Had you been walking past Hampton Court this weekend, no doubt you would you have heard the roar from the dozens of fine vintage specimens manoeuvring around the palace for the Concours of Elegance. This year was the first time A. Lange & Söhne had supported the event – though, you would be forgiven for confusing this Concourse of Elegance classic car event with the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este at Lake Como. Both events are supported by Lange, but this show held at Hampton Court Palace is, in fact, no relation to the one on Lake Como. Still, we were there, we enjoyed the scenery (cars and watches are always a winning combo – especially Lange x Classic Cars) and we talked with CEO Wilhelm Schmid.
Running from the 31 August to 2 September, the Concours of Elegance began at Windsor Castle in 2012, before moving to St James’ Palace in 2013. The show then moved on to Hampton Court Palace in 2014 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh (where I am told Her Majesty the Queen resides in Scotland), before returning to Windsor Castle in 2016 and Hampton Court Palace in 2017.
Prince Michael of Kent is the show’s official patron (pictured below in a vintage Aston Martin). He is, for lack of a better term, a real petrol head. He loves cars and isn’t afraid to get stuck in – even when they stall like he did a number of times when joining the line-up.
Hampton Court itself is stunning (even as a local, it never fails to take your breath away). Set in the leafy London suburb of East Molesey, it was developed by Cardinal Wolsey in the early 16th century, and a fun fact is that It soon attracted the attention of Henry VIII, who brought all his six wives there. Henry wanted anyone who came to Hampton Court to be dazzled by his wealth and power (there was even a chap dressed as Henry at the show). When William III and Mary II (1689-1702) took the throne in 1689, they commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build an elegant new baroque palace. Later, Georgian kings and princes occupied the splendid interiors. Queen Victoria opened the palace to the public in 1838.
The Concours of Elegance brought a selection of 60 of the rarest cars from around the world, many of which have never seen these shores. Many of the Concours cars will also take part in a 2-day driving tour in the days running up to the main Concours event. Uniquely, the Concours of Elegance winner isn’t selected by a panel of judges but by the owners of the cars themselves. Each participant is asked to vote on the other models on display to decide which car is considered to be the ‘Best of Show’.
When you write about watches, you meet a lot of people. One of my absolute favourites is A. Lange & Söhne CEO, Wilhelm Schmid. A South African like myself, he takes his job extremely seriously but crucially always has a smile on his face. He’s one of those leaders who effortlessly commands a room and it always inspires me. I had the opportunity to have a quick chat with him in front of his new car which was on show. Because indeed, Mr Schmid is himself a true petrol head – or in more elegant words, a classic car collector (check his own Instagram account @wilhelmgeorgschmid to understand what we mean here).
Wilhelm, good to see you. We know Lange sponsors the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Como, Northern Italy. can you tell us how this new event partnership here in the UK differs and why its important to Lange?
You know what –almost everything. One must recognise that the event on Lake Como has significant historical significance having been running since 1929. Here, at Hampton Court, the Concours of Elegance is fresh in comparison but look at the setting. I like the cars on show, it’s judged and run by owners, not curators and it’s full of passionate people. Ultimately, consummate craftsmanship, technical innovation and timeless aesthetics are the core values that underpin both the Concours of Elegance and A. Lange & Söhne. Collectors and connoisseurs of modern precision timepieces share a passion for technology and elegance with aficionados of historic cars. Thus far all my expectations for what the event offers have been surpassed.
Wilhelm, tell us what we are looking at here?
Pointing to the beautiful vintage car in front of us – My 1954 Fraser Nash Le Mans Coupe. One of nine ever made.
Was it a restoration project?
No, in actual fact I bought it fully restored, I only had to put new tyres on it and replaced a few small things here and there. I have to say, the guy who restored it in the first place did a wonderful job. You can tell it really was a labour of love, it’s very original but what I love most is that it’s not over-restored, it’s a car you can drive –no trailer queen. There are a few dings here and there and I collected them so I’m happy with that.
Will we be seeing further classic car activity from Lange?
No, I don’t think so. We now have three events, this one, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Como and Classic Days at Dyck Castle near Düsseldorf. So, we will be in Italy in May, August at Dyck Castle and then back here in September. Next year we will really ramp up the visibility of the Dyck Castle. For me as a car lover, this is as good as it gets.
And now, a selection of the finest classic cars on stage at Concours of Elegance:
And, of course, some beautiful A. Lange & Söhne watches: