Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra
Angus Davies reviews the Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra, a collection of three chronographs.
Some readers may ponder how I, along with many of my colleagues in the field of watch journalism, appear to be incredibly well informed on the release of new timepieces. There are no mysterious powers needed. Quite simply, each day a constant stream of press releases fill my inbox. Many of these are filed straight into trash as they simply don’t merit discussion. However, some information and images evidently pique my interest and an information search ensues.
There is no substitute for handling a watch in person. This may sound obvious, but it is clear at times that some so-called watch reviews are merely a regurgitation of a brand’s press release with no added value taking place. Indeed, perhaps more surprisingly, some articles are written without ever actually seeing the watch in person and placing it upon the wrist. I have to be honest and say I find this approach disrespectful to readers and totally lacking in merit.
If I can’t touch, examine and place a watch upon my wrist I invariably choose to set it to one side and leave others to extoll its virtues or lack thereof.
On receiving news of two new limited edition models from Baume & Mercier, I felt justified in spending time seeking more information. The Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra collection consists of three models all of which I will make reference to herein.
Carroll Shelby was one of the most celebrated American racing drivers of the 1950s. He was named ‘Driver of the Year’ by Sports Illustrated in 1956, and again in 1957. In 1959, he achieved his most notable podium success, racing to victory at the arduous 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Unfortunately, the following year, the talented race driver was diagnosed with angina pectoralis at the age of 37. It was a health issue which he had suffered from since childhood and this necessitated him taking the decisive step to end his racing career. However, Carroll Shelby chose not to turn his back on motorsport fully.
He conceived an American sports car to rival Europe’s finest and the ‘Cobra’ legend was born. He persevered in creating a competitive racing machine and ultimately, in 1965, together with his hand-picked team, ‘Shelby American’ was crowned FIA GT champion. Moreover, Carroll Shelby became the first individual to win as a driver, team manager and manufacturer.
Whilst receiving treatment in hospital for his heart condition, Carroll Shelby visited sick children in hospital, some of whom were also suffering from heart problems. It was after this experience that Shelby embarked on a journey to generate funds in order to assist the families of children with major heart ailments. Since inception, the Carroll Shelby Foundation has since grown and now also provides scholarships and educational opportunities to disadvantaged children across the United States.
Baume & Mercier has chosen to support the work of the Carroll Shelby Foundation with a corporate donation and the production of a unique timepiece to be auctioned.
The Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Steel Chronograph – MOA 10232
The Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Steel Chronograph MOA 10232 is limited to 1965 pieces, referencing the landmark year in Carroll Shelby’s life. It shares much in common with the Capeland MOA 10063, a watch I know very well. Indeed, in 2012, I had the good fortune to wear the MOA 10063 for five weeks whilst touring Europe and at the end of the loan period, I was sad to wave goodbye.
The Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Steel Chronograph shares the same dimensions and mechanical composition as the MOA 10063. However, whilst I appreciated the handsome mien of the MOA 10063, this iteration of Baume & Mercier’s trusty chronograph, the MOA 10232, is a younger, prettier sibling and on appearance alone wins the beauty contest outright.
Baume & Mercier has chosen Shelby’s Guardsman Blue racing colour as the dominant hue for the dial canvas. It is rich, deep and bestows profound appeal. Two vertical stripes, running north to south, replicate the transparent dual racing Shelby stripes.
The tri-compax layout features one small seconds display via a blue subdial, whilst two chronograph registers employ sumptuous silver tones to eye-catching effect. These latter registers incorporate some lovely flourishes of detail which I find especially appealing.
At 3 o’clock, a 30 minute chronograph register resides. A blue arcing line traces the values between ’20’ and ’10’, providing a wonderful reference to the instruments found on the iconic Cobra’s instrument cluster. A bright red hand provides a racy and ebullient note which looks coherent and synergistically improves the appearance. The text, ‘minutes’ is unequivocal and aids interpretation.
The 12-hour chronograph register, positioned at 6 o’clock, shares some elements of the 30 minute register, save for the blue arcing line. Moreover, the units depicted on this subdial are not proclaimed in full, a simple ‘H’ suffices. I find it interesting that the talented design team at Baume & Mercier have sought to suffuse each subdial with its own identity. This was very brave as the result could have been a mismatch of styles. I am pleased to report however, their decision was prudent. All elements collaborate to harmonious effect and, as a result of this courageous design strategy, great visual interest has been achieved.
The hour and minute hands are unique to the Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Collection, supplanting the usual swallow-shaped hands. They are lined with Superluminova, proving very legible day and night.
Further differentiation from the standard, non-limited model includes a red-tipped central chronograph seconds hand which incorporates the legendary Cobra logo as a counterweight.
Encircling the dial is a tachymeter scale, proving ideal for calculating the speed of vehicles covering a measured mile or kilometre. A date display completes the inventory of functions.
The Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra 18k Red Gold Flyback Chronograph – MOA 10233
The Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra 18k Red Gold Flyback Chronograph – MOA 10233 is limited to 98 pieces and shares much in common with the Capeland MOA 10007, MOA 10068 and MOA 10088. Again, I am very familiar with this model and its numerous variants. The dimensions and mechanical composition of the MOA 10233 are identical, save for the unique dial decoration and hand design.
At this juncture I must point out that I am breaking one of my rules, commenting on a watch I have failed to handle in person. I have desperately sought to hold this watch, but with only 98 examples worldwide, the Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra 18k Red Gold Flyback Chronograph – MOA 10233 is as rare as the proverbial ‘hen’s teeth’. Indeed, as the title of this article intimates, I have been desperately seeking Shelby for some time, but regrettably to no avail.
This limited edition model employs a bi-compax dial layout, differing from the MOA 10232 owing to the different calibre within. This is a flyback chronograph, using the La Joux-Perret 8147-2 movement. Blue continues to be the dominant dial colour but in this instance, both subdials are also presented in blue.
A 30-minute chronograph register resides at 3 o’clock and a small seconds display is positioned opposite. The result is sublime symmetry with the proportions of the subdials appearing perfect.
Unique gilt hands, lined with Superluminova, impart the hours and minutes. The colours of other hands are optimally matched to provide attractive contrast, based on the pictures I have observed. However, unlike my coverage of the steel model, I return to the fact I have not handled this watch in person and I have not placed it upon my arm. Whilst, on the face of it, the Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra 18k Red Gold Flyback Chronograph – MOA 10233 appeals to me on many levels, I prefer to reserve making further comment until I ultimately get ‘hands-on’ with this particular timepiece.
The emblematic Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Chronograph – pièce unique
Absolute scarcity is a feature of the emblematic Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Chronograph, pièce unique created by the Swiss brand in support of the Carroll Shelby Foundation. The watch is said to feature an ‘ashen dial with blue Cobra stripes, polished and satin-finished 18-carat red gold case, black alligator strap with prestigious blue round-scale alligator lining, and Carroll Shelby’s own signature on the back’. Furthermore, this is once again, a flyback chronograph and represents the pinnacle of Capeland ownership. This watch will be auctioned in due course for the benefit of the foundation and will be accompanied with an original Cobra painting, signed by the surviving members of the 1965 Cobra team.
This is yet another Baume and Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Steel Chronograph, I desperately wish to see. However, in this instance, I suspect there is no likelihood of this dream being fulfilled.