PHOTO ESSAY

Kentucky Derby Weekend With the Longines Triple Crown Limited Edition: Scenes from Churchill Downs


Last year, American Pharoah made history by becoming the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win Thoroughbred Racing’s Triple Crown, with thrilling victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes races. It was perhaps inevitable that Longines — the Swiss watch brand that is the official timekeeper of the Triple Crown, as well as a partner of numerous equestrian sporting events — would commemorate this milestone with a special timepiece: the Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition.

Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown LE w/ program
The Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition and its inspiration: American Pharoah graces the cover of the Churchill Downs program.

As I did last year, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Kentucky Derby as a guest of Longines, and had the added treat of wearing the limited-edition watch for the weekend’s array of festivities and events. These included the running of the Kentucky Oaks, held on the eve of Derby Day and sponsored by Longines, which pits a field of three-year-old fillies against each other in a $1 million stakes race; the Longines-sponsored Kentucky Oaks fashion contest; the Hermitage Derby Toast, a cocktail party hosted by Longines and Vanity Fair at Kentucky’s avant-garde 21C Museum; and of course, the Kentucky Derby race itself, which Longines’s guests enjoyed from the luxurious atmosphere of the Mansion at Churchill Downs, surrounded by an array of VIPs from the world of sports and entertainment. I even had the opportunity to flash the limited-edition watch for the cameras while walking the red carpet on Derby Day (as well as the pink carpet on the pink-themed Kentucky Oaks Day). Scroll down for a recap video of the weekend, images from the various events, and notes and photos from my hands-on experience with the Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition.

The Mansion at Churchill Downs
The cozy, elegantly appointed confines of the Mansion at Churchill Downs – the perfect atmosphere for a rare luxury timepiece

 

Longines Kentucky Oaks fashion show
Diane Bondereff for Longines/AP Images
Finalists in the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest, in which the lady judged most elegantly attired wins a Longines DolceVita watch
Longines Kentucky Oaks race
Diane Bondareff for Longines/AP Images
Cathryn Sophia, ridden by jockey Javier Castellano, wins the 142rd running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks stakes race.
Longines Kentucky Oaks party - Bob Baffert
Diane Bondareff for Longines/AP Images
Bob Baffert, trainer of last year’s Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and his wife Jill attend the Hermitage Derby Toast at the 21C Museum
Longines Kentucky Oaks party - DJ Cassidy
Diane Bondareff for Longines/AP Images
Above: DJ Cassidy (above) spins tunes at the Hermitage Derby Toast, while acrobatic dancers (below) performed for the crowd.
Longines Kentucky Oaks party - dancers
Diane Bondareff for Longines/AP Images
Adrian Grenier at Longines VF Party
Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Longines
“Entourage” star Adrian Grenier busts a move at the Hermitage Derby Toast.
Jon Voight - KY Derby Red Carpet
Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Longines
Legendary actor Jon Voight walks the Kentucky Derby Red Carpet. Other boldfaced names at this year’s event included Bon Jovi drummer Richie Sambora, actor Mira Sorvino, NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez, and TV hosts Star Jones and Megyn Kelly.
Kentucky Derby Race - Nyquist
Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Longines
Nyquist, jockeyed by Marco Gutierrez (far right, in purple and white silks), extends an undefeated career by winning the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby.
Longines Kentucky Derby trophy presentation
Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Longines
Longines U.S. brand manager Amy Figueroa (in stylish hat) presents Longines Master Collection timepieces to Nyquist’s trainer, Doug O’Neill; jockey, Mario Gutierrez, and owner, J. Paul Reddam at the post-race Derby Winner’s Party

The watch, appropriately enough, is a new version of Longines’s Conquest Classic Moonphase, the timepiece awarded to American Pharoah’s winning owner, trainer, and jockey at last year’s Derby. (I review that watch extensively, and report on my 2015 Kentucky Derby experience with Longines, here.) This one, however, is limited to just 180 pieces, and available only in the United States. There are 20 pieces in rose gold, 40 in two-tone rose gold and steel, and 120 (including my loaner watch) in steel.

Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition - tabletop
The watch looks right at home reclining on a brown alligator-leather tabletop at the Mansion at Churchill Downs.

The Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition boasts possibly the most “equestrian” aesthetic of any men’s watch in Longines’s collection: the dial is a rich brown color that Longines says was chosen to match the shades of American Pharoah’s coat. It also makes a fine monochromatic match to the brown alligator leather strap. The other special touches are suitably, and cleverly, subtle: The moon-phase disk at 6 o’clock features a nontraditional moon graphic with the tiny image of a jockey on his mount. The numeral “3” at 3 o’clock — the only hour marked by an Arabic numeral — is a shout-out to the Triple Crown. And the numeral “12” on the date track is emphasized in a different color, a reference to American Pharoah being the 12th horse to claim thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious prize.

Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition - Churchill Downs scoreboard
Touring the famous Churchill Downs paddock and counting down to the next race in front of the giant scoreboard
Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition - horse bkgd
Longines’s equestrian DNA is on full display in this limited edition; note the tiny horse-and-rider icon on the moon-phase disk.

As with its predecessor, this watch calls itself a “moon-phase,” but it actually offers much more than that in the way of complications. There is a chronograph, with a central sweep seconds hand and subdials at 12 o’clock (30-minute counter) and 6 o’clock (12-hour counter); a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock, paired with a 24-hour indicator; the day and month in two parallel windows inside the 12 o’clock subdial; and a pointer date function equipped with a moon-shaped central hand. (At times, the dial can look almost too busy — upon first placing it on my wrist, I had to stare at it for several seconds before I could confirm the presence of the running seconds — but never lacks for overall sporty elegance.) All of these functions are powered by the automatic Caliber L678, a modified ETA Valjoux 7751, which offers a 48-hour power reserve.

Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition w/ Woodford Reserve Mint Julep
The official watch of the Kentucky Derby meets the official bourbon: The Longines Triple Crown Limited Edition with Woodford Reserve’s $2,500 mint julep in a collectible gold cup.

Like the dial, the sapphire caseback of this Limited Edition timepiece is enhanced with visual flourishes that mark it as rare and special, namely the etched image of the official Triple Crown logo, along with the limited-edition number. The strap, which is perhaps thinner and more understated than one would expect to accompany a 42-mm case, fastens securely with a steel triple-folding clasp with push-button opening mechanism (which you may appreciate when you’re punching the air while cheering your horse to victory).

Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition - back
The watch’s caseback shows off the automatic movement and features a Triple Crown logo.

 

The Preakness Stakes runs later today, so it remains to be seen if Nyquist, this year’s Derby winner, can duplicate American Pharoah’s historic feat and take all three jewels of the 2016 Triple Crown. But if you’re looking for a souvenir of last year’s horse racing milestone, and one that also happens to be a very handsome timepiece with true horological and equestrian pedigree, you can own the Longines Conquest Classic Triple Crown Limited Edition for $4,200 in stainless steel, $4,600 in steel and gold, or (if you just hit the long-shot trifecta) $13,500 in 18k rose gold.

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