The Enicar Sherpa Graph has become a hot commodity!
Here’s yet another gem that recently passed through the hands of www.watchcollecting.com: one of the most addictive websites out there in terms of the sheer variety and desirability of watches up for auction. It’s a (circa) 1965 Enicar Sherpa Graph, also known as the ‘Jim Clark’ chronograph.
Motorsport fans need no introduction to Clark, as he’s quite simply racing royalty. A two-time Formula 1 world champion in 1963 and 1965, this quiet farmer from the Scottish borders was the Ayrton Senna of his age – and he met a similar tragic end, at a banal Formula 2 race in Germany in 1968. He won 25 races, and had his life not been cut short by a tree at the age of just 32, who knows what else he would have gone on to achieve?
Clark was photographed wearing several watches over the years – notably a Gallet MultiChron as well as Breitling Navitimer – but it’s probably the Sherpa Graph he’s most closely associated with. Back then, big commercial deals between drivers and watch brands were only in their infancy (started off by Jack Heuer) so drivers tended to wear watches just because they liked them, not because they were being paid to do so. Clark probably wore a Sherpa Graph because Sir Stirling Moss – the template for all British drivers at the time – wore one too, but we’ll never know.
What we do know is the Sherpa Graph is becoming increasingly collectable – and it’s easy to see why.
In fact, in the interests of full disclosure, I was one of the unsuccessful bidders on this watch offered for auction by watchcollecting.com. Another time…
Despite the sound of the name, Enicar was actually nothing to do with cars. Instead, it was simply the surname of the Swiss founder Aristide Racine spelt backwards. As for ‘Sherpa’ Graph, that was inspired by the courageous Himalayan locals assisting the climbers in a 1956 Swiss expedition to Everest, who relied on their Enicar watches. ‘Sherpa’ has yet another automotive connection as it was also the name of a British Leyland van from the 1970s, but the less said about that, the better.
These were watches that were painstakingly built to do a job in extreme conditions, and the Jim Clark chronograph is no exception. There weren’t the same sophisticated automatic timing systems that you see in modern Formula 1 back then, so the motorsport scene relied on chronographs. Enicar’s quality was second to none – with a tried-and-trusted Valjoux 72 movement, also used by Rolex at the time – beating inside this particular watch.
There are all sorts of other wonderful touches to it, such as the traditional pushers being replaced by stout buttons (easier to operate with a gloved hand) and that bright red ‘lollipop’ chronograph hand, which is the defining feature of this watch. It’s 40 millimetres (somewhat bigger than most of its contemporaries) which makes it particularly easy to read – even at Formula 1 speed. It also means that the carefully crafted chronograph subdials are a lot more legible. There are lots more fascinating little details if you look harder: especially as this particular one is a rare ‘transitional’ model between the MkII and MkIII Sherpa Graphs.
In short, pretty much everything about this stainless steel watch is desirable, from the intangible heritage to the very tangible (and beautifully detailed) caseback and crown, not to mention the distinctive Enicar logo. And that’s why there was such ferocious interest in this watch online, with 31 bids. Perhaps the most compelling thing about it is the gorgeous patina; it’s definitely been well-loved. One of my impossible dreams in the world of watches would always be to make them talk, as this one could undoubtedly tell a few stories.
It ended up going for £,4500: sadly over my bidding budget (first rule of bidding at auction: set yourself a budget before the start of the auction and stick to it, no matter what). But like all rules, it's there to be broken. As time goes on, it would be no surprise to discover that this price actually turned out to be a wise investment for someone.
In terms of landmark motorsport watches, the ‘Jim Clark’ Enicar is iconic. And people have definitely woken up to that fact. Check it out for yourself here.