19 Ultimate Luxury Adventures And Destinations

The best is ahead with 2022’s best travel experiences.

By Natasha Dragun 22/12/2021

International travel is back, hotels are open and yachts are cruising again. Now is the perfect time to plan an escape in pure luxury.

From sipping diamond-studded martinis in Tokyo to chasing the snow on a whirlwind global ski tour, the ultimate new ANZ openings as well as Montenegro, the Maldives and more—we’ve crafted the ultimate list of 19 luxury adventures and destinations for the year ahead. 


Maldive Must

Known for its barefoot-luxe ethos, Soneva champions taking your travels slowly and living in the moment, never compromising the environments you visit. The philosophy is embodied in the brand’s fourth retreat, Soneva Aqua. Private charters of this yacht usher you between two Maldivian escapes, Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi, pausing so you can dive into gin-clear waters and drift past marine life (try the new “Dolphin Sled” experience), paddle to unpeopled sandbanks, or enjoy wake skating. You can hire Aqua for a day, but we recommend staying aboard overnight for alfresco dinners, stargazing with an astronomer
and moonlight snorkelling.


Global Ski Trip

From British Columbia in Canada to Niseko in Japan, from the Swiss Alps to remote northern Iceland, Scott Dunn’s “Epic Round the World Ski Trip” deserves its name. Over 33 days you’ll visit some of the world’s most fabled winter resorts, including Zermatt, Aspen Snowmass and Whistler. But this is no ordinary journey—your private plane and coordinated helicopters service far-flung locales, where you and your entourage will likely be the only ones on the soft stuff. Your time on the powder is sandwiched between city stays, glitzy mountain resorts and one-off experiences—like visiting an under-glacier ice palace, checking in to Aman Tokyo or swooping over Vancouver in a seaplane. It doesn’t get much cooler.


Sail Away

Known for its prestigious portfolio of hotels and resorts, the Ritz-Carlton group will soon enter deep water with the launch of three yachts in 2022. Each of the ships’ 149 suites comes with trimmings you’d expect of the company. Top pick is the Owners Suite, replete with whirlpool plus indoor and outdoor dining areas. Call on a butler to arrange sumptuous in-room dining, or stroll to one of the six specialty restaurants serving everything from European-influenced degustations
to mod-Southeast Asian fare—there’s even a humidor specialising in imported cigars and cognac. While cruising warm waters in the Caribbean or the coastline of Canada, make the most of the spa and extensive selection of water toys in your ship’s marina.


Montenegro’s Moment

We’re calling it: Montenegro is the destination for 2022—a petite Balkan nation blessed with medieval villages, rugged mountains, beaches, glacial lakes and vineyards. Aman saw the potential years ago when it transformed the fortified islet of Sveti Stefan into the country’s most exclusive retreat. The group has now returned for the premiere of its new brand, Janu. Like its Aman sisters, Janu Montenegro is all about capturing the destination, effortlessly so thanks to its perch on the Bay of Kotor—your view from poolside cabanas is of island gems dotting the Adriatic. While seclusion and peace are the Aman mantra, Janu emphasises a social experience: think art tours, hosted wine tastings, sessions revealing au courant food trends like low-temperature cooking and fermentation.


Full Circle Dining

If you thought the Canadian Rocky Mountains couldn’t get any prettier, think again. Welcome to the 360° Dome at the Fairmont Banff Springs, a winter-chic, glass-encased dining room with space for you and five close friends. Soak up mountain and castle views while enjoying mimosas and pancakes for brunch, sip Canadian wine paired with charcuterie and cheese in the afternoon, or savour a five-course evening degustation: long-bone bison short ribs and Brant Lake wagyu carpaccio are standouts.


Greece Is The Word

You need no further reason to visit Greece’s archipelago, but if you’re looking for inspiration, find it at the One&Only Kéa Island. Opening in 2022 on the west coast of Kéa in the Cyclades, the beachfront retreat boasts light and breezy rooms, suites and villas, as well as a collection of private homes for those who can’t bear to leave. While the ferry is an option for arrival from Lavrio Harbour, we instead recommend jumping in a speedboat for a James Bond approach. Back on the mainland, check in to the freshly minted One&Only Aesthesis in the capital, which—thanks to its forested setting on the Glyfada seafront—still exudes the exclusive ambiance of the Greek isles. The original bungalows and beach club along this stretch of sand were a glamorous hideaway for the jet-set crowd in the 1950s. Architects today have transformed them into nature-inspired havens, with woven leather, muted tones and accent patterns nodding to Greek mythology.


Indonesian Adventure

Admire manta rays as you snorkel. Discover secret island waterfalls. Swim with horses (it’s a thing). The Aqua Expeditions x NIHI Sumba partnership offers many such opportunities to explore Indonesia. The seven-night sojourn begins with cruising the archipelago on 15-suite Aqua Blu. You’ll drop in on Komodo National Park to visit its dragons, hike Padar Island for sunrise views over Flores, and dive around Gili Lawah—all before landing on Sumba. Here, your retreat for the next three nights has taken home just about every design award imaginable. For good reason. The 28 NIHI villas include private pools, canopy beds and curated minibars, all cocooned among rainforest.

aquaexpeditions.com; nihi.com

Exclusive Sydney Opera House

Imagine having this iconic building all to yourself. The curtains sweep back, a soprano steps onto the stage, and your evening unfolds with an operatic recital, just for you. The “Taste of the Opera” experience also includes a private tour of the World Heritage-listed structure, ushering you behind the scenes, and ending with dinner.


Greatest Safari On Earth

Twelve days. Ten guests. Four African countries. A private Emirates jet, hot-air balloon and helicopter safaris. Plus some of the most dreamy accommodation across the continent. This is just the start of your Roar Africa “Greatest Safari on Earth”. Sumptuous suites comprise your sky-high chariot between destinations, which include Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Kenya’s vast Maasai Mara and the jungles of Rwanda. Best of all? The trip is 100 per cent carbon neutral, with a strong focus on issues of sustainability.


Proper Portugal

For more than a century, the who’s who have checked in to Belmond Reid’s Palace, the grande dame of Madeira celebrating her 130th birthday in 2021. She ticked off another year in customary style, welcoming guests to renovated rooms with period furnishings and old-world charm that nods to the region’s one-time British inhabitants. Set on the largest island in the Portuguese archipelago, diversions include a private jet-boat journey over the waves to the Desertas Islands, dolphins and whales and rare Mediterranean monk seals all around. Reid’s Palace also accommodates Michelin-starred William Restaurant, whose menu celebrates the island in dishes like tomato and plum gazpacho with smoked eel, or grilled scallops with pine tree vinaigrette.


The Original Orient Express

Before private jets, there was the Orient Express, linking Paris and Istanbul in style. The opulent train is now the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, and still connects two of the continent’s most fascinating cities. It’s on the rails every day, carrying passengers between the likes of London, Paris and Venice, with new routes to Amsterdam, Geneva, Rome and Florence. But the annual 10-day epic between the original destinations piques the interest of the elite. Expect personalised service and generous accommodations.


The Crown Of Versailles

Channel your inner king or queen with an overnight stay in an ornate 17th-century palace. Freshly minted Airelles Château de Versailles occupies Europe’s most lavish royal residence, a place Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette once called home. The couple’s opulent style inspired the design of the hotel’s 14 suites, each individually outfitted with restored period furniture, artworks, chandeliers and antiques—not to mention swoon-worthy views over the orangerie (fruit orchard) and lake. Guests can tour areas of the Château normally closed to visitors, plus enjoy crowd-free, after-hours access to popular rooms, like the Hall of Mirrors. Adorn your stay with any of a host of add-ons, from a Marie Antoinette–themed costume fitting to private dining with a live string quartet in the former apartment of Louis XV’s daughters. Also dine in style at celebrated chef Alain Ducasse’s restaurant within the Pavilion Dufour; time your visit to coincide with one of his exclusive themed dinners.


Kyoto Calling

Japanese city Kyoto hosts its share of upscale ryokans, uniting shibui (simple, subtle and unobtrusive beauty) with haiteku (high-tech features). The latest to embrace these principles is Fufu, where guests wander zen gardens of bonsai, maple and blossoms before reaching their rooms, each of which sports a hinoki-wood tub for soaking in mineral springs. A multi-course kaiseki meal celebrating the seasons, and your chef’s impeccable sense of presentation, is best followed by one of Fufu’s immersive experiences, whether meeting a geisha or learning the fine art of ikebana (flower arranging).


Maybourne Riviera

Just a 10-minute helicopter jaunt from Monte-Carlo Airport lies the new Maybourne Riviera, coveting a stellar spot on southern France’s Côte d’Azure. Your room or suite—one of only 69—offers views over the terracotta rooftops and olive groves of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the Mediterranean Sea and further on to Italy and Monaco. In contrast to the town it calls home, replete with a medieval village and castle, the hotel is strikingly modernist. It’s all clean lines and juxtaposing curves, deep blues and flashes of gold, with sufficient white in between to make you feel like you’ve slipped into Greece. As expected in this part of Europe, food is a focus: chefs Mauro Colagreco (his three Michelin stars are displayed at his eatery Mirazur in nearby Menton) and Jean-Georges Vongerichten were called in to oversee its five restaurants and bars.


Mondrian Gold Coast

From Miami to Doha, the Mondrian hotel brand is summed up in one word: personality. Each of the eight existing properties exhibits a unique identity, as does the ninth in the portfolio—Mondrian Gold Coast. Its 208 hotel rooms and private residences occupy two gleaming towers—this is the “Goldie” after all—both just steps from the sand of Burleigh Heads. This beach boasts some of Australia’s most reliably good waves, so it’s no surprise that one of the perks of checking in here is a surf instructor on call to help you tackle the swell.


Global Private Jet Tour

Enlist 49 of your closest friends on DreamMaker’s “Passport to 50” private-jet package. This globetrotting journey is possibly the most extravagant ever, with
a price tag exceeding eight figures. But what fun you’ll have over 20 action-packed days, visiting 20 cities—including Kathmandu, Florence, Marrakesh, Ibiza and Havana—while circumnavigating the globe. While airborne, you’re travelling in a privately outfitted Boeing 767 business-class jet. On the ground, you’ll check in to hotels that defy belief and enjoy experiences only possible thanks to your accompanying staff of 50—one for every guest. To top it all off, each guest is gifted a custom 18-karat gold swizzle stick, adorned with a golden globe bearing 20 white diamonds. That’s a US$1 million goodie bag.


New Zealand Heli Tour

New Zealand’s South Island is remote. And your helicopter’s landing site—a windswept west coast cove—is all but deserted. In fact, you can only arrive here by chopper or boat. When you touch down after a scenic twirl over the Southern Alps, your on-board diver (yes!) jumps into the frigid waters to collect crayfish for your supper. Once your bounty is bagged, your pilot sets the GPS for a glacier, where champers is sipped while you contemplate the enormity of this region. Back at Queenstown’s The Rees hotel, your ocean-fresh catch is transformed into an epic meal served up in True South Dining Room. Priceless.


Diamonds Are Forever

  … unless you swallow them in your martini. Though please don’t do that—because you’ll be consuming a $31,000 one-carat diamond sitting pretty in the bottom of your glass at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo’s bar. Order the Elyx vodka cocktail shaken, not stirred (its only other ingredient is lime juice) while musicians serenade with Shirley Bassey’s 007 song celebrating the gem.


This piece is from our new Car Of The Year Issue – on sale now. Get your copy or subscribe here, or stay up to speed with the Robb Report weekly newsletter.


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Escape from the Ordinary

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

By Robb Report Team 19/02/2024

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Tamar Sarkissian. ©PONANT

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

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

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

Chef Mickael Legrand. Photograph by NickRains. ©PONANT

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

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

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


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

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

By Rachel Cormack 14/02/2024

Saint Laurent is taking over even more of Paris.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Rachel Mccormack 08/02/2024

Weird yet wonderful watches punctuated this year’s Grammys.

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

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

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

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

Maluma: Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon

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

Asake: Hublot Big Bang Essential Grey

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

John Legend: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding

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

Jon Batiste: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon

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

Fireboy DML: Cartier Santos

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

Noah Kahan: Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo

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

Busta Rhymes: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

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

Jack Antonoff: Cartier Tank Louis Cartier

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

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

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

By Rachel Cormack 03/02/2024

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

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

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

The range-topping GT can reach 185 kph. MAYLA

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

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

The garage has an electric transom door. MAYLA

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

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

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Red Centre

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

By Horacio Silva 29/01/2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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