We are happy to present another exclusive and inspiring interview by Helene Clabecq. This time we meet Jean Bernard, Founder and President of Bentley Club Monaco.
The Bentley Club Monaco, founded in 2018, is an association of members who are passionate about… you guessed it, the imperial Bentley vehicles.
Before launching those get-together and collecting the british luxurious cars, Jean Bernard was a “collector of collections”.
Helene Clabecq: What type of collector are you?
Jean Bernard: I am a collector at heart, I collect passions: fine art, paintings, sculptures… I also married into it: my wife was once the muse of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.
I am not only interested in art for the sake of art – I love the art de vivre that comes along with it, and cars are an extension of that… Bentleys in particular, suit my tastes. I also collect less cumbersome items like cufflinks.
HC: What do you think sets the automobile industry apart?
JB: We, humans, all come naked to this earth, amongst minerals, wood…
And somewhat, we have created machineries that could eventually drive, and attain amazing performances. That is fascinating. I see this type of machinery taking the next level and getting us to the moon in the near future; I will volunteer for it!
Whatever extraordinary advancements come up, the great thing with automobiles is that we can all be in contact with them directly or indirectly, as opposed to, for instance, satellites.
HC: How was your dream of collecting Bentley cars born?
JB: I believe l big passions start in childhood. I have always been attracted to cars, like lots of boys.
I have these clear memories of the cap d’Antibe as a kid, watching cars floating and dancing on the road, that left a print in my kid’s mind. I held on to this memory and told myself I would reach my childhood’s dream when I would grow up.
That is why I talk about a way of life.
Some of us follow our dreams, it is not necessarily a matter of wealth: you put yourself in a certain position, an attitude. When it comes to Bentleys, the brand aligns with my mindset. It merges the performance of the cars with luxury aesthetics.
What emotions do you associate with cars?
To me, cars have always represented freedom in essence: as a teen, with your first drivers license you can go places, it sets you free from your parents, you are able to take your first girlfriend out on a weekend trip, and then the next one… The roads open to you!
I am not sure if that still is the case for the new generation. Cars are associated with the burdens of cost, parking, speeding tickets…
Owning cars has gradually been replaced by apps : a driver you order in minutes is able to take you places, you do not have to worry about anything. That will certainly continue in the future with self-driving cars.
Why create the Bentley Club of Monaco?
Good things are only as good as they can be shared.
Life brought me and my family back from Miami to the French Riviera, after spending exciting years, along with, among other things, the creation of Art Basel.
I got confronted with reality. On a practical side, I had to figure out how to register imported cars, maintain them, find a dealership able to provide service and restoration for classic cars, etc. I eventually looked for the assistance of local car clubs. There was no such thing locally for Bentleys. So in the very spirit of WO Bentley himself ” if it doesn’t exist, I decided to create it”. 3 years later the Bentley Club gathered 350 members just in Monaco.
What do members of the Bentley Club of Monaco have in common?
What they have in common is their diversity. Diversity makes it interesting.
We have race car drivers, princesses in exile, a gemologist, adventurers, members who are wealthy or not, older or younger, from Monaco and the French Riviera or different countries like Japan, the UK, Russia, the Emirates… 52% are actually ladies, which I am pretty proud of.
Of course, they all drive the cars, they don’t put them in museums to look at. They love to go places and get their hands on the wheel.
Those are also people who have a drive to go after their dreams and achieve goals at a very high level. They go out in the world, bring their dreams to life, come back to the club and share that.
What is the advantage of being a part of such a community?
I was trained as a medical doctor, I always put humans first. I am involved in several charities such as children’s hospital ant love to put people in contact socially or for business
That even put me at the helm of a business club, an amazing network of “business friends”
In case they need any resource, any piece of advice, I run their needs through the community. Everyone will look into their deck of cards and share resources. We are connected through a shared enthusiasm and vision. A microcosm of the society I would love to see in the world.
What are your plans after the pandemic?
We have all addressed our priorities again. Have you heard of the Bentley boys in the 1920s,? They were the epitomy of “les annees foles” this decade of fun and excitement all needed after the drama of WW1 Those were exciting times… today, 100 years later I believe we deserve another set o “roaring 20’s” and along with our Bentley Boys and “Belles” we intend to lead the way.
Events this summer and fall, in-and outside of Monaco include a mix of rallies, art openings, track days but also gala dinners, beach polo and classic sailboat regattas amidst a classic car show and an end of season trade show.
Interview by Hélène Clabecq