The 19th Annual Ultimate Gift Guide


The world's 21 most exclusive holiday wishes. Also, the new Mercedes Maybach, championship Formula 1 Ferrari, deluxe Boeing business jet, a million-dollar watch and more.

From This Issue

FrontRunners: Striking All the Right Chords

When the British hi-fi company Chord debuted the first component in its distinctive Choral Series a year ago, reaction was immediate: “Give us more!” The unconventional dimensions of the digital-to-analog converter’s casing (similar to a 2-inch-tall shoe box with softened corners), round jewellike glass window exposing a soft ocean blue glow, and engraving-free and nearly […]

FrontRunners: The Loud and Clear Choice

The inner workings of speakers are finally being exposed, and unlike sausage processing or lawmaking, it is a welcome sight. Waterfall Audio ( has introduced a line of speakers featuring cases made entirely of glass. The speakers represent a breakthrough in design and technology because until now, no other company has found a way to […]

FrontRunners: Revamped Amps

Mark Levinson’s 400 Series single-channel amplifiers are handsome, but at nearly 18 by 20 inches, they are too portly for tight spaces. For audiophiles needing a smaller profile, Levinson ( offers two new amplifiers based on the same technology. The No. 431 and No. 432 stereo power amps are rated at 200 watts and 400 […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: A Towering Offer

Golf, sport, travel, and real estate come together in this unique package from the Carnegie Clubs, Peter de Savary’s exclusive members-only retreats. You and three friends will enjoy a week’s vacation that begins when you board a private jet in New York and fly to Carnegie Abbey (below), a private golf club on Narragansett Bay […]

FrontRunners: Nutcracker Sweet

Holiday time at Colorado’s Keystone Resort ( brings more than those glorious Rocky Mountain vistas. An eyeful of a different sort goes on display December 13 through January 5 in the lobby of Keystone Lodge, where pastry chef Ned Archibald offers up a miniature town made entirely of chocolate—1,650 pounds of it. “Gingerbread houses are […]

FrontRunners: Joie de Vin

Red carpets, klieg lights, photographers and media crews jostling for space, French film stars . . . no, it was not a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival; it was the opening night of Lavinia, Paris’ newest and largest wine store, which took over 1,800 square yards on Boulevard de la Madeleine this fall. Lavinia […]

FrontRunners: Tasteful Architecture

The culinary elves at Eleni’s (212.255.7990,, a gourmet Manhattan bakery, will not bake you an ordinary gingerbread house this holiday season—that is, unless you happen to live in an ordinary house. They will create a custom gingerbread house that is an exact confectionery replica of your house by blending their skills in baking and […]

FrontRunners: Ship of Gold

In 1989, the discovery of $1.22 billion in sunken gold treasure off the Carolina coast put an 1857 maritime disaster in the pages of history and its booty into numerous private collections. Carrying a 3-ton shipment of gold and nearly 600 passengers from Panama to New York, the 278-foot steamship SS Central America encountered a […]

Leisure: Fantasy Islands

It is amusing when smokers, eager to display knowledge of their hobby, pontificate about Canary Islands cigars made with the islands’ tobaccos. The truth is, tobacco has not been grown in the Canary Islands for more than a century. What these pundits are actually savoring are cigars rolled in the Canaries with leaf imported from […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Perfect Pear

Laurence Graff has a reputation for acquiring the finest, most beautiful gemstones—whatever the cost—and the incredible necklace shown here will only enhance that reputation. Completed earlier this year after months of painstaking crafting, it features 144 carats of brilliantly sparkling diamonds. At its heart is an internally flawless, fancy light pink pear-shaped diamond weighing 70.39 […]

FrontRunners: Shine On

In the 1920s, Maharaja Sir Bhupindra Singh asked Louis Joseph Cartier to set some loose gems into a showstopping piece of jewelry. The maharaja was not disappointed. The necklace, completed in 1928 and called the Patiala after the region of India that he ruled, includes five Art Deco–style platinum chains that once contained 2,930 diamonds […]

FrontRunners: Stitch in Time

President Nixon made his historic trip to China, Carole King’s Tapestry swept the Grammys, M*A*S*H and The Godfather were big draws at the box office, and Prozac was developed—the year was 1972. At the same time in Geneva, watchmaker Vacheron Constantin (877.862.7555, was stretching the limits of convention with an asymmetrical trapezoid watch that […]

Style: Rock of Ages

In the silk-upholstered lobby of the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel, actor/director Lou Diamond Phillips and his wife, Kelly, are sipping tea and talking diamonds. The topic is courtesy of their companions, Mitch Edwards and Pericles Rellas of the Beverly Hills jewelry design house Edwards & Rellas, who have come to high tea equipped with a […]

FrontRunners: Caretaker Tipping Tips

Boxing day, that merry olde British tradition of remembering the household staff on the day after Christmas, is just around the corner. Two lines of thought on the topic may reflect two different lines of thinking in the Commonwealth and in the colonies. “We feel a personal present is suitable, something for the employee’s pleasure,” […]

Wealth Management: The Family Business

Money does indeed change everything: Financial challenges mount exponentially as you add more digits to your bottom line. Investment portfolios. Trust funds. Endowments. Retirement plans. Tax planning. Estate management. The list of responsibilities is almost endless. Paper-work alone can bury even the most financially savvy family. Keep in mind, though, resources are called assets for […]

Motorcycles: Ridin’ in the Rain

For motorcyclists, the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile road that winds its way along the Appalachian Mountains through Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, is the ideal stretch of road. The parkway, which ranges from 650 to 6,000 feet above sea level, is one of those rare stretches of curvy pavement that allows you to glide […]

Symposium: Leaving Legacies

Thirteen years ago, I went to The St. Regis in New York City to meet with a woman of great style, to whom I had been introduced some months earlier. This was not, however, a romantic liaison, but rather a potential business deal. She had a valuable family heirloom that she was considering selling, and […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: MM Good

The double-M badge on the Maybach 62, which stands for Maybach Manufaktur, could also be an abbreviation for Much Multitasking. You can drive the luxury sedan while smoking one of the premium cigars that you keep in its humidor. If your chauffeur is driving, you can watch TV while drinking a beverage that has been […]

Home Electronics: Drivers Wanted

An undeniable revolution in sound reproduction has begun. A new all-digital sound projector (first available from Pioneer), featuring innovations from the British technology research company 1Limited, will have you rethinking everything you know about surround sound. Instead of requiring center, left, and right front and rear speakers, plus a subwoofer, the PDSP-1 speaker delivers 500 […]

Golf: Doonbeg to Differ

It is a tricky business, building new links golf courses in Ireland. The standards for comparison, such as Ballybunion, Lahinch, Portrush, and County Down, are quite lofty. In fact, two highly touted recent entries could not quite reach the bar: The European Club in Wicklow is a pretty good course with a so-so setting, and […]

Travel: Foreign Furniture Affairs

Several years ago, New York architect and interior designer Carlos Aparicio, accompanied by one of his clients, visited a Paris furniture gallery, where they saw the hanging fixture of the client’s dreams. It was a large bronze piece with the shapes of shells molded into the body. “He loved it,” Aparicio says of his client. […]

Feature: Auto Bonding

I am en route to dresden on the German autobahn when the rain gradually dissipates in the summer sun, leaving the supersmooth roads bone-dry. The visibility is excellent, the traffic light. With a clear road ahead, I crank up the Beach Boys CD. “If everybody had an ocean.” Sam, my companion, shakes her head, knowing […]

Feature: Audacious

As exemplars of high-quality German mechanicals, Audis born of the legendary Auto Union have always been at eye level in terms of precision and personality with anything built by Leica, Blaupunkt, or Willi Messerschmitt. That, at least, is the actuality. Perversely, America’s perception of Audis has been of overweight, underpowered, overpriced, underdog cars that were […]

Feature: The Story of O

To those who met him in the early 1990s, Alexander Blastos was a wealthy and successful international businessman. The owner of Trans Global Shipping, an international shipping company in Athens, Blastos also owned real estate in New England and Florida, a plump Goldman Sachs account, interest in two family restaurants, and 1,000 acres of farmland […]

Feature: Vanity Fur

At the fall 2002 couture fashion shows in Paris, the pièce de résistance on Valentino’s runway was an elaborately embroidered and appliquéd velvet dress with a plunging neckline, hem, and cuffs, all made of plush mink. Christian Lacroix introduced his usual flamboyant presentation with a bustled orange mink coat and ended with a smart tweed […]

Feature: Renegade Reds

The supply of Three Rivers Shiraz, a wine made from grapes grown in South Australia’s high-altitude Barossa Ranges, is so scarce that the waiting list is five times longer than the available stock. Its creator, winemaker Chris Ringland, says that promoting the wine to the international market has been simple: “I just tell people they […]

Feature: The Vine Inspiration

The 16th century was not a good time to be a vintner in england. It was not just the competition from France, whose wines outsold the homegrown variety; it was also the weather, which was becoming colder. That much the British could tell, because their growing seasons were becoming increasingly shorter. They did not know, […]

Feature: Form vs. Function

Visit the office of an art museum director, and you will probably see works of art hanging on the walls, maybe even a sculpture on a shelf. But one thing you are almost certain to find is a strategically placed table holding a model of a new wing or building, with a hard hat nearby. […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts

Selecting the perfect gift is an art and a science—as well as hard work. You know the item, experience, or service when you see it, although you never know when you will see it. If you are lucky, your quest is brief, but usually much fruitless searching must be endured before the gift is finally […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Bon Voyage, Bon Vivant

Travel in style with this unique collection of luggage from Louis Vuitton. The cigar trunk can hold a total of 1,000 cigars in its 12 humidified drawers and its humidor, and includes a built-in hygrometer, a device that monitors humidity. This particular trunk will come filled with Padrón cigars—specifically, 900 from the 1964 Anniversary Series and […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Cup Runneth Over

Whether by land, sea, or air, Los Angeles–based travel company Private Jetaway delivers, and this all-inclusive 24-day America’s Cup vacation for you and as many as seven of your friends includes all three modes of transportation. You will depart Los Angeles aboard a sumptuously appointed Boeing Business Jet and while away the hours sipping Cristal, […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Look and Listen

New York–based Innovative Audio Video, considered to be one of the best dealers in the realms of both audio equipment and home theater, is offering a unique two-pronged package that includes the ultimate listening room and the ultimate home theater. Innovative Audio Video representatives will interview you at your home and examine the rooms in […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: The Noble Touch

Sir Humphry Wakefield is an expert on art and architecture, a noted interior designer, and the guiding force behind Baker’s Stately Homes program, which creates fine reproductions of furnishings and decorative items from aristocratic estates in Europe. He has agreed to help two Robb Report readers design a room, or perhaps even an entire house, […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Champagne Dreams

True romantics everywhere will swoon over Perrier-Jouët’s romp through France and Italy. Following a Concorde flight from New York to Paris, you and your beloved will sip chilled Perrier-Jouët 1993 Champagne Blanc de Blancs as a limousine takes you on a half-hour ride to the town of Condecourt. There you will spend a week at […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Good Meals Come in Threes

Viking feeds your appetite for learning and cooking with this three-day, three-city, three-chef package for you and five of your friends. The first stop is the Viking Culinary Arts Center in Garden City, N.Y., where popular Food Network chef Bobby Flay will teach your group how to grill with fiery flair on a 53-inch Viking […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Rings Supreme

The Sonnerie Souveraine is one of François-Paul Journe’s most remarkable accomplishments in watchmaking. Containing nearly 500 parts, it was three years in the making and completed in time to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium in 2000. The original Sonnerie Souveraine belongs to a private collector, but F.P. Journe will replicate it for one […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: One Winning Formula

Few Grand Prix fans who have traced the title’s history since its inauguration in 1950 have failed to follow the spectacular career of Michael Schumacher, arguably the most formidable driver of the past decade, who made his Grand Prix debut in Belgium in 1991 with the Formula One Jordan team. Placing third in the world […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: European Ride

What better way to celebrate Harley-Davidson’s 100th anniversary than with this exclusive tour through Europe? A private jet will fly you and nine of your biker friends to Germany’s Cologne- Bonn Airport, where a limousine will transport you to the palatial Schloss Bensberg Hotel, the starting point for the first leg of the tour. There, […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: No Plane Like Home

Andrew Winch Designs’ first Boeing Business Jet 2 interior is a remarkable achievement, and the London-based company will replicate the design for a Robb Report reader. The jet is well equipped for business meetings, with a forward lounge that seats 10 on comfortable sofas and leather seats, and has a 42-inch plasma screen with a […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: A Sub with the Works

If you seek something more exotic than a superyacht, you might consider the Phoenix 1000 luxury submarine. Measuring 213 feet long, capable of gliding along the surface of the ocean as well as diving to a depth of 1,000 feet, and providing more than 5,000 square feet of interior space spread over four levels, it […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Bayliss’ Bike

Troy Bayliss, one of the most successful motorcycle racers ever to tear around a track, rode a Ducati 998 Factory 01 bike to victory during the 2001 World Superbike Championship. Well, to be precise, he actually rode two such bikes during the season. One of the Ducatis—each of which features a 998cc Testastretta engine that […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: A Gourmet Odyssey

The Antique Wine Co. of Great Britain has assembled a weeklong food and wine fantasy cruise vacation for you and as many as 23 of your friends. It begins in Nice, France, where your party will board the Christina O, the legendary 325-foot yacht once owned by Aristotle Onassis. By day, you can lounge on […]

Robb Report’s 21 Ultimate Gifts: Gentleman’s Gym

Build a man a gym, and he will exercise for a day; build a man a custom-tailored workout environment, and he will exercise for a lifetime. That twist on an old axiom explains why Mark Harigian is a giant among home gym designers. He creates personalized workout areas that encourage even the most reluctant exerciser […]

Feature: The White Tornado

Remember the white tornado? That muscular but friendly force clad in tight, bright white, who swept the interior clean and shined its surfaces to a brilliant sparkle? Well, that force is still with us, and her name is Jennifer Post. Post is a New York interior designer with an architectural bent and a client list […]

Feature: The Midas Touch

Leave it to Alec Gores to turn everything he touches into gold. Since 1992, the chairman of the Los Angeles–based Gores Technology Group has completed over 35 deals worth more than $l billion, including the acquisition of the troubled Learning Company from Mattel, which left his peers gasping and wondering what he would try next. “I work […]

Home Entertainment: Two in a Million

Most early adopters, people who installed home cinemas a decade or more before DVD and high-definition television, are now finding that their setups are not aging well. VHS tape, laser disc, and even CDs are past their primes. In addition, the past two years have witnessed one of the greatest leaps in screen and projector […]

Journeys: Imperial Subjects of Dance

I went to Vienna to waltz. Specifically, I went to waltz at the Rudolfina-Redoute, one of the city’s 300 formal balls held during Fasching, the carnival season between New Year’s and the beginning of Lent. The Rudolfina-Redoute is one of only 10 balls held at the imperial Hofburg Palace, and it is the grandest of […]

Back Page: Ghosts of Gift Guides Past

It is the most wonderful time of the year to look back on Ultimate Gift Guides past. The December 1991 issue, which featured our eighth annual gift guide, stands out for many reasons, beginning with its unique cover. Traditionally, our December covers have been graced with a beauty shot of a notable car from that issue’s […]

Health & Grooming: Scent of a Woman

While many perfumers have ventured into the realm of bespoke fragrances, London’s Creative Perfumers goes one step further by describing itself as haute couture. Creative Perfumers is the brainchild of Anastasia Brozler, the former head of perfume marketing in Europe for L’Oréal and Estée Lauder. Brozler, who possesses a doctorate in fragrance marketing from the […]

Jewelry: Artistic License

After a pair of Michelle Ong’s briolette-cut diamond earrings shaped like grape clusters sold in a heated bidding war at a Christie’s auction for $189,500—more than double their estimated value—the defeated bidder asked the jeweler to create a similar pair. Despite his passionate plea, Ong and her partner, Avi Nagar, declined. “The original earrings were […]

Dining: Cook, Drink, and Be Merry

Anyone can sidle up to a winery tasting room bar in Napa Valley, lay down $5, and sample a few new releases. However, if you are looking for access to more exclusive California vintages along with a more intimate wine country experience, consider one of the region’s phenomenal cooking schools; you do not have to […]

Wardrobe: The Real Thing

In the 1995 film Big Night, two Italian brothers open a restaurant named Paradise in 1950s Keyport, N.J. Their authentic Italian cuisine, however, does not meet with the locals’ expectations. Meanwhile, across the street, their competitor thrives by serving mountains of overcooked, sauce-drenched pasta. Ultimately, the brothers have to close their restaurant because Americans are […]

Smoke: Le Smoking

James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States, is better remembered for winning the war with Mexico in 1848 than for his sense of style. The cigar-smoking Democrat leaned toward the dour, conservative suits preferred by fellow lawyers of his day. A closer look, though, reveals that Polk did own one trendy item […]

Sport: The Perfect Prescription

It is 25 degrees on a snowy February morning, and I am skiing in shorts and a T-shirt. Instead of snow, a carpeted treadmill rolls swiftly underfoot. A horizontal metal bar has replaced my ski poles, and any fear of falling is erased by the harness that holds me upright. I am in a session […]

Personal Technology: Raising the WAF

Wives (sorry, but it is always the woman) have been waging war against speakers for decades. They do not want them intruding into their living space. They even hate the gorgeously styled speakers from Italy and those colored to match anything in the Pantone chart. Their ire has risen as the number of speakers in […]

Boating: Do the Hustle

The Spirit de Soleil, Hustler Powerboats’ new 50-foot go-fast, awaits us at the dock on Peconic Bay, close to Hustler’s Long Island plant in Calverton, N.Y. The area has a history of speed—the famed F-14 Tomcat was conceived, built, and tested at Grumman’s Long Island factory—and the missile-shaped Hustler, which appears barely restrained at the […]

Autos: Ruf Gets Going

The Porsche Boxster is Germany’s gift to sports car lovers, but many enthusiasts believe the car is too slow. Even the 3.2-liter Boxster S, recently retooled with a 258-hp block, is not powerful enough to liberate the mid-engine roadster’s true talents. Understandably, Porsche will not hitch up additional horses because a faster, more powerful Boxster […]

Aircraft: Total Eclipse

In January 2000, Eclipse Aviation President and CEO Vern Raburn visited New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici in Washington, D.C., while looking for a home for Eclipse. Raburn was considering Albuquerque as a possible location for Eclipse’s headquarters, and he had come to ask Domenici how much support the state would give the company. Raburn showed […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Out of This World

Like Magellan, who had trouble enlisting a patron for his 16th-century quest to find a new route to Asia, Everhard Vissers could not find a Swiss partner to produce his groundbreaking watch concept. “The industry is so entrenched, they have problems thinking beyond what has been done in the past,” says Vissers. “It is very […]

Appliances: Internet on Ice

The old-fashioned icebox was a simple concept—a place for cold storage. Do not expect the new iCEBOX appliance to keep the milk and lettuce cool. Produced by Seattle-based Icebox, a subsidiary of Salton, the iCEBOX FlipScreen 2002, due out in early 2003 and priced at $2,995, should turn up the burners in the kitchen appliance […]

Furnishings: Cutting a Rug

Modern rugs are not new. Rugs woven by artists are not new, either—Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein have all tried their hand. But Christopher Farr and Matthew Bourne are at the forefront of a modern rug movement that is sweeping aside the traditional Aubusson and Oriental carpets. Taking center stage in best-dressed rooms are […]

Watches: Free Spirit

Cristina Thévenaz is not your typical watch executive. At the annual watch and jewelry fair in Basel, Switzerland, earlier this year, the attractive 37-year-old blonde was outfitted in blue jeans and stiletto heels as she held court in the Delaneau booth, which was swathed in burgundy velvet à la Moulin Rouge and perfumed by rose-scented […]

Spirits: Sake Rising

Three may be sake’s lucky number. Americans who once considered sake just a warm sushi chaser are finding that premium sakes (usually served cold, by the way) can now be appreciated for their own sake, thanks to the emerging trend of sake flights. Borrowing from the tradition of wine flights, where three glasses of varietals […]

Art: Isabella’s Triumph

On New Year’s day, 1903, Isabella Stewart Gardner, the vivacious widow who was a favorite target of gossipers, held a grand party to mark the opening of the mysterious building she had erected in the Fenway area of Boston. The finely dressed and bejeweled guests who came on that cold night were the first to […]

Wine: Through the Grapevine

As we rush to complete our ritual holiday shopping, most 2002 harvests in the Northern Hemisphere have been converted into wine. Naturally, these wines are far from finished, and it would be unfair to judge the results so soon, but whispers and rumors of things to come are already and inevitably shaping the trends for […]