How a farmer from Scotland made a watch company famous

Anthony Peacock
01 Aug , 2022

There’s a gentle pace of life in the town of Duns, located in the Scottish Borders, which is surrounded by fields of sheep, watched over by generations of farming families. But one of those farmers went on to achieve lasting fame in the world of motorsport – and subsequently, the world of watches. The watch we’re talking about is of course the 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?

Jim Clark

Jim Clark - Image credit Bernard Cahier Getty Images. 

Clark was photographed wearing several watches over the years – notably a Gallet MultiChron as well as Breitling Navitimer – but it’s probably the Enicar 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.

Despite the sound of the name, Enicar had 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.

Enicar Sherpa Graph

The Enicar Sherpa Graph - Image credit WatchCollecting

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.

In short, pretty much everything about the Sherpa Graph is desirable, from the intangible heritage to the very tangible (and beautifully detailed) caseback and crown, not to mention the distinctive Enicar logo.

Inspiration

In terms of landmark motorsport watches, the Sherpa Graph is iconic. And people have definitely woken up to that fact, with prices at auction now on an inevitable upwards curve. 

The Enicar Sherpa Graph

The Enicar Sherpa Graph - Image credit: WatchCollecting

For a long time, this was a watch that found itself in the relative doldrums, but the classical motifs and heritage have now been recognised to a point that the Sherpa Graph has almost become a template for the archetypal motorsport watch – even though its origins (as the name suggests) come from mountain climbing. What’s most inspiring about it is the whole classical vibe to the design, which comes together in a way that’s incredibly satisfying: especially when paired with a colourful rally (or NATO) strap. 

There are plenty of watches that look like it, but none other that capture the holistic Enicar design language that places it firmly in the 1960s. For a brand that only die-hard fans have heard of, this watch has had an incredibly profound effect, setting the standard for so many more to follow. The Enicar Sherpa Graph was a game changer – just take a look at it to see why.

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