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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Watches & Wonders 2024 Showcase: Laurent Ferrier

We head to Geneva for the Watches & Wonders exhibition; a week-long horological blockbuster featuring the hottest new drops, and no shortage of hype.

By Josh Bozin 18/07/2024

With Watches & Wonders 2024 well and truly behind us, this week we look at Laurent Ferrier, a brand hailing from Geneva.


Laurent Ferrier Classic Moon

The 63-year-old, third-generation independent watchmaker continues the tradition of his Genevan ancestors. Since 2009, his namesake brand has thrived in an ultra-competitive industry thanks to his dedication to classical timepieces, assembled by hand, using the highest grade materials available.

The Laurent Ferrier Classic Moon builds on this storied heritage. The 40 mm dress watch (the brand’s first moonphase complication) is available in silver with a blue-ish dial, or rose gold with a brushed silver dial. It salutes the vintage dress watches of yesteryear with Roman numerals and baton-shaped indices; vintage-inspired date numbers; Assegai-shaped hour, minute, and date hands; a double moonphase; and a pebble-shaped case reminiscent of 19th-century pocket watches. 

The attention to detail continues with an attractive subdial made of Murano aventurine glass, engraved in moon and star motifs and hand-applied white paint details. The engraving is also hand-filled with Super-LumiNova, while the subdial is covered with a translucent disc in petrol-blue enamel.

At roughly a $116,000 starting price, it may deter those who would rather invest in a dress watch from, say, Patek Philippe. But the Classic Moon certainly captures the charm of this style of timepiece, and those willing to support the self-sustaining Swiss brand won’t be disappointed with the result. This a timepiece made to the highest levels of craftsmanship—and a fitting climax to a week spent in the horological heaven that is Watches & Wonders.

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Bay Watch 

After losing its lustre for decades, Sydney’s Double Bay is undergoing a renaissance. And with harbour views, lush parks and a friendly village feel, it’s no wonder luxury developments are flourishing.

By Horacio Silva 16/07/2024

The boarded storefronts on the strip of New South Head Road in Double Bay currently under construction near Cross Street are plastered with archival images of the harbourside suburb in its 1960s and 1970s heyday. In the grainy black-and-white images, passers-by dressed in their imported European finery inhabit the bustling streets and fashionable shopping destinations of the time, including Mark Foy’s department store on Knox Street and the chic boutiques of Claire Handler, Maria Finlay and Nellie Vida—three Hungarian expats who sourced the latest trends from the Continent for style-starved locals. 

The images serve as a reminder of an era when European designers dictated the style for modish Australians. They’re also a document of how much this prestigious enclave, located 11 minutes’ drive from the CBD and a snow-cone’s throw from some of Sydney’s best beaches, has changed.

The area’s once-thriving boutiques are a thing of the past, replaced by all manner of beauty-focused establishments. Gone too are the open-air dances in Steyne Park, the old Hoyts Theatre (an Art Deco gem of a building on the main drag that was the nexus of the community) and the illegal casino a few doors down from it called the Double Bay Bridge Club.

Which is not to say that this once-sleepy hollow, whose fortunes have ebbed and flowed in the last 50 years, has become the profligate relic that detractors, who pilloried it as “Double Pay”, predicted it would become after it fell from favour over the past few decades. Far from it. “There’s only one Double Bay,” says Angela Belle McSweeney, director of Australian Turf Club and a former public relations maven whose office was located for years on Knox Street, above the famed 21 restaurant.  “In terms of Australian glamour, it’s always been the benchmark and now more than ever.”

Joseph Hkeik, the owner of All Saint Clinic, which caters to the taut skin of the city’s high society, concurs. “There really is something palpable in the air,” says Hkeik, who is in as good a position as any to talk about the changing face of the place.

“A lot is happening, and everyone wants to be seen in Double Bay. It’s the hotspot of Sydney.”

All Saint Clinic

If Double Bay is once again the talk of the town, it’s in no small part due to chef and restaurateur Neil Perry. After stepping away in early 2020 as founder of the Rockpool Group, through which he created legendary restaurants such as Rockpool and Spice Temple, Perry resurfaced a few months later with plans to start anew on the prized willow-festooned corner of Bay Street and Guilfoyle Avenue. In June 2021, he opened his award-winning seafood restaurant Margaret, and soon after, the adjacent bar Next Door and the Baker Bleu bakery two premises along.

He has not looked back. The fat cats today may be younger than the potentates who used to frequent the area’s old stamping grounds like George’s and the Hunter’s Lodge, and the ladies who lunch are more “wind-swept” than their pre-Botox predecessors, but the Lamborghinis and Ferraris parked nearby suggest that this is once again where the elite meet to eat.

“It is definitely going through a renaissance,” says Perry of his new domain, “but I honestly think it’ll be more than a passing moment. Double Bay has the beautiful parks and waterfront, and for all the glitz it also has that village atmosphere close to the city that everyone wants. And there is so much investment in the place.” That’s somewhat of an understatement.

Originally earmarked to be the site of Sydney’s Botanic Gardens when it was settled in the 1820s, the suburb remains as green as ever, but these days it’s hard to see the trees for all the construction cranes. 

On Bay Street alone, real estate powerhouse Fortis has broken ground on mixed-use properties that are among the city’s most hotly anticipated new addresses. Of the new developments, perhaps the most eagerly awaited is Ruby House, a luxury five-storey strata office block on the corner of New South Head Road and Bay Street, due for completion in early 2025. A collaboration of luminaries, including Lawton Hurley as lead architects and interiors by Woods Bagot, Ruby House will offer a range of sun- dappled office spaces, ranging from 60–550 m², with starting prices around $3 million. The ground floor will feature retail spaces, as well as three best-in-class restaurants, adding more culinary heft to a street that already includes Bibo, Matteo and Tanuki.

Ruby House

“Our vision for Double Bay is to bring life back into this once-great suburb,” says Charles Mellick, director of Fortis, “and to create a vibrant precinct that is seen as the most sought-after neighbourhood in Sydney, if not all of Australia.” Big call, indeed. And yet take a stroll along the suburb’s verdant paths and suddenly Mellick’s words do not feel so hyperbolic. A few doors down from Ruby House, 24 Bay St is slated to open this August in the heritage- listed modernist masterpiece, Gaden House, designed by Neville Gruzman, a former Mayor of Woollahra and one of Sydney’s most influential 20th-century architects. Fortis is also teaming with architects Lawton Hurley on the building, which will house Song Bird, Neil Perry’s (does this man ever sleep?) new three-storey, 230-seat Cantonese restaurant. Underground will be the speakeasy Bobbie’s, helmed by Linden Pride of Caffe Dante in New York, voted best bar in the world in 2019. 

“Double Bay used to have two of the best Chinese restaurants in the city,” says Perry, referring to the defunct Cleveland and Imperial Peking. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with Song Bird so it’s going to be great to continue that tradition.”

Across the street at 19-27 Bay Street, the first flagship RH Gallery, formerly Restoration Hardware, is also under construction. A five-level commercial building, opening in late 2025, it will house bespoke luxury home furnishings and a rooftop restaurant not unlike the company’s jumping location in New York’s Meatpacking District. Meanwhile, a few blocks over on Cross Street, Ode—a luxury tower developed by Top Spring Australia—is slated to open in 2025 next to the InterContinental Hotel (itself recently sold and being reimagined to include top-floor apartments and retail). Designed by Luigi Rosselli Architects, Ode’s 15 spacious residences and penthouses, with shimmering harbour views, are being eagerly contested by the one percent, with two of the three penthouses already being bought off-plan for $21.5 and $24.9 million.

Ode, Double Bay

For all the positivity, and dollars, swirling around the suburb, there is no cast-iron guarantee that these new commercial opportunities will help rekindle the moribund boutique scene and return Double Bay to its former fashionable standing. It’s been a while since Claire Handler and her Hungarian cohorts made cash registers sing.

As such, not everyone is convinced about the suburb’s supposed rebirth. “The rents in this area are astronomical as it is,” says Tony Yeldham, the legendary menswear impresario who opened his Squire Shop for discerning gentlemen as a teenager in 1956. “It’s going to be near impossible for smaller players to stay alive, but I’ve seen this area go through so many ups and downs so I’m hopeful if sceptical.” For the most part, the locals remain sanguine about the area’s potential, with one proviso. As Joseph Hkeik explains, “We just need these lovely builders to finish up so we can all get some peace and quiet.”

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The Finer Things

Shimmering with gold, diamonds and precious stones, these women’s watches represent the pinnacle of haute horology. Just look at them…

By Belinda Aucott-christie And Josh Bozin 16/07/2024

Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chanel, Piaget, Chopard and Cartier were among the prestige brands to unveil women’s novelties at this year’s Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva. Here we review some of our favourites, including a new style from Bulgari who impressed via an artistic collaboration with architect Tadao Ando and Chanel whose latest bobbin cuff was inspired by a spool of thread.


Tadao Ando Serpenti

The brand’s collaboration with lauded Japanese architect Tadao Ando artfully remixes the enduring Serpenti Tubogas model. The collection celebrates the four seasons; pictured here is the Summer (natsu) with a two-tone, yellow-gold-and-steel bracelet and a green aventurine dial. $27,600. Availability on request;


Lady Arpels Brise d’Été 

The maison’s Poetic Complications novelties ensure that telling the time becomes a spectacle. On this occasion, the flowers on the dial blossom and close in a randomised pattern at the touch of a button. Van Cleef & Arpels’ latest lesson in horological theatre was four years in development, with the dial alone taking 40 hours to master. Price and availability on request;


Bobbin Cuff Couture

Playing on the vintage “secret” watches of the 1920s, the Bobbin Cuff Couture was inspired aesthetically by a spool of thread. The idiosyncratic jewellery-watch is crafted entirely in 18-karat yellow gold, set with rows of brilliant-cut diamond “threads” and a 17-carat emerald-cut sapphire that hides the watch face. Price and availability on request.


Limelight Gala Precious 

At 26 mm, a timepiece that captures the poise and elegance that has come to define Piaget’s jewellery watches. Now, with the inclusion of 38 brilliant-cut diamonds, the 18-karat rose gold “Decor Palace” dial and matching bracelet, this Limelight Gala is arguably the best of a collection that interweaves art, design and jewellery, with an emphasis on beauty. Around $118,500. Availability on request;


L’Heure  Du Diamant Round 

Chopard showcases its smarts in the art of diamond setting. Here, the maison’s artisans have orchestrated an amalgamation of contemporary design and alluring precious stones. The green malachite dial is a standout feature, as is the Chopard MD29 hand-wound mechanical movement. Price and availability on request;


La Panthère de Cartier

From one of the brand’s most symbolic collections, this iteration of the Panthère de Cartier watch is designed in a rhodium-finish white gold case set with 136 brilliant-cut diamonds, and a rhodium-finish white gold panther head set with 297 brilliant-cut diamonds. The striking, pear-shaped eyes are crafted from emerald. Price and availability on request;

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Marc Newson Has Designed Everything from Pens to Superyachts … Now He Wants to Go to Space

On the heels of a new career-spanning book, the industrial designer and Apple alum shares his ultimate design project.

By Lee Carter 16/07/2024

Sporting shades, Marc Newson reclines on a sunny terrace of his Greek island retreat. If he appears exultant, he has every reason to be. Devoting his life’s work to elevating everyday objects into items we covet, Newson has become one of the most sought-after industrial designers in the world.

Case in point, Newson has just returned from Salone del Mobile, the sprawling design fair in Milan, where he launched a colossal book about his equally colossal career, signing copies for devoted fans barely able to lift it.

Over 400 pages, the monograph chronicles Newson’s nearly four decades in design from his start as a jewelry major at Sydney College of the Arts to producing avant-garde furnishings to now crafting luxury speed boats for Riva and even a concept plane in an art project for the Fondation Cartier. All told, Marc Newson: Works 84–24 (Taschen) is a testament to his tireless pursuit of perfection.

Asked to reflect on 40 years of soaring success, the Australian designer all but blushes—or perhaps it’s the Mediterranean sun. “When I look at my own work,” he says, “particularly in the context of a document that begins and ends, it almost feels like I’m reading about someone else.” After all, he demurs, he’s only doing his job. “The core of my occupation is troubleshooting [and] problem-solving. I apply the same rigor, process, and rules to every project, whether it’s a pen or a mega-yacht.”

Marc Newson’s Horizon luggage, designed for Louis Vuitton, and his Orgone chair demonstrate the importance he puts on curves. Taschen

The Newson look is aesthetically niche, but touches almost every sector, from fashion to household goods. It’s bold yet pragmatic, sumptuous yet futuristic, reverential yet iconoclastic. A transparent timepiece for Jaeger-LeCoultre, a sensuously curved cognac bottle for Hennessy, and a sleek aluminum luggage collaboration with Louis Vuitton (the latest of which just appeared in Pharrell Williams’s spring 2025 collection) all point to a singular, forward-looking vision. Or how about the katana sword he created in 2019 with a ninth-generation master swordsmith in Japan? He calls the tradition and sophistication required to execute that work “unfathomable, almost alchemical, practically spiritual.”

Two decades ago, in 2004, he created the Zvezdochka sneaker for Nike. Modelled entirely on a computer and made from a single piece of injection-molded resin, the footwear—named after the 1961 rocket-riding Russian dog—was intended for astronauts to wear during their daily exercises in zero gravity. As Newson notes, “Where else would you need the perfect sneakers but running on a treadmill in space?”

Newson’s groundbreaking Lockheed Martin Chaise.

From the beginning, Newson—who helped lead Apple’s design department, and the development of key products such as the Apple Watch, for five years—has always possessed the unusual ability to bend ideas about design to his will. His Lockheed Lounge, a shapely chaise pieced together from curved aluminum panels, became an instant phenomenon with its 1988 introduction. Named for its resemblance to the early aeronautical stylings of Lockheed Martin, the furniture piece bucked the reductive ethos of modern design at the time. In 2006, it broke the record for the highest price paid at auction for the work of a living designer, topping that price 11 years later in 2015, going for $3.7 million at Phillips London.

Around the turn of the millennium, Newson—a vintage sports car enthusiast who once flew to the U.S. to purchase a 1959 Aston Martin DB4 with the entirety of a paycheck—shifted gears to focus his energies on the transportation sector. Asked by Ford to jot down some concepts, he came up with the 021C in 1999. A radically simplified three-box configuration, the model had a main cabin, hood, and trunk; the latter two sections were mirror images.

The Ford 021C, which Newson claimed caused “a lot of head-scratching” at the American car company.

“It was utterly ridiculous and childlike,” Newson says of the design with a laugh. “There was a lot of head-scratching [at Ford], but I reasoned that since I’m not an automotive designer, I don’t want to and can’t play the typical automotive games.” Thanks to the support of Ford’s “brilliantly curious and open” top brass, the cartoon of a car became a drivable reality and a beloved Newson fan favorite. Soon after the release of the 021C, the Australian airline Qantas came knocking, seeking Newson’s design eye for a variety of projects, including the interiors of its airport lounges and, more challengingly, the invention of a fully horizontal bed for its premier passengers on long-haul flights. No small feat of imagination, this triumph led to his appointment as the company’s creative director.

The Qantas Skybed, designed for the Australian airline’s long-haul flights. Qantas

As Newson’s fame ascended, so did the demand for his work—in the design industry and beyond. New York gallerist Larry Gagosian was quick to add the maverick designer to his roster of art stars, such as Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, and Michael Heizer, and in 2007, he mounted Newson’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., featuring a limited-edition, experimental furniture series. “The stuff I do with Gagosian is not exactly mainstream design,” Newson says. “They’re these sort of rarefied follies [or] crazy experiments that I concoct. I don’t have to answer to anyone except myself—and perhaps Larry.” One object in the exhibition was a nickel surfboard with a storied lineage. “I wanted the prototype to be tested by [professional big wave surfer] Garrett McNamara,” Newson recalls. “He took the board to a Pacific island notorious for its huge swells on top of a coral reef. He actually lost the board in the waves and was driving back to his hotel when he saw a local with this tangled mass of metal under his arm. The story goes that the Mir space station had plummeted into the ocean the day before, and this guy thought he had found pieces from the crash. He had no idea it was a crushed surfboard.”

Is there a project he has yet to tackle? “Every time I think I’m at the end of the list,” he says, smiling, “I think of something new.” Space, for instance. “I would love to work more extensively in the area of space exploration. That is something I continue to find compelling and fascinating. It ticks all the boxes for me in terms of engaging with technology, incredible processes, and modern materials. And, of course, I would love to go to space. That’s the end game.”

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Piaget Just Dropped a Colourful High-Jewellery Line with 1970s Style

“Essence of Extraleganza,” a fusion of the words extravagance and elegance, is a tour de force of haute joaillerie that celebrates Piaget’s 150th year.

By Victoria Gomelsky 16/07/2024

Long before Piaget was a jeweller, it was a watchmaker. The luxury brand traces its roots to La Côte-aux-Fées, a village in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel where Georges-Édouard Piaget founded a movement-making company in 1874.

In 1959, the maison introduced jewellery for the first time, showcasing its creations at the new Salon Piaget in Geneva. Almost immediately, the brand established itself as a trendsetter across both realms.


Proof that the watchmaker-turned-jeweller continues to occupy the most rarefied precincts of the luxury trade arrived last month, when Piaget unveiled its “Essence of Extraleganza” high jewellery collection. The third and arguably most spectacular of the brand’s 150th anniversary product introductions (following the reboot in February of its Piaget Polo 79 timepiece and the April unveiling of the thinner-than-thou Altiplano Ultimate Concept Flying Tourbillon), the collection of 96 jewels and bejewelled timepieces is a tour de force of craftsmanship and gem-setting that bears an explicit connection to Piaget’s roots in jewellery.

“Of our three major launches this year to date, none of them have just been a launch — each and every one of them has hinged on a product, a story, a saga bringing the past and present together,” Benjamin Comar, CEO of Piaget, tells Robb Report.


“So of course, this high jewellery collection had to bring more density than a regular collection. And this is why it’s called ‘Essence of Extraleganza’ — because through these 96 pieces, Piaget’s artistic director, Stéphanie Sivrière, went back to the Piaget DNA, to the moment when Piaget evolved from watchmaker to jeweller, to the decisive moment where this Swiss maison decided to revolutionise the watch world by imagining a new avant-garde vocabulary, filled with colours, textures and gold: the 21st Century Collection.”

That collection, introduced in 1969, included an array of jewellery watches that reimagined how to wear time. From metal bracelets with a fabric-like texture to swinging sautoirs, the pieces were bold, colourful and utterly of the moment.


Three years ago, when Sivrière began working on what would become Essence of Extraleganza, she took her inspiration from those heritage designs of the 1960s and ’70s. The result is a stunning lineup of bold, cheerful and wildly original jewels, including highlights such as a necklace featuring a fiery cascade of trapezoid-cut carnelians set in rose gold and centered on a 21.23-carat cushion-cut spessartite garnet; a cuff watch loaded with 26.11 carats of baguette-cut Colombian emeralds; and a suite of blue-on-blue designs including a V-shaped necklace set with sapphires, tourmalines, and marquise-cut aquamarines surrounded by opals, turquoise and diamonds, along with a matching ring and pair of mismatched earrings.


“Stephanie chose to highlight the couture inspiration of Piaget and paid homage to our chainmaker skills as a golden thread throughout the collection,” Comar says. “This was very impressive to witness unravelling in front of our eyes week after week. The carnelian necklace, for instance, was created like a never-ending puzzle: first the mesh structure completely hand-woven, then every hue and piece identified by a number and patiently assembled to create this mix-and-match yet balanced effect.”

The throughline that connects the 2024 collection to the one introduced 55 years earlier is, undoubtedly, Piaget’s willingness to embrace modernity while employing traditional techniques in service of timeless designs.

“Piaget’s jewellery style is still coherent and that’s the beauty of it,” Comar says. “When Valentin Piaget asked his Swiss designers in the early Sixties to go to Paris in order to attend a couture show and get inspired by this fashion revolution (think Cardin, Courrèges, Twiggy) this was so incredibly new for the time. And today, when we look at their past gouaches where they would create the swinging sautoirs directly on the glossy pages of the fashion magazines to really picture what this woman would be wearing today, it’s so modern. And still has the same effect today: timeless yet modern. That is the Piaget paradox.”

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