From 1927 to 1955, the Quays of Geneva hosted a prestigious concours d’élégance on the occasion of the famous Semaine de la Rose. Revived by Mathias Doutreleau in 2016, the Concours d’Elégance Suisse will once again pay tribute to the historical and cultural heritage of the automobile from 19 to 21 June.
Switzerland, and Geneva in particular, has a long love affair with the automobile, beginning with the ratification of the Automobile Club de Suisse in 1898. In the city at the end of the lake, the first Motor Show was held in 1905, followed by the first edition of the Concours d’Elegance in 1927 at the Parc des Bastions. Until 1955, this event successively took place in emblematic places of the city of Calvin, such as Genève-Plage, the Parc de la Grange, the Jardin Anglais or the Quai des Bergues. Let’s go back briefly into the past…
Highlight of the Rose Week
The Fête de l’élégance, the original name of the Concours d’Elégance, was one of the highlights of the Semaine de la Rose, an international competition of new roses. The media reported the event as follows ” The party was a great success and the excellent Bob Engel orchestra created a cheerful atmosphere right from the start. A very popular innovation was the presentation of bicycles, motorbikes and sidecars, the latest models from the best manufacturers. Then there was the presentation of superb automobiles from which, to the great delight of the public, elegant and graceful mannequins from our great couturiers and modistes escaped. (Journal de Genève, 1938), ” Geneva will be entirely given over to elegance and beauty for the Week of the Rose. For the official opening of the Roseraie de la Grange, an international automobile concours d’élégance will take place, organised by the Geneva section of the Automobile-club de Suisse, with the support of haute couture, fashion and fur “(Feuille d’Avis de Lausanne, 6 June 1952) or ” The programme looks particularly promising for high-quality meetings. The opening of this elegant season will be the great automobile elegance competition, with the awarding of the “Golden Rose” so sought after by the great coachbuilders, the creators of the racy beauty that leaps onto the modern roads. It is in the admirable setting of the Beau-Rivage rotunda and in the middle of the flowery lawns that all these elegances will evolve “ (Journal de Genève, 14 May 1955).
We make no concessions when it comes to distinguishing cars that respect the authenticity of their origin and reflect the spirit of their creators.
A long-awaited Renaissance
Like Sleeping Beauty, the Concours d’Elegance has fallen into a deep sleep of 61 years. Indeed, it was not until 2016 that this exceptional event was reborn from its ashes at the initiative of Mathias Doutreleau. The creator of one of the flagship events of Monterey car week in the USA, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, was the right man to revive this high-flying tradition. After a long search for the perfect setting, he finally chose Madame de Staël’s home, the Château de Coppet and its wonderful gardens.
Over the past four years, the Concours d’Elégance Suisse has been increasingly successful, both in terms of the number of cars entered (91 vehicles in 17 categories in 2019) and the presence of legendary models (Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix and Type 57 Atalante, Bentley 8 Litres, Avions Voisins C25 Aérodyne, etc. Positioning itself as one of the most rigorous competitions in the world, the event caused quite a stir last year when Mathias Doutreleau announced that Achim Anscheidt, Bugatti’s Design Director, would chair the jury and – for the first time in the world – that an aesthetics jury would serve alongside the traditional authenticity jury. While the former appreciated the elegance and style of the cars presented, the latter was concerned with the authenticity and quality of preservation of the cars entered. With this initiative, the founder wanted to defend a new form of competition more respectful of the initial inspiration of the creators. “We make no concessions when it comes to distinguishing cars that respect the authenticity of their origin and reflect the spirit of their creators. However, it is also important to give priority to the beauty of a car’s lines and the overall harmony of its proportions. “
Elegance and speed
The 2020 edition, with the theme “Elegance and Speed“, will feature a selection of rare and spectacular automobiles from 1920 to 1985. Among the categories honoured were: Alfa Romeo (110 years of sports cars), Avions-Voisin (101 years), Pinin Farina (90 years), Les Carrossiers suisses, Jaguar MkII (60 years), Citroën SM (50 years), Monteverdi, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, Pre-war cars, Cars of the years 1970-1975 or Concept Cars.
Various highlights will enrich the programme of the Competition, such as an exhibition of exceptional timepieces, exhibitions of works by artists and craftsmen on the theme of the Automobile, road tests of the partners’ cars and a culinary pavilion and food-trucks set up around the lawns.
Participants will be expected on Friday for a Tour d’Elegance, punctuated by a lunch in an unusual place, as well as an inauguration evening on the castle lawns. On Saturday morning, the Competition will host a preview for privileged guests and other “happy fews” before opening to the public at noon. The traditional Collectors’ Dinner at the Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues will bring the day to a close. On Sunday, the two juries will meet to award the class prizes to the most authentic and admirable cars. A world first launched in 2019, the Concours d’Elégance Suisse will also award two major prizes for excellence: the Grand Prix for the most beautiful exhaust note (Best of Sound) and the traditional Grand Prix d’Excellence (Best of Show) awarded to one of the winners in its class.
In a very “garden party” spirit, the Concours d’Elégance Suisse will once again be the not-to-be-missed event for collectors and enthusiasts from all over Switzerland and the world. Its bucolic setting and authentic atmosphere, combined with the ultra-professional organisation, make it an exceptional event.