The interview

Live life to the fullest, with no regrets. This is the driving force for Jürgen Clauss, a passionate collector who meticulously restores French ‘berlinettes’ at his garage in southern Germany.

Inspired by Jürgen Clauss’s story, the Depancel team contacted him in 2020 to propose co-creating a watch that embodies his passion for car racing and beautiful mechanics.

The result is an inspiring collaboration and a watch designed for those who pave their own way, available soon in a limited quantity of only 300 pieces.

Depancel : Hi Jürgen, we’re thrilled to be talking with you just a few days before we release the Depancel x Jürgen Clauss Project! Please introduce yourself to the community.

Jürgen : Hello everyone! My name is Jürgen Clauss. I live in southwestern Germany, near Stuttgart. I run a small company that manufactures microengineered components for the automotive industry. My passion is restoring French berlinettes.

I was 15 years old the first time I saw one. At the time, I was planning for a cycling career and as I was riding my bike, I started regularly coming across these incredible blue sports cars. They fascinated me and I started thinking that I’d been born to own one.

Depancel : What was your first berlinette?

Jürgen : I bought my first berlinette in 1985. It was a 1300 VC. I didn’t know anything about this car, or cars in general, for that matter. I learned the technical skills I needed while restoring my car. Once it was restored, I kept it for more than 20 years. Then I started my company and my family and I didn’t have as much time to devote to this passion. I sold the car in 2000.  

Not long after, I realized that my life was missing something. I happened to meet a Swiss collector who also loved these blue racing cars and I got bitten by the bug again! I started searching for rare 1300 and 1600 S versions. That’s when I really got into restoration. My goal was to restore these cars to the exact state they’d been in when they left the factory, down to the very last detail using only original parts.

Of course, I love cars in general—I also have a Porsche—but my heart beats for these French beauties. It’s really a love story, with some hate at times. But that’s what makes my work even more special. It’s not always easy to keep these racing cars running and you have to take advantage of every second behind the wheel.

Depancel : Give us some more details on the restoration process. How does it work exactly?

Restoring a berlinette is a real challenge! There are very few books on the topic and tons of details you need to know to successfully restore one. You have no choice other than to learn everything yourself by looking at photos from the time period and getting to know other aficionados who already have experience in the matter.

That’s how I’ve improved my knowledge over the years, always focusing on the idea of taking the car back to how it was when it left the factory. Seeing how much they’ve been modified and customized has always bothered me. They’re so beautiful as they were designed, so I can’t see any reason to rework them. And I think all classic car lovers would agree!

Depancel : What was your objective when you created AlpineLab?

I started AlpineLab to share my passion and all the little details that make berlinettes beautiful, especially the racing versions. It’s not a commercial site, just a community where I can talk with other people who love these legendary French cars.

Depancel : What inspires you about watchmaking?

I really like watchmaking because it’s a craft that requires lots of patience and precision, two things that are essential in my job machining metal parts and in restoring cars. In watchmaking, everything is in the details and that’s also what I like about cars.

The first watch I bought myself 25 years ago was a Porsche Design Eterna, a watch that perfectly embodied the connection between watchmaking and cars. I still have it today!

Depancel : How did the collaboration with Depancel come about?

I got an email one morning from Clément, Depancel’s founder, inviting me to collaborate with him to create a limited edition watch. I was really surprised and super motivated, especially because I really like watches that have a strong connection to the world of cars.

For me, the design was clearly the most important because I love beautiful things. To create this limited edition, we worked to integrate elements and details that echo my cars: the blue dial, the black PVD case, and the month counter’s sporty white bands that are a nod to the famous Tour de Corse’s paint job.

I approved the team’s final design and I’m really happy with the result!