Silverstone Actions will offer Stirling Moss’ watch — a Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox — his bespoke gold bracelet worn during races in tomorrow’s sale. Let’s delve into the details and how I came to know of Moss through my grandmother.
As a child, there was little doubt in my mind that Juan-Manual Fangio, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark and Stirling Moss were the five finest racing drivers to ever grace a racing circuit. With more than a drop of Brazilian blood, I have since become an admirer of Ayrton Senna whilst Walter Rohrl caught my imagination in the film of his charge up Pikes Peak in an Audi Sport Quattro yet the influence of those first five remains. Whilst it was surely in part down to playing with my father’s old toy cars, the key influence here was my grandmother.
In her youth in the late 1950s and early 1960s, my grandmother mixed rather a lot with the racing crowd whether through mutual friends or by frequenting the same restaurants and dancefloors. As a consequence, she crossed Graham Hill on occasion but it was with Stirling Moss (so she tells me) that she once enjoyed a night with friends culminating in a handbrake turn on the late-night streets of London – an offence for which both were sternly reprimanded by a passing policeman. This was only a few days before Sir Moss’ famous and career-ending accident at Goodwood in 1962.
Before this accident, however, Moss could very convincingly have been seen as the fastest driver in the world. Whilst the 1957 Formula One World Championship is most remembered for Fangio’s remarkable performance at the end of the German Grand Prix, it was in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone that Moss took the first Formula 1 World Championship race win for a British manufacturer with Tony Brooks. Later, in 1961, Moss took a spectacular victory at the Monaco Grand Prix whilst holding off Ferrari’s 156 ‘Sharknose’ — a car with a 25% power advantage over his own Lotus 18 — by only a few seconds for the entire second half of the race.
However, it was Stirling Moss’ seminal performance in the 1955 Mille Miglia which cemented his status in the Mercedes 300 SLR. Finishing in a record-breaking 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, Moss’ speed knew no equal partially due to skill and partially due to his navigator, Denis Jenkinson, whose scroll of pace notes and set of hand-gestures was the ancestor of those commonplace in modern rallying. The closest competitor was Juan-Manuel Fangio who dropped back due to technical issues whilst all other Mercedes and the fastest of Ferraris failed to finish.
But why am I recounting these tales of victory on the racetrack? Well, tomorrow, Silverstone Auctions will be selling a collection of Sir Stirling Moss’ possessions including helmets, steering wheels and other memorabilia. However, a centrepiece is the sale of Moss’ twin-bar, gold watch band as worn during 38 years of this racing icon’s life.
The auction house states that the bracelet was created for Moss by Schindler of London in 1954 due to his frustration with ruined leather watch straps due to oil from front-engined racing cars. In the rough-and-tumble world of 1950s and 1960s racing, this is understandable. Importantly, this watch bracelet lived through all of Moss’ most memorable victories and was l worn for many of them.
Stirling Moss’ watch affixed to the bracelet is equally interesting. Whilst not the only watch worn on this bracelet, it seems to have been a favourite and is a Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox ref. E11005. Produced from the mid-‘60s, this 36 mm alarm watch is, in its own right, a very rare piece. Whilst most Memovox watches became automatic through this decade, the ref. E11005 was a manual piece housing the Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 911 launched in 1964. This Jaeger-LeCoultre was produced in two version: stainless steel and 80-micron gold-plate. It is thought that 500 were made in steel whilst only 150 were produced in gold-plate. This really is hardly an uninteresting watch to feature on such a bracelet.
About the watch, Moss had this much to say:
“It came in handy if I was jet-lagged or I fancied a nap in between races. Problem was I couldn’t hear it because of all the noise of the other cars, but it’s a bloody nice watch”
The watch and bracelet will be offered by Silverstone Auctions tomorrow (Saturday the 14th of November) with no reserve. I look forward to seeing how it performs in an auction geared towards car collectors rather than watch enthusiasts.
With, it must be said, a far richer automotive background than most racing-related vintages to appear at auction of late, this is a watch which holds my interest far more readily than, for example, Paul Newman’s Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. Whether this is due to my love of cars or the stories told to me as a child by my grandmother I do not know yet the opportunity to own a piece of such historical importance is certainly one to watch.