Well here’s something you don’t find every day: a 55-year-old watch with its original boxes and papers! But that’s the case with this classic gold-capped vintage 1961 Omega Constellation that I’m offering this month. Not only is it in truly Excellent and unmolested vintage condition with no signs of polish, an all-original non-luminous crosshair dial and its original plated Beads of Rice bracelet but it’s also accompanied by its original double box-set and matching guarantee papers. And that turns an already cool vintage watch into collector grade just like that.
Under the hood is the fantastic Omega automatic caliber 561, arguably part of the best family of mass-produced movements in the history of horology. It features 24-jewels, a semi-quickset date function and has 5 positional adjustments and one for temperature. This fine tuning enabled the 561 to pass its time-keeping tests with flying colors and that’s why it was such a successful movement for Omega’s flagship line, the always Chronometer-rated Constellation.
Take affordability, elegance and mechanical precision along with classic early-60s Gerald Genta-designed vintage style and add then hard to find pieces of original provenance and you’ve got a special package for the discerning collector. That this Connie has survived for so long in such great original condition and still is paired with its factory packaging and paperwork is nothing short of magical. At least that’s the way I look at these sort of wonderful vintage watch finds. And if you’re reading this I bet you do, too.
Rosberg edges out Ricciardo for victory in Singapore, reclaims Championship lead; Hamilton only good for enough P3
Nico Rosberg continued his run of fine form and drove a flawless race from pole to claim victory at the beautifully lit Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore on Sunday evening, holding off the surging Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo by just half a second as the checkered flag flew. While the Mercedes driver dominated for most of the day the pace of Riccardo in the closing stages of the race forced Rosberg to forego a final pit stop and nurse his older tires to the end, which accounted for much of Ricciardo’s late-race gains. Regardless, Rosberg has now won three races in a row after the summer break, regaining his previously stalled momentum and recapturing the Championship points lead. With his victory, Rosberg vaulted past his teammate and archrival Lewis Hamilton and now leads the chase for the title by 8 points with only 6 Grand Prix remaining.
Rosberg’s win capped a frustrating weekend for Hamilton. Not only did he see his points lead evaporate but he could never really overcome his disappointing qualifying effort after technical issues in Friday practice. In the end Hamilton couldn’t make any real headway against Ricciardo but held off the competitive Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and finished where he started, P3, flummoxed by his inability to wring any more speed from his usually nonpareil WO7 chassis, as well as persistent brake overheating issues. After winning 6 of 7 contests before the break, Hamilton has now lost that superb momentum through a combination of technical issues, misfortune and his own mistakes, particularly his poor start at Monza two weeks ago. Now that fortune seems to have returned its favor to his teammate in this back-and-forth season, it is now up to Hamilton to somehow try to wrestle back the lead from Rosberg. With Hamilton seeking his fourth title and Rosberg still hunting his first both drivers will be amply motivated for the closing contests. Whoever takes the crown will certainly have earned it and so evenly matched are the Silver Arrows teammates in their supreme cars that it may come down to a simple stroke of luck for one or the other.
For Ricciardo and Red Bull it was very good race that saw their always aero-efficient chassis excel on the tight and twisty Marina Bay street circuit. Riccardo drove beautifully and even made Mercedes nervous with his closing pace. His eventual P2 helped the team stay 15 points clear of Ferrari in the all-important Constructor’s standings. His teammate Max Verstappen was not as successful, once again struggling to get away from the line, where he started from P4, and getting somewhat caught up in a big shunt by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg as the race got underway. The wunderkind had to battle back all race long with the likes of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and eventually finished a decent but somewhat underwhelming P6. The Dutch phenom has now struggled to some degree in the last three races as the reality of just how difficult attaining consistent success in F1 sinks in. But to his credit he kept it out of the wall and raced cleanly despite his frustrations so that bodes well for his maturity going forward.
The two Ferrari’s split the Red Bulls with Raikkonen driving well to take P4 just a little over 2 seconds behind Hamilton, although he might have been even closer to a podium if the Scuderia hadn’t opted for a late tire change, and Sebastian Vettel making a brilliant run from all the way in the back of the field to capture P5. It was an astonishing drive for Vettel on a track where passing is notoriously difficult, as he used smart tire strategy, patience and opportunistic overtaking to overcome mechanical problems that doomed his qualifying and show once again how good the 4-time world champ can be when he has the bit between his teeth. Fernando Alonso also drove extremely well bringing his McLaren home an impressive P7, while Sergio Perez carried the flag for Force India after his teammate Hulkenberg’s first lap crash out to take a valuable P8. Daniil Kvyat rediscovered some of his 2015 form at his favorite venue and drove an excellent race, coming home with much needed points for Toro Rosso in P9, the team’s first score in 4 races. It was a pivotal confidence boost for the much-maligned Russian whose F1 future appears very much up in the air. Kevin Magnusson got the last points-paying position with P10 despite starting from P15 in his Renault. With decisions about next years drivers’ line up also hanging over the Dane that was also a key result and an exemplary drive in the usually pokey Renault.
Rosberg takes pole in Singapore, Hamilton only good enough for P3; Red Bull’s Ricciardo splits the Mercedes with impressive P2
If there was a blot on Mighty Mercedes’ record during their dominant 2015 campaign it was their underwhelming performance in the Singapore Grand Prix. But this year it appears that the Silver Arrows have eliminated even that small spot of weakness, as Nico Rosberg took pole in Saturday qualifying under the dazzling lights at the Marina Bay Circuit. He set his fast time early in Q3 but his teammate and archrival, Lewis Hamilton, could never catch him. In fact, it was the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo who came closest, beating Hamilton to P2 on the grid by just under a tenth of second. With Lewis starting on Row 2 now and his newly relevant clutch-bite starting issues it could be that Rosberg may well keep his recent momentum up and recapture the championship points lead. But the tight street circuit can bite at any time and Hamilton is always a determined opponent so expect nothing less than the two Mercedes teammates duking it out for the victory in Round 15 with only 6 races left in the season after tomorrow.
Ricciardo’s Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen struggled somewhat with his tires but was still quick enough for P4. In truth this tight and windy course suits the very well balance RB12 chassis so if anyone is going to pull an upset and beat Mercedes it could well be one of the Red Bulls. My money would be on Riccardo, as Verstappen will likely struggle to keep his car out of the walls just as he seems to always do at Monaco. Kimi Raikkonen took P5 for Ferrari with a decent run but his teammate Sebastian Vettel will have to start from the back after he experienced some sort of breakage to his rear suspension in Q1. It will be extremely difficult for the German former 4-time World Champion to fight his way to the front on this sort of track and Ferrari seem doomed to have another poor points haul in the Constructors’ Championship compared to their nearest competitor, Team Red Bull, no matter how high Raikkonen places.
The two Toro Rosso’s were quite impressive and gave the team a well-needed lift after several weeks of poor results, with Carlos Sainz fast enough for P6 and Daniil Kvyat showing shades of his 2015 form in P7. Force India also did well, with Nico Hulkenberg fast enough for P8 and Sergio Perez P10 [Perez was later slapped with an 8-spot grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently under a double-yellow brought out by a shunt by Haas’ Romain Grosjean’s in Q2] , while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso split them with a P9 after teammate Jenson Button clipped the wall in Q2 and failed to advance.
Hamilton stumbles at start, Rosberg pounces; Vettel soothes Ferrari pride with P3 at Monza
As closely matched as the two Mercedes teammates and archrivals are this year, it only takes a small error for one to emerge victorious over the other. So it was on Sunday in Italy when Lewis Hamilton fumbled his Monza pole start in a style reminiscent of his early season clutch-bite problems, allowing himself to be swallowed up by the front part of the field. In an instant the championship points leader had fallen back to P6, a nightmare for the Englishman but a dream come true for Mercedes’ teammate Nico Rosberg. Unlike Hamilton, Rosberg made the perfect getaway and was able to fight off the two pursuing Ferraris on the opening lap, immediately pulling out a gap on the Prancing Horses and the rest of the field that he would never truly relinquish. In the end, Rosberg drove a perfect race and sailed to victory by a whopping 15 seconds, his first-ever victory at historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza, on a day when everything broke his way. That made it his second victory in a row after last week’s promenade at Spa and gave the German contender renewed momentum is his desperate quest for his first F1 title. After ceding the points lead during Hamilton’s remarkable July onslaught, Rosberg has won the first two tilts after the summer break to cut the deficit to a mere 2 points with 7 Grand Prix remaining. In this back-and-forth season, the pendulum of luck appears to have swung back his way yet again.
After his remarkable back-of the-pack to P3 finish last week at Spa, Hamilton could have been forgiven for thinking that he had all the luck firmly on his side, as well as perhaps fatally damaging Rosberg’s confidence with that miracle run in Belgium. But with one pivotal moment of wheel spin as the lights went out, he conceded all that momentum back to his closest competitor in a season when, once again, Mercedes are the class of the field by far. Despite Hamilton’s bobble the team stuck with their 1-stop tire strategy for him, enabling Hamilton to jump the Ferraris and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and come home a well-deserved P2, at least minimizing the self-inflicted damage. Still, Hamilton had to have been rueing what might have been and the missed opportunity to keep Rosberg down. Instead it looks to be game on between these two rivals until the bitter end and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it all come down to the final contest in Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari had a classic damage-limitation day in front of their rabid home fans, the always enthusiastic tifosi. Faced with the inescapable fact that they are nowhere near as fast as the Silver Arrows especially on a high-speed circuit like Monza, the storied team from Maranello deployed a somewhat risky 2-stop tire strategy. But their drivers were able to execute it perfectly to at least keep Red Bull in their place and reestablish themselves in the battle for second place Constructors’ points. Team leader Sebastian Vettel took the last podium spot with a decent P3 while Kimi Raikkonen set a number of fast laps on his way to P4. All in all, it was realistically about as well as the Scuderia could have expected to do when faced by the outright pace of the Mercedes while competing at their notoriously speedy home track.
For Red Bull the day was a bit of a reality check, as they too saw the limits of their power plant on this brutally fast circuit. Daniel Ricciardo drove an excellent race within those limitations to take P5, while wunderkind Max Verstappen made a poor getaway and had to fight his way back into the points. In the end he was able to recover somewhat to come home P7 in a rather subdued race for the Dutch teenager a week after he received loads of criticism for his borderline reckless driving at Spa. But look for Red Bull to bounce back next week on the very tight and twisty street circuit in Singapore where their RB12 chassis should shine… if Verstappen can keep it out of the walls. Valtteri Bottas scored valuable points for Williams with a hard-fought P6 while his teammate Felipe Massa, who announced this week that he is retiring at the end of the season, came home further back in P9. The two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg finished P8 and P10 respectively, a valuable haul for the little team on a day when they made the most of what they had and kept the McLarens and Haas duo behind them and out of the points.
Italy marked the last of the European races this year. The next race is at the always exciting and visually stunning Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks time. Hope to see you then under the dazzling lights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit!
Mercedes lockout front row at Monza as Hamilton scores dominant pole, Rosberg P2; Vettel saves Ferrari’s honor with P3 in front of home crowd
The Mercedes Silver Arrows showed their true from at the ultra-fast Monza Autodromo in Italy during Saturday qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton laying down a scorching lap for pole, besting his teammate Nico Rosberg, who qualified P2, by half a second. It was Hamilton’s record-tying fifth pole at Monza, leveling him with F1 legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna. After Hamilton’s miracle P3 finish last week at Spa when he carved his way through the field after starting at the back of the pack his pole once again laid down a marker for excellence and sent a clear message of dominance to his teammate and archival. Rosberg is going to have to take the belt from the champ and Hamilton, still leading in the points, ain’t giving it up without a serious fight.
Ferrari was the best of the rest of the teams, with Sebastian Vettel grabbing P3 and bettering his hot teammate Kimi Raikkonen’s P4. The pressure is really on at Ferrari in front of their home fans and in the midst of a disappointing season but it seems unlikely that the Prancing Horses have anything for Mercedes unless the two Silver Arrows teammates once again come to blows.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes power to good use to take an impressive P5 on the grid, while the Red Bulls showed their Achilles’ heel, the lack of pure pace at a speedy track like this one, with Daniel Ricciardo only good enough for P6 and Max Verstappen at P7. No doubt, though, the always well-prepared Red Bull team will have some strategic tricks up their sleeves to try to move their men up come race day. Force India continued their recent excellent form with Sergio Perez good enough for P8 and Nico Hulkenberg taking P9. Esteban Gutierrez had an terrific P10 fast lap for first year American Team Hass on the debut of their new rear wing, a very impressive result that saw him out-qualify not only his more experienced teammate Romain Grosjean but also both McLarens and the Williams of Felipe Massa.
And speaking of those latter two teams, both Massa and McLaren’s Jenson Button announced that they would retire from F1 at the end of the 2016 season. The two veteran stalwarts will be sorely missed but a new generation will be racing to take their spots. So it goes in Formula 1 just as in life!
When the great comic actor Gene Wilder passed away on August 29th at the age of 83 due to complications from Alzheimer’s it felt just as though a favorite eccentric uncle had died. (The New York Times obituary is here.) For those of us who grew up in the late 1960s, 70s and 80s Wilder left an indelible impression. If you enjoyed funny movies in the least (and really, who doesn’t?), Wilder was one of the joys of the cinema during that period, all the more so because there was nobody before or since who quite possessed his unique blend of neurotic mania and soulful mensch-ness. Even when Wilder was portraying a character a little bit naughty, like Leo Bloom in the original The Producers, the unpredictable Willy Wonka of chocolate factory fame, a descendent of Victor Frankenstein compelled to pursue the same macabre obsessions as his infamous grandfather or a wrongly convicted con alongside his great comedy partner Richard Prior in Stir Crazy, Wilder always seemed to juxtapose a sweetness with his delightfully manic outbursts.
After studying acting at the Old Vic in England and the HB Studio in New York, the Milwaukee-born Wilder first came to wide attention with a small but impactful role in Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn’s seminal Bonnie and Clyde (1967), interrupting the film’s otherwise grim narrative with a burst of humor as a rather eager and happy hostage. But his major breakthrough came a year later in Mel Brooks’ all-time classic, the hysterically funny The Producers. As the nebbishy and neurotic Leo Bloom, Wilder was perfectly matched with the bigger-than-life, morally bankrupt has-been theater producer Max Bialystock, played to the hilt by the peerless Zero Mostel. Amidst the side-splitting opening sequence, as Bloom is abruptly initiated into Bialytsock’s crazy world when he comes to do the producer’s accounting books, it is Bloom who conceives of the idea of raising much more money than needed for a production so bad that it is doomed to close on opening night, thereby allowing the surplus cash to be kept. Bialystock runs with it, coercing Bloom to be his accomplice. They then find a fantastically wretched play called “Springtime for Hitler” and the rest is cinematic comedy history.
His next major role was as the title character in 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Though not a major hit at the time it became a cult classic with some likening it to a latter day Wizard of Oz, a film that works as both a kids’ movie and something more profound, and Wilder’s influence can be seen throughout in his unique bits of improvisation and inspiration. Johnny Depp was good in the remake but it’s hard to think of anyone other than Gene Wilder as the definitive Willy Wonka, especially when delivering his unexpectedly poignant song, “Pure Imagination.”
He was drafted again by Brooks, as a last minute replacement no less, for 1974’s screamingly funny Western satire, Blazing Saddles. Against type, Wilder played a laconic gunman with a drinking problem given renewed purpose by his fast friendship with the town’s besieged new black sheriff, played by Clevon Little. As if that wasn’t enough comedy gold, that same year Brooks and Wilder collaborated on the brilliant Young Frankenstein, a masterpiece that was Wilder’s concept and that he co-wrote. Filmed in beautiful black and white as an elaborate sendup of 1930s Universal-style horror, Young Frankenstein became a classic in its own right with an unparalleled ensemble cast — including Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars and newcomers Marty Feldman and Peter Boyle — and pitch perfect direction and screenplay. It stands as one of the great collaborative movies of all time and is arguably both Brooks and Wilder’s best work.
1976 saw a magical bit of good casting as Wilder was paired with Richard Pryor for the first time in Silver Streak. Alongside the wonderful Jill Clayburgh in this very good, very funny comedy-thriller about murder and mayhem aboard an LA-to-Chicago train, the two men made cinema history as the first bi-racial comedy duo and audiences loved their unlikely, yin-yang chemistry. As a result, Wilder and Pryor would make three more films together, 1980’s excellent prison comedy Stir Crazy(directed by Sidney Poitier!), the underrated See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and finally Another You in 1991 when Pryor was already greatly diminished by multiple sclerosis.
Wilder found another impactful partnership when he met Gilda Radner on the set of 1981’s Hanky Panky. The two became comedy royalty when they married in 1984. But the relationship ended tragically when Radner passed away in 1989, a victim of ovarian cancer. This loss inspired Wilder to establish an early detection center in Los Angeles, as well as co-founding Gilda’s Club in New York City, a non-profit support group for cancer patients and their families that now has branches throughout the United States (where it is now known as the Cancer Support Community) and Canada. Wilder found love again when he met Karen Webb while working on See No Evil and they married in 1991. They remained together until his death, a much longer if less romanticized relationship than his union with Gilda Radner, so spare a thought for Ms. Webb at this sad time as well.
Though Gene Wilder had largely retired from acting since the early 1990s, instead concentrating on writing, the importance of his best work grew over the years as his special films became part of the greater pop cultural and comedy firmament. That makes it extra difficult to lose such an original actor who got the laughs because he played his characters so truthfully, one who was always so audaciously alive and vibrant on screen. For those of us who grew up with his movies it feels as if we’ve lost a very funny older friend, one we could turn to for a guaranteed laugh no matter how the world was treating us. But we must also remember that Gene Wilder lived a wonderfully full life, was a truly good man and left a massively joyful contribution to the world that survives him via his films. And if we’re being just a little sentimental, it’s not hard to imagine Gene reunited with Richard and Gilda and Marty and Peter and Kenny and Madeline someplace special, cutting up with them all again, his explosive, utterly contagious laugh ringing out through the ether in the company of fine old friends.