Before Carroll Hall Shelby achieved fame as a team manager and manufacturer, he first gained iconic status as one of the most celebrated American race drivers of the 1950s. Sixteen U.S. and international speed records fell to him in 1954. Sports Illustrated named him Driver of the Year in 1956, and again in 1957. In the 1959 season, Shelby reached the pinnacle of motor sport, racing to victory for Aston Martin at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
What Shelby couldn’t outrun was a health issue that followed him since childhood. A heart condition was taking its toll, and in February 1960 — at the age of 37 — he was diagnosed with angina pectoralis. After deciding to end his racing career at the end of the 1960 season, Shelby began thinking about what his next challenge would be, outside the cockpit. He found it in a quest to change the definition of the American sports car.
For years, Shelby quietly nurtured the idea that a faster, lighter and more nimble car would not only outperform European competitors, but offer build costs low enough to make it affordable to a wider audience. With funds from a new driving school in the California desert, Shelby first imported the British AC, eventually fitting a 289 cubic inch Ford V8 together with handling improvements. Yet this was only the foundation for his ultimate aim: an all-American street and track car. Its name appeared to Shelby one night in a dream, and he roused long enough to scribble it on a bedside notepad. When he awoke the next morning, he saw the name and knew it was right. Cobra.
As the driving force behind our collection, Baume & Mercier is proud to celebrate all facets of Carroll Shelby’s achievements, including his vision and entrepreneurship. Founded as a family business in 1830, Baume & Mercier’s reputation for exceptional design, lasting performance and cutting-edge innovation is a mirror to Shelby’s own ethos. The brand has also been recognized with ten Grand Prix watchmaking awards, and seven gold medals at international exhibitions. This includes the famous Kew Observatory precision record of 1892, awarded to a Baume & Mercier watch so accurate that it was unmatched for a decade.