Restomods For The Skies

This company restores old retro biplanes with contemporary power and avionics.

By J. George Gorant 16/03/2022

You’ve outrun the giant cascading boulder of meetings and deadlines and avoided the poison darts of office politics, so all you need now is a stylish old floatplane to wing you out of harm’s way—reliable engine, fixed prop, two wings, twin open cockpit and you’re gone. The Indiana Jones in all of us sometimes needs to escape from the daily jungle, which is where Waco Aircraft Corporation comes in.

In the 1980s, the Michigan-based company revived the classic Weaver Aircraft YMF with the original FAA flight certificate from 1935, but with a modern engine and avionics. It renamed the new-old aircraft the Waco YMF-5. After a recent ownership change, Waco grew from 25 employees to 100 and quadrupled its factory space. With that, production capacity went from five or six planes a year to 15 or 20. “The demand is definitely there,” Waco’s Alex Skiba told Robb Report. “There’s something magical about an open-cockpit, bi-plane with a radial motor that people really want.

That desire may spring from the combination of classic design with current amenities. A 300hp radial engine (the Jacobs R755A2) turns a fixed 92-inch wood prop to produce a top speed of 344km/h with a 185km/h cruise. At that pace it burns 53-litres per hour, giving it a range of roughly 563km—although an optional range-extending tank provides an additional 90-litres of fuel. The leather-trimmed cockpits include all-weather fabric inside, and there are covers for the cockpits as well for the engine.

The best of both worlds: The original YMF design built now with a modern engine and avionics. Note the classic wooden propeller. Courtesy Waco Aircraft

“The majority of the challenges we’ve had come down to the craftsmanship and teaching our artisans the techniques and methods from the time of hand-building,” says Skiba. “But we have assembled an incredibly talented team.”

Wide-ranging options include custom exterior painting (with more than 150 colours available) and heated cockpits for which you can choose everything from the stitch pattern in the seats to the flooring to the harnesses. The instrument panel can accommodate old-school dials or an all-glass arrangement and includes a full range of Garmin nav and communications gear, with engine analyzer. Hydraulic brakes are standard, and other options include a composite propeller. And if you want a dedicated float-plane, that’s also an option. The amphibious version that Waco developed for the YMF-5 was designed from the ground up in 2016, with certification in 2020. “The wheels and floats of the two different YMF-5’s are not interchangeable,” says Skiba. “This is the first and only amphibious aircraft that Waco ever developed. It will be forever a float plane.”

The level of customization and the mechanics involved mean that something like 6,000 hours of labor go into each aircraft, which is why the price hovers around $650,000. But for collectors and the business jet owner who serves as his own pilot, the price is worth it.

The Waco YMF-5 is a modern version of a classic 1935 aircraft

The amphibious version isn’t just a YMF-5 with floats attached. It was designed from the ground up as a bona-fide float plane. Courtesy Waco Aircraft

“It’s truly that raw form of aviation, open and slow and close to the ground,” says Skiba. “It’s a rare experience of seat-of-the-pants flying that will change your perspective.”

The YMF-5 is not going to get you anywhere in a hurry, but if you want to be transported spiritually as well as physically, the hum of the motor and the feel of the stick will take you away. Just make sure there isn’t a giant snake in the cockpit.

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy night in Sydney, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy fused with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of mixology magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci was wearing hair-to-brogue Gucci for her session of flair bartending art El Primo Sanchez. Smiling and dancing behind the bar, she was backed up by a bevy of handsome colleagues wearing smart yellow dinner jackets. IMAGE: GUCCI.
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence. IMAGE: GUCCI.

This past Tuesday Giardino 25 took bloom at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington, the Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney, a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city and curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster an atmosphere of excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas so this festival gives people the opportunity to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it, without the cost of a plane ticket.”

IMAGE: GUCCI.

Taking the bar as her personal catwalk, and dressed head to toes in Gucci, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both Bargiornale Awards and Blue Blazer Awards—prestigious accolades in the bar industry. Gucci Giardino 25 has proudly secured a spot in the 50 Best Discovery, an international list recognizing expert-recommended restaurants and bars, featuring some of the most interesting venues across the world.

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long sting at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known her use of agave, favours drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavours. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to travel to Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am-3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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