Graham watch founder on how racing influences his business and his own exploits in the Swiss Porsche Cup
When did you become interested in cars?
“I was always interested in cars. My first was an Escort XR3i… Now I buy cars because I love the mechanical element. I am an engineer myself.”
When did you begin racing?
“It started 15 years ago on the Le Mans Bugatti circuit. I went with some friends and drove a Formula Renault. After that I got hooked very quickly. I was already 40 years old – too old for single-seaters. So that’s why I looked at Porsches.”
What do you race now?
“A GT2 RS, which is modified to develop 700bhp, racing on slick tyres in the Swiss Porsche Cup. Because we don’t have any race circuits in Switzerland, we race in Germany, Italy and France. My last race was at Imola, and we’ve also raced at Monza, Mugello, Magny-Cours, Dijon and Hockenheim – all great circuits. We do six weekends a year, each with a sprint event and a 100-mile endurance race.”
How long will you continue to race?
“I’m 55 years old, so I’ll race for as long as I can be competitive. At my last race I took pole position, but after the start I made a mistake that was purely down to my vision. If I make too many mistakes perhaps I will step down to a lower level and race for fun. But right now I want to race to win.”
What do you drive on the road?
“I have an Audi RS4 that is good for the wintertime; an Aston Martin Vantage V12, which is very fast; a Targa 4S that is basically my daily car; a GT3 997 for fun; and my real pride and joy – a Ford GT. It is beautiful and its torquey engine has so much power. It is a lot of fun. In fact the weather is good here at the moment and I’m taking it out this afternoon…”
How has racing influenced the Graham range of watches?
“We have three watch lines, one of which is called Silverstone. Racing inspires me: the use of materials, the importance of weight, even the colour schemes.”
Graham has an association with the Isle of Man TT. How did that come about?
“We’ve been associated with the TT since 2009; it is one of the very last real races in the world. We also support the Baja 1000 off-road event. I drove one of the buggies on the pre-run and had a huge flip at one of the dry rivers! This partnership came about because Graham is very strong in Mexico and the organisers approached us. My first answer was no, but they invited me to see the cars on a trip to Mexico and I discovered there is a lot of technology involved. Innovation is key and the only limit is the power of the engines. It is a wild and free race, there are almost no rules. Like the TT, it is a real race and both have long histories, which is important to us.”
Did your partnership with Brawn GP in Formula 1 five years ago have a big impact on the company?
“It didn’t have much of an effect on sales, but in terms of awareness and respect within the watch industry it was huge. We didn’t begin the season with them, we joined a bit later, at Silverstone. So we already knew the car was good because Jenson Button had won all those races, but now Red Bull was catching up. Monza was a day I’ll never forget, seeing Rubens and Jenson finishing one-two. We knew that day that the team would win the world championship.”
You also collect art. What are you most interested in?
“I collect contemporary works because I like to meet the artists, talk to them and understand what they are expressing. I’ve been collecting for 30 years and own 200 paintings and about 20 sculptures. I have a passion for the process of innovation, which is what also interests me in cars. The human capacity for reinvention fascinates me.”