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Watches An Insider's Look Into Richard Mille’s Exclusive Chantilly Arts & Elegance Event

An Insider's Look Into Richard Mille’s Exclusive Chantilly Arts & Elegance Event

An Insider's Look Into Richard Mille’s Exclusive Chantilly Arts & Elegance Event
Chantilly Arts & Elegance graces the chateau for a weekend each year. (Photo: Courtesy of Richard Mille)
By Christian Barker
October 25, 2019
On a historic French estate, watchmaker Richard Mille has created a singular celebration of automotive passion, past and present

In the countryside just north of Paris rests one of France’s great architectural and cultural curiosities, the Château de Chantilly. The heart of this grand Renaissance estate is formed by two imposing structures—the Petit Château, constructed in the mid-16th century, and the Grand Château, which fell victim to the torches of the angry horde during the French Revolution but was rebuilt in the late 1800s.

The main château’s art gallery, the Condé Museum, is said to possess a collection of paintings second only to the Louvre’s, including a stunning array of works from masters including Raphael, Botticelli, Delacroix and Van Dyck. The Petit Chateau’s library, meanwhile, brims with rare manuscripts, including a surfeit of priceless hand-illuminated medieval examples.

Students of more contemporary culture, meanwhile, will be familiar with Chantilly for its role in the James Bond film A View To A Kill. In the 1985 Roger Moore romp, Chantilly and its Great Stables served as the estate of villain Max Zorin, providing the late, great Moore and his on-screen nemesis, Christopher Walken, with stunning scenery to chew.

The gala dinner is a glamorous occasion (Photo: Courtesy of Richard Mille)
The gala dinner is a glamorous occasion (Photo: Courtesy of Richard Mille)

As explained briefly in that movie, the stables at Chantilly were built at the behest of an eccentric French duke, Louis Henri de Bourbon, a wealthy royal who served for a time as prime minister under Louis XV. Louis Henri believed he would be reincarnated as a horse, and in 1719 had grand stables constructed in the hope that the regal steed whose shape he’d one day take would reside there.

Equestrian events continue to take place at Chantilly, which houses one of the world’s most beautiful racecourses. But it’s a different form of horse power that Richard Mille has sought to celebrate here since establishing, in 2015, Chantilly Arts & Elegance. This annual weekend-long automotive competition showcases modern supercars and concept vehicles alongside stunning classics, and in this melange neatly complements Chantilly’s combination of elegant antiquity with the more recently constructed.

Taking place on the weekend of June 29 and 30, the latest fete saw some 18,000 visitors converge on Chantilly to marvel at outstanding examples of automotive art displayed amid the château’s expansive grounds. This unique concours celebrates both motoring’s gracious past and its forward-thinking present, integrating three distinct Best in Show awards. There are categories for pre-war and post-war, and another for futuristic limited editions and concept cars, displayed coupled with the work of a leading fashion design house.

Classic vehicles take their place alongside modern supercars (Photo: Courtesy of Richard Mille)
Classic vehicles take their place alongside modern supercars (Photo: Courtesy of Richard Mille)

This year, a Bentley 8-Litre Coupé scooped the pre-war prize and a Talbot T26 the post-war. Vying for honours in the contemporary category were the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Continuation with couture by Ronald van der Kemp, the BMW Vision M Next with fashion by Talbot Runhof, Bugatti’s Black Car with garments by Max Mara, the DS X E-Tense complemented by Eymeric François, the Honda E Prototype matched to Yohji Yamamoto, the Lexus Concept LC Cabriolet juxtaposed with Rochas, the McLaren Speedtail with Paule Ka, the Renault EZ-Ultimo contrasting with Guy Laroche, and the Volkswagen ID Buggy styled up by Ann Demeulemeester. The McLaren won over the judges, while the VW picked up the public vote.

In its focus on unique automobiles from past and present (many of which, whether old or new, look like they come from the future), Chantilly Arts & Elegance is philosophically in step with its sponsor, Richard Mille.

The beauty of one-off concept cars and unique, vintage coach-built classics—specially crafted to meet their owners’ exacting demands—is in their rarity. These are not production line machines but singular examples of the carmaker’s art. In the same way that Richard Mille’s technically remarkable timepieces are created with no thought for economies of scale, so too are the cars stabled on the château’s lawns during Chantilly Arts & Elegance.

It’s an eccentric approach, but that’s par for the course at this estate, where a madness for horsepower has long prevailed.

See also: Richard Mille Reinvents The Pocket Watch

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