Anyone who has attended the annual Baselworld watch fair will have seen the vehicles that carry the V.I.P.s of the horological world to and from the cavernous halls. The Maserati Quattroporte is popular, as is the long, black Benz. The occasional Phantom even makes its presence felt. But you won't find Chopard boss Karl-Friedrich Scheufele in the back seats of any of them, because he's more likely to be behind the wheel of his immaculately preserved, 45-year-old, Brewster green Bentley T2.
'It's my Basel car - I've been driving to the show in it for 20 years and wouldn't think of going in anything else. It brings meluck,'hesays.
Indeed, when it comes to the twin passions of classic cars and fine watches, few can match Scheufele's enthusiasm. So who can blame him for entwining the two through Chopard's tireless support of historic motoring events such as the Mille Miglia and the Monaco Historic, through the brand's sponsorship of Porsche Motorsport, and through his long- standing personal friendship with the legendary Belgian racing driver Jacky Ickx?
True, tie-ins between watch brands and the old car world are not unusual. But in this case it's sincere, because Scheufele's love of classic automobiles is a genuine passion. And if you need proof, take a look at his motorhouse ...
It is not something that many people get to do, so The Rake felt privileged to be invited to see the collection (or a part of it, at any rate), which is kept at the Scheufele family home on the shores of Lake Geneva. On the day we arrived, shortly after the close of Baselworld, Scheufele was shaking off a show-induced bug, but he wasn't going to let that get in the way of an opportunity to talk cars. That said, and as I've discovered over the past decade or so, he's not always keen to talk numbers. 'When people ask us how many cars we have in the collection I try not to be too specific,' he says. 'My father (Karl) and I both agree that as long as neither my wife nor my mother know the true figure, we still might have an opportunity to go and buy just one more without being found out.'
He's been saying that to me for years - and I know for a fact that 'just one more' has been added on several occasions, resulting in a line-up that any classic car fan would give his (or her) eye for.
There are Aston Martins (Ulster and DB5); Porsches (356 Speedster and 911 RS); Ferraris (Monza 750 Barchetta and 275 GTB); Bentleys (R-Type and 1929 three/four-and- a-half litre); even a humble 1965 Mini Cooper. The list goes on, becoming more eclectic by the year.
As for Scheufele's latest acquisitions, he says: 'Well, there have been one or two, actually. We bought a vineyard in the Périgueux region of France a little while ago, and along with it came a Renault 4.' He fails to hide the possibility that he might have been as excited about acquiring the car as he was the vineyard. 'It was well used and I wanted it to be put back into good condition, so I took it to a restorer who was recommended to me by Jérôme de Witt, another person in the watch business who is also passionate about old cars. What I hadn't expected, however, was that this restorer would put me on to another car, a Delahaye 135 Chapron cabriolet with electric Cotal gearbox - so now he's also restoring that. It's going to take around two years.