As a story of the underdog defeating the industry giant, it is not without precedent. In 1966, three Ford GT 40s swept first, second and third place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, prompting an irate Enzo Ferrari to boycott all motorsports a few years later. Another David versus Goliath story took place in 1976, at the ‘Judgment of Paris’. There, for the first time in history, a panel of experts, including Aubert de Villaine, the legendary patron of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and Odette Khan, the editor of La Revue du vin de France, selected a chardonnay produced by Chateau Montelena, from Calistoga, California, as the world’s greatest white wine. That’s right. In a blind tasting, the 1973 vintage made by the Croatian-American winemaker Mike Grgich just one year into his job was adjudged superior to the mythical premier cru Meursault Charmes, by Domaine Roulot (which came in second), and Princess Diana’s favourite wine, Joseph Drouhin Clos de Mouches (which came fifth). The result left the judges, the nation of France, and the wine world gobsmacked.
But the ultimate story of competitive comeuppance occurred in Switzerland, at the sleepy lakeside town of Neuchâtel. This was the battleground on which the best Swiss watchmakers sought to establish themselves as the kings of chronometry at the famous Neuchâtel Observatory trials. But in 1967, watches made by the Japanese company Seiko, and produced in the Suwa and Daini Seikosha factories, placed fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth and 12th in open competition against the best Swiss watchmakers. It was a shot across the bow of Swiss watchmaking that resounded through the nation.