as speeds rise. Drop a couple of gears and the muscularity of the delivery is magnificent. It’s the kind of car that begs to be driven down an empty Karoo road. And thankfully, given its a proper SUV, that’s exactly what it can do.

by Peter Frost


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