First built in 1857 by the Wangen de Geroldseck family, its walls echo with the sounds of lavish dinner parties hosted for the 20th Century elite. Its front steps are forever worn from Ettore’s guests ascending for a visit they will never forget. Often chauffeured in Ettore Bugatti’s personal Type 41 Royale – the most luxurious car ever created – visitors would arrive through an ornate stone archway, built within a section of 15th Century ruin, curved gently (although not purposefully) into a shape reminiscent of the Bugatti radiator. It was always an occasion.
Dinner was carried out with the same precision that Ettore Bugatti applied to the engineering and design of his cars. He added an Orangerie to the Château’s grounds, in part so his guests could enjoy ingredients freshly grown from within. He engineered a pasta maker of his own design, built a henhouse to deliver freshly laid eggs and he even created personalized table settings with his own custom cutlery – all engraved with his initials. For Ettore, time spent at the Château should be a reflection of a Bugatti car: perfect in every detail.
Today, the Château continues much as it had done. It is now the home of Bugatti Automobiles, and a site with an almost magnetic appeal for automotive enthusiasts. It is truly unlike any other car manufacturer facility in the world, steeped in history and surrounded by ancient forests and roaming herds of deer. It remains just as much a part of the Bugatti story as iconic models like the Type 35, Type 41 or the Type 57. And to discover exactly why, a very select number of special guests were invited to spend ‘One Night at the Château’.
Christophe Piochon, President of Bugatti Automobiles, said: “The Château Saint Jean is just as much a part of Bugatti history as any of our historic range of vehicles. It became a part of the legend, and it remains a hugely special place both for us and for our customers. Although we already offer a day-long ‘Molsheim Experience’ to our clients, spending ‘One Night at the Château’ allows us to immerse guests more deeply into the Bugatti brand, past and present, delivering something that many of them desire: an even deeper connection with our history and our eponymous founder. As we continue to evolve new experiences for our customers, the ‘One Night at the Château’ program could become an important part of Bugatti’s future.”
Isolated within 23 hectares of land, the Château is an oasis of tranquility. The guests’ accommodation for this experience is created in the spirit of Ettore himself; carefully considered in every minute detail, from its location to its furniture. The transparent geodesic dome allows guests to relax in warmth and comfort while immersed in the Château’s natural surroundings, including its herd of wild deer. At night, their view is a night sky illuminated with thousands of brightly shining stars. Ettore always carefully paid attention to the Château’s furniture and decoration – his father Carlo was a designer.
But there is much to explore first. The Château’s expansive grounds were fully restored to their former glory in the early 2000s, including the spectacular Remise Nord and Remise Sud, converted into stables after WWII. Ettore himself loved horses. He even had the doors to his workshops fitted with lockplates of his own design that would allow the animals to open them with a gentle nudge of their head, meaning he wouldn’t have to dismount. Ettore’s inspiration is everywhere at Château Saint Jean.
Behind the doors of the Remise Nord today is a treasure trove of Bugatti’s past. A Type 41 Royale, a pioneer of ultra-luxury, sits side-by-side with a Type 35 – the most successful racing car of all time. These, alongside the display of an all-electric Type 56, showcases the pure engineering genius of the brand. It is a chance for guests to touch and feel the early creations of Bugatti, in the place just a stone’s throw from where they were originally built.
No clearer is the unbroken link between past and present at Bugatti, than in experiencing the evolution of cars to wear the famous Macaron. During their one-off ‘Night at the Château’ guests rode in a Bugatti Type 51, bearing witness to the cracked leather that results from a lifetime of continued enjoyment. From the extreme sensations of the hyper sports car Chiron Super Sport1, guests then experienced the raw and visceral thrill of a genuine Grand Prix racer. Separated by nearly a century these two cars are yet united in their dedication to breaking new ground in performance through an unyielding commitment to engineering excellence.
With a new-found appreciation for Bugatti, guests took the short walk along a gravel pathway in front of the Château to the Remise Sud, appointed with Bugatti furniture and home to the first steps of Bugatti creation: the car customization. It is here where customers are able to explore a choice of colors, finishes and bespoke additions to their car. High-definition screens and bespoke Bugatti ‘Royale’ speakers by TIDAL with diamond diaphragms provide a near-lifelike, all-encompassing audio and visual representation of their future Bugatti car. Elsewhere in the room, the revolutionary W16 powertrain sits proudly on display, revealing the full beauty of its engineering.
Exiting through the doors of the Remise Sud, guests pass by the Orangerie, which today is a quiet and tranquil place for relaxation or even a quick game of pool. A Bugatti pool table by IXO stands proudly at the heart of the bright Orangerie, its blue-tinted carbon fiber finish echoing the construction of modern Bugatti models. The sides of the drawers are manufactured with CNC-machined, brushed and anodized aluminum, while the ball pockets are made from stainless steel and are lined with leather. It’s joined in the Orangerie by yet another link to the visionary genius of Ettore Bugatti: a Bugatti Baby II, which is a 75% scale fully electric reincarnation of the Type 35. The car is an homage to the original Bugatti Baby, a half-scale Type 35 created for Ettore’s son Roland in 1926. This one-off became so popular with customers that it was put into production between 1927 and 1936.
Through the glass walls of the Orangerie sits a view of a timelessly styled modern building: the Bugatti Atelier. Seamlessly integrated with its natural surroundings, the Atelier is the cradle of creation for Bugatti’s modern range of hyper sports cars. The tranquil and precise assembly process happens just a short distance from where Bugatti vehicles were built under Ettore himself, with visitors treated to a rarely seen insight into the delicate craftsmanship pioneered at Bugatti.
But while the Château has always been associated with the vehicles of Bugatti, it is equally renowned for its lavish entertainment. Even today, any ‘Night at the Château’ must be capped off with an extraordinary dinner. For these privileged guests, visiting during the balmy golden evenings of summer, this dinner would begin in the Château’s parkland with an exclusive aperitif. Three special vintages from Champagne Carbon provided the perfect accompaniment to a sky hued orange and red by the slowly setting sun. Each of Champagne Carbon ƎB.01, ƎB.02 and the latest ƎB.03 cuvée, a Blanc de Blancs 2013, were available for guests to enjoy.
With the last of the evening light faded, the al fresco table was gently illuminated by candlelight, the glowing full moon and the last few lights within the Château’s rooms. The only sounds to be heard came from the clinking cutlery, the calls of the forest wildlife all around and the easy conversation that comes with an evening spent as a guest at the Château.
This very special day ends in the open sky dome, settling in for a night under the stars, surrounded by a forest of oak trees – some more than 250 years old – filled with a herd of 14 fallow deer and animated by the sounds of wildlife echoing through the tranquil nighttime air. Guests will then awake with a new-found vision of the magic of the Château Saint Jean.