Tuesday, November 19, 2013

? (Question Mark) & Accomplice by Coty c1954

?, also known as Question Mark by Coty was launched in 1954.

The unusual name was based on  Le Point d'Interrogation (the Question Mark), one of the Breguet Bidon airplanes that Francois Coty owned. Other planes had weird names like the Dewoitine, Trait d'Union (The Hyphen), The Hyphen 2 and Period.

Coty was fascinated by the success of Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight in just seven days when he landed at Le Bourget airport and noticed how the excitement spread over France. Coty was determined to see the French surpass the American's success and had decided to finance a transatlantic flight in the more difficult westward direction with the help of two French aviators, Dieudonne Costes and Maurice Bellonte.

Coty was the richest man in Europe having built up a fortune of $50,000,000. He owned several newspaper such as Le Figaro and had become a financial and political power. Coty could certainly afford the special flight and while advancing the glory of France, would also help strengthen his public image.

Coty celebrated his immense wealth by donating his plane, Le Point d'Interrogation, to the two pilots for usage on the flight. They took from Paris and headed to new York on Sept. 1, 1930. Though Coty had continued to finance the project anonymously, I figured he did this, in case the project was a failure, and he didn't want to be seen as a failure as well. However, the flight was a success and the pilots were decorated by the president of the republic.

Coty had designed, conceived and anonymously paid for a silver replica (made by a famous Parisian jeweler), of the plane to be presented to President Hoover when the pilots visited America.

In 1954, Coty came out with a special perfume, of which had no actual name, other than simply ? (Question Mark) in no doubt a reference to his early airplane.  A unique promotional contest was launched in accordance with the perfume.  The advertisement reads:

"Anyone could win this fabulous Paris Vacation for Two! Just name this new Coty fragrance! here is another exhilarating fragrance from Coty. A fragrance so unique and stimulating , it can't help but stir your emotions - set you thinking of all the fascinating words that might describe it. The very first time you wear it, this thrilling new fragrance will conjure up a dozen names. And when people comment on it, as their bound to, even more suggestions will occur to you.  Get this new fragrance in the "Passport to Paris" package, along with your choice of seven beloved Coty Toilet Waters. (An outstanding fragrance value in itself of $2.50). Choose your favorite fragrances: Emeraude, A'Suma, Paris, L'Aimant, LOrigan, Styx and Muse. 
Then just give Coty a name that describes the character of the "question-mark" fragrance, and you may be the winner of an all expense vacation for two in the world's most romantic city - Paris! Anyone can win. There's no special talent required, no lengthy writing. Be sure to get your "Passport to Paris" while the limited supply lasts.
Over $12,500 in prizes! Over 500 Chances to Win!


  • Grand Prize: Vacation in Paris for Two (or $2,500 in Cash)
  • Second Prize: Vacation in Paris for One (or $1,250 in Cash)
  • 2 Third Prizes: Round Trip to Paris for One (or $500 in Cash)
  • 4 Fourth Prizes: $250 (Paid in cash to each winner)
  • 100 Extra Prizes: $25 (Paid in cash to each winner)
  • 395 Extra Prizes: $13.50 of New Perfume and Toilet Water (each)

Complete Contest Rules and Entry Blank in each package. Your contest entry must be postmarked no later than Sept 27, 1954."

The Question Mark fragrance was named Accomplice and was launched under that name in 1954. The label is exactly the same on the Question Mark bottle and the Accomplice bottle. It has a very unusual smell, to me it smells like that strange medicinal disinfectant smell of a hospital or dentist office. It is a floral chypre with a masculine fougere base and a heavy soapy aldehyde smell at the top.

  • Top notes: aldehydes, bergamot, galbanum
  • Middle notes: carnation, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, cloves, orris, fern
  • Base notes: patchouli, opoponax, leather, sandalwood, oakmoss, ambergris, labdanum, benzoin, musk


Accomplice was sold up until around 1960-1961 or so. The 1973 fragrance Complice is not the same perfume.

Other companies had their own version of "?" perfume, Fragonard, Vibert Freres, Delettrez and Alexa.

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