With the launch of a new C3 Grand Tourer resplendent in British Racing Green, we delve into the history of this iconic automotive shade.
Sport can evoke emotions like little else. But when it comes to the high-octane world of motorsport, these shift up into a wholly different gear. There’s the sheer adrenalin of it all: man and machine, hurtling around corners, defying death and physics in one relentlessly exciting cocktail of speed and bravery. Yet even in the earliest days of motor racing – a time before official circuits had been built, and where cars could hit speeds approaching 80 miles per hour – there was a practical consideration: cars needed to be discernible from one another at speed.
The first use of international racing colours can be traced back to 1900 in France, when the first Gordon Bennett Cup was held between Paris and Lyons. A competition established by James Gordon Bennett Jnr, the millionaire owner of the New York Herald newspaper, multiple countries were invited to take part – each of whom required their own distinctive colour. Some found inspiration in historically linked hues – France chose blue, for example – but in the case of United Kingdom, the circumstances that led to the adoption of the now-iconic British Racing Green are slightly more fortuitous.
When Great Britain won the 1902 Gordon Bennett Cup courtesy of one Selwyn Edge, its reward was the responsibility of hosting the next year’s event. Yet there was a small problem: motor racing was banned in Great Britain, thanks to a nationwide speed limit of just 12 miles per hour. Fortunately, Ireland, a country with no such restrictions, was still part of the wider United Kingdom at the time, and so the 1903 race was announced to take place on the roads of County Kildare instead. With the three colours of the Union Jack – red, white and blue – already reserved by the likes of America, Germany and France, the GB team decided to mark their thanks to their Irish hosts by selecting shamrock green, synonymous with the Emerald Isle, as their livery. Yes, you did read that correctly – a colour now indelibly linked to British motorsport stemmed from a courteous tribute to its neighbour across the Irish Sea!
Thus far, a colour had been chosen to represent Great Britain; but the particular hue had not. Fast-forward to the 1920s and ‘30s, and shamrock green was joined by a darker shade (also known as Brunswick, moss or forest green); this adorned the Bentley Blowers taking part in Le Mans, along with vehicles taking part in other early Grand Prix events. Another two decades later, and this rich shade had found its way onto some truly iconic models in automotive history: think the Jaguar D-Type and Aston Martin DBR1 (one of which would become the most expensive British car in history at auction in 2017). For anybody still harbouring doubts about the enduring cool of British Racing Green, just know that Steve McQueen had his white Jaguar XKSS repainted green, while 007’s on-screen Bentley Blower in ‘From Russia With Love’ shares the very same hue (although Q branch’s idea of in-built telephone would never catch on!).
In the modern era, the legacy of British Racing Green remains as powerful as ever. It was reintroduced as the colour of the Jaguar F1 team early in the millennium, while 2001 would see the return of a Bentley bearing those famous colours to Le Mans. Due to its popularity, many car manufacturers now offer BRG as a paint choice (our partners at Morgan Motor Company included), its luxurious shade alluding to over a century’s worth of automotive history. This sense of prestige also made it the perfect addition to the C3 Grand Tourer range.
Watches and cars share a lot in common of course: both are pieces of engineering reliant upon performance and accuracy. The inclusion of British Racing Green in the C3 Grand Tourer family is a natural combination, the latter drawing influence from the dashboards of cars being driven when Racing Green was enjoying its original 20th century heyday. It permeates down to details such as its 30-minute subdial, where a highlighted red section mimics a speedometer, while the pushers on its side are shaped like engine pistons. Powered by a Swiss-made quartz chronograph movement, the C3 Grand Tourer isn’t just a blend of dress watch and sporty stylings; with the inclusion of British Racing Green colours, it’s a proud tribute to Britain’s enduring heritage on the automotive stage.
The C3 Grand Tourer is available to buy today.