21 Ultimate Gifts

Overview

A Ferrari Formula One racecar, a kilo of golden caviar and a 459-foot gigayacht. Also, Napoleon's love letters, Astor's gilded age Newport estate, a 300-carat diamond necklace & more. Plus, the top hotel suites in Manhattan.

From This Issue

Gold Standards: Taipan Suite

Mandarin Oriental New York Some five-star hotels enlist famous designers to create over-the-top accommodations, but the Mandarin Oriental New York took a different approach when it fashioned the $8,500-per-night Taipan Suite two summers ago. “We wanted to create a residential feel,” says Kristen Ruble, vice president of consumer marketing for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. […]

Gold Standards: Ty Warner Penthouse

Four Seasons Hotel New York “Ty Warner is a Virgo; he’s completely obsessed with details,” says architect/ designer Peter Marino. “I’m a Leo, very much a big-picture person, and that’s a good combination.” Warner commissioned Marino, along with architect I.M. Pei, to create the interiors and exteriors for his namesake suite. His directions were simple, […]

Gold Standards: Deco, Royal, and Empire Suites

The Carlyle Nowhere in New York is the sense of Manhattan chic more palpable than it is in the three suites that the Carlyle hotel, an Art Deco masterpiece completed in 1930, rebuilt this summer. For the one-bedroom, $4,000-per-night Deco Suite, New York–based designer Cameron Barnett selected ivory leather chairs, glass cylinder lamps, faux black […]

Feature: Sweet and Low

We are hurtling toward rust-colored rocks. But John McAfee, sitting in front of me, seems relaxed enough. His fingers nudge the metal tube that controls the single, fabric-covered wing of this tiny aircraft, keeping us level in the bumpy air. I perch on a narrow seat, resting my feet on posts on either side of […]

One Last Thing…

The Item This French snuffbox depicts Napoléon Bonaparte, his second wife, Marie-Louise, and their son, Napoléon II. It is dated 1815 and might have been made just prior to Napoléon’s arrival in Paris following his escape from exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba. His return to Paris inaugurated the Hundred Days, a period that […]

Feature: Forces of Nature

To reach the island of Nengo Nengo, one of Robert Wan’s seven French Polynesian pearl farms, we fly southeast from Tahiti’s capital of Papeete for 530 miles over the South Pacific. Nengo Nengo is among the 120 islands and atolls scattered across an area the size of Europe that compose French Polynesia. After a few […]

FrontRunners: Road Warrior

Prepare to remove your hat at the sight of the Ducati Desmosedici RR (www.ducati.com) —if you do not want it blown off. This first-ever street-legal MotoGP replica is derived from the Ducati Corse Grand Prix Desmosedici GP6, which finished third in the MotoGP World Championship in 2006. The high-performance engine of this $65,000 bike achieves […]

FrontRunners: Diamonds in the Trough

The stakes of most matches would have to be doubled many times over before they equaled the value of the Charles Hollander Backgammon Set (www.charleshollandercollection.com) shown here. Made from nearly 15 pounds of yellow gold, 5.3 ounces of silver, and 64,082 white, black, and yellow diamonds, the set has a gem weight greater than 2,070 […]

FrontRunners: Men Only

The Harry Winston Men by Thom Browne collection (www.harrywinston.com) can add subtle sparkle to your wardrobe. Many of the gold rings, cuff links, and other pieces in this series from jewelry house Harry Winston and menswear designer Thom Browne feature rhomboid diamonds set in narrow diagonal rows. The collection includes the $8,000 pavé diamond cuff […]

FrontRunners: Dressed to a Tee

Dunning Golf Performance Apparel (www.dunninggolf.com) cannot fix your swing, but it can improve your appearance on the course. For a fee beginning at $10,000, Ralph Dunning, a tailor in Markham, Ontario, Canada, offers a bespoke service that several PGA Tour players use. Dunning will travel to the location of your choice and fit you for […]

FrontRunners: Automotive Writing

Bentley Motors and the Italian pen maker Tibaldi have teamed up to create Bentley at Brooklands (www.tibaldi.it), a line of limited-edition pens offered in advance of the Bentley’s Brooklands coupe, which will arrive in showrooms early next year. The connections between car and pen include the finish on the pen’s barrel, which resembles that of […]

FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

The National Prohibition Act of 1919 not only empowered the federal government to prevent the manufacture, sale, transportation, and possession of “intoxicating liquors,” but also defined these offending waters. In so doing, the legislation made a single provision, the exemption of Communion wine, that allowed at least one would-be target of the law to thrive. […]

FrontRunners: Right Angle

Furniture designer Arthur Tabrizi knows how to hold his wine; he has been making bespoke wine racks for more than a dozen years. His latest creation, the 11-ounce, 3-inch-tall Stretto wine bottle cradle (shown below), keeps the bottle at an angle that is ideal for letting the wine breathe and allowing sediment to settle. Tabrizi […]

FrontRunners: Air Rescue

The fractional jet operator Bombardier Flexjet (www.flexjet.com), a recent Robb Report Best of the Best honoree, is giving you a chance to be an angel. When you purchase a Flexjet 25 flight card, the company will donate one hour on a Learjet 45 to Angel Flight, a charity that provides flights for people who need […]

FrontRunners: Taste Feast

Pebble Beach, long a destination for lovers of golf, horses, and classic cars, is turning its attention to gastronomes. From March 27 through 30, Pebble Beach Resorts will host its first Pebble Beach Food & Wine event (www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com), which will bring together 35 prominent chefs and representatives from some 200 wineries to preside over cooking […]

FrontRunners: Select Smoke

The Altadis USA Cabinet Seleccións consist of premium, limited-edition versions of the cigar maker’s most popular handmade smokes: H. Upmann, Por Larranaga, Romeo y Julieta, and Montecristo. All are well worth a try, but to our taste, the latter stands out. The powerful, peppery flavor of the Montecristo’s Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Peruvian filler tobaccos strikes […]

Jewelry: Diamond Anniversary

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel stunned her audience in 1932 with an extravagant and arty presentation of diamond-studded jewelry in her Paris apartment. Her fresh, modern, celestial-themed designs were a departure from the ornate and classical jewelry suites of the day. Chanel, who christened the collection Bijoux de Diamants, said she chose diamonds for her designs because […]

Watches: Modern Master

“An artist’s job is to predict the future and push the envelope,” says Adam Lindemann, a 46-year-old New Yorker who collects contemporary art and runs the recently relaunched Ikepod watch brand. By this definition, Marc Newson, Ikepod’s founder and sole designer, is an artist doing his job well. Lindemann, the brand’s chairman and CEO, calls […]

Autos: The Pacemaker

Blasting through puddles at 187 mph on the main runway at Alhorn flugplatz in northern Germany, Porsche’s 2008 911 GT2 spits out a rooster tail taller than Miss Budweiser’s. It is a spectacular display—and a relatively safe one. Changing direction at this speed in these wet conditions is not as risky as it might appear, […]

Travel: Southern Bella

As they migrate between Africa and northern Europe each spring and fall, flocks of flamingos stop to rest at a natural lake on the golf course at Hotel Villa Padierna in Marbella, Spain. Generations of these birds followed this route long before Marbella became a fashionable destination in the 1960s, and they have returned year […]

Dining: Rise and Shine

Chef Eric Ziebold intended his Parker House rolls to be a trifle between courses at CityZen, his Washington, D.C., restaurant—he does not even list them on the menu—but they have become one of CityZen’s most popular offerings. Regular diners call ahead to request extra servings of the tiny, fluffy rolls, which are baked in conjoined […]

Wine: Higher Ideals

In this world, there are ideal pragmatists and pragmatic idealists. One might suggest as the perfect exemplar of the former an attorney who concerns himself less with methods than with results. But to suggest an attorney as a model of the latter would naturally give one’s listener pause. Nevertheless, though he has juggled numerous careers […]

Spirits: Royal Blue

Talk to a whisky aficionado, and he or she will most likely enthuse about this single-cask bottling or that new, rare distillery release. But engage in a similar conversation with a whisky professional—particularly someone who has been responsible for actually making the stuff—and he will soon wax lyrical on the wonders, mysteries, and alchemy involved […]

Smoke: Curtain Call

Cigar smokers continue to benefit from manufacturers’ attempts to trump each other’s ultrapremium offerings. Our choices of cigars priced around or upwards of $20 now include, among others, the Aurora Preferidos, the Padrón Serie 1926 40th Anniversary, Arturo Fuente’s God of Fire, the new Stradivarius from General Cigar, and the most recent addition to this […]

Golf: Showing Its Teeth

The view from the 13th green at the Shark’s Tooth golf club may be obscured, but few locations offer a clearer perspective of Greg Norman’s design philosophy. Looking back toward the tee of the 531-yard par 5, you see a fairway pocked with bunkers and crowded by oaks and loblolly pines. What you do not […]

Boating: Weather or Not

Boaters who ply the Northeast’s waters have a healthy respect for Buzzards Bay, a 28-by-8-mile inlet between the Massachusetts mainland and Martha’s Vineyard. The bay is notorious for its nasty waves, which often come from every direction and with no perceivable rhythm. On bad days, Buzzards Bay can wreak havoc on a watercraft. On a […]

Sport: Kick in the Pass

Kicking Horse, the mountain pass for which the ski resort in Golden, British Columbia, is named, may not be heaven, but Sir James Hector did end up there after he died—or rather, after his traveling companions determined that he had died. In 1858, Hector, a Scottish geologist, was journeying through the Canadian Rockies with the […]

Art: Private Puzzles

In private, maze-maker Adrian Fisher allows himself to be devilish. He and the five-member design team at his namesake firm in Dorset, England, annually plot 60 to 75 mazes that are created from a variety of different materials: stalks of corn, mirrors, mosaic tiles, wooden panels, rocks, paving stones, and hedges. Most of the mazes […]

Vacation Homes: Billion-Dollar Baby

Mark and Melissa Richardson, the husband-and-wife developers behind the new Timilick golf community in Northern California’s Martis Valley, believe they have a home-field advantage over the other companies that have built in the region recently. “We knew that this was an area that was sensitive to development,” says Melissa, whose family has owned property in […]

Music: See ‘n’ Play

William Laskin employs semiprecious gemstones the way that a painter uses watercolors or acrylics. The master luthier decorates his acoustic guitars with inlaid scenes that he creates by cutting shallow cavities in the surfaces of the instruments and inserting the stones to form the images. Laskin reaches into the drawers of the antique card-catalog filing […]

Collectibles: Chess Queen

Elizabeth Gann, a dealer in chess sets and boards, has no storefront and rarely allows clients into her home, near Boston, where she displays about 20 sets. Her policy reflects canny thinking, the sort of strategy needed to win a chess game. Gann, who is 64, has been a dealer for almost 10 years and […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Once and Future Alfa Romeo: 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport Roadster

The Gift A rebuilt and fully restored Zagato-bodied supercharged racecar of the type that once dominated European open-road competitions. $1.2 million From the acronym of Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, the founding company, and the name of Nicola Romeo, an early owner, came Alfa Romeo. Coachbuilders Zagato and James Young, driving champions Tazio Nuvolari and Juan […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Times Two

The Gift A pair of complicated custom wristwatches—one of which will feature a handpainted dial—from Swiss manufacturer Bovet. Starting at $1.15 million In one part of the world, at least, Bovet—the watch brand Edouard Bovet founded in 1822 in London—was to watches what Xerox was to copy machines. “Bovet was such an important brand in […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Water Goddess

The Gift A 459-foot gigayacht with expansive interiors, extensive security features, and minimal environmental impact. Starting at $250 million At the edge of the marina at Monaco, near a row of white gigayachts, Rupert Mann sits among photographs of existing vessels and renderings of proposed designs. It is a Friday morning during September’s Monaco Yacht […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Becoming Oriented

The Gift Guided visits to the top contemporary art galleries, dealers, collectors, and museums in Beijing and Shanghai. — Meetings with leading Chinese contemporary artists in their studios, and opportunities to commission works from them. Starting at $2.4 million Bidders broke the auction record for a work by Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang twice in the […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Days at the Races

The Gift A race-driven F1 Ferrari. — Two VIP passes to all 20 Formula One races during the 2008–2009 season and an all-access pass to the Ferrari paddock and pit area during the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix. — A private dinner with Damon Hill and other Grand Prix champion drivers, tea with Formula One president […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Joining the ‘Folds

The Gift Six imperial-size (6-liter) bottles of Penfolds, two of which are Penfolds Grange. — A visit to the Penfolds vineyards and a private dinner with a Penfolds winemaker at the Magill Estate Restaurant. Starting at $350,000 By 1850, less than a couple decades after England established the province of South Australia, nearly 40,000 Britons […]

21 Ultimate Gifts

A Formula One racecar, a Gilded Age estate, a love letter from Napoléon— Robb Report’s exclusive collection of holiday gifts includes something for anyone who has everything.

21 Ultimate Gifts: Golden Feast

The Gift At least 2.2 pounds of wild Iranian Asetra golden caviar, and the same amount of conventionally colored caviar delivered monthly for one year. — A golden caviar dinner for four at Manhattan’s Daniel restaurant in the private skybox that overlooks the kitchen. Starting at $90,000 Rod Browne Mitchell, a supplier of caviar and […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Medicinal Marvels

The Gift A total of 225 vintage American and preembargo Cuban cigars. — Five pints of Prohibition-era Kentucky bourbon and one gallon of Bacardi rum bottled in 1936 in Cuba. — A collection of Prohibition-era memorabilia. $157,500 Nothing gives David Haddad, the 46-year-old founder of Fumar Cigars, more pleasure than pairing his company’s cigars with […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Living with the Gilt

  The Gift Beechwood, the 19th-century Newport, R.I., estate where socialite Caroline Astor—the Mrs. Astor—spent her summers. $18 million Matron of Manhattan high society Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor changed the complexion of Newport, R.I., when she began summering at Beechwood in 1881. “She made Newport,” says Robert Milligan, the current owner of the 15-bedroom, eight-bathroom, […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Dynamic Duo

The Gift Two custom motorcycles from designer/builder Roland Sands: a replica of the Glory Stomper chopper and an original design incorporating a MotoGP engine. $650,000 “Torpedo” was one of the many nicknames Roland Sands garnered during his eight years as a professional sportbike racer—and it is one that, he says, no longer applies. “Now I […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Seven Wonders of the Automotive World

The Gift A seven-day trip to drive seven supercars on seven legendary racetracks in seven different countries. Starting at $1 million Jean-Paul Libert has built his life around world-class driving experiences. The Belgian entrepreneur’s racing résumé reads like a checklist of venerated closed venues and open-road circuits. He has competed at La Carrera Panamericana and […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Game On

The Gift A game room containing an antique pool table, vintage pinball games, and custom poker and foosball tables. Starting at $1.4 million Man Cave has entered our vocabulary as a synonym for game room, and when such a room is badly lit and crammed with carelessly arranged attractions, the term seems particularly appropriate. You […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Safe Combination

The Gift A refurbished 18th-century safe originally built for a member of the Medici family. It can be equipped with high-tech security devices and an interior that holds at least 88 watches. Starting at $1.4 million The key to appreciating this one-of-a-kind safe is its, well, its keys. Only two exist—both are needed to open […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Emperor Exposed

The Gift A Napoléon Bonaparte collection that includes handwritten letters, a manuscript of his address to his troops just prior to Waterloo, and the utensils he dined with when waging war. $6 million Napoléon Bonaparte could be considered the Elvis of emperors, a leader who remains as large a figure in death as he was […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Above Par for the Course

The Gift A 14,000-square-foot house and a 4,000-square-foot guesthouse on a 6.9-acre lot at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. — A pitch-and-putt course with three par-3 holes on the property. Starting at $31.4 million Samuel Furr has not yet broken ground on his next Kiawah Island Golf Resort house, but he already […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Looking Good on the Links

The Gift A 36-piece custom golf wardrobe for each of three people, made by Italian fashion designer and avid golfer Luciano Barbera. — A weeklong trip to Courmayeur, Chamonix, and Crans-sur-Sierre—three of Europe’s most exclusive golf clubs. — A visit to the Carlo Barbera textile mill in Biella, Italy, where you can select limited-edition fabrics […]

Gold Standards: Central Park Suite

  The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central ParkAt the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, if you do not find a suite to your liking, the hotel might create one for you. When a royal family from a Persian Gulf state asked to have a suite reconfigured for their stay this summer, the hotel redesigned the space […]

Gold Standards: Bottega Veneta Suite

The St. Regis Hotel, New York “Excitement and glamour have come back to hotels,” declares Ross Klein, president of the Luxury Brands Group, a subsidiary of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide that includes the St. Regis Hotel, New York. “Designer offerings like the Bottega Veneta Suite at the St. Regis are the icing on the […]

Feature: Gold Standards

Economics aside, the $50 million Ty Warner Penthouse at the Four Seasons Hotel New York is not for everyone. Some visitors—after stepping out of the suite’s private elevator and catching sight of the steepled vistas surrounding them on the 52nd floor—might experience a frisson of vertigo. Their anxiety would mount as they came closer to […]

Feature: Chilled and Thrilled

During dinner with Olivier Krug in the gardens of his eponymous Champagne house in Reims, France, the conversation takes a confidential turn. “You know,” our host begins, lowering his chocolate-laden dessert fork, “people often presume that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.” The genteel clinks of knives and forks against china […]

Feature: Good Neighbor

The architecture of Southern California’s Balboa Island evokes that of Nantucket and other East Coast islands. Like the Atlantic’s weathered, shingled cottages, the 1920s wooden bungalows of this small vacation community just off the Newport Beach mainland display an abundance of character and convey a sense of warmth. Against this backdrop, on a prominent point […]

Wings & Water: Excessive Speed

Just after the start of a Powerboat P1 race off the coast of Travemunde, Germany, in June, Sergio Carpentieri rammed his boat, Carpenter, into the back of another boat, Fainplast, which had stalled. Carpenter went airborne, and as it soared over the other craft, its propeller slashed through Fainplast’s transom, nearly decapitating that boat’s pilot […]

Wheels: Birds of a Feather

Like any modern wheeler-dealer, Tom Shaughnessy, a Ferrari car and parts dealer from El Camino, Calif., spends a lot of time on his mobile phone. That phone is a source of frustration on this mid-August morning, because we are in the Del Monte forest on the Monterey coast’s famed 17-Mile Drive, where cellular reception is […]

Home Entertainment: Keys to Beautiful Sound

It should come as no surprise that the latest item from Steinway & Sons has 6-foot strings, a lustrous black lacquer finish, and a stunning sound. It does, however, offer several features never before found on a Steinway product. First among these is a power cord. Second is the item’s user-friendliness: You can play the […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Going Overboard

The Gift A one-of-a-kind, 18.5-foot-long, exact scale model of Titanic. $2.5 million Gary Kohs knew that making a scale model of Titanic would be a riveting job in both senses of the word: It would be fascinating, and it would require a staggering number of those fasteners—tiny ones. Kohs, the founder and president of Fine […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Let There Be Light

The Gift A unique God of Fire humidor filled with 300 cigars made by Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr. — A table for 10 at the 2008 God of Fire charity dinner in Los Angeles, as well as a visit to the Chateau de la Fuente tobacco farm in the Dominican Republic. Starting at $250,000 The […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Clear Vision

The Gift A nearly 300-carat diamond necklace from Steinmetz that features five stones cut from the Ponahalo diamond, including one weighing 102.11 carats and another, 70.87 carats. Starting at $16 million De Beers scion and mine owner Jonathan Oppenheimer determined that a diamond weighing 316.15 carats was significant enough to merit a name—just as the […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: What Goes Around

The Gift A full-size carousel featuring 30 horses, a lion, a tiger, a zebra, and a ship made of wood from the 19th-century British clipper Cutty Sark. Starting at $3.9 million Not only do the British drive on the wrong side of the road, their carousels twirl in the wrong direction, clockwise instead of counterclockwise. […]

Contributors: New, Improved, and Ultimate

Senior editor Sheila Gibson Stoodley says the annual “21 Ultimate Gifts” feature has become a kind of wish list for her, as she tries to bring to fruition ideas that in some cases she has been brainstorming for months, even years. “Every year I have to come up with 21 things that we’ve never done […]

From the Editors: Skirting Disaster

When disaster strikes, possessing wealth will be especially advantageous. So suggests Naomi Klein in the October issue of Harper’s Magazine. Klein’s essay, “Disaster Capitalism,” was adapted from her recent book The Shock Doctrine. Klein laments the rate at which government functions are being privatized. If the trend continues, she posits, then corporations responsible for tasks […]

Home: Frau Now

Until recently, the 95-year-old Italian company Poltrona Frau was producing traditional furniture regarded more for its craftsmanship than for its style. The firm was known less, for instance, for any armchair or sofa design than for its butter-soft leather—material found in the interiors of Ferrari and Maserati automobiles. Of late, however, Poltrona Frau has partnered […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Securing a Vault

The Gift A three-year lease on the last available wine vault at Adour, Alain Ducasse’s new restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel, New York. — Seven bottles of various Domaine de la Romanée Conti vintages from Ducasse’s wine cellar. $725,000 Manhattan real estate is so absurdly expensive that, regardless of your means, it can be […]

Feature: Time Frames

In watchmaking history, the mid-17th century is known as the Age of Decoration, a period when artisans transformed early pendant and pocket watches into colorful objets d’art that perhaps were valued more for their beauty than for their functionality, which was unreliable at best. During this era, decorative enameling flourished when a number of French […]

Wardrobe: Four of a Kind

From slow food, the anti-fast-food movement that a group of fellow Italians initiated to promote locally grown artisanal foods, brothers and business partners Roberto and Marzio Compagno derived a term to describe—and a name to market collectively—their four brands. “Slowear is just the opposite of fast fashion,” explains Roberto, whose father, Sergio, launched the family-owned […]