“It’s nice to have been a champion. I think I still want to be a champion at whatever I do — and that’s still a challenge.”
The most important thing I learned as a Grand Prix driver was mind management. I found out that if I removed emotion, I was going to be less likely to do the wrong thing. That allowed me to concentrate precisely on what I wanted to do. I won most of my races in the first five laps generally, because the other guys were too wound up, too nervous, too focused. So, when I got into the cockpit of the car, I had no emotion. And that was especially important in Monaco, a Formula 1 Grand Prix which I won three times.
The Rolex Daytona I am wearing was given to me in the late sixties in Monaco for winning one of the legendary races. I’ve kept it all those years and still wear it a lot. It’s just a classic watch that reminds me of the old times and the most glamorous, most colorful, most exciting Grand Prix of the whole season.
Everyone came to Monaco for the Grand Prix; the movie stars came, the Beatles, Steve McQueen, Peter Ustinov and Bette Davis, Sean Connery came with me one year. It epitomized what Formula 1 was, what Grand Prix racing was. Just to win Monaco was something special. And in those days everybody was elegant. There was always a party at the palace on Saturday night hosted by Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. It was a dream to sit beside and get to speak to Princess Grace. Monte Carlo has heritage — and my watch very much embodies all of that.
Today, almost 50 years later, the watch reminds me that I was good enough and fast enough to win it. It’s something that you have for the rest of your life, something that you hand down to your family. My sons both got Rolex watches that belonged to me and now my grandchildren are getting them. When I first joined Rolex as a Testimonee, the advertising on the newspapers and magazines was, “If you were speaking here tomorrow, you’d wear a Rolex” – and there was a picture of the United Nations. I thought that was a great statement. When I’d wear my watch, I felt as if I was moving up in life.
It’s nice to have been a champion. I think I still want to be a champion at whatever I do — and that’s still a challenge. When I look at my watch today, I see all of that. I see the first entry into having something of real quality. And I see something I got because I’d earned it. It still means as much to me today as it did when I was given it all those years ago in Monaco.