I was talking with a watch-obsessed coworker the other day about the Patek Philippe Supercomplication, a pocket watch made in 1933 with 24 "complications"—functions—and 900 parts to make it all work.
The last time the 453-gram (1 lb.), 18 karat gold timekeeping device sold, it went for roundabout $11 million USD.
Yes, spend money on what you want. Yes, buy yourselves expensive watches, boats, cars, shirts, or artisan chocolate-covered yellow plums.
But watches are, generally, stupid. They simply don't jive with my Canadian modesty; if you go with a high-end brand it's just about the most complicated and pricey thing you can strap to your body.
And then what? You look at your wrist?
"Huh, it's 5:30."
To put decades of mechanical engineering and craftsmanship into ever-smaller and ever-more-complicated packaging so that you're able to do something as asinine as telling the time…well, it's just a waste, isn't it?
Why aren't watchmakers out building spaceships or Formula 1 cars if they're such craftsmen…?
What does any of this have to do with today's car, the Audi Quartz by Pininfarina? Mainly, nothing, but it got me thinking about quartz watches and how they quickly turned the magic and expense of telling the time into something routine and affordable.
The Audi Ur-Quattro did the same thing for cars.
It turned the magic of car control in slippery conditions into something routine. It set us on a road of ever more compact and affordable all-wheel-drive systems, to the point now that you are able to get them on just about any type of vehicle.
Technology like quartz watches and quattro allows us mastery of our environment.
Maybe that's why the Audi Quartz is really an Ur-Quattro in drag…mastery of the environment and all that…
What we know for certain is that Sergio Pininfarina wanted to gift a car to the Swiss magazine Automobil Revue (the same publication that collaborated with Pininfarina on the Sigma Formula 1 concept) on their 75th anniversary.
After receiving a body-less Ur-Quattro from Audi, Pininfarina set to work on more aerodynamic and contemporary bodywork.
Notable mainly because of its air management, the front bumper opening was much smaller than a standard car, with the gap between the car's upper and lower bodywork providing sufficient cooling to the engine.
Shorter by 30 cm (11.3 in.), mostly by cutting down front and rear overhang, the car's more compact dimensions helped the concept shed 90 kg (200 lbs.) over the production Ur-Quattro.
Inside, the overall interior theme is best described as a mix between Honda Type-R (red carpet, sporty details, bolstered seats) meets 1080° Snowboarding (the materials chosen to cover everything look like they were taken from a ski resort.)
A shorter, lighter, more aerodynamic Ur-Quattro? Absolutely. That's probably why Audi bought the fully-functional car (and why the Audi S2 so resembles the Quartz in certain respects.)
Automobil Revue did instrumented tests on the concept in 1986—the car hit 217 km/h (134 mph) flat out and 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 7.1 seconds.
Now in the Audi Museum, the Quartz represents one of the best Audi concepts ever made, despite it being an outside project that developed with little input from the automaker.