When Leslie Mark Kendall, chief curator of the Petersen Automobile Museum, gets behind the wheel of the jet-black 1938 Delahaye with orange pinstripe details, a feeling of calm comes over him. He starts up the car, listens to its rumble, then turns to me and smiles. “There’s artistry in everything about this car,” he says. “Artistry in how it looks, artistry in the mechanism and artistry in driving it. These cars transcended transportation.”

We pull out behind a handful of incredible cars, with more than a hundred following us in the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance and Kendall explains to me that this is exactly how it is supposed to be.

“Cars can only be fully understood and appreciated when they are driven, to see them do what they were meant to do,” he says. “It makes your heart sing when you see these cars. Even though they are worth millions of dollars, you can drive these cars every day—they have modern performance. Not driving them is missing the point.”

Jet-black 1938 Delahaye

On this day, we drive the Delahaye for about an hour, the wind in our faces (we even folded down the windshield onto the hood) and the beautiful scenery of the Monterey Peninsula as the backdrop for the spectators’ view—a rolling museum. There are people on every corner, waving and taking pictures as these marvelous cars drive by.

Rolex is the main sponsor for Monterey Classic Car Week, which includes this tour, The Quail Motorsports Gathering, the Monterey Motorsports Reunion and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the granddaddy of all the classic car events.

And Rolex’s involvement really is organic and logical. One of the most collectible watch brands, with vintage Rolexes selling for incredible money on the pre-owned and auction circuit, and modern Rolexes, like the brand-new ceramic-bezeled Rolex Daytona, selling strongly even in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis, Rolex backing a celebration of the artistry and elegance of classic cars just makes sense.

“Mechanical watches and cars go together,” Kendall says. “The beauty is in the mechanism, not just the use. These products have a soul. You can’t help but smile when you see them.”

The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance is an incredible event, to see all these cars, driving on the local roads and not in some museum, which really underscores their beauty and their purpose.

And these are expensive cars. Kendall would point out cars to me, quoting their multimillion-dollar price tags. And here they were sharing the road with Toyotas, Nissans and Fords.

The Quail Motorsports Gathering

Where Pebble Beach has exacting standards, the Quail is more egalitarian. Have a special car? Chances are you’ll make it onto the grass at the Quail Lodge Golf Club in Carmel Valley, California.

And that’s a good thing.

The mix is unique at the Quail— the featured themes this year were Rivalries of the Ages, 100th Anniversary of BMW Celebrating Motorcars and Motorcycles, Retrospective of Laguna Seca Raceway and the 50thAnniversary of the Lamborghini Miura. The classes of cars on display included Pre-War Sports and Racing Cars, Post-War Racing Cars, Post-War Sports Cars 1945–1960, Post-War Sports Cars 1961–1975, Sports and Racing Motorcycles, The Great Ferraris and Supercars.

One of the highlights of the days I spent with Rolex, seeing the depth of their involvement with classic cars, was walking around the Quail with legendary driver, and longtime Rolex Testimonee, Sir Jackie Stewart.

“These fantastic cars fit in very well with Rolex’s market,” he explains. “Rolex does it so well. The Rolex association is a perfect one, and the fact that their sponsored events are back to back, the Quail and Pebble Beach, is fantastic. I was asked to join Rolex in 1968 and I’ve been with them ever since. I signed in April 1968 and I was with Arnold Palmer and Jean‑Claude Killy.”

As we walked, Stewart pointed out details that stood out to him from cars he raced, raced against or even drove on his honeymoon. His favorite car of all time? The Jaguar E-Type, which just happened to be the car he drove when he was a newlywed.

“The E-Type Jag almost destroyed the specialty market because it was so beautiful, and I was fortunate enough to race one of these, which I consider the greatest example of British design,” he says, then stopped by a classic Porsche and stroked the fender lovingly. “The first car I ever raced was a Porsche and I finished second in the first race, then finishing first in the second race,” he continues.

Sir Jackie Stewart

When he passed an unrestored 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Pinin Farina Spyder, he approached the owner and asked him to fire it up. The owner did, after all, this was Sir Jackie Stewart asking, and the sound filled the grounds; just about everyone turned to look. Stewart was in his element, you could tell, and the blood in his veins seemed to pound with the roar of this magnificent engine.

Stewart has very good taste—that Ferrari that stopped him in his tracks went on to win Best of Show at the Quail Motorsports Gathering.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona.
Jackie Stewart

Monterey Motorsports Reunion

On the day between the Quail and the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, we head to Laguna Seca Raceway to watch these classic cars, many of which are in competition at either of the events, race around the track, their drivers having the time of their lives.

These aren’t just “gentleman racers,” who are content to fire up their prized possessions and toddle around the track. Many of them are out to win and are serious about it. It’s a mixed bag on the track, with some legitimate race cars that can still hightail it down the straights and through the corners, while other, older cars take quite a bit of time to negotiate their way around.

We even had the chance to take a “hot lap” around Laguna Seca in a supercharged BMW, which was a real treat. And my driver didn’t take it easy— getting up to speeds of 160mph on the straights and not slowing much in the corners—and he blew past the line for an additional lap. He and I were having way too much fun.

The Monterey Motorsports Reunion offers a taste of the way things used to be, before carbon fiber and electronics; and the smell of gasoline, burning oil and past and present glory in the air makes just about everyone smile.

Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m up and at ’em, primed for what the Rolex people call “Dawn Patrol.” You see, one of the rules of Pebble Beach is that all the cars have to be driven onto the exhibition ground, so showing up to see the cars driven in is a special opportunity to see these incredible cars do what they were meant to do.

Which means getting up early, which I don’t mind—I like to get up before the sun, but I can tell the others in our group are not so keen.

Dawn patrol is really a special time, standing on the fairway of Pebble Beach, the Pacific Ocean in the background, as these amazing cars, some worth upwards of $10 million, drive past us on the way to the parade ground. The sound is a joy, the cars going by a once-in-a-lifetime sight. It is definitely worth the effort of waking up early.

Conservative estimate of the amount of money in cars displayed at Pebble Beach? $500 million.

Jay Leno is walking around, checking out the cars.

1936 Lancia Asturia Pinin Farina Cabriolet

Michael Strahan makes an appearance.

But the real star is Jackie Stewart as he admires the cars and stops every now and then to chat with an owner. You might be a celebrity in the real world, but here at Pebble Beach, where cars are king, real royalty belongs to the drivers and the legends who made their bones when lives were on the line.

Two hundred and twenty-eight cars from 16 countries and 30 states were displayed on the 17th and 18th holes of the Pebble Beach Golf Links for the 66th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. With so many fantastic cars on display, it’s a tough competition.

The winner of Best of Show this year was a 1936 Lancia Asturia Pinin Farina Cabriolet, one of six cars built for a Lancia dealer in Biella, Italy. Owned by Richard Mattei from Paradise Valley, Arizona, this car once belonged to guitarist Eric Clapton.

A special display at Pebble Beach this year was the 50th Anniversary of the Ford GT40’s victory at Le Mans, with 17 GT40s lined up at the edge of the Concours, backed by the Pacific Ocean. Truly a sight to behold.

Like Pebble Beach, the Quail and Monterey Classic Car Week, Rolex is a class act. Rolex’s presence is everywhere, on signs, clocks, materials and more, but it was at the same time quite understated, just like their watches.

The bottom line is that most of the people who came to these events were either wearing a Rolex, had a collection of Rolex timepieces, or were planning on buying a Rolex soon.

As Sir Jackie Stewart points out, “It just makes sense.”

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41

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