21 Ultimate Gifts


Experience the historic Mille Miglia and play golf with Greg Norman. Also a one-of-a-kind Vacheron Constantin watch, a gold MV Agusta F4RR motorcycle, $2.7 million Chanel diamonds, and a custom 328-foot dream yacht. Plus, treasure from the Russian Crown Jewels and more.

From This Issue

From the Editors: Excess in Exile

In the spring of 1919, the British battleship HMS Marlborough departed the Crimean coast with a curious cargo of 85 passengers, representing the remnants of the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty. These dignitaries had fled St. Petersburg two years earlier, following Nicholas II’s abdication in favor of a provisional government; however, with the collapse of the latter […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Dressed for Success

1948 Delahaye 135MS Faget-Varnet Cabriolet Christian Dior knew not only how to sketch dresses, but also how to draw crowds. The French designer used to tempt passersby into his Parisian fashion house by parking attractive automobiles in front of the store. Clothed in a monocoque body designed by Faget-Varnet (a businessman-designer partnership that produced only […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Women on the Verge

Peril and peace in porcelain Around 1900, ceramic artist Eduard Stellmacher created a haunting vase for Amphora, a manufactory in Turn-Teplitz, Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic). The piece, which measures 17 inches tall and 9.75 inches wide, is defined by a group of women’s heads floating in a sea of watery forms and […]

FrontRunners: Automotive Watch

Among automotive-themed watches, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX2 DBS Transponder (www.jaeger-?lecoultre.com) is a rarity in that it has a tangible connection to the car for which it is named: The watch locks and unlocks the doors of the Aston Martin DBS. An electronic door-locking transponder has been miniaturized so that it fits inside the watchcase along […]

FrontRunners: Twisting in the Wind

A circa-1850 weathervane fashioned in the form of a fireman pointing with an outstretched arm, colloquially known as Old Jake, will be one of the highlights of the annual Sotheby’s Important Americana auctions (www?.sothebys?.com), which will take place January 23 through 25 in New York. Made of painted copper, Old Jake measures more than 6 […]

FrontRunners: Cutting Edge

The Lamborghini Estoque (www.lamborghini.com) is a curiously named car. An estoque (es-TOE-kay) is, after all, a rapier with which a matador delivers the final blow in a bullfight; it is something used to kill a bull, the animal that Lamborghini employs as its symbol. Though still a concept, the Estoque is worth noting for more […]

FrontRunners: Helping Hands

British pen maker Conway Stewart recognizes that not everyone employs a laptop when recording thoughts, even when writing for long periods of time. For these traditionalists, the company offers the Conway Stewart Evolution (www.conwaystewart.com), a pen with an adjustable center of gravity that the maker says can reduce hand fatigue and increase handwriting consistency. Earlier […]

FrontRunners: Fashionably on Time

With 149 baguette diamonds weighing a total of 15 carats, the Hermès Cape Cod 1928 Baguette (www.hermes.com) is the French fashion house’s most extravagant timepiece. The diamonds are set without any visible metal, and, despite the stones’ considerable heft, the watch appears sleek and elegant. Hermès has made only two examples of the $330,000 watch. […]

FrontRunners: New Twist

In the 1980s, German aerobatic pilot Walter Extra designed the Extra 230, a high-performance monoplane in which he won several international aerobatic competitions. Extra’s latest design, the Extra 330SC single-seat unlimited sport airplane (www.extraair?craft?.com), represents his bid to reclaim the top spot in competitive aerobatics. With carbon-fiber wings, a tail redesigned to boost the plane’s […]

FrontRunners: Select Smoke

Cigar smokers consider age a blessing, so they may well deem the León Jimenes 300 Series a near-miracle. The cigar, created to celebrate the brand’s 20th anniversary, is crafted from tobaccos fermented and aged in oak barrels for three years. The cigars themselves are aged for another 300 days to ensure that the flavors of […]

FrontRunners: Almond Joie

Gourmandise Paris (www.gourmandiseparis.com), a family-run confiserie that opened its first shop 45 years ago on Paris’ rue du Renard, now has a U.S. boutique in Beverly Hills. The company specializes in party favors featuring custom-colored dragées made with almonds from Sicily that are coated with French chocolate and a thin layer of sugar. . . […]

FrontRunners: Garden Variety

The Dior Joaillerie Milly Carnivora collection (212.931.2950) comprises bejeweled rings, earrings, and pendants displaying eight different designs based on carnivorous flowers. The flowers are made of 18-karat gold painted with acid-green, fuchsia, and turquoise lacquer and accented with colorful gemstones. Among the collection’s pieces, which are priced from about $13,000 to $1 million, is a […]

FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

With the growing popularity of wine collecting, copious wine clubs have cropped up to cater to every oenophilic taste. Whether you have a passion for Priorat or a love of the Loire, a wine club exists to keep your habit amply supplied with the latest releases. Yet relatively few clubs offer members the opportunity to […]

Autos: Roman Style

The fresh mood of Maserati is punctuated by a sport button, high and to the left on the wooden, flowing center consoles of the marque’s two top-of-the-line models. Touch it while motoring in the 2009 GranTurismo S two-door and the shift points move higher and wilder, and an exhaust bypass opens with a blaaaaaaat of […]

Watches: Personal Time

Aldo Magada, ceo of the 2-year-old Geneva watchmaking firm Badollet, frets over what he sees as his industry’s lack of graciousness. “Unfortunately, the word service doesn’t seem to have been translated into Swiss French,” he says. Magada, a 19-year veteran of the Swiss watch industry, hopes to help rectify this situation by making premium service […]

Boating: Freda in Frisco

On the western edge of San Francisco Bay, on an increasingly developed stretch of Sausalito shoreline, is a small, unassuming boatyard called the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center. An old, three-legged derrick crane sits quietly near the water, while stacks of wood planks that will eventually be used in yacht refits haphazardly punctuate the property. Several […]

Aviation: Cub No More

For many, the words small private airplane immediately conjure images of a Piper Cub, the iconic two-seat, bright yellow, wood-and-fabric propeller plane from the 1930s. Today, Piper Aircraft of Vero Beach, Fla., still manufactures airplanes—150,000 of them over the last 70-plus years—but the company no longer builds the Cub. Piper Aircraft would, however, be happy […]

Travel: Big Apple on Peachtree

Frank Fleming’s statue The Storyteller—which depicts several figures, including a muscular man with the antlered head of a deer—symbolizes the tale of how Atlanta’s most exclusive neighborhood got its name. The statue sits in a park at the intersection of Peachtree, Paces Ferry, and Roswell roads, where, in 1838, a hunter mounted the head of […]

Sport: Four for Four

Like a baseball fan walking into Wrigley Field for the first time, I felt chills go up my spine when I took my first trip aboard the tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort—and not from the cold. The 40-year-old tram at Jackson Hole, home to the nation’s longest continuous vertical drop, was more than a […]

Dining: From Farm to Table

One of San Francisco’s most imaginative new Northern Italian restaurants is not actually Italian at all—at least not according to its chef. “It would be a lie for me to say I’m doing Italian food,” says executive chef Dominique Crenn of Luce, located in the city’s new InterContinental hotel south of Market Street. “I’m not […]

Spirits: Oh, Brother!

The return of the long-lost sibling is a dramatic device thoroughly exhausted by novelists from Dickens to Dumas; yet this well-worn formula provides a plot twist in the ongoing story of Black Bowmore that will excite the palates of discriminating whisky drinkers around the world. Four expressions of this rare, unusually dense and dark whisky […]

Wardrobe: The Brand’s New Club

Harking back to an earlier era when well-heeled men took refuge in the discreetly luxurious environments of gentlemen’s clubs, Alfred Dunhill has recently unveiled its own private retreat for men, dubbed Alfred’s. The club is located within the new Home of Alfred Dunhill store, which occupies London’s illustrious Bourdon House. The establishment combines a comfortable […]

Collectibles: All the King’s Men

“A pattern combining elegance and solidity to a degree hitherto unknown,” read the advertisement in the Illustrated London News for the Staunton chess set upon its introduction in 1849. In one of history’s first celebrity endorsements, Howard Staunton—a British chess master and Shakespearean scholar—lent his name to the chessmen released by the game company Jaques […]

Antiques: The Shock of the New

“When evaluating a piece for prospective purchase, the first question I always ask myself is, ‘Was it modern in its time, or was it prudent, or conservative?’ ” says Roberto Polo, the artistic director of Paris’ Galerie Historismus, which focuses on European decorative art created by architects and designers primarily from 1840 to 1910. While […]

Home: Dream Weavings

In the middle ages, kings hung richly detailed tapestries behind their thrones as symbols of authority. Today, the crafts are often limited to depictions of staid abstract patterns or dull landscapes. Such limitations, say Christopher and Suzanne Sharp, founders of the Rug Co.—a producer of contemporary, handmade rugs since 1997—indicate untapped potential in tapestry as […]

Home Electronics: Pitch Perfect

Peter Lyngdorf, the Danish audio engineer responsible for some of the electronics industry’s most significant advances in digital technology, began his career at an early age. “It all started when I heard the Beatles for the first time,” he says. “After the first few songs, I decided to buy a tape recorder, which had built-in […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Mean Meets Green

THE GIFT  One 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, a 638 hp American sports car. One 2010 Fisker Karma, a plug-in hybrid American sport sedan. Participation in the Quail Rally, a two-day driving event on northern California’s Monterey Peninsula. Transportation to Monterey and access to all events during Monterey Car Week, August 10 to 16, 2009. One […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Airway to Heaven

THE GIFT   The world’s first individually owned zeppelin. Personalized exterior design. Customized cabin interior. Zeppelin-pilot training and certification.   Starting at $17 million, depending on interior details and custom specifications. Rumor has it that when Led Zeppelin’s front man Robert Plant wrote his best-known lyrics, “Stairway to Heaven,” he had the stairway of the […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Swinging with the Shark

THE GIFT   A round of golf for three with Greg Norman at Cornerstone Colorado.   Round-trip private air transportation to Montrose, Colo.   Two nights’ lodging at Cornerstone plus a welcome reception and meals, including a post-round dinner with Norman.   One case of each bottling of Greg Norman Estates wines annually for the […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Good Goddess

THE GIFT   An 18th-century blue-sapphire statuette—the Blue Venus—that once belonged to Russia’s Catherine the Great and, later, to Prince Felix Youssoupov. Price available upon request. When Prince Felix Youssoupov—scion of a wealthy Russian family and one of the conspirators in the assassination of Grigori Rasputin—fled to Paris to escape the Revolution, he carried with […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Personal Time

THE GIFT  Customized Vacheron Constantin men’s wristwatch.     Five-night trip to Geneva, Switzerland, for two people.   An exclusive tour of Vacheron Constantin’s watchmaking facilities, and hands-on design sessions with the company’s watchmaking masters.   $1.4 million Two and a half centuries ago, when the world’s oldest watch company, Vacheron Constantin, was a relatively […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: 17th Man of Tain

THE GIFT   Create your own single-malt whisky at the Glenmorangie distillery in Tain, Scotland.   Source trees for cask making in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains with Glenmorangie’s master distiller.   Visit a Kentucky cooperage to learn about cask making.   Twenty specially selected barrels in which to age your distillate, along with cellar space at […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: The World of Boulud

THE GIFT   A two-week trip for the buyer and five friends to all nine of chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Vancouver, and Beijing.   Behind-the-scenes tours of Boulud’s kitchens.   An extravagant eight-course dinner paired with some of the world’s finest wines.   A personal concierge to arrange […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Gold Rush

THE GIFT   One-of-a-kind MV Agusta F4RR 312 1078 motorcycle covered in 24-karat gold leaf. $150,000   Like most artists, MV Agusta president and CEO Claudio Castiglioni likes to sign his work. The ultra-high-performance F4CC Claudio Castiglioni limited-edition model that he created in 2006, for example, has his signature stenciled on its carbon-fiber body. At […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Picasso’s Muse

THE GIFT   A circa-1940 painting, Sans Titre (Tête de Jeune Femme), by Pablo Picasso.   A private tour of the artist’s former seaside studio in Antibes, France, now the Musée Picasso.   Five nights’ accommodations for two in the finest suite at the exclusive Hôtel du Cap Eden-Roc. $3.5 million “Give me a museum […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Blessed Bubbles

THE GIFT   Round-trip private jet travel for two couples from New York to Champagne, France.   Four-day stay as VIP guests at Dom Pérignon’s Château de Saran.   Vertical tasting of Dom Pérignon’s rarest vintage champagnes at the abbey of Hautvillers.   Helicopter tour of the Champagne region.   Participation in the grape harvest […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Atop the Golden Triangle

THE GIFT   A 5,760-square-foot pied-à-terre at the new Montage Beverly Hills.   A custom-tailored interior-design scheme by Cheryl Rowley.   A housewarming dinner for 12 guests, prepared by Wolfgang Puck.   Weekly treatments at the hotel’s spa through the year 2020, plus an annual private dinner for 14 at the hotel’s parq restaurant through 2020. […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Sleight of Hands

THE GIFT   Cartier Le Ciel mystery clock. $2.5 million “The mystery clock was made in a time when great artists and craftsmen worked without restrictions,” says Lee Siegelson, owner of the Manhattan jewelry firm that bears his name. “Cartier was making totally unique and imaginative objects to compete at the world fairs—not for commerciality.” […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Ticket to Ride

THE GIFT   Prequalification for you and a guest to be one of the 375 official teams in the Mille Miglia Storica 2009, which takes place in Italy from May 13 to 17.   The opportunity to drive or navigate a historic racecar from Brescia (home of the museo Mille Miglia and the traditional start […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Dream Boat

THE GIFT   A 328-foot yacht designed by Ken Freivokh.   Two Freivokh-designed tenders. Starting at $300 million “Pretty much all of my commissions have come from an owner who had something specific in mind,” says yacht designer Ken Freivokh, who is perhaps best known for his part in designing Maltese Falcon, a 289-foot superyacht […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: All the Bells and Whistles

THE GIFT   A model railroad with four iconic American trains from the golden age of railroading.   A re-creation of landmarks, major cities, and stations on the trains’ routes from New York to Los Angeles.   At least 32 train cars and at least 30 automated features constructed in quarter-inch scale (1 quarter inch […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Haute Diamonds

THE GIFT   One-of-a-kind haute couture parure from Chanel Fine Jewelry consisting of a 70-carat necklace with an 8-carat white-diamond center stone and 2,218 smaller diamonds, and a 6-carat ring with 144 white diamonds.   Two tickets to Chanel’s exclusive haute couture fashion show in Paris.   Private tour of Coco Chanel’s Paris apartment.   […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Italian Ice

THE GIFT Custom 33-carat diamond Tibaldi pen with Baccarat case.   First-class travel to, and five-star accommodations in, Italy; helicopter transport between Florence, Bologna, and Naples— three cities important to the history of Tibaldi.   Private dinner with Tibaldi board members. $1 million In 1916, amid the chaos of World War I, entrepreneur and pen aficionado […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Completely Booked

THE GIFT   A custom-designed library inspired by the Vanderbilts’ 19th-century Biltmore estate.   The services of library consultant Kinsey Marable, and 10,000 books to fill the library.   $7.3 million America’s largest home, the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., contains four acres of floor space, with 250 rooms spread out over four stories. […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Landmark Vintages

THE GIFT   A collection of eight wooden cabinets designed by David Linley as scale replicas of Bordeaux’s most celebrated wine châteaux.   Eighteen bottles per cabinet of the corresponding château’s finest vintages from the 20th and 21st centuries.   A private tour, conducted by Antique Wine Company founder Stephen Williams, of the eight châteaux […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Well Suited

THE GIFT Custom-made men’s wardrobe from Bergdorf Goodman consisting of one week’s worth of suits, a topcoat, a tuxedo, footwear, and accessories.   Trip for two to Italy with Bergdorf Goodman’s fashion director to select materials with the store’s exclusive suitmakers and shoemakers. Starting at $500,000, depending on fabrics, clothing details, and other custom specifications. […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Buy Now and Save

THE GIFT   Become the sole benefactor of a 15-year program designed to return the northern white rhinoceros to its natural habitat, potentially saving the species from extinction.   A one-week trip to South Africa to meet with a panel of conservation and rhino experts.   A helicopter tracking excursion in the Rooipoort Nature Reserve. […]

Fully ‘Vetted

The Chevrolet Corvette would not play in Paris. To paraphrase the old Chevy commercial jingle, the car is—like baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie—distinctly American. And it is overtly American. Since its introduction more than a half-century ago as the nation’s first sports car, the Corvette has evolved into a Yankee totem. It typifies what […]

Sky Palaces

Among the more memorable amenities that Edése Doret created recently in the interior of a private Boeing 747-400 was a cocktail bar that could disappear from view at a moment’s notice. “My client, a Middle Eastern businessman, enjoys alcohol, but drinking is not allowed in his country, so he wanted a secret space built onboard […]

Sky Palaces: Eye Candy

“Today’s billionaires want a 360-degree luxury-brand experience that is totally unique to them and to their lifestyle,” says Candy & Candy owner Nick Candy. “They want the design of their apartment, house, superyacht, and, more recently, private jet and helicopter to reflect the same quality and innovative design.” Candy’s British design firm is working on […]

The American Way

At the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, members of a Swiss delegation were shocked by a display of American watchmaking wizardry. At the time, Swiss craftsmen assembled timepieces one by one, using irregular handmade parts that required additional honing to function in a movement. In Pennsylvania, the Swiss observed how American watchmakers used machines to […]

The American Way: Peak Hours

Chris Wardle grew up in suburban Detroit and still spends considerable time there. But his true home, his “place of peace,” is Bozeman, Mont., where he owns and operates Bozeman Watch (www.bozemanwatch?.com), a maker of timepieces that recall the heyday of American watch manufacturing. In 2001, Wardle met with several design and engineering teams in […]

Charter Choice: Deep Relaxation

When Liveras Yachts of Monaco decided, in 2007, to transform a small cruise ship into a luxury charter vessel, there was plenty of room for big design ideas. The biggest came to fruition in the form of a sumptuously outfitted onboard spa that ultimately would make the 295-foot Lauren L one of the most luxurious […]

German Conquest

In these delicate times, the last thing anybody wants to do is stir up hard feelings between the French and the Germans, especially over something as evanescent as a matter of taste. But one has little choice when the Air France web site’s guide to Germany warns travelers: “This is truly a meat-and-potatoes kind of […]

German Conquest: Dining in Deutschland

The emerging trend known as Neue Deutsche Küche—New German Cuisine—has seen German chefs begin to embrace indigenous ingredients and combine them with foreign cooking techniques, typically French or Spanish. The Berlin restaurants listed here epitomize this latest chapter in German gastronomy. Die Quadriga: Head chef Bobby Bräuer earned a Michelin star at Munich’s Königshof in […]

Lateral Move

Paul Courchene and Jim Luckie made it easy on their movers. For six years the couple lived in a traditional, 1920s Spanish Colonial–style residence that Courchene built near the ocean in historic Delray Beach, Fla., just north of Boca Raton. When an adjacent lot became available, they decided to purchase it and build a spec […]

Wheels: Santa’s Workshop

Many years have passed since Bruce Canepa strapped himself into a state-of-the-art Porsche and drove to glory in a series of paved- and dirt-road races. But at 58, he still carries himself like a racecar driver. He is compact, not short, with the chest and forearms of someone who has spent many hours gripping steering […]

Time: Odd Couple

Montblanc has become a watchmaker worthy of a collector’s attention, thanks to its own initiative and a strategic union with a well-regarded industry brand. The German company, which is best known for its pens, solidified its watchmaking credibility earlier this year when it completed the Star Nicolas Rieussec. The chronograph features a movement that the […]

Style: A Royal Treasure

On a visit with the family of the shah of Iran at the age of 16, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia requested an opportunity to view the famous Imperial Crown Jewels. The request did not arise from the casual curiosity of a teenager. “I was overwhelmed by the imagery and importance of the collection,” he recalls, […]

The Robb Reader: Greg Norman

In recent years, Greg Norman’s accomplishments as a businessman have nearly overshadowed the feats that made him famous in the first place. This trend reversed last summer, when the 53-year-old Florida resident carried a lead into the final day of the British Open at Royal Birkdale. Norman, who has won the Open twice, finished in […]