Contributors: Better Safe than Sorry

<< Back to Robb Report, January 2007

    Throughout his visits to the Wilderness Safaris camps in southern Africa, says senior correspondent Jack Smith, he could not contain his primal sense of self-preservation. “I just found myself looking over my shoulders constantly, because you never knew where these things were coming from,” he recalls, explaining that lions, cheetahs, leopards, and other carnivorous predators are free to roam through the camps. “If that sounds like nervousness or skittishness, well, I’m here. And it may be because of my nervousness that I’m here and not in a box in Africa someplace.” Regardless of whether the danger was real or imagined, Smith lived to write about Wilderness Safaris in the feature "Wild Life", part of our Icons & Innovators special section. 

    Many of the Wilderness Safaris lodgings are elevated to keep guests out of harm’s way. However, Smith learned, at some of the camps the staff members’ accommodations are surrounded by an electrified fence, because they do not include en suite bathrooms. “I would’ve been happy to swap,” he says. “It would’ve been ironic if I were mauled while relieving myself in my en suite bathroom.”

     

    While he may have felt as though he constantly was cheating death, Smith would welcome a chance to return to the camps. “It’s something of a revelation when you’re in a Land Rover and come across a pride of lions, and they behave exactly as the guide says they do,” he says. Besides, Smith adds, when you think about it, you realize that an American city can be as perilous as the African savanna. “It occurred to me that the camps’ unprotected airstrips could be pretty dicey places to wait an hour or so: Who knows what’s going to come along?” he says. “On the other hand, you could say the same thing about waiting for a bus in Boston.”

    Associate editor Mike Nolan, who writes about the Kohler Co.’s golf projects in the Icons & Innovators feature "Par for the Course", says he was surprised during his visit to the company’s namesake hometown in the Wisconsin heartland. When playing golf on Whistling Straits and the Irish Course—two of Destination Kohler resort’s four courses—he felt as though he had crossed the Atlantic. “I just can’t say enough about how much they reminded me of parts of Ireland and Scotland,” he says.

    As Nolan explains, the younger generation of the Kohler family oversees the company’s kitchen and bath division, while patriarch and CEO Herbert Kohler Jr. has turned his attention to golf—not as a pastime, but as a business venture. “The Destination Kohler business here [in the United States] and in Scotland [the location of the second Destination Kohler resort] is his baby,” Nolan says. “He’s the driving force behind it. He’s in on every single detail of the process.”

    According to contributing editor James D. Malcolmson, who writes about watch companies Audemars Piguet in "Great Leap Forward" and Ulysse Nardin in “Seeds of Revolution”, this is a time of unprecedented creativity for watch manufacturers. “Right now we’ve entered a period where design and mechanisms are driven more by imagination than history or technical limitations,” Malcolmson says.

    However, if he were to issue any caveats, they would involve the use of experimental materials such as silicon (known in the watch industry by its Latin name, silicium). “You can lose some of the soul of the industry,” he says, referencing the 1970s, when quartz technology supplanted mechanical movements.

    While noting that manufacturers can stray only so far from traditional production materials, Malcolmson says no limits exist on the design possibilities. “For the first time in almost 200 years, we’ve really gone beyond avant-garde case designs,” he says. “Now, the sky is the limit in terms of imagination. There’s more freedom in design now than there has ever been.”

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