AN INNOVATIVE COLLABORATION
23rd January 2018
The return of an icon – Chris Chilton checks out the new Range Rover Velar and its partnership with Zenith’s El Primero collection.
The space race wasn’t the only battle against time taking place as the 1960s prepared to give way to the 1970s. Back on Earth watch-making companies were locked in a competition to create a timepiece that would break new ground: a fully automatic chronograph.
And in January 1969, six months before Armstrong set foot on the moon, Zenith made the first presentation of a fully working prototype to the world.
But across the Channel, in Britain, at around the same time, another team of engineers was working on a project every bit as innovative.
The project was a luxury off-road vehicle that would become the Range Rover, a car with the go-anywhere ability of a Land Rover, but the creature comforts of an expensive saloon.
Keen to keep the project secret until the official unveil in 1970, the engineers at what was then British Leyland came up with the fictional brand ‘Velar’, derived from the Latin word for ‘to hide’, and picked out the name on the leading edge of the bonnet of their test cars to throw nosy car spotters off the scent.
And now, almost fifty years later, the Velar name is back, appropriately on a car that is again the most road-focused the company has ever built.
But while the name might hark back to the past, the design certainly does not. The Velar’s elegant, smooth surfaces point us to a new styling direction for future Land Rover products, and the strikingly low, almost coupé-like roofline emphasises this car’s on-road bias.
The 812 reaches 62mph in under 3sec, and goes on to 124mph in less than eight.
It’s the cabin though, that really makes jaws drop. A pair of touchscreens housed in the centre console provides access to most of the car’s functions, leaving the interior clutter free, while other surfaces are covered in rich leather for a traditional Range Rover luxury feel.
Not by coincidence, that’s the same fine Scottish leather that clothes the rubber strap of Zenith’s new Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Velar Special Edition.
The Velar looks every inch the halo car of the Range Rover lineup. Yet it starts at £44,830, which means it’s merely the second rung on the Range Rover ladder.
Slotting into a lucrative niche between the Evoque and Range Rover Sport, the Velar is aimed squarely at Porsche’s Macan, but is sure to grab attention from top-end models of sister company Jaguar’s F-Pace, whose aluminium platform it shares.
All Velars come equipped with four-wheel drive, but in a first for a Range Rover, the Velar operates in rear-wheel drive for much of the time to give the handling characteristics of a sports saloon. Should conditions demand it, the front wheels are swiftly brought into play.
There’s the familiar Terrain Response driving mode controller to aid off-road traction, but there are no manual differential locks or low range gears. The emphasis is on carving roads rather than ruts, a bold move for a company whose image is so bound up in off-road ability, but a move that results in a more relevant car for most drivers.
Staying relevant in the UK arguably means opting for a frugal diesel engine. But the range is vast and hedonists can satisfy their thirst for power with a 380hp supercharged V6 capable of taking the Velar from zero to 60mph in 5.3sec.
That’s going some, but measuring it is nothing the Velar’s wrist-mounted cousin from Zenith can’t handle. Even the brains Land Rover can’t outsmart the most precise mechanical movement in the watch world.
The Zenith El Primero is steeped in horological history.
However, while many may be familiar with the history of the El Primero they perhaps might not be quite as knowledgeable about the name Defy. The Defy was the original design that Zenith had around the time they moved into their manufacture in 1865 – it was actually spelt with an I back then and only changed to a y in 1969.
We were honoured to welcome the legendary Jean Claude Biver to our Argyll Arcade boutique for the official launch of Zenith in Scotland. The trip was Mr Biver’s first visit to the nation and his first client facing event. Interviewed by respected Financial Times journalist the President of LVMH Watch & Jewellery Division spoke of his passion for creating truly timeless pieces, hailing his successful career as a gift.
Since it was founded in 1865 by George Favre-Jacot Zenith has long been a brand to push boundaries. It revolutionised watch production by uniting all watchmaking professions under one roof to create a Manufacture and has been taking bold strides to the future ever since.