Meet The Boat Lovers Who Bought The Shipyard

Combine boating passion with a famous-but-struggling brand, and boaters come to the rescue.

By Julia Zalzman 12/04/2022

When Steve Heese and his financial partner Stephen Julius purchased the assets of Chris-Craft in 2000, they were buying the world’s most historic boat name. But the company itself was in tatters, victim of absentee owners who had turned the brand into a me-too builder that was more about commodity than standout product.

Heese and Julius saw more than a mothballed factory and sprawling model lineup. Heese admits it sounds trite, but he and Julius saw the “brand’s promise.”

“I grew up boating and was looking for a new adventure in my career,” says Heese. “I was lucky to find an opportunity where my passion for boating aligned with my investment plans.” After the two Steves acquired Chris-Craft, they whittled the model lineup back to four models and focused on giving it a high-end, retro look, with a higher price point and smaller dealer base.

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Through the 1980s, Chris-Craft was the world’s best-selling boat. By 2000, it was bankrupt. Courtesy Chris-Craft

Chris-Craft went from a commodity to a luxury product that appealed to a smaller, more affluent customer base. Heese says it took three years before the company made a profit, and despite many bumps that corresponded with general economic conditions, it is now building 17 models with record production numbers from its Sarasota, Fla., facility. Heese, who sold the company with Julius to Winnebago in 2018, has remained on as its president.

“So many people work in boating because it eliminates the line between what they love and what they do,” says Heese.

The yachting industry has a somewhat checkered history of owners buying the boatbuilder they love. With it comes all the uncertainties and idiosyncrasies of boatbuilding. Some succeed, many fail. But the common thread among the successful owners is a vision for reinventing the brand without jettisoning its past.

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Twenty-two years after its bankruptcy, Chris-Craft has found its place among high-end day boats. Courtesy Chris-Craft

Heese says the boating world is full of names that all started with passionate owners. “I think you’d have to be a boater to own one of these companies,” he says. “You wouldn’t understand the needs of the customers and what they really want from their boats.”

Today’s list of boaters/yard owners includes Marc Giorgetti, owner of the 33-metre sailing yacht CeFeA. Giorgetti became so involved in the design of his custom-built Solaris that he was invited to become business partner and CEO.  Hans Georg Näder, owner of Baltic Yachts, was so impressed with his 45-metre Baltic Pink Gin sailing yacht that he bought the company. Ali Sayakci, yacht owner and founder of Evadne Yachts, applies the experiences he gained aboard the trawler he owned in his 20s to the explorer boats his yard in Turkey builds today.

A number of famous builders also have new owners navigating them towards healthier chapters following recent financial failures. Richard Hadida, who acquired Oyster Yachts in 2018, says his yacht ownership experience is the biggest reason he chose to purchase the UK shipyard.

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Richard Hadida had owned and sailed his Oyster Lush for years. When he heard the company was in trouble, he bought the yard and expanded its lineup. Courtesy Oyster Yachts

“I had never built a boat in my life,” Hadida told Robb Report. “But when I learned the company was in administration I thought that was a tragedy.”

A software entrepreneur, Hadida approached the yacht-building game as an end user, which is why he thinks he was the right person for the turnaround that has taken place at Oyster. He’d started boating young, preferring speedboats. But at 30, he did a night passage in Greece aboard a chartered sailboat. “I discovered during that magical night how incredible sailing is,” he says.

After years of different sailboats, he settled on an Oyster 885 named Lush, which he shared with the boat’s owner, former F1 boss Eddie Jordan. “It ticked every box and is the yacht I ended up buying,” says Hadida. “Eddie shared it with me, and now I share it with him.”

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Moonen always seemed like an underachiever among leading Dutch brands. No more. Here, the recently launched 118-foot Martinique in front of Amsterdam’s harbour. Courtesy Moonen

Hadida has focused on retaining Oyster’s quality while adding three new models to its portfolio—the 1225, 595 and 565—with a 495 in the pipeline.

Matthew and Louise Baxter, who acquired Dutch shipyard Moonen in 2019, have a similar story. The Australian couple first laid eyes on a 25-metre Moonen named Aurora in a harbour north of Sydney. When they discovered the builder was in liquidation, they moved from buying the yacht to buying the yard.

“That is what I do for a living—take underperforming assets and companies and turn them around,” Matthew told Robb Report.

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Matthew and Louise Baxter first saw a Moonen north of Sydney. A turnaround specialist, Matthew realised the brand’s potential and acquired the yard. After three years, a new generation of Moonens are being built and sold. Courtesy Moonen

“We’re a sailing family,” adds Louise. “We always look for quality in a boat. We’ve invested in new equipment at the yard because we can’t expect the workforce to build quality without the right tools.”

Among the globally known Dutch yards, Moonen was seen as a strong brand, but an underachiever. The last Moonen sold was in 2014. “They basically gave it away,” says Louise. In the past two years, Moonen has sold four boats and last December launched the 36-metre Botti, the third yacht in its semi-custom Martinique series.

The Baxters have yet to build a Moonen for themselves, but the experienced boaters spent 20 years sailing around the Pacific on a Swan 62. They sold the Swan when they bought the yard, but have kept their 50-year-old New Zealand-built wooden sailing boat named Barbarian. They have since bought a 18.9-metre Fleming for day tripping. “We’re combining Matthew’s expertise in the management of construction with our love of sailing,” says Louise.

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Dominator went from a regional Italian builder to a global name by moving to larger, cutting-edge designs. Above is the Ilumen 28 metre with its foldout swim platform. Courtesy Dominator Yachts

Austrian entrepreneur Wolfgang Pernsteiner bought the Italian yard Dominator in 2010, and quickly had his 20-something CPA daughter, Angela, take charge of the company. The family had owned other Italian brands in the past, but their favorite boat had always been a Dominator.

When they bought the troubled builder, it was a small, regional brand. The Pernsteiners saw how they could bring it global with new, innovative designs. Today, the Italian builder is working on yachts from 79 to  124 feet.

Angela Pernsteiner says that it all comes back to the original passion for boating. “In an industry as complex as yachting, you must be in love with boats if you want to see a change and bring new designs to the water,” she told Robb Report. “Every year we reach beyond what has previously been seen.”

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Ferhunde and Ali Sayakci, owners of Evadne Yachts, aboard the fold-down swim platform of one of their explorer yachts. Ali came up with the idea of a modern-day explorer line after owning a rough-and-tumble trawler in his 20s. Courtesy Eviadne Yachts

The latest, and arguably most ambitious, boater-buys-builder story is Cigarette Racing in Miami, Fla. Cigarette has been an icon for performance boats since 1969, when founder Don Aronow launched the brand.

The company has gone through different iterations, never abandoning its go-fast roots while also branching into high-performance fishing boats. It’s one of the few companies in this story that wasn’t acquired in a distressed state.

The new owners, John H. Ruiz, a Miami attorney, and Ophir Sternberg, owner of private investment firm Lionheart Capital, have even larger plans, including a new Cigarette-branded jet ski and a 45-metre superyacht that will be built in Europe. The owners bought the company and its Opa-Locka facility last August.

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Miami attorney John Ruiz purchased Cigarette Racing last June. He owned five Cigarettes, including the company’s flagship 59 Tirranna (above), before he bought the company. Courtesy Cigarette Racing

“Since the early 2000s, I have owned five different Cigarettes,” Ruiz told Robb Report. “That was one reason I was interested. But from an economic point of view, we felt like this opportunity was the right time.”

Sternberg is not a boater, but sees the potential of growth. “We concluded that Cigarette is best in class, with a lot of legacy around it,” he says. “It also has a great international following, and we tend to keep it that way.”

The two partners, in fact, had both considered purchasing Cigarette separately, and after discovering that, they came together to move the brand forward. The partners see it as a “long-term investment,” according to Sternberg, with the goal of acquiring other boat brands.

Yacht owners who bought the shipyards

Baltic Yachts owner Hans Georg Näder has used his Pink Gin VI to show potential clients what his yard can achieve. Courtesy Baltic Yachts

One reason Ruiz bought Cigarette was because of its oceangoing ride. For years, he has ridden in Cigarettes from Miami to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. To investigate one personal-injury case, he crossed the Gulf Stream 19 times in his 38 Top Gun. Before buying the company, he’d already owned four Cigarettes, including the company’s flagship 59 Tirranna.

“When you’re out in the open ocean, a Cigarette performs like no other boat,” Ruiz said. “They’re very rugged—it has an incredible ride that ploughs through the ocean. I believe it offers the safest method of transportation. I feel confident in bringing my family on board.”

Which might be one of the best reasons why anyone would ever buy a boat brand.

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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

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.

laurentferrier.ch

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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.

BULGARI

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; Bulgari.com

VAN CLEEF AND ARPELS

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; vancleefandarpels.com

CHANEL

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. Chanel.com

PIAGET 

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; Piaget.com

CHOPARD 

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; Chopard.com

CARTIER 

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; cartier.com

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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.
Taschen

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.
Taschen

“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.

Piaget

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.

Piaget

“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.

Piaget

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.

Piaget

“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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