The 17 most hotly anticipated hotel openings of 2019

The beach resorts, city hotels, safari camps and adventure lodges you need to know this year.

By Devorah Lev-tov 21/01/2019

A boutique hotel with a floating spa in England’s countryside. Luxury domes in the middle of Bolivia’s salt flats. A top-to-bottom remake of one of the world’s legendary hotels in Singapore. These are just a few of the reasons we’re excited to travel in 2019. As we hunker down for winter, we’re setting the countdown for the openings of some truly incredible properties this year, from spa retreats to lavish resorts to tented camps across the globe. Here, we’re predicting an entire year’s worth of the best in travel- let’s go!

The New Beach Classic: Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Opening: Summer 2019

After what seems like eons of waiting, the first new Reserve property from Ritz-Carlton in three years will finally open its doors this summer in Los Cabos, Mexico, joining the three other ultra-luxurious properties in the exclusive portfolio. Cabo is seeing an unprecedented number of luxury resorts launching this year, including properties from Four Seasons and Nobu, but we’re most impressed with Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve thanks to its spectacular beachfront location, two pools, five-acre wellness haven, 27-hole golf resort with three distinct courses designed by Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus and four restaurants and bars. There will be 115 suites and one- and two-story villas, each with a personal butler and many with a private plunge pool. If you can’t relax here, we’re out of ideas.

Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Photo: Courtesy Ritz-Carlton

The Elite French Retreat: Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé

Opening: Spring 2019

Does France need more chateaus-turned-hotels? If it’s the Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé, our answer is a resounding yes. A former Loire Valley country home of the Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay from 1760, the château is being returned to its 18th-century splendor after a careful private restoration under the guidance of the French government. Having played host to luminaries like Voltaire, Rousseau and Mozart, the property oozes an unapologetically opulent (and undeniably French) style. The 45,000-square-foot château, set to open this spring, will have 17 rooms and suites, a spa and fitness centre, a grand ballroom, formal and informal dining rooms, orangeries and nearly 80 acres of impeccable French gardens and grounds. Over-the-top doesn’t begin to explain the lavishness here: From original boiserie walls with wooden details to stunning chandeliers dripping with crystals to custom fabrics from French luminaries like Pierre Frey, Christian Lacroix and Jean Paul Gaultier, the Château du Grand-Lucé will give Paris grandes dames a run for their money.

Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé
Photo: © Catherine O’Hara Photography

The Vineyard Treasure: Four Seasons Resort & Residences Napa Valley

Opening: Mid-2019

Four Seasons is entering the wine business with the introduction of its Four Seasons Napa Valley this summer. The property will have its own winery operated by Thomas Rivers Brown and a hand-farmed vineyard visible from the 85 rustic-chic rooms and suites with private terraces. Dining options will be top-notch- this is Napa, after all- with a restaurant, pool grill and a general store stocked with local gourmet picnic necessities. There will also be two outdoor pools and a stone-clad eight-room spa featuring outdoor treatments using mineral-rich local mud. Our favorite detail? The two cabanas hidden among the vines, which can be used for spa treatments and private dinners.

Four Seasons Resort & Residences Napa Valley
Photo: Courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

The Soaring High-Rise: Rosewood Hong Kong

Opening: March 2019

Hong Kong has no lack of high-end super-luxe hotels, which makes the March opening of the Rosewood Hong Kong all the more exciting: This hotel is competing with some of the world’s best urban properties and we are positive it will more than hold its own. With some of the largest rooms in the city and more than 80 percent of them having panoramic harbor views, the hotel features impeccable design by Tony Chi, with rich materials, one-of-a-kind art and thoughtful details like double showerheads, deep soaking tubs and well-stocked bar carts in all suites.

The 65-story Kohn Pedersen Fox–built tower will devote 43 stories to the hotel, and there will be 322 rooms and 91 suites, including 18 extravagant signature suites like the 10,764-square-foot Harbour House and Garden House, both of which enjoy wraparound sky terraces with Victoria Harbour views. Other hotel amenities include uniquely designed salons with curated artifacts on each floor; the posh and sophisticated Manor Club executive lounge; the brand’s first urban Asaya, Rosewood’s holistic wellness concept set across two levels; and eight restaurants and bars including an authentic Chinese tea house.

Rosewood Hong Kong
Image: Courtesy Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

The Island Paradise: Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Opening: March 2019

Despite the fact that the Maldives keep shrinking, the hotels and resorts on its islands seem to be multiplying. This year will see openings by Baglioni Resorts, Raffles and the one we’re most curious about: the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi. Spanning three islands in the South Male Atoll, the resort will have 10 dining outlets and 138 carefully positioned beachfront and overwater villas. Each lavishly appointed villa will be equipped with a private pool, hot tub and lounge deck area. Some overwater villas will also have magnificent glass flooring for crystal-clear views of the lagoon below.

Probably the only thing that will pry you away from the pristine beach is the massive, it-has-everything 21,500-square-foot spa with an extensive outdoor bathing circuit, a VIP spa suite, a hammam suite, four resting pavilions, a vitality pool, a beauty salon and an indoor and outdoor mind and body studio. A gym, an outdoor fitness center, aqua spinning classes and an overwater yoga platform complement the spa’s offerings.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
Photo: Courtesy Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts

The Italian Exclusive: Hotel de la Ville

Opening: May 2019

Rome’s hotel offerings were getting a bit tired. But la dolce vita is making its way back to the Eternal City- first with the spectacular renovation of the St. Regis Rome and soon, with the arrival of Hotel de la Ville, a Rocco Forte property set to open at the top of the Spanish Steps in May. The historic 18th-century palazzo, which originally opened as a hotel in 1924, will have 104 elegant rooms and suites designed by Tommaso Ziffer in collaboration with Olga Polizzi (director of design for Rocco Forte Hotels). There will be two presidential suites, but you’ll want to book the one on the 8th floor because it boasts private elevator access and spans 1,185 square feet with two terraces, a sitting room, dining room and study. The hotel will also feature three restaurants and cocktail bars headed by executive chef Fulvio Pierangelini, a stylish rooftop bar with stunning views of Rome, and a two-story spa with a thermal concept and five treatment rooms.

Hotel de la Ville, a Rocco Forte Hotel
Photo: Courtesy Rocco Forte Hotels

The Desert Oasis: Six Senses Shaharut

Opening: Q3 2019

One of the year’s biggest openings is happening in the arid desert in southern Israel, where the closest attraction is the Red Sea, some 50 miles to the south. Set into a dramatic cliff with panoramic views of the desert landscape, Six Senses Shaharut will have 58 suites and villas, including one three-bedroom retreat, when it opens in the third quarter of this year. The villas will be built from local rocks and feature furnishings sourced from local community artisans. The signature restaurant, poolside bar and grill, juice bar and Six Senses’ trademark “Alchemy Bar” will use ingredients harvested from the resort’s own gardens or from local farmers at nearby kibbutzim. The massive spa facilities will include an indoor pool, outdoor lap pool, fully equipped gym, yoga studio with desert views and nail bar.

Worried about what to do in the desert? Six Senses Shaharut will also be a home base for exploration, featuring camel stables with an arena and grooming area, and an open-air amphitheater created from the natural terrain that will transform into a cinema beneath the stars. Activities include off-road driving, mountain climbing, mountain biking, camel safaris, craft workshops, bird-watching, wine tours and a tented Bedouin dining experiences.

Six Senses Shaharut
Photo: Courtesy Six Senses

The Grande Dame Redux: Raffles Singapore

Opening: Mid-2019

While this list is mainly dedicated to new hotels, we couldn’t help including the return of one very important legend. This year, Raffles Singapore, which has been closed to guests for renovations since 2017, will mark its much-anticipated grand reopening with a mid-year unveiling of its 115 suites (an increase due to the new layout of the hotel) all re-created by Champalimaud Design. The two grand Presidential Suites overlook the tranquil Palm Court and feature private verandas, living rooms and dining rooms that are bedecked with carefully curated antiques and artworks.

New dining concepts will be helmed by a clutch of renowned chefs, from Alain Ducasse (with his first Mediterranean sharing-and-grill concept) to Michelin-three-star chef Anne-Sophie Pic (with her first restaurant in Asia) to Jereme Leung (with a boundary-pushing Chinese restaurant). If that’s not enough, Raffles will reopen with seven other bars and restaurants, including a fresh new take on the beloved Long Bar, which has returned to its original home in the Arcade.

Raffles Singapore
Photo: Courtesy Raffles

The Over-the-Top Adventure: The Lodge at Blue Sky

Opening: May 2019

Luxury coupled with the great outdoors is hard to do well. But this year, two new properties are challenging that notion. The first, Blackberry Mountain- a sophomore property from the family behind Tennessee’s famous Blackberry Farm- will open this February. The second- and the one that has us most excited- is The Lodge at Blue Sky, an Auberge Resorts Collection property set to open in Utah’s secluded Wasatch Mountains this May.

There will be no glamping at Blue Sky: The lodge will have 46 well-appointed rooms and suites including the plush Creek Houses- spacious, freestanding accommodations situated along Alexander Creek (which also happens to be the property’s main water source). But it’s what’s happening outdoors that will beckon most, with activities like fly-fishing, horseback riding, snowshoeing and skiing offered across the property’s 3,500 acres and beyond. Extra thrilling is a partnership with helicopter outfitter CloudVeil allowing guests to partake in unforgettable heli-skiing and heli-snowboarding on some of North America’s most iconic peaks.

Post-activity, guests can escape to the Auberge Spa, replenish at the signature restaurant supplied by the 1.5-acre farm, or book the property’s yurt for a bonfire-fueled marshmallow-roasting session. Our favourite part? The on-site Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation where guests can work with rescued horses and cattle.

The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection
Photo: Courtesy Auberge Resorts Collection

The Bali Alternative: Lelewatu Resort Sumba

Opening: April 2019

As Bali becomes more and more overcrowded, travellers- and hotel owners- are looking to other islands in Indonesia’s archipelago of unspoiled islands. Enter Sumba, a tropical and relatively unknown paradise with remote beaches, world-class surf, lush jungles and an enthralling local culture. Come this April, the idyllic isle will welcome Lelewatu Resort Sumba, a member of the Preferred Hotel & Resorts set on a cliffside overlooking a private lagoon and the Indian Ocean. Scattered over 10 acres of untouched land, the resort’s 27 stunning villas will be filled with authentic Sumbanese wooden interiors, hand-woven ikat fabrics, indoor marble baths, and private balconies and pools. Guests can sample local delicacies at two gourmet restaurants, be pampered at the Maraga Spa and experience a host of activities including yoga, horseback riding, trekking, and exploring the beautiful coastline, traditional villages, sacred lakes, and waterfalls. Bali who?

Lelewatu Resort Sumba
Photo: Courtesy Lelewatu Resort Sumba

The Wellness Evolution: Miraval Austin

Opening: January 2019

Speaking of horses, Texas’s wild-‘n’-free Hill Country is about to lure wellness seekers from far and wide with the imminent arrival this January of the Miraval Austin. The 220-acre property- Miraval Group’s first resort outside of its lauded flagship property in Arizona- will combine signature offerings from the Arizona property with exclusive only-in-Austin programs and spa treatments. The retreat will include 117 rooms and suites, a 21,000-square-foot Life in Balance Spa, a 4,500-square-foot Body Mindfulness Center, a treetop challenge course, a kitchen for culinary classes and two infinity pools. Skin-care products will be exclusive to the resort: Laurel Shaffer, whose brand Laurel is hyper-focused on natural ingredients, came to Austin from California to develop products special for the property. The resort has also partnered with the nearby Cypress Creek Ranch, where equine therapy and other experiences are offered. Most of all, we’re eager to check out the resort’s culinary offerings, which are poised to seriously upgrade spa food (finally!) by tapping into Austin’s thriving local food scene and focussing on the region’s natural bounty.

Miraval Austin
Photo: Courtesy Miraval Austin

The Next-Level Safari: Sonop

Opening: Summer 2019

Namibia is already on fire, with recent openings from esteemed safari-maker Wilderness and top-notch newcomer Natural Selection. But this summer, the plot thickens in the arid Karas Region, where Sonop, an exclusive lodge set in the southern extremity of the Namib Desert, will open its doors. The brainchild of French hotelier Arnaud Zannier, the lodge will be constructed atop dramatic boulders, with 10 rooms that are richly furnished with antiques made of superior materials, telescopes, colourful carpets and precious wood. Bathrooms- often an afterthought at camps in these parts- will be built around central copper bathtubs and feature rain showers. Also on hand will be a cocktail-and-cigar lounge with a billiard table, a spa, a fitness centre and a heated outdoor infinity pool, all facing the desert’s vastness. Of course, the real reason you’ll visit Sonop is the surrounding desert; the lodge will take guests on 4×4 dune drives and horseback safari rides to glimpse everything from leopards and cheetahs to baboons.

Photo: Courtesy Zannier Hotels

The Fresh City Hotel: 1 Hotel West Hollywood

Opening: Spring 2019

We’ve been waiting to see what’s next for the 1 Hotel brand, which currently has two properties in New York City and one in Miami. Turns out, they’ve been working on several new locations, including hotels in Los Cabos, Mexico; Hanalei Bay, Hawaii; and Haitang Bay (China) as well as this gem in West Hollywood, which is a takeover and revamp of the old Jeremy hotel. The 1 Hotel West Hollywood, which will open its doors this spring, will sport floor-to-ceiling windows that frame sweeping views of Los Angeles in its 285 rooms and suites.

Of course, 1 Hotels are known for taking inspiration from nature so it’s no surprise that native greenery, reclaimed wood, clay tones, marble bathrooms and organic cotton sheets are all part of the new look. In a nod to the brand’s South Beach property, a rooftop pool deck is poised to become a new “it” spot for hopping WeHo. And for those who need to escape the smog, the hotel has thoughtfully connected its two towers with “the Canyon,” a granite pathway running between reclaimed-wood planters that houses olive trees and wild, native plants.

1 Hotel West Hollywood
Photo: Courtesy 1 Hotels

The Otherworldly Escape: Kachi Lodge

Opening: April 2019

Last year, it became clear that round was the new black. Forget four walls, a floor and ceiling- the hottest trend in adventure travel is bubbles. This April, the geodesic look is heading south to Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats, with the opening of Kachi Lodge, a six-room (or, rather, six-bubble) camp located at the base of the Tunupa volcano. Inside the orbs is surprisingly spacious—there’s even space for a private bathroom and wood-fired stove- but the real decoration is the panoramic views of salt flats that stretch in every direction. There’s even an observatory attached to the main dome for maximum sky views of the salar.

Of course, you can’t stay in your bubble forever- especially in this ethereal setting. Activities at Kachi will include hiking (to either a nearby cactus-covered island or the volcano base), mountain biking and visiting the village of Coquesa and its ancient mummy caves.

Kachi Lodge
Photo: © Amazing Escapes

The Airport Hotel You’ll Actually Want to Stay In: TWA Hotel

Opening: Spring 2019

For the first time ever, we might actually stay at the airport on our next visit to New York City. John F. Kennedy International Airport’s TWA Hotel, opening this spring, isn’t your typical airport pit stop. It has been in the making for years and will be housed in the iconic TWA Terminal built by legendary architect Eero Saarinen in 1962. The terminal was designated a landmark in 1994 but ceased operations in 2001, until MCR, one of the largest hotel operators in the United States, stepped in.

Connected to JetBlue Terminal 5 via the flight tubes made famous by the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, the hotel’s 512 rooms will take you back to the terminal’s heyday with authentic Saarinen-designed mid-century modern Knoll furnishings, martini carts, vintage rotary phones and terrazzo-tiled bathrooms with Hollywood-inspired vanities. The massive property will also feature 50,000 square feet of event space, a 10,000-square-foot fitness center, a rooftop pool and observation deck, a museum devoted to TWA and the mid-century modern design movement and six restaurants and eight bars, including a recently announced Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant called Paris Café. Plus, you’ll be able to have a cocktail on an actual airplane while still on the ground: The hotel recently got its hands on a 1958 Lockheed Constellation L-1649A Starliner airplane called Connie that will be transformed into a one-of-a-kind cocktail lounge and event space. Wheels up!

TWA Hotel
Photo: Max Touhey

The Last Untouched Island: Awei Pila

Opening: January 2019

Discovering the undiscovered is becoming harder and harder. But on a near-deserted island in the Mergui Archipelago of Myanmar, which was until recently off-limits to all visitors, Awei Pila is that rare place that has remained truly unknown. Set to open this month, the resort will share the island of Pila with a community of some 70 Moken fishermen—and no one else. Nestled among stunning atolls and coral reefs within an archipelago of 800 islets, most of which are uninhabited and untouched, this is one of the world’s last virgin paradises.

Awei Pila will have 24 tented villas fronting a white-sand beach, an open-air restaurant and a spa. The island has a single source of fresh water, 10 sandy beaches, a thriving bird population (including hornbills) and coves brimming with fish, dugongs and turtles. With sustainability and eco-consciousness at its core to protect the island, Awei Pila is a plastics-free resort with a resident marine biologist overseeing sustainable policies.

Awei Pila
Photo: Courtesy Awei Pila

The Historic Haunt: Monkey Island Estate

Opening: February 2019

A luxury island hotel in the middle of England? ’Tis true. Perched on the River Thames in the historic village of Bray in the English countryside, the 800-year-old Monkey Island Estate, which will be a member of Small Luxury Hotels, is undergoing a complete renovation by YTL Hotels and Champalimaud Design.

Monkey Island, which was founded by monks (not monkeys) and has been frequented by monarchs, aristocrats, writers, and artists throughout its storied history, will be restored and redesigned to celebrate its lore and history. We’re most eager for the floating spa—the first of its kind in Britain—on a custom-built barge featuring a wheelhouse reception, Elixir Bar, and three treatment rooms. In a partnership with the British spa brand Moss of the Isles, the signature treatment will be the Monks Elixir–Botany and Beauty, which begins with a cup of a monk-brewed ancient herbal tonic followed by a full-body massage enhanced by herbal packs to relieve stiffness. Accommodations include 38 boutique bedrooms, three deluxe suites and six individual residences spread across the seven acres of stunning grounds. Another reason to go to Bray? It’s the only village in the world that lays claim to two Michelin-three-star restaurants: Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn by Alain Roux.


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The Orchards Veue Parkside Will Become a Landmark of Sophisticated Living in Sydney’s North-West

The Orchards Veue Parkside promises residents a harmonious blend of comfort, convenience, and natural beauty; a place to thrive.

By Robb Report 14/06/2024

It’s said that the average person will spend 62 percent of their waking time at home. With such a large part of our daily life spent within the confines of our sanctuary, why not make it fabulous if you can?

That’s the premise of Veue Parkside, a brand-new residential development offering in North-Western Sydney dedicated to sophisticated living. Located in the heart of Norwest in Sydney’s Hills District, Veue Parkside epitomises a new era of apartment lifestyle, seamlessly blending modernity with nature’s tranquillity; natural landscapes, green spaces, and lush parklands make up a large part of this enticing residential community.

But, perhaps, its greatest offering is what’s on the inside.

Featuring a wide array of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments across a total of 156 apartments, some offering two-storey living. Each home offers a light-filled haven that harmoniously integrates contemporary touch points with natural surroundings. Adorned by lush greenery and expansive parklands, Veue Parkside offers a refreshing perspective on urban living where residents have premium offerings at their doorstep, from delectable dining to world-class shopping, and more.

Sekisui House is behind the visionary project—a name synonymous with excellence in community development and home building since 1960—with every element of this up and coming project thoughtfully considered. From the architectural vision to the selection of materials, no stone has been left unturned.

The Orchards Veue Parkside

Residents will also enjoy exclusive residential amenities, including an outdoor podium, community and function centre including a music room, a communal BBQ area, well-appointed gym, indoor heated swimming pool and concierge. Additionally, the extension of the Linear Park will be accessible to both residents and the public, providing a serene escape within the bustling community.

Of course, Veue Parkside is only part of the picture. The Orchards masterplan spans 8.1 hectares of North-Western Sydney, promising to bring a dynamic mixed-use community to the suburb of Norwest. Upon completion, the ambitious development will boast 1,300 new apartments, extensive open spaces, and a variety of community amenities—one of the most significant residential projects in Australia in over a decade.

The Orchards Veue Parkside

Soon, Veue Parkside will be offering new releases set to celebrate the epitome of modern living in the heart of an idyllic community. To enquire further and learn more about the residential development, visit Sekisui House or call 1800 606 808.

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These Next-Gen Supersonic Jets Want to Replace the Concorde. Will They Ever Take Off?

Skeptics think not, but a core of true believers are inching forward with new designs and test flights.

By J. George Forant 14/06/2024

To dig into the state of supersonic flight these days is to invite an unlikely conversation about cell phones. Three out of five experts in the field compared the smartphone of 20 years ago with a future generation of jets that hope to blow past Mach 1.

“Think of the original iPhone. In those early days, it made huge leaps every year. That’s where we are with supersonic,” says Blake Scholl, CEO of Boom. “Tech advances in S-curves. Products go through periods of slow development, then rapid improvement, then level off again to incremental gains.”

The Concorde, the world’s only commercial supersonic jet, was the big, clunky plastic phone that the very wealthy first had in their cars, while the new breed of supersonic jet is a flip phone with a keyboard that, according to supersonic’s believers, will eventually morph into the sleek, multifunction supercomputer that has become so affordable that it’s available to almost everyone.

“It’s taken longer than we would’ve hoped, but there will absolutely be supersonic flight,” says Vik Kachoria, the CEO of Spike Aviation. “We think supersonic will offer a lot of value and will be very useful.”

Not everyone shares his certitude.

Boom’s Overture commercial jet touts supersonic’s potential, but faces multiple hurdles.
Boom Aerospace

“If you go back and look it up, starting from the ‘90s, proponents of supersonic flight say it is always 10 years away,” says Brian Foley, a business aviation industry consultant. “Why 10 years? Probably because it’s a number that’s not too distant, but far enough that when the time comes, no one will remember all the promises you made and failed to deliver on.”

One hopeful, Aerion, which counted Boeing and Lockheed Martin as investors, shuttered in 2021 after nearly 20 years of planning for its next-generation AS2 supersonic business jet. If any private company had the potential create a new commercial supersonic reality, it seemed to be Aerion. The backers invested billions and hired top aerospace engineers to work on the minutia of flight beyond Mach 1.0, or 1234 kph.

Then, out of the blue, the company shut down because it couldn’t secure long-term investors who believed in supersonic’s potential. “They had put together amazing talent,” said aviation consultant Rollie Vincent, who did some work for Aerion, shortly after the closure. “The number of PhDs per square foot was off the charts,” he said. “But they weren’t building things. They were trying to refine design and purify aerodynamics. At some point, everybody, including investors, want to see real parts.”

Aerion’s AS2 was the poster child of a potentially successful supersonic jet. After 20 years, the company abruptly folded.

Boom, now leading a handful of private supersonic aircraft developers, seemed to realise early that it needed hardware to demonstrate its progress. The company launched its XB-1 demonstrator jet on March 22. Its initial flight topped out at less than 240 knots, but for the first time since the Concorde, a non-military plane built for supersonic speed executed a successful flight. If future test flights progress as projected, the XB-1 could make a run at the sound barrier within a year. And the company’s 150,000-square-foot production facility in Greensboro, N.C., is on schedule to open in late ‘24.

Not far behind, NASA’s X-59 experimental craft should make its first flight later this year. The jet, a product of the QueSST project, represents the government’s attempt to reduce the sonic boom, a key development for supersonic’s commercial future, since it’s illegal to break the sound barrier over land in the U.S. and most other countries.

“The key to lowering the boom is in shaping the airplane and the wing, smoothing them out so the shock waves don’t combine,” says Dave Richwine, deputy project manager for technology on the X-59. “NASA is working at a fundamental level and, hopefully, the industry will bring it all together.”

Mitigating sonic booms is the primary focus of supersonic builders.

There are signs that approach is working. Spike has absorbed much of NASA’s work while modifying and applying the theories to a larger craft, its 12- to 18-seat business jet called the Diplomat, which won’t launch until at least 2026. Like the X-59, it aims to reduce the boom by manipulating and flattening the sonic waves so they’re directed upwards and largely cancel each other out. The goal is a sonic “thump” or a ground-level sound of roughly 75 decibels perceived, akin to a closing car door.

Exosonic, which is developing unmanned supersonic drones for military training and a 70-seat passenger jet, expresses a similar goal on sound, and is part of the group rallying to change the current law. Instead of a speed limit, builders want a sound limit, so it doesn’t matter how fast a plane flies, so long as it doesn’t rattle the windows of the houses it passes over.

Boom is less preoccupied with noise. Scholl says at some point, a standard will be issued and Boom will meet it. For now, the company plans to address the issue by only going supersonic over the ocean. Over land its planes, says Scholl, will operate 20 percent faster than current commercial jets.

NASA’s X-59 experimental aircraft plans to turn sonic booms into much quieter sonic thumps.

In theory, Boom’s XB-1 will eventually lead to the Overture, the 64- to 80-seat commercial aircraft the company plans to build once it dials in the technology. American, Japan Air, and United have all put in non-refundable preorders of Overtures, and Scholl hopes the plane will be flying with passengers by 2030.

“We’re very engaged with the FAA and we’ve already received our G1 certification,” Scholl explains. “It’s a long list of boxes we have to check, as it should be, but we’re locked in on the needs and all we have to do is meet them.”

All these supersonic projects feature a modified delta wing and a long, tapered nose that gives the craft a more futuristic, streamlined profile than the Concorde. Aesthetically, the designs are attractive, but they also make it impossible for pilots to see, a problem solved by a system of cameras mounted on the exterior. The XB-1 includes an augmented reality overlay with guidance for the pilots.

Facing critics and shortfall in development funds, Boom CEO Blake Scholl remains a cheerleader for supersonic’s potential.
Boom Aerospace

Spike, which has a longer development timeline, eliminated almost all the windows on the body, replacing them with hi-definition flat screens that run the length of the cabin, on which they can project the exterior view—or a movie or “anything you can put on a computer screen,” says Kachoria.

The Spike chief executive compares the Diplomat to a Gulfstream, with a customisable interior and the option of plush, oversized seats, and Exosonic too plans a business jet version, with three suites, executive seating, and full-recline chairs. Across the supersonic category, weight limitations will reduce the capacity for the kinds of comforts found in typical first-class service, but other considerations will, presumably, make up for any lack of poshness and interior space. “Instead of getting upgraded to business class, someone might get upgraded to supersonic,” says Kachoria. “You won’t have fancy plates, but you’ll arrive at your destination in half the time.”

Foley, who did market research on supersonic jets when he was employed at Dassault Falcon and has worked with Spike, remains skeptical. He forecasts a market of about 300 jets for private owners, or about 30 planes a year for 10 years: “Is that even enough for an engine manufacturer to participate?”

Spike’s concept of its jet interior.
Spike Aerospace

Apparently not. When Aerion shut down, GE Aerospace halted three years of development of the Affinity supersonic engine designed to power Aerion’s AS2. GE, along with major engine builders Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell Aerospace and Safran all passed on developing an engine for Boom, according to AIN.

That left the company with no option but to form an alliance that included Florida Turbine Technologies, GE Additive and StandardAero to invent a propulsion solution, an engine called the Symphony.

“Designing an engine is no easy task, especially from scratch, and it’s potentially a multibillion-dollar exercise beyond designing the plane,” Foley told Robb Report a year ago.

Sustainability remains a concern for observers. The Concorde burned four times as much fuel as the 747.

Despite that, Boom has built the XB-1 and taken it to the sky. “The technology and supply chain exist,” says Scholl. “There’s no fundamental new science—every key technology in this airplane has already flown before.”

In early 2021, Subaru, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and several other companies formed Japan Supersonic Research with a goal of having an SST passenger jet by 2030. They partnered with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and have access to JAXA research going back to 1997. Shigeya Watanabe, deputy director, recently told Aero Society it was working on improving current technologies as well as developing more sustainable propulsion technologies.

Sustainability was a non-issue when the Concorde first took off in 1969. It burned four times more fuel than a 747 on a Paris-New York flight. Fifty-five years later, it’s now a core challenge for aviation, especially supersonic aircraft. Environmental scientists Anastasia Kharina and Tim MacDonald wrote in a study for the International Council on Clean Transportation that “commercial SSTs could be three times as fuel intensive per passenger as comparable subsonic aircraft.”

Spike Aerospace is considering hydrogen power to align with sustainability initiatives in commercial aviation.
Spike Aerospace

Boom and Exosonic hope to solve the green issue by designing their engines to run on 100-percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) while Spike is exploring electric and hydrogen. “The technology for design is so much faster now,” says Kachoria in discussing the engineering challenges. “We can make modifications and see the result onscreen in seconds. They built the Concorde with slide rules and drafting paper and did 10 total iterations. We can do 1,000 simulations in a few hours.”

Kachoria sees supersonic’s potential upside as 900 or more planes over 20 years going to a mix of high-net-worth individuals, fractional leasing services, and airlines. Scholl is even more bullish. “Our ultimate goal is to have supersonic flights on all routes for all passengers,” he says. “These planes will create their own need. As soon as people see others crossing the Pacific in four hours, they’ll say, ‘Why are we sitting in this metal tube for so long when we don’t have to?’”

If Boom and the other supersonic builders succeed, how long will it be before someone is asking a similar question about their jets? Destinus and Hermeus are also aviation start-ups, and they’re developing hypersonic jets that will travel at up to five times the speed of sound.

Lack of interest from aircraft engine manufacturers has forced Boom to develop its own engine.
Boom Aerospace

Pipe dreams or the birth of a new era in flight? The outcome could depend, as Aerion found out, on whether the manufacturers can find the start-up funds, amounting to many billions, for a viable niche in commercial and business aviation. “Never say never,” says analyst Foley. “But these things tend to move at the speed of money, and investors don’t seem to have the risk appetite.”

This article was originally published in Robb Report US.

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Not All Great Super Tuscans Are Red—Get to Know the Region’s Outstanding White Wines

The lighter side of Super Tuscans.

By Mike Desimone And Jeff Jenssen 14/06/2024

Those of us who drink Italian wine often gravitate towards the three B’s: Barolo, Brunello, and Bolgheri, the last of which you may recall is the original home of Super Tuscans. This impressive sounding but unofficial moniker was originally lavished on a group of wines made with grapes that are not native to Tuscany such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

One of the first wines to be given the sobriquet was Sassicaia, whose 1968 inaugural vintage was released in 1972 and was classified as a vino de tavola, or table wine, because it fell outside of the regional DOC guidelines. Fans of this plus wines like Masseto, Guado al Tasso, and Tignanello may be surprised to learn that the regulations drawn up for Bolgheri DOC in 1983 only included white wine and rosé; reds were not added until the rules were updated in 1994. Even more surprising is that exciting white wines from varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier are made in Bolgheri and throughout Tuscany.

Two of the best and most well-known white Super Tuscans, Ornellaia Bianco and Querciabella Bàtar, are vastly different wines; in fact, they don’t even fall into the same denomination. Made with 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, Ornellaia Bianco 2021 hails from Bolgheri DOC, while Querciabella Bàtar 2020, a 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, is a Toscana IGT wine. Shorthand for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or controlled designation of origin, Bolgheri DOC has a set of production requirements for all wines made there. A bottle from Bolgheri labeled Bianco may have any amounts of Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, or Viognier; if the label on a wine from there reads Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier, it must have at least 85 percent of the variety. Since its debut in 2013, Ornellaia Bianco had been made with mostly Sauvignon Blanc blended with Viognier, but the two most recent vintages, 2020 and 2021, have been 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc.

In both seasons, the final decision to use only Sauvignon Blanc was made after a blending session. Ornellaia estate director Marco Balsimelli—who moved into the role at the beginning of this year after working in Bordeaux since 2010—believes that Sauvignon Blanc in Bolgheri has a “more mature” expression than in cooler regions, “yet, it succeeds in retaining acidity and complexity,” he tells Robb Report. That said, he credits Ornellaia’s vineyard site for the quality of the Sauvignon Blanc it produces, pointing to its altitude, proximity to the Magona Forest, and rocky clay and limestone soils as major contributors. “All these conditions allow for a cooler, windier, and slightly more humid climate compared to other areas of Bolgheri, ideal characteristics to produce a great white wine,” he says.

Ornellai’s Sauvignon Blanc is a must try, too.

Querciabella Bàtar is an IGT wine; the abbreviation stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica (typical geographic indication) and was created for wines that don’t fall into DOC or DOCG categories but are of a higher level than vino de tavola. This allows winemakers to craft quality wines using what are generally considered “international” rather than with local varieties such as Vermentino or Trebbiano. The Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco for Bàtar are from several vineyards throughout the Tuscan region of Chianti, which is better known for its Sangiovese-based reds. Querciabella winemaker Manfred Ing tells Robb Reportthat throughout Chianti there is “ample sunshine with beautiful, cool evenings, which allow for perfect ripeness and fruit concentration while maintaining freshness and finesse.” He acknowledges that a diverse array of vineyards sites brings different qualities to Bàtar such as concentrated fruit, intense floral aromatics, minerality, freshness, richness, and citrus notes. Ing, a native South African uses less than 15 percent new oak and minimal lees stirring to coax out greater fruit expression in this outstanding wine.

Other bottles to look for include Cabreo La Pietra Chardonnay Toscana IGT from the Folonari family; Ca’ Marcanda Vistamare Toscana IGP, a blend of Vermentino, Viognier, and Fiano from the Gaja family’s estate in Bolgheri; and Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Chardonnay Toscana IGT, which is from an estate in Chianti owned by the Descours family. Emanuele Reolon, the winemaker and estate director at Isole e Olena maintains that several attributes make Tuscany perfect for the cultivation of Chardonnay, and that Isole e Olena’s vineyards are particularly suitable thanks to its schist and limestone soils, a microclimate that offers cooling sea breezes, altitude and north-facing exposure, site-specific planting of Chardonnay within the estate, and the vineyard team’s focus on sustainable practices.

As many of us head to Tuscany this summer, we will be coasting along twisting roads lined with vineyards to visit historic medieval towns like Montalcino, Montepulciano, Bolgheri, Siena, and San Gimignano, filled with ancient stone buildings, incredible restaurants, and tiny, family-run wine shops. We should remember that in addition to the Brunellos, Vino Nobiles, Chianti Classico Gran Seleziones, and Cabernet- and Merlot-based wines we’ll be stocking up on, we should explore the region’s broad array of white wines. After all, man cannot live on red alone.


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Big-Wave Surfers Kai Lenny and Maya Gabeira on Why They Actually Wear Dive Watches in the Water

The legendary sports figures explain that timing is everything when you’re riding the biggest waves in the world.

By Paige Reddinger 14/06/2024

“The cool thing about surfing is it’s all about timing,” Kai Lenny told press during a TAG Heuer event in Tuscany for the launch of its new and improved Aquaracer. “Everything’s about timing. When you’re on a wave, the wave is this fluid object, and it’s constantly changing. And you’re almost predicting the future, even if that future is only a couple of seconds ahead of your next move. When you’re traveling down a wave, you have to almost see things before they happen.”

TAG Heuer

Lenny and fellow big wave surfer, Maya Gabeira—two of the best big-wave surfers in the world—were on hand to promote TAG Heuer’s new timepieces, but as far as watch brand ambassadors go they are among the most authentic. Unlike other sports figures who mostly promote timepieces as a lifestyle correlation to their adrenaline pumping careers but rarely use them while competing, both Lenny and Gabeira say they feel their timepieces are essential on the open water. (In today’s world, a racecar driver is definitely not timing his laps with a chronograph while burning rubber on the track during a Formual 1 race, and SCUBA divers long ago abandoned mechanical watches, for instance.)

TAG Heuer

When you are surfing 80-foot waves at Jaws in Maui or 100-foot waves at Nazaré in Portugal (the biggest waves in the world, equivalent to the height of a 10-story office building) timing can be a life or death calculation. Just ask Gabeira, who famously nearly died after a wipeout at Nazaré that plunged her underwater for 12 minutes. She says those 12 minutes actually felt incredibly slow as she contemplated her life during the time which she was in the process of losing consciousness and nearly drowning. “I thought a lot,” she says. “It went from thoughts and emotions to a very physical kind of bad. You start feeling all the physiology change. I’m a free diver as well, so I knew what my body would do if I was lacking oxygen. So, I started being very focused on my physical abilities and what I had to do and how much time I still had. And then after it just went black, to be honest.” She says she rarely thinks about the experience now but it took her about a decade to recover from the trauma.

TAG Heuer

Through their best and worst rides, both Lenny and Gabeira say their timepieces are constant companions. In fact, Lenny has gone through at least five Aquaracers in the deep blue. “It comes from just wear—you’re in big waves and everything breaks at one point, including yourself,” says Lenny. “And I use it as a tool. I’m always timing waves.” He says when he’s competing, especially, he will time things down to the second to make sure he’s catching the big waves, which come approximately every 30 minutes. “It comes down to when you paddle for the wave, how much time you have to allow yourself,” says Lenny. “It’s amazing how often I’m actually like dialing the watch to be like, okay, in two minutes from now, a set is coming and because of the ocean wavelengths, it’s so consistent. You can actually time the ocean and predict when it’s going to come in just off of your timepiece.”

TAG Heuer

One big bonus of the new TAG Heuer Aquaracer, according to Lenny, is that he feels the rubber strap is more secure than in previous models. Other updates to the timepiece include a more legible minute track and a more prominent hour hand featuring a shield shape, as well as a wavy new dial (which will, no doubt, draw comparisons to the Omega Seamaster, but the Aquaracer comes in at a cool USD$3,800 vs. USD$5,900 for the Seamaster, which may be a bit easier to swallow for those that are into hardcore surfing and prone to losing their timepieces like Lenny). The case has been reduced from 43 mm to 42 mm, in keeping with current trends towards smaller sizing. It is, of course, water resistant to 300 meters in keeping with the best dive watch standards.

TAG Heuer

While timepieces are truly practical tools for these big wave surfers, they’re also mementos. Lenny says his first Aquaracer he got in 2015 is his most treasured because he wore it during his first big wave competition at the infamous Jaws surf spot in his hometown of Maui. “That was the one watch that I consistently wore for the longest,” says Lenny. Against all odds, he still has it, and he says it’s a reminder of a time when he had to pass through a certain veil of fear. “But you know, it’s a good throwback to an awesome time in my life when I was much younger and got to cut my teeth in the big wave world,” he says.

TAG Heuer

For Gabeira, the most poignant reflection of time is her own accomplishments. Incredibly, she didn’t start surfing until the age of 13 (for comparison, Lenny has been surfing since the age of 4.) A boyfriend introduced her to the sport and she fell in love with it from the first ride. He broke up with her, but the ocean remained her faithful companion. “I went to Australia and then I came back and I was like, ‘Ok, I’m just going to keep improving until I’m so good, he never has a chance around me in the ocean again,” she says, reflecting on that time in her life. “He was the surfer and I was the beginner. I was like, ‘You watch it flip.’” She is now one of the best big wave surfers on the planet and in 2020, when she surfed a 73-foot wave in Nazaré, she set the record for the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman. How’s that for perseverance? It’s proof that it’s never too late to be your best and with serious dedication and an near obsessive investment of your time, you just might, like Gabeira, realise your wildest dreams.



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After a Record-Breaking Auction, Sotheby’s Watch Department Gets a Leadership Shake Up

After Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe Grand Master Chime sold for USD$5.4 million, Geoff Hess, Sotheby’s former head of watches for the Americas, and international watch specialist Sam Hines have both been promoted.

By Victoria Gomelksy 14/06/2024

When Sotheby’s held its Important Watches sale in New York on June 5, Sly Stallone’s Patek Philippe Reference 6300G-010 Grandmaster Chime sold for USD$5.4 million in an atmosphere that bore little resemblance to the staid, conservative auctions of yesteryear. That specific sale—the highest ever for a modern watch at Sotheby’s—even upset the leadership of Patek Philippe.

“We tried to create an auction room experience—there were cocktail tables, a hot dog stand activation and champagne bottles were popping,” Geoff Hess, the house’s new global head of watches, told Robb Report days before news of his promotion, from head of watches for the Americas, was made public last week.

“The watch world benefits from something other luxury categories don’t and that is an incredible global sense of community,” Hess said. “We’re going to focus on ensuring our clients not only receive great service but also on immersing them into our community.”

That statement could well serve as Hess’s mission statement as he plots the future of Sotheby’s watch auction business. Together with Sam Hines—who has returned to the auction house as the new Hong Kong-based chairman of the watches department, following a two-year stint as managing director of Loupe This, the online watch auctioneer founded by Eric Ku and Justin Gruenberg—Hess will focus on creating more events (“There will definitely be a RollieFest2025,” he said) as well as social content.

Hess capped off a great spring season with the sale of Sylvester Stalloone’s Grand Master Chime.

“We had not less than eight videos at our auction yesterday, helping to bring our watches to life,” Hess said.

He also referred to Sotheby’s Rough Diamonds auction in April when the auctioneer teamed with the watch magazine Heist-Out to stage a live sale dedicated to avant-garde and overlooked vintage timepieces. The location? A wine cellar in downtown Geneva.

“How fantastic that an entity like Sotheby’s would embrace the notion of bringing 200 people into a cave,” he said. “We can leverage on the down trend in prices to recognise that more than ever before clients want to enjoy the auction experience.”

Meanwhile, Hines is due to begin his role in Hong Kong at the end of June, in time for the opening of Sotheby’s new Maison at Landmark Chater at the end of July, marking the start of an exciting new chapter for the house’s operations in Asia.

“In Hong Kong, the auction business was a seasonal business — spring and fall — and the auction houses would rent the Hong Kong Convention Center for weeklong exhibitions and auctions,” Hines said. “But Sotheby’s is now opening this dedicated space so auctions will take place within the Sotheby’s home. We’ll have flexibility to hold auctions all year round. The space has many floors. There will be a retail space, a gallery space, all really groundbreaking for the Asian business.”

Hess says, “[Y]ou’d have to be living under a rock not to see the uptick in interest in Cartier.”

Hines said the changes coincide with global shifts in the watch auction world that include the emergence of a new generation of influential Asian collectors.

“Twenty years ago, the Asian market was very small compared to the U.S. or Europe,” Hines said. “But it’s growing at rates where it’s rivaling traditional selling centres. Some of the biggest buyers in the world are in Asia now. So the Asian sales are like what New York was 10 to 15 years ago.”

He also noted new opportunities to deviate from the traditional selling calendar.

“Sotheby’s management globally is looking at why do we have to sell in October and April?” he added. “If an exciting sale could take place in August, why not?”

The sales calendar isn’t the only thing up for revision. In February, Sotheby’s announced a simplified fee structure, which went into effect on May 20. Designed to attract new buyers and sellers, the house now charges buyers a rate of 20 percent (down from 26 percent) on purchases with a hammer value up to USD$6 million and 10 percent of the portion of the hammer price above USD$6 million, applicable to all Sotheby’s auctions globally, excluding cars, real estate, wine and spirits.

Hess said the recent New York Important Watches sale reflected the fruits of the simplified and more accessible pricing. “We had over 1,400 registered bidders yesterday,” he said, noting that the figure represented an increase of 400 registered bidders compared with last June. “That’s a jaw dropping number, meaningfully larger than five years ago. Moreover, more than one-third of our buyers yesterday were new.”

While both Hess and Hines acknowledged the recent downturn in secondary watch prices, they emphasised that it was not a reflection of anyone’s enthusiasm for watches.

“When people ask about the current state of the market, we talk about a meaningful down trend, but the reality is the fun is back in collecting,” Hess said. “I definitely see collectors embracing smaller watches than ever before. It used to be that 36 mm watches suffered a little bit because they were smaller than the 40 mm sport watches that people got excited about. Now there’s less of that. Certain brands will benefit and certain references.

Audemars Piguet

“And you’d have to be living under a rock not to see the uptick in interest in Cartier,” he added. “People are embracing new case shapes and smaller cases and naturally, Cartier would be a perfect fit. The brands are recognizing that, too: AP just came out with their mini Royal Oak yesterday. That’s not a coincidence.

“It’s less about a specific brand that’s hotter than others. It’s about size, shape and also price. That’s the reason why we say the fun is back in collecting. The thrill of the hunt is much more powerful now. Buyers have more choice now than they had recently. That allows you to seek out value buys and that leads to people enjoying the hobby more.”


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