13 – 14th April 2019, Kyoto
Concorso d’Eleganza Kyoto 2019 and Japan Car Culture
Chopard Mille Miglia Zagato 100th Anniversary Edition Watch
“Occasionally time hurts, always time heals, and ultimately time makes things better.”
I was invited to the the Concorso d’Eleganza Kyoto by Chopard who sponsors the event. After a few days with Mr. Karl-Freidrich Scheufele, Co-President of Chopard, it became clear to me that time has been and always will be the theme flowing in his passions – watches, wine, and classic cars.
Those passions were shared with many gentlemen and some ladies in Kyoto last week. Chopard under the Scheufeles has always been a supporter of car events. It has sponsored the Mille Miglia Race for 30 years and Chopard’s Mille Miglia watches are very popular. The Mille Miglia is where Mr. Scheufele and Dr. Andrea Zagato met 30 years ago.
During the final weekend of the cherry blossom season in the 1200-year old city of Kyoto, the 3rd Concorso D’Eleganza Kyoto was held. It is not as well-known as its cousins just yet – “Concorso D’Eleganza Villa D’Este” (Italy: since 1929) and “Pebble Beach Coucours D’elegance” (US: since 1950). The organizer, with full support from the city of Kyoto, has been trying to make this “Kyoto” event the Asian Concorso D’Eleganza. So far it has been going well.
The 1st event was in the winter of 2016 as part of another car exhibition with a small jury and undefined theme. The 2nd edition in 2018 was much improved with a ‘Carrozzeria Touring and Superleggera’ theme and more renown international jury.
3rd Concorso d’Eleganza Kyoto 2019
This 3rd edition was the best ever. The theme was ‘Lamborghini and Zagato‘. Carrozzeria (coachbuilders) play a big part at Kyoto event. These cars were brought from all over Japan, as well as from US, Italy and other countries. Particularly noteworthy was the top-notch high level of the jury – Chairman of both Villa D’Este and Pebble Beach, FIVA and others. Kyoto seems to have secured the place for Asian “Concorso D’Eleganza” now.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Zagato, famed design house represented by cars from “Classic” to “Contemporary” and “Modern” genre. Chopard and Zagato are good friends and partners with much in common as family-owned/managed companies. For Mr. Scheufele, this was not just another Kyoto visit or Classic Car event but an opportunity to present a very important watch for Zagato – Mille Miglia Zagato 100th Anniversary Edition (Limited to 100 pieces, of course)
“Chopard and Zagato first crossed paths during Mille Miglia rallies and there was bound to be a perfect understanding between the watchmaker and the Italian car designer. A love of fine mechanics, a passion for design, respect for tradition, and an attraction to racing and performance are all common denominators now resulting in Chopard’s tribute to the 100th anniversary of its racing partner and friend. A mechanical tribute, naturally, with the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Zagato 100th Anniversary Edition watch, crafted by Chopard in a 100-piece limited edition. Combining a dial enhanced with Zagato’s emblematic Z pattern and red-lacquered colour, a beautifully curved 42mm steel case and a leather bund strap evoking the car designer’s upholstery, this new timepiece bears a striking resemblance to its racing-car inspiration. An aesthetically and technically sophisticated watch beating to the rhythm of a mechanical self-winding movement certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).”
The dial design has distinctive “Z” logo, as well as small “Z” pattern background, which was inspired by the front grill of BMW M5 Zagato Coupe. The case was designed to evoke a Zagato body although in a very small scale.
What it means to hold events in a city full of World Heritage Sites
The Gala Dinner was held at “Tenryu-ji” temple, which is one of many World Heritage Sites in the City, well-known for its beautiful gardens. I discovered that it was the first time for Tenryu-ji to hold such a big banquet (200 or more guests). It is not an events’ venue but a temple; a very old temple where monks live and train.
It was amazing to see such a big event and an honor to be treated in such a legendary place, although those guests who came from abroad seemed a bit uncomfortable in Kimono and by long speeches, understandably.
There was a small unexpected incident at the award ceremony at the end of the event. The organizer was told to take out the flowers from the building – meant for the award winners – because flowers are not allowed in the World Heritage buildings…interesting.
All in all, for Japanese, it is unbelievable to see lots of cars parked in the garden of “Nijo-jo” castle, which is also a very well-known and popular World Heritage Site. Full support from the city of Kyoto, as never been seen before.
Kyoto and Japan’s Car Culture
(Source: Mr. Shiro Horie, Editor-in-Chief, “Octane” Japan)
Kyoto is built upon layers of history; you find World Heritage Sites everywhere. What more could one ask for to match the “elegance” of classic cars? The Mayor of Kyoto seems to push hard to make this event internationally recognized.
You may wonder how different Japanese car culture is from the rest of the world. Japan makes lots of cars, but when it comes to these classic cars or “elegant” cars, Japan unfortunately does not have uniqueness. That said, it is truly amazing that there are so many elegant classic cars in this Far East country; there are 100 or so events annually. A particularly well-known collector is Mr. Shiro Kosaka, the owner of “Gallery Abarth Auto Museum (now closed)” and who also exhibits his cars at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. There are also a few globally known vintage/classic car shops like Naito Engineering and Bingo Sports World.
As with any vintage/antique collection, originality is very important. The Jury checks that first. That said, more classic cars today undergo special technology which enables to conserve as much originality as possible, while making it easier for owners to drive. Restoration skill is very, very high and sophisticated, but the manufacturers’ own restorations have better “name value”. There is no known parts issue – almost all those classic collectible cars are serviceable, at a price. It is said that there are 500-600 classic car owners in Japan. They typically own and enjoy multiple cars in turn.
Zagato is not only about design but also performance
Zagato is a carrozzeria (coachworks) with 100 years of history. The current CEO, Dr Andrea Zagato, is a grandson of the founder, who takes great pains to emphasise that unlike other coachbuilders that started as – literally – builders of horse-drawn coaches, Zagato started as an aeronautics designer.
Their chief designer is Mr. Norihiko Harada, a Japanese designer who has been with Zagato for 17 years. It was a rare opportunity for us to hear Mr. Harada talk about his design philosophy in public (in fact, this was his first time). He has recognised the close relationship between speed and time as those two factors define the distance the car travels. The faster the car goes, the more important accurate time-keeping becomes.
One example he showed as the difference between Zagato and other carrozzeria was its tail design. Until the 1950s, it was fashionable and believed to be the best design for fast cars to have a “round” tail. In theory, “tear-drop” shape is the best for aerodynamics. But having the tail so long is not practical, so they made the round tail with thin metal plate for reduced weight. During 1950s, cars could go much faster than the round tail could take. It started to create problems for stability as well as potential Vmax.
The next trend was a “cut-off tail”. Designers thought the round tail would have better aerodynamics, but they were proven wrong. So, they tried the cut-off tail and found aerodynamics was not as bad as they had thought. Mr. Harada revealed the difference at Zagato was to make the curve reaching the cut-off tail as close to horizontal as possible so that the projected tail curve crossing-point was further than others – close to where it would be if the tail had been tear-drop shape. That design has proven consistently faster than others.
Winner of “Best of the Show”
Lamborghini 3500 GTZ Zagato (1965) from Arizona, USA
VIDEO: Concorso d’Eleganza Kyoto 2019 Car Wash Sommeliers (2:27)
Only in Japan; the cars are pampered by Car Wash Sommeliers!
- Mr. Scheufele of Chopard came to Japan for the event.
- Dr. Andrea Zagato was also in Japan.
- Zagato/Chopard 100th anniversary watch was presented in Japan.
- Concorso d’Eleganza was held in Japan’s truly Japanese place.
- Zagato’s chief designer Mr Harada spoke in Japanese about car design.
It was such an amazing link of events that gathered the “dream team” all in one place: 1200-year old city of Kyoto. Lastly but not least, as per Mr. Harada, “speed and time has a very special relationship.”
About the Author
Ken Hokugo is a contributor to AlphaLuxe, who is based in Japan but a citizen of the world. During his travels, he brings us tales of wine, food and other epicurean delights.
He was a Moderator-at-Large for the previously respected horology website PuristSPro.com and writes extensively about wristwatches in English and Japanese publications.