P4-2021-03 – Fine Watches and Porsches
Article by John Khami and photos courtesy of Carlos Carmona
Paul Newman, the 54-year-old actor and racer, stood in the pits at Watkins Glen Race Course, New York in July 1979. Under his fire-safe racing suit Newman wore an engraved mechanical Rolex watch, a gift from his wife, on his wrist. He wrapped his left arm around his helmet resting along his waist. He focused on other race cars rocketing past where he stood. Newman was pacing. Waiting. His deep-red Porsche 935, with the number ‘70’ in black letters on a white background, with a quite modified Flat-6 3.0 Liter Turbo was on its way into the pits.
The “Lollipop Man” raised the sign for the driver of the 935 to make the pit stop after the current lap. Time to change drivers. In an instant, Newman eyed his car racing into the stop. He ran to the 935 and squeezed the helmet onto his head. The pit crew covered that Porsche 935 in a frenzy. All at once, the driver was out. Newman hustled into the seat. The “Jack Men” raised the deep-red Porsche a few inches for a different crew to replace the wheels with fresh-mounted tire slicks for better traction and speed. The compressor breathed. Another crew secured Newman’s safety harness and strapped his helmet. Another group added oil, filled the fuel tank and cleaned the windshield. The time in and out of the pit stop was less than ten seconds.
Watching this excitement and standing 15 feet above the pits in the spectator’s area was Lewis Yonce. “Newman strapped on his helmet and he just BOOKED out of the pits and onto the track,” said Lewis. “It was something to see. He drove hard. He was a good competitor and driver. He loved the sport. When that helmet was off, he had a long smile.” “When I was at that New York race I saw this same group of cars blowing past everyone. I didn’t know what they were so I asked. That’s when I learned about Porsches. I never heard of a Porsche before and that’s when I decided that I had to have one. The other cars couldn’t keep up.”
Lewis fell in love with Porsche cars at that race because of the body style and the power. He often went to the Porsche dealer on Gratiot in East Detroit to look at the models. He saw a 914 and was ready to buy, but “I bought my first Porsche in 1983 when I saw a black ’78 930-Turbo, four speed with a whale tail on a used car lot. Someone turned it in for a new sedan instead of a Porsche.” Lewis bought the car when he was 27. The car interior was an unusual Porsche combination of Black leather with green plaid material in the middle of the seats. Lewis’s 930 was a four speed, geared more for the track than the road as it cruised and easy 60 in first and 100 in second. Lewis compared that 930 to his current, 2015 Turbo S. “The 930 was a raw car and a beast. It screamed. It was fast. It was fun. I should never have sold it. But, I compare that to the 2015 Turbo S that we have now, which is also a beast. At 120, when the Turbos open, off it goes. I went 170 on the freeway because these cars go 150 in 15 seconds and at that speed you concentrate on the car, how it handles. You’re aware of everything around you. All I could think about was driving safe at that speed. ”
Lewis Yonce, at age 27 with his Porsche 930 four speed, whale tale
Porsche Club Members and business colleagues Lewis Yonce, who is a Master Jeweler, and Carlos Carmona, who is the sales manager, produce and sell jewelry products along with fine quality Swiss watches to some of the world’s largest retailers through the “Little Switzerland” stores located in the Caribbean and on cruise ships. “Watches are nice but you can’t drive them. When Carlos and I got into the jewelry business, the quality watches were Omegas. Those watches are built with precision and different styles, different colors on the faces, different movements and they are accurate… like a Porsche.” Carlos and Lewis met at the Meyer Jewelry and Treasure Chest store in downtown Detroit in the mid 70’s where the current Shinola hotel is now located. Carlos’s cousin repaired jewelry and Carlos became an apprentice at that store along Woodward Avenue. Lewis set the diamonds. “Meyer had 30 stores in the Midwest. The years passed and the owner sold the company. That’s where Lewis and I met and how our friendship started back in the 80’s.” Carlos said.
A project that Carlos and Lewis are most proud is a Tiara designed by Lewis and manufactured by them in three days for a Mid-East Princess. It is also an assignment where Lewis, in his mid-20’s, earned the respect of many, older and more experienced jewelers in the area. The Tiara was made with 18 carat gold wire. Round, quarter carat diamonds were set in the bottom row across the front with multi layers of diamonds set on top of the first. The Tiara stretched behind the ears on both sides with additional rows of quarter carat diamonds with a gradual increase in the size of the round diamonds up to 1.5 carats to the crown. Half circles of gold, 14 carat wire were used to strengthen the structure and the sides tapered to where one, two carat Marquis Diamond, was set in place at the peak surrounded with more round diamonds. “It was three inches tall in the center with at least 200 stones of 300 total carats. The diamonds were fine quality and color,” Carlos said, and added that “Lewis is the greatest jeweler. After three days of creating that Tiara and using a sleeping bag for a mattress in the shop and falling asleep at the bench, Lewis was exhausted and almost did not finish setting the last four stones.” Lewis and Carlos completed their assignment in time as the personal secretary for the Princess arrived one hour later to accept the Tiara. Lewis, who attended architecture classes in high school, said, “The day we got the appointment was the same day we started designing and assembly.”
Carlos Carmona in 1988 with his Porsche 944
“Lewis influenced me to get into Porsches. He showed up one day when I was 28 with his 930. I looked at it, sat in it and Lewis let me drive it.” Carlos was thrown back into the seat travelling 60 and shifting into third. Carlos also decided that he had to have his own Porsche. “I bought my first Porsche in 1988 from Birmingham Imports in Birmingham. It was a Guards Red original color Porsche with 7000 miles. It had a black interior and a four-cylinder Turbo. A special car for the times. I must have been doing 80 on Woodward in third and my back was glued to the leather.” Carlos stopped to fill the tank that day. He was so overwhelmed with excitement, he couldn’t find the gas cap. “I never thought I could afford a car like that.” What about speeding tickets? “No speeding tickets in the 944, but I did get a ticket for running a red and turning right onto I-75 going Eastbound. The officer claimed I ran the red light and gave me a ticket. But listen to this, the number on the patrol car was 944 the same as my Porsche model. He started talking to me about the car and how to afford one.”
Carlos sold the 944 in 1993 and was offered a chance to purchase a 1958 356 Coupe at a low price that needed a new clutch. “As my wife, Veronica and I were starting a family, we let it go, but in the early 2000’s I bought a 1997 five speed, silver and burnt orange top Boxster with a red leather interior. The color combination was introduced that first year for the Boxster and the engine was naturally aspirated.” Carlos watched the odometer turn to 28,000 miles as the years passed and decided to restore the Boxster to “like new” and compete in judging events. Porsche Club Member, Fred Young, spoke with Carlos and became his mentor as Carlos itched to win a trophy. He entered the car for judging in Street Class securing First Place in the Traverse City Porsche Parade in June 2013. Fred Young said to Carlos, “Never underestimate the judges as they will most often find something wrong with your car. There are few if any, perfect scores.” “I was not expecting to win anything, but I jumped up and down after being awarded First Place on my initial try. My wife, Veronica and I worked hard getting it done. She is my biggest booster.”
In 2013 the Little Switzerland shops merited the distinction of selling more Breitling watches than any other distributor in the world. Carlos and Lewis along with their wives, Veronica and Vivian, members of their staff and Breitling collectors from all over the world; received an invitation from Breitling to meet the Virgin Islands Governor, John de Jong, in St. Thomas. There they received Breitling’s award in recognition of Little Switzerland’s sales volume for that year and Breitling showed their appreciation to St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands from the watch community. “We were outdoors by the pool with 300 plus guests. All the big brass from Breitiling was there, some high rollers but mainly collectors came in their private jets.” It was a warm and clear evening. Lights from businesses glittered like little stars reflecting in the water with the quiet sounds of night time in St Thomas. It was a gracious award from the Breitling Company to Carlos and Lewis who were most proud of their efforts. Carlos compared that event to first place Porsche judging. “The weeks of time, effort, attention to detail … much like promoting quality watches.” Asked to compare the fine watches that he represents to a Porsche, Carlos said, “Precision and timing are the two similarities between the two. A fine watch brings prestige to the owners. Many pro-athletes today purchase Rolex, Audemars and Patek-Phillippe, but there are many other great watches besides these three.”
A fine watch is assembled with gold, stainless steel, sapphire, platinum, and crystal. The steady hand of the watch maker looking through a magnifier, gathers the small, delicate, metal parts into a chic and well-designed watch body. The movement in a fine quality mechanical watch is like a race car. They both require a good engine.
Lewis was honored being at the event with his wife, Vivian, “… but I am not a star-struck person. It was great to be there. We met a lot of people. I took it in stride, but I’m OK being in the background.” “I like creating jewelry and Carlos, well… he’s always after me to get the cars judged.” At Boca Raton Parade, Lewis’s Red 2008, 911 Turbo was judged. His wife Vivian assisted and took the lead with the prep and polish with the Red Turbo taking second place. The other Porsche the couple brought was the White 2015 Turbo S. There was a first-place tie between four cars so a four-way breakaway vote was taken with Vivian taking third place in Boca in 2019. “I wanted to take that car to the track and I remembered washing, cleaning, shining and all that work that Vivian and I did. We decided to leave the car as it was. We worked hard having that car judged. It’s was two months of cleaning and it’s still not good enough.” Lewis said. “But we won twice that day. Judging is really something. We all need psychiatric help for this stuff and it’s always needed after you get done with the events.”
Lewis and Vivian Yonce with Second and Third Place
Vivian Yonce with the
Lewis Yonce taught many apprentices the ins and outs of his profession with several of his students designing and repairing jewelry in local high-end stores. Lewis and Carlos carry the pride of ownership of Porsches and fine watches and also carry the pride of involvement in the community. Gentlemen — It is a pleasure knowing you both.
Porsche. It not just the cars. It’s the people.
Newman’s Own Porsche 935 and Rolex watch plus other examples of motorsports inspired Swiss watches
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