Longines...that's French for "luxury", right?
If you're in the market for a Swiss timepiece (as opposed to what the rest of us wear on our wrists, called simply a "wristwatch:"), yes, the name Longines is synonymous with a luxury purchase.
And if you are a fan of horse racing or equestrian sports on television, you've noticed the advertisements, all cast in a dreamy blue glow, and you now know the word "Longines" is connected to luxury even if you have never held one to your wrist--or figured out that those beautiful ads had anything to with timekeeping.
[VIDEOSINGLE type="youtube" keyid="qLECLjKQ8Kw", width="560", height="344"]
This weekend, Longines notched the luxury level up again. It was the most elegant weekend of the year for French horse sport, the running of the Prix de Dianes at Chantilly outside Paris on Sunday. The weekend is traditionally a super-sophisticated "ladies" event.
Imagine Kentucky Oaks day with the women -- all of them -- dressed by couture designers.
If you connect England's Royal Ascot Ladies' Day with fashion, you might think the French are out to one-up the Brits. And they do it effortlessly on Prix de Diane day. Just watch:
[VIDEOSINGLE type="youtube" keyid="KotXSoBobCc", width="560", height="344"]
But it wasn't all about fashion this year. First, it was the grand opening of the magnificent Museum of the Horse in what was once the grandiose stables on the racecourse at Chantilly, thanks to the largesse of the gentile patron of international horse racing, the Aga Khan, shown on CNN this weekend giving Francesca Cumani a personal tour of the building that once housed 250 royal French horses and hundreds of hounds:
[VIDEOSINGLE type="youtube" keyid="6z_IhnXPawQ", width="560", height="344"]
Amidst it all, Longines unveiled its new awards for women in the horse industry. They brought along Australian actor Simon Baker, star of The Mentalist, and a favorite chick-flick of mine, The Devil Wears Prada.
The awards were presented to racehorse owner Princess Zahra Aga Khan, showjumper/heiress Athina Onassis de Miranda?and French model/actress/promoter of horses and famous jockey's wife, Sophie Thalmann.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan received an award for her commitment to horsebreeding.?Athina Onassis de Miranda?received an award for her contribution to the development of equestrian sports in?Latin America, in particular through the Athina Onassis Horse Show, held each October in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.?Sophie Thalmann received an award for promoting the equestrian world through arts and media.
The memory of Simon Baker in The Devil Wears Prada sent me to YouTube looking for a special scene from that movie. Meryl Streep explains why a blue sweater is not just a blue sweater, which speaks volumes about why all of us should stop what we're doing to pay attention to Longines or Chantilly or any of this luxury business.
If you are wondering what a fashion weekend in the Parisian countryside has to do with The Jurga Report or you and your horses, there's no better explanation that this scene from that movie:
[VIDEOSINGLE type="youtube" keyid="1LVptO7o4L8", width="560", height="344"]
Keeping that blue sweater analogy in mind, prepare yourself, because Royal Ascot opens tomorrow in England and on the program will be the feature race, the Queen Anne Stakes. Amidst the carriages and the morning coats and the top hats and the fascinators will be a horse we have all come to know and love: 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
He has come back from two leg fractures. This will be the third continent on which he has raced -- he has won in both the USA and Dubai. And when it is over, he will head to a fourth, Australia, where he will stand at stud.
Superstar Frankel ran at Royal Ascot last year, and won the same race. This year, our beloved American horse and an American jockey, Johnny Velasquez, will test the royal grass by racing past the Queen Herself.
The whole world will be watching -- some on television, but a huge audience will find a legitimate (or not) livestream for their phones and tablets and laptops. The rest will watch it on YouTube when it's over.
[VIDEOSINGLE type="youtube" keyid="NVmXfKoKuew", width="560", height="344"]
You can be sure that everyone in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot will look perfect. Longines will be there to make sure it happens on time. At some point, the dreamy blueness of the Longines commercials and the reality of Ascot on opening day may blur into one tableau of everything traditional, beautiful and yet exhilaratingly suspenseful.
The word "horse" will appear in newspapers around the world in the middle of the week. Animal Kingdom will either break hearts or become an instant legend.
And you think this has nothing to do with you?
Give yourself the luxury of watching a horse race for all time on a Tuesday morning. Clean your fingernails. Wear clean jeans. Comb your hair. You don't need a Longines on your wrist or a dress code primer to be part of it all, because you already are.