LONGINES IN ROLAND GARROS
Jacky Ickx on Formula One racing and his relationship with Chopard
JACKY ICKX IS a rebel. He always has been. And this was what probably kept him alive in the dangerous world of motor racing back in the day. Ickx had been against the traditional running start in the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans races, believing that it was extremely unsafe for the driver. To shave off precious seconds, many drivers would neither shut the car door properly nor fasten their seatbelts.
At the 1969 race, Ickx walked to his Ford GT40 in protest while his peers ran to their respective vehicles. Naturally, Ickx was last. However, the talented driver and his partner went on to win the race. In a cruel twist of fate, one of the drivers in the same race, John Woolfe, suffered a fatal crash on the first lap. He would have survived, had he taken the time to belt himself in. Ickx’s protest was vindicated. In the following year, the Le Mans organisers abandoned the running start. Drivers now started the race while properly secured in the car.
Honest Thoughts on Formula One
Decades later, Ickx still retains that rebelliousness as well as the natural charisma that allows him to get away with it. We were seated in the private room of the Chopard boutique at Ngee Ann City, exchanging stories and opinions about motor racing back then and now, when I decided to slip in a question about Formula One.
“Would I change anything about Formula One? It’s hard for me to answer because I’m
not involved in it and no one has asked me for my opinion,” he replied with a cheeky smile. “But there’s an easy way to know if you’re doing a good job ‒ that is if the viewership numbers are increasing year on year.”
For the record, the total number of viewers has dropped by 41.3 per cent since a decade ago. What has continued on an upward trend, however, is his longstanding relationship with Chopard. Ickx and the watchmaker’s co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele first met in 1989 at the Mille Miglia rally and became fast friends.
“We found out that we had many similarities and we decided to continue coming to Mille Miglia each year together. He would drive and I would be his co-driver, which suited me because Scheufele is an excellent driver. Through the decades, he would offer to do limited edition Chopard ‘Jacky Ickx’ watches. I’m ok but I always told him that he would never be able to sell them. Each time, I’m proven wrong,” Ickx laughs.
The racing septuagenarian doesn’t view his relationship with Chopard as a business transaction but an extension of his friendship with Scheufele. It helps that he’s able to continue travelling the world doing what he loves best ‒ racing. More importantly, he identifies with the familial atmosphere of the company.
“In other companies, you have the CEO and the shareholders. But in Chopard, the family understands that the watchmakers, artisans, etc. are important cogs for success. It’s a lot like racing. One person doesn’t make a team.
It’s not just my win; it’s ours.” AM
“IN OTHER COMPANIES, YOU HAVE THE CEO AND THE SHAREHOLDERS. BUT IN CHOPARD, THE FAMILY UNDERSTANDS THAT THE WATCHMAKERS, ARTISANS ARE IMPORTANT COGS FOR SUCCESS”
Mille Miglia 2018 Race Edition chronograph; Jacky Ickx at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1976