Robb Read: The Rise Of Continuation Cars

Are these reproductions the stuff of collectors’ dreams or just an elaborate marketing ruse?

By Viju Mathew 22/04/2021

The letter, dated March 20, 2020, was addressed to Adrian Hallmark, chairman and CEO of British automaker Bentley. It began with a nostalgic recap of the marque’s storied triumphs in races a century ago, before getting, politely, to the point.

“Understandably, over many years, Bentley Motors’ marketing department has sought to maximise this remarkable heritage,” the letter reads. “Bentley Motors Ltd. has often had recourse to supportive private owners—such as ourselves—to provide one or more of our genuine period cars for various company promotions and events which we have willingly encouraged. Against such a supportive background, we are now writing to express our shared concern and dismay upon hearing of your company’s apparent plans to build and market a batch of 12 replica ‘Blower’ Bentleys for premium-price sale.”

What gave the correspondence unusual gravitas was that the 10 signatories are among the most prominent car collectors in the world, including fashion designer Ralph Lauren, JCB construction-equipment billionaire Lord Bamford, California real-estate developer John Mozart, Walmart heir Rob Walton and international classic-car consultant Simon Kidston. They described their group as “lifelong enthusiasts for the Bentley marque” and concluded, with commendable snark, “Marketing people—in their understandable enthusiasm—often fail to grasp matters not only of detail, but also of basic truth. We urge you to please not squander time, funding, energy and the Bentley brand’s reputation upon the recently announced batch of 12 facsimile cars, cars that would serve only to dilute that special admiration and awe that can only come from viewing and embracing the genuine article. To do otherwise would be
to pervert a glorious history.”

To understand what’s at stake here, let’s take a step back. Gearheads have been dabbling with kit cars and aftermarket replicas since the 1950s, when cheaper fibreglass bodies and inexpensive chassis flooded the market. But this new breed is on a different level entirely. Unlike those knock-offs, continuation cars are made, or officially licensed, by the original manufacturer and painstakingly constructed to the same period specifications as the initial models, save for certain contemporary safety and handling features. Notably, their chassis and engine numbers often follow their predecessors sequentially, effectively continuing a bygone model’s production.

The genesis for Bentley’s endeavour is the second of four machines built and raced by Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin at Le Mans early last century. Birkin’s “No. 2” Blower is owned by Bentley, though similar examples—50 production cars were made—can fetch anywhere from approx. $6.5 million to approx. $26 million.

Birkin was one of the celebrated Bentley Boys, gentlemen racers who piloted the marque to first-place finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1927 through 1930. The winning drive team that final year was Woolf Barnato and Glen Kidston, Simon’s late uncle, which helps explain the nephew’s misgivings about tinkering with legacy.

“Brands that are doing well shouldn’t need to resort to raiding their back catalogues, and I don’t believe it reflects well on them,” says Kidston, steward to his family’s own impressive motoring assemblage and consultant for others in the arena. “It detracts from the rarity of the originals and effectively undermines the real heritage of the brand. We’re not singling out Bentley. I think the same is true of others who have jumped on the ‘authentic replica’ bandwagon.”

There are longer-term ramifications, too, he says. “It creates the potential for confusion in the future over what is real and what is not. Anything built purely to be a collector’s item rarely becomes one, long-term. There is no integrity of purpose to a new copy whose sole aim for the manufacturer is to make money. It has no intrinsic value. Only age, history and authenticity confer that magic.” Kidston compares continuation cars to “trying to replicate a vintage wine just by analysing its components and passing the resulting mix off as ‘new old vintage.’ ”

Others share his concern. Bruce Meyer, a director of the Petersen Automotive Museum and the owner of a large stable of noteworthy vehicles, recognises that continuations allow those who can’t afford the original to get in the game, but “if you’re a serious collector, you want to stay away from continuations. They will contaminate the authenticity of your entire collection.”

What fuels the worth of any collectible is scarcity, so clearly when a diminishing supply begins to replenish, alarm grows as perceived value dips. Take the Porsche 993, the fourth generation of the 911 model. As the last iteration to feature the marque’s air-cooled flat-six engine, it has become highly coveted by Porschephiles and aftermarket tuners, who have driven prices as high as seven figures in some cases. Hypothetically, if Porsche brought the air-cooled engine back into production, the 993 would become an asterisk instead of an exclamation point on a connoisseur’s wish list—the rarity bubble would burst.

Those in the pro camp see things a little differently. For the leader of Bentley’s project, Tim Hannig, the decision to revisit the Blower was a pragmatic response to increase a specific vehicle’s longevity. “The original car is used a lot”—for promotions, events, VIP rides and the like—“probably more than it should be according to its age and value,” he tells
Robb Report. “The idea was born to create a toolroom copy to do a lot of the work.” Once the word got out, there were requests from the Bentley faithful for a few more.

The process of building a period-correct facsimile from scratch involves what Hannig refers to as “industrial archaeology”: his team scoured the archives for outlines and documentation of materials, stripped major portions of the car, then completely scanned it to generate a digital model. One of the greatest challenges, he says, was the 4.9-metre sheet-metal chassis, which relied on old-fashioned hammer work and a machine dating to 1899.

“We’re using modern technologies to get to our target but traditional methods to create the actual assets that go on the car,” he says. “If we waited a bit longer, the craftsmanship skills would definitely be gone. It’s a fantastic way of not just storing the ashes of a period but really keeping the fire glowing, even on a small scale.”

A pioneer of the trend was Jaguar, which opened its restoration and heritage centre, Jaguar Classic, in 2014. Re-creating a benchmark car was the first order of operation, since it would best showcase the division’s capabilities. But the idea to resurrect the past was also based on a sense of unfinished business.

“For a number of different reasons, the planned production runs of some of our most iconic vehicles weren’t always completed in period,” says Dan Pink, director of Jaguar Classic. “Our continuation programs have allowed us to correct this. It’s also a valuable learning exercise for our team, cascading the knowledge and expertise from previous generations to get under the skin of our prized machines.”

The focus thus far has been on three models from the marque’s golden age in the 1950s and ’60s: the D-type, the XKSS and the E-type. In 1963, Jaguar planned to build 18 copies of a Special GT E-type, but only 12 were completed—that is, until 2016, when the final six examples were finished to such faithful reproduction that they qualified for historic-racing certification through the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.

Jaguar then returned to the XKSS, a street version of its D-type racer. Only 16 of the initial 25 cars survived a factory fire in 1957; the last of the nine replacements was completed 61 years
later, in 2018. Jaguar also announced production of 25 “new” D-types, some of which are still in the works, though already pre-sold. (The XKSS and E-type continuations have all been delivered.)

One reason for the demand is that original concours-quality examples of the D-type command in the neighbourhood of approx. $11.5 million (although one fetched approx. $27 million at auction in 2016), while the contemporaries sell for roughly one-ninth that price. As Meyer noted earlier, continuation cars can be a gateway drug for those who don’t yet have the resources to invest in the real thing. Or for those who have nearly unlimited funds, they’re a way to protect a more valuable investment in an original: a niche position to be sure, but one that holds outsize sway in the most rarefied stratum of the car-collecting world.

“They provide collectors the freedom to enjoy their cars without the anxiety and cost of running the originals,” says Peter Mullin, another Petersen board member and founder of the Mullin Automotive Museum, also in Southern California. “The last thing we would want is to wreck a 70-year-old fender or scratch an original paint job. For daily or even weekend drives, continuation cars are the best option.”

Mullin’s perspective is backed by Paul Spires, president of Aston Martin Works, the marque’s restoration and preservation department. Spires readily admits that there were those in the Aston community worried about classics being revisited, but “when they came here and saw the quality, passion and dedication of the team involved, their fears were very quickly allayed,” he says. “Some owners of original cars went on to purchase one or more continuations themselves.”

After re-creating 25 examples of Aston’s famed 1959–63 DB4 GT in 2017 (priced at approx. $2.5 million apiece), Spires and co. have revisited the DB4 GT Zagato of the early 1960s, with a run of 19 new additions, and are currently focused on reviving one of the most famous cars in the world—the DB5 that the late Sir Sean Connery drove in the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger. The 25 DB5 Goldfinger Continuation cars will be equipped with the same embellishments used by 007, including a smoke-screen system, revolving license plates and bullet-resistant glass. But while the new release costs approx. $4.7 million, one of the actual coupes used to promote the film franchise in the mid-1960s sold for approx. $8.3 million at auction in August 2019, during Monterey Car Week in California. You can, it seems, put a price on provenance.

But for many brands and collectors alike, the philosophy behind continuation cars is about more than money. Mullin believes continuations “reignite a passion among younger enthusiasts and further the hobby,” and he’s right, at least according to Stateside constructor Lance Stander and his team at Superformance. It’s the only outside entity licensed to recreate benchmark 289 and 427 variants of the classic Shelby Cobra—developed by the late Carroll Shelby, who\subsequently endorsed their work—as well as the GT40s that Shelby helped develop for Ford. “We have buyers in their late 20s and early 30s,” Stander says. “One designs computer games and has bought two GT40s and a Cobra from us.”

If collectors can’t decide whether these cars are an abomination or highly desirable, then perhaps the market will.

“Nobody knew what was going to happen as the global economy changed back in March, but right now the market [for collectibles] is very strong,” says Brian Rabold, vice president of valuation services at Hagerty Classic Insurance, experts in high-end automotive coverage. According to Hagerty’s estimates, many of the aforementioned originals increased in price or remained static after the newbies’ appearance on the scene, notwithstanding the uncertainty of the past 12 months (see “Time Will Tell” opposite page).

So the value of the originals has remained strong. But so too has that of the newcomers. Auction house RM Sotheby’s had an example from each of the three Jaguar continuations cross the block in October 2020. The least expensive sold for approx. $1.71 million and the most for approx. $2.6 million—evidence, surely, of an audience willing to make room for these cars in the canon. “These [continuation] cars are part of their own distinct category—not replicas, but not a classic original,” says Alexander Weaver, car specialist at RM Sotheby’s. “Interestingly, some are even rarer than the initial model”—such as Jaguar’s D-type continuation, which saw just a third of the original’s 75-unit production—“making them that much more desirable.”

Could it be that continuation cars are just that: a way of maintaining a legacy that, without new impetus, would wither and die? Do we want a future where a priceless old Blower turns to rust under a cover because there are no longer technicians capable of maintaining it, even if that deterioration drives the car’s valuation up instead of down? Perhaps the basic truth is simpler. While this may not be the case forever—and while they may not care to admit it—could it be that right now everyone with interests in the continuation game gets to win . . . whatever they write in their letters?

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Escape from the Ordinary

Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean.

By Robb Report Team 19/02/2024

Not all cruises are created equally. Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean. From the stunning Amalfi Coast to the pristine Greek Islands, the narrow Corinth Canal to the picturesque Dalmatian coast, historic Istanbul and beguiling Malaga, each destination is a unique adventure waiting to be unravelled. With Ponant, these aren’t just locations on a map; they’re experiences that come alive with the intimate knowledge and insight that their expert guides provide.

Ponant’s luxury cruises are renowned for their individuality, with no two journeys the same. This is not by chance. Itineraries are scrupulously designed to ensure that each passenger is left with a feeling of having embarked on a journey unlike any other.

Athens-Venise. Photograph by N.Matheus. ©PONANT

In 2025, their fleet will set sail for a combined 56 departures from March to October, exploring the dreamy locales of Greece and the Greek Islands, Malta, Italy (including Venice and Sicily), Croatia, France, Turkey, Spain and Portugal. These European Journeys offer an intimate encounter with the Mediterranean, its people and culture. As you cruise in luxury, you’ll dive deep into the heart of each destination, exploring historic sites, engaging with locals, sampling scrumptious cuisine and soaking in the vibrant atmospheres.

The company’s small, sustainable ships, which can accommodate from as few as 32 to 264 guests, have the exclusive ability to sail into ports inaccessible to larger cruise liners, affording privileged entry into some of the world’s most treasured alcoves. Picture sailing under London’s iconic Tower Bridge, crossing the Corinth Canal, or disembarking directly onto the sidewalk during ports of call in culturally rich cities like Lisbon, Barcelona, Nice and Venice, among others.

Photo by Tamar Sarkissian. ©PONANT

This singular closeness is further enriched by destination experts who unravel the tapestry of each locale’s history and traditions.

Onboard their luxurious ships, every guest is a VIP and treated to refined service and amenities akin to sailing on a private yacht. Whether at sea or ashore, their destination experts guarantee a fascinating experience, immersing you in the rich cultural and historical diversity of each region.

Indulge in the finest gastronomy at sea, inspired by none other than gastronomic virtuoso and Ponant partner, Alain Ducasse. Each voyage offers an expertly crafted dining experience, from a-la-carte meals with perfectly matched wines by the onboard Sommelier at dinner and lunch, to a French-inspired buffet breakfast, featuring all the favourite pastries, fresh bread and quality produce.

Chef Mickael Legrand. Photograph by NickRains. ©PONANT

For a more intimate discovery, consider Le Ponant, with its 16 high-class staterooms and suites—perfect for private charter—sailing eight exclusive routes between Greece and Croatia, offering guests unparalleled experiences both onboard and ashore. Ponant’s commitment to crafting unforgettable experiences extends beyond itineraries. Aboard their ships, the luxury is in every detail. Unwind in opulent cabins and suites, each offering private balconies and breathtaking views of the azure water and destinations beyond.

Ponant’s upcoming European Journeys are more than just cruises—they’re your passport to a world of cultural immersion, historical exploration, and unrivalled luxury. Don’t miss this opportunity to embark on the voyage of a lifetime: the Mediterranean is calling.

To book European 2025 sailings visit au.ponant.com; call 1300 737 178 (AU) or 0800 767 018 (NZ) or contact your preferred travel agent.

 

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Saint Laurent Just Opened a New Bookstore in Paris. Here’s a Look Inside.

The chic new outpost is located on the city’s arty Left Bank.

By Rachel Cormack 14/02/2024

Saint Laurent is taking over even more of Paris.

The French fashion house, which only just opened an epic new flagship on Champs-Élysées, has launched a chic new bookstore on the Left Bank. Located in the 7th arrondissement, Saint Laurent Babylone is a mecca of art, music, literature, and, of course, fashion.

The new outpost is a tribute to the connection that Yves Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Bergé had to the Rue Babylone, according to Women’s Wear Daily. (In 1970, the pair moved to a 6,500-square-foot duplex on the street.) It is also inspired by the house’s original ready-to-wear boutique, Saint Laurent Rive Guache, which opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1966.

The exposed concrete in contrasted by sleek marble accents. SAINT LAURENT

With a minimalist, art gallery-like aesthetic, the space is anchored by a hefty marble bench and large black shelves. The raw, textured concrete on the walls is juxtaposed by a soft blue and white rug, a wooden Pierre Jeanneret desk, and sleek Donald Judd stools.

The wares within Saint Laurent Babylone are the most important part, of course. Curated by Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello, the collection includes everything from photos by British artist Rose Finn-Kelcey to books published by Saint Laurent itself. Some tomes on offer are so rare that white gloves are required for handling.

The store also offers an enviable selection of records that are no longer being pressed. Highlights include Sade’s Promise, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, and the debut studio album of electronic band Kraftwerk.

Other notable items on the shelves include Leica cameras, chocolates made in collaboration with pastry chef François Daubinet, prints by Juergen Teller, and brass skull sculptures. You’ll also find an assortment of YSL merch, including pens, lighters, and cups.

To top it off, Saint Laurent Babylone will double as an event space, hosting live music sessions, DJ sets, book readings, and author signings over the coming months.

Saint Laurent’s latest endeavor isn’t exactly surprising. With Vaccarello at the helm, the Kering-owned fashion house has entered new cultural realms. Only last year, the label established a film production company and debuted its first movie at Cannes.

The space is fitted with a Pierre Jeanneret desk and Donald Judd stools.
SAINT LAURENT

Perhaps Saint Laurent film reels and movie posters will soon be available at Babylone, too.

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The Best Watches at the Grammys, From Maluma’s Jacob & Co. to Jon Batiste’s Vacheron Constantin

Music’s biggest names sported some outstanding watches on Sunday evening.

By Rachel Mccormack 08/02/2024

Weird yet wonderful watches punctuated this year’s Grammys.

The woman of the moment, Taylor Swift, who made history by winning Album of the Year for an unprecedented fourth time, wore an unconventional Lorraine Schwartz choker watch to the annual awards ceremony on Sunday night. That was just the tip of the horological iceberg, though.

Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma elevated a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds, while American musician Jon Batiste topped off a stylish Versace ensemble with a sleek Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon. Not to be outdone, rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a rare Audemars Piguet Royal Oak for the occasion.

There was more understated wrist candy on display, too, such as Jack Antonoff’s Cartier Tank LC and Noah Kahan’s Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo.

For the rest of the best watches we saw on the Grammys 2024 red carpet, read on.

Maluma: Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon

Maluma busted out some truly spectacular bling for this year’s Grammys. The Colombian singer-songwriter paired a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds. The sculptural wrist candy sees a four-arm movement floating in front of a breathtaking dial adorned with no less than 257 rubies. For added pizzaz, the lugs of the 18-karat rose-gold case are invisibly set with 80 baguette-cut white diamonds. Limited to just nine examples, the rarity is priced at $1.5 million.

Asake: Hublot Big Bang Essential Grey

Nigerian singer-songwriter Asake may not have won the Grammy for Best African Music Performance for “Amapiano,” but did wear a winning Hublot Big Bang at Sunday’s proceedings. Released in 2023, the Essential Grey model is made purely of titanium for a sleek, uniform feel. The 42 mm timepiece was limited to just 100 pieces and cost $37,000 a pop.

John Legend: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding

Multihyphenate John Legend wore a legendary Audemars Piguet with silky Saint Laurent on Sunday evening. The self-winding Royal Oak in question features a 34 mm black ceramic case, a black grande tapisserie dial, and striking pink gold accents. The watchmaker’s signature is also displayed in gold under the sapphire crystal. The piece will set you back $81,000.

Jon Batiste: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon

American musician Jon Batiste received four nominations but no wins at this year’s Grammys. The “Butterfly” singer can take solace in the fact that he looked ultra-sharp in Versace and Vacheron Constantin. A tribute to the spirit of travel, the Overseas Tourbillon features a 42.5 mm white-gold case, a bezel set with 60 baguette-cut diamonds, and a blue dial featuring a dazzling tourbillon cage inspired by the Maltese cross. Price upon request, naturally.

Fireboy DML: Cartier Santos

Fireboy DML’s outfit was straight fire on Sunday night. The Nigerian singer paired an MCM wool jacket with a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet, several iced-out rings, and a sleek Cartier Santos. The timepiece features a steel case, a graduated blue dial with steel sword-shaped hands, and a seven-sided crown with synthetic faceted blue spinel.

Noah Kahan: Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo

Best New Artist nominee Noah Kahan wore one of Panerai’s best new watches to Sunday’s festivities. The Luminor Quaranta BiTempo features a 40 mm polished steel case and a black dial with luminous numerals and hour markers, a date display at 3 o’clock, and a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. The timepiece can be yours for $14,000.

Busta Rhymes: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Legendary rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a chic Audemars Piguet for this year’s Grammys. The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph in question is distinguished by a 42 mm rose-gold case and a matching pink méga tapisserie dial with an outer flange for the tachymeter scale. The face is fitted with three black subdials, large black numerals, and a black date display at 3 o’clock. You can expect to pay around $61,200 for the chronograph on the secondary market.

Jack Antonoff: Cartier Tank Louis Cartier

Producer of the year Jack Antonoff took to the red carpet with a stylish Cartier on his wrist. The Tank Louis Cartier in question appears to be a large 33.7 mm example that features an 18-carat rose-gold case, a silvered dial with black Roman numerals and blued steel hands, a beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon, and a brown alligator strap. It’ll set you back $19,900.

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This 44-Foot Carbon-Fiber Speedboat Can Rocket to 177 KMPH

The new Mayla GT is available with a range of different powertrains, too.

By Rachel Cormack 03/02/2024

We knew the Mayla GT would be one of the most exciting boats at Boot Düsseldorf, but a deep dive into the specs shows it could be downright revolutionary.

The brainchild of German start-up Mayla, the 44-footer brings you the blistering performance of a speedboat and the luxe amenities of a motor yacht in one neat carbon-fiber package.

Inspired by the go-fast boats of the 1970s and ‘80s, the GT sports an angular, retro-futuristic body and the sleek lines of a rocket ship. Tipping the scales at just 4500 kilograms, the lightweight design features a deep-V hull with twin transversal steps and patented Petestep deflectors that help it slice through the waves with ease. In fact, Mayla says the deflectors decrease energy usage by up to 35 percent while ensuring a more efficient planing.

The range-topping GT can reach 185 kph. MAYLA

The GT is also capable of soaring at breakneck speeds, with the option of a gas, diesel, electric, or hybrid powertrain. The range-topping GTR-R model packs dual gas-powered engines that can churn out 3,100 hp for a top speed of more than 100 knots (185 kph). At the other, more sustainable end of the spectrum, the E-GT is fitted with an electric powertrain that can produce 2,200 horses for a max speed of 50 knots. The hybrid E-GTR pairs that same electric powertrain with a 294 kilowatt diesel engine for a top speed of 60 knots (111 km/h/69 mph). (The GT in the water at Boot sported two entry-level V8s good for 650 hp and a top speed of over 70 knots.)

The GT is suitable for more than just high-speed jaunts, of course. The multipurpose cockpit, which can accommodate up to eight passengers, features a sundeck with sliding loungers, a wet bar and BBQ, and a foldaway dining table for alfresco entertaining. Further toward the stern, a beach club sits atop a garage with an electric transom door.

The garage has an electric transom door. MAYLA

The GT is even fit for overnight stays. Below deck lies a cabin with a double bed, sofa, wardrobe, vanity, and en suite. You can also expect a high-tech entertainment system with TVs and premium audio.

As for price, the GT with the entry-level powertrain will cost between $2.7 million and $2.9, depending on the final configuration. (You can fine-tune the layout, hull color, and interiors, naturally.) Interested buyers can set up a sea trial with Mayla, with test-drives set to begin this spring in Europe.

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Red Centre

First Nations artist Shaun Daniel Allen joins forces with Chopard to create a timepiece inspired by the Australian landscape.

By Horacio Silva 29/01/2024

Shaun Daniel Allen does not look like your typical collaborator on a prestige watch. For one, Shal, as he prefers to be known (“There are many Shauns but only one Shal,” he explains), is more heavily tattooed than your average roadie. His youthful appearance, bad-boy ink and all, belies his 38 years and leads to a disconnect. 

He recounts being recognised on the street recently by a journalist, who, unable to remember his name, shouted out, “Chopard!” “I was with a friend,” Shal says, holding court in his apartment in Sydney’s inner city, “and he’s, like, ‘What the hell? Does that happen to you often?’”

Perhaps because of his body art, he reasons, “People don’t put me and Chopard together.” It’s not hard to understand the confusion, Shal adds; even he was taken aback when Chopard reached out to him about a potential collaboration a little more than a year ago. “When I first went in to see them, I was, like, I don’t know if I’m your guy. I’m not used to being in those rooms and having those conversations.”

He’ll have to adapt quickly to his new reality. Last month Chopard released Shal’s interpretation of the Swiss brand’s storied Alpine Eagle model, which in itself was a redo of the St. Moritz, the first watch creation by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (now Co-President of Chopard) in the late 1970s. 

Previewed at Sydney’s About Time watch fair in September, to not insignificant interest, and officially known as the Alpine Eagle Sunburnt, the exclusive timepiece—issued in a limited edition of 20—arrives as a stainless steel 41 mm with a 60-hour power reserve and a burnt red dial that brings to mind the searing Outback sun. Its see-through caseback features one of Shal’s artworks painted on sapphire glass.

When the reputable Swiss luxury brand approached Shal, they already had the red dial—a nod to the rich ochre hues of the Australian soil at different times of the day and gradated so that the shades become darker around the edges—locked in as a lure for Australian customers.

Shal was charged with designing an artful caseback and collectible hand-painted sustainable wooden case. After presenting a handful of paintings, each with his signature abstract motifs that pertain to indigenous emblems, tattoos and music, both parties landed on a serpentine image that evoked the coursing of rivers. “I have been painting a lot of water in this last body of work and the image we chose refers to the rivers at home,” he says, alluding to formative years spent at his grandfather’s, just outside of Casino.

It says a lot about Chopard, Shal points out, that they wanted to donate to a charity of his choosing. “Like everything else on this project,” he explains, “they were open to listening and taking new ideas on board and it actually felt like a collaboration, like they weren’t steering me into any corner.”

In another nice touch, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the watch will go to funding programs of the Ngunya Jarjum Aboriginal Corporation—an organisation, established in 1995 by Bundjalung elders, whose work Shal saw firsthand after the 2022 eastern Australia flood disasters ravaged their area. “Seeing Ngunya Jarjum suffer from the floods,” he says, “and knowing how much they do for the community on Bundjalung Country was heartbreaking. I want to see Bundjalung families thriving and supported.”

So what’s it been like for this booster of Australian waterways to be swimming in the luxury end of the pool? “I’ve done a few things with brands,” he offers, referring to the Louis Vuitton project earlier this year at an art gallery in Brisbane, “but nothing on this scale. It’s definitely fancier than I’m used to but I’m not complaining.” Neither are watch aficionados.

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