This week the final of the British polo Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup takes place for the second time within the rolling emerald lawns of Cowdray Park. Polo has been played here since 1910, and with its cricket square and castle ruins, it's a quintessentially English setting for this summer event.
The Gold Cup began in 1956, when an Argentine farmer Antonio Heguy – whose family are one of the great South American polo playing dynasties – visited Britain with friends. Lord Cowdray invited them to play in his new tournament. They won. These days, the Gold Cup is the most important polo tournament outside Argentina, with an illustrious list of title sponsors, including Veuve Clicquot, and from 2015, Jaeger-LeCoultre. The luxury watchmaker has been Official Timekeeper at Cowdray Park Polo Club for 10 years, but it has been entwined with polo for far longer.
It was in 1931 that British army officers asked Jacques-David LeCoultre if he could design a watch that wouldn’t break while playing. The result was the Reverso, so called because it boasted a reversible face allowing the player to flip over the dial, exposing instead a solid metal face to protect the watch from stray mallets, balls, and fickle polo ponies. To this day, the watch is worn by the sport's biggest stars, including Luke Tomlinson and Clare Mountbatten, the Marchioness of Milford Haven.
The Reverso is not the only lavish timepiece crafted by artisans and celebrated by athletes, film stars, and luminaries.
Discover five more:
1950s rock 'n' roll glamour
For its new Opus 14 timepiece, Harry Winston looked to the era of rock ’n’ roll to create a chunky, limited-edition watch with motifs of red and blue in vinyl-style finishes, evoking the aesthetic of diners and T-birds sailing down Route 66. Guest collaborators Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny took inspiration from the jukeboxes of the 1950s. In a world first that has since been patented by Harry Winston, they miniaturized the jukebox mechanism to power the discs displaying local time, GMT, and the date.
In pole position
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is a legendary timepiece, and in 2013, Christie's sold a rare Rolex Paul Newman dial Daytona for more than $1 million, proving the iconic film star’s connection to the brand had truly made it iconic. Indeed, most rare early versions of the Daytona are dubbed the "Paul Newman," because the celebrated film star and philanthropist was regularly photographed wearing one after he took up motorsports in the 1970s. Originally designed to meet the needs of racing drivers, the chronographs – a stopwatch combined with a display watch – allowed motorists to measure speeds up to 250mph/400kph.
A winning Formula
Another watchmaker admired by stars of the big screen is Audemars Piguet. First launched in 1875, the watches have repeatedly been snapped on the wrists of movie stars Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Timeless tradition and modern style live amicably together within these stunning timepieces – and that was very much the approach when Formula One racing driver Michael Schumacher joined forces with Audemars Piguet to create a special edition of the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph. New collection
Past owners of watches made by Vacheron Constantin, founded in 1755, have included Napoleon Bonaparte, Pope Pius XI, the Duke of Windsor, and Harry Truman. Taking inspiration from artistic craftsmanship and cultures all over the world, Vacheron Constantin has recently unveiled its Métiers d’Art Élégance Sartoriale men’s line. These unique, handcrafted pieces are embellished with the finest materials, including satin, diamonds, mother of pearl, and white gold.
Van Cleef & Arpels reaches for the heavens in the latest episode of its watchmaking journey. Its Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication timepiece reflects the solar system within the dimensions of a wristwatch. The new design provides a downsized representation of six of the planets orbiting the sun – depicted in precious stones including blue agate, red jasper, and turquoise – all true to their genuine length of orbit. That means it will take Mercury 88 days to complete a circuit of the watch’s dial, while Saturn will take more than 29 years. To tell the time on Earth, you need to watch the rose-gold shooting star located at the outer edge of the dial. This is a thing of beauty for any starry-eyed astronomer.