Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands


Luxury's 25 most innovative brands - Lamborghini, Ulysse Nardin, Cartier, Dom Pérignon, Aman resorts, Nobu, Louis Vuitton, Audemars Piguet, Porsche, Hermès, Wally Yachts, Ermenegildo Zegna, Heritage Auctions, Singita, Philippe Starck, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Ducati, William Grant & Sons, Embraer, Chanel, Gagosian Gallery, Heesen Yachts, Davidoff, Steinway Lyngdorf and BMW. Plus, Morocco Extreme, ultimate North African adventures, from the surf to the slopes. Also, Grand Openings: new hotels and resorts in Vienna, Montana, and Las Vegas.

From This Issue

From the Editors: Destructive Creations

While most innovations serve society well, others lend new and terrible meaning to the concept of creative destruction—the process by which new systems and industries replace existing ones. “[The world] scraps its obsolete engines and dynamos,” observes Andrew Undershaft, the millionaire arms manufacturer in George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 play Major Barbara; “but it won’t scrap […]

Design Portfolio: Learning Curves

1954 Ferrari 250 Monza Although the 12-cylinder engine is a Ferrari signature, the marque achieved competition victories in the 1950s with cars powered by large-displacement 4-cylinder engines, including the 750 Monza racers. The short, light chassis of the 750 Monza paired well with the compact 3-liter inline-4 designed by Aurelio Lampredi. In 1954, Ferrari created […]

Design Portfolio: Heaven Sent

The rocks that are the centerpieces of the rings, cuff links, pendants, and bracelets in a new collection from the David Yurman brand (212.752.4255, came to Earth, not from it. The jewelry designer Evan Yurman, working with his father, David, has fashioned the jewelry around bits of a meteorite that thousands of years ago […]

Elements of Style: August 2013

Even the most carefully considered wardrobe requires a few versatile components to lend the wearer a touch of personal style. One such item, the Corneliani ID jacket, introduced nearly a decade ago, takes rugged outerwear in a surprising yet natural direction by doubling as a sport coat. A removable inset enables the wearer to effortlessly […]

Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace

The debut of another Nobu restaurant—even a 12,775-square-foot, 327-seat one in Las Vegas—is not a particularly noteworthy event on its own. But the latest fine-dining venue from Nobu Matsuhisa (see “Luxury’s Most Innovative Brands,” page 100) is just an appetizer for the celebrity chef’s newest venture: the Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace. The first hotel from […]

Cliffside Camp at the Resort at Paws Up

From its forested perch above the Blackfoot River, the new Cliffside Camp at the Resort at Paws Up masters the delicate balance between wilderness and refinement. The six-tent camp opened in June along the western edge of Paws Up, a 37,000-acre cattle ranch turned resort located 45 minutes by car from Missoula, Mont. The spacious […]

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

When the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna debuted with a grand-opening gala in March, the celebration was nearly a century and a half overdue. The hotel, designed by the Danish architect Theophil Edvard von Hansen, had been completed more than 140 years earlier for the 1873 World Exhibition—but it never welcomed a single guest. Instead, the […]

FrontRunners: Linley London Box

Available as a humidor or a jewelry box, the Linley Limited Edition London Box ( depicts many of the city’s most celebrated landmarks in an inlaid mosaic that decorates the lid. Linley, which is based in London and acclaimed for its marquetry and furniture designs, rendered the stylized London skyline in eucalyptus, maple, and sycamore […]

FrontRunners: Super Fly

With the recently unveiled Bombardier Challenger 350 (, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer aims to stay ahead of the performance curve. Bombardier expects to begin delivering the $25.9 million twin-engine super-midsize jet next May. The 350 is powered by the latest Honeywell engines, which enable it to climb faster and fly farther than its predecessor, the […]

FrontRunners: Triple Threat

As its name implies, the Harry Winston Histoire de Tourbillon 4 ( is the fourth—and most complex—iteration of the company’s tourbillon. The firm collaborated on the $696,600 timepiece with the boutique watchmaker Greubel Forsey, a master of the tourbillon design. The watch features a triple tourbillon composed of three concentric carriages, each moving at a […]

FrontRunners: Canvasing the Fairway

Also observing Aston Martin’s centennial is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (, which will include the carmaker as one of this year’s featured marques and display Aston Martins that have competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. (This year marks the race’s 90th anniversary.) In addition, the concours’s annual Automotive Fine Arts Society Premiere […]

FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar August 2013

Pedigree, rather than taste, is often the decisive factor in the commercial success of a fine wine. Nowhere perhaps is this more true than in Champagne. No matter how delicate their texture or subtle their flavors, sparkling wines from other regions suffer in the eyes of the untutored for not having been produced in the […]

Spirits: Golden Moment

David Stewart, The Balvenie Distillery’s malt master, picks up a gold-etched bottle and gently decants a dram of single-malt whisky into a Glencairn tasting glass. He holds it to the light, gazing at it as if it were an old friend. And indeed it is. “This whisky and I,” he says, “have shared the last […]

Dining: Hog Wild

In the Piedmont region of Italy, where Cristiano Cremi­nelli’s family has been curing artisanal meats since the 1600s, chubs of salami might be redolent with Barolo or white truffles.“In Italy, we make 900 kinds of salumi,” Creminelli says, using the collective term for salami, prosciutto, and other cured meats.“In Italy, the first religion is food.”  Six […]

Travel: Greater Outdoors

Over the past few years, the upscale outdoors experience known as “glamping” has taken hold at resorts throughout North America. Country and mountain retreats from Colorado to British Columbia have developed high-end campsites that replace sleeping bags with king-size feather beds, trail mix with organic cuisine, and holes in the ground with en suite bathrooms. […]

Aviation: Jetting Ahead

Acclaimed as the Pilatus PC-12 and its newer NG variant may be, they are single-engine turboprops, and so they have their limitations. Specifically, the 322 mph maximum cruise speed of the PC-12 NG does not compete with that of a jet. And so in May, Pilatus—a Swiss manufacturer that has been in business for more […]

Autos: Highly Evolved

Some of the most thrilling sport sedans are the ones built by the Japanese marques specifically for track and rally competition. These cars are developed and designed with a form-follows-function philosophy. They lack even a pretense of luxury but often share their owners’ stables with far costlier and more elegant European machinery. Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution—better […]

Boating: A Splash of Fashion

At last september’s Monaco Yacht Show, the Italian shipyard Benetti presented 27 megayacht concepts from independent designers. One of the more striking concepts came from the desk of Luca Dini, a Florence-based naval architect who has had some 60 yachts built to date. Dini’s 236-foot motor yacht stood out with features that included side terraces […]

Sport: Stalking His Claim

The country sport of deer stalking is a time-honored tradition in the Scottish Highlands. Unlike many forms of hunting, in which participants wait in hiding for their prey, stalkers in Scotland openly pursue deer on foot, often walking 6 to 12 miles a day over steep, treeless terrain for a closer shot at their target. […]

Personal Technology: Lunar Launch

Few images are as ingrained in the collective American memory as the “Visor” photograph. Taken in 1969 by Neil Armstrong, the shot depicts fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the first-ever lunar landing, with Armstrong and the Eagle spacecraft perfectly framed in Aldrin’s reflective visor. Armstrong captured the moment with […]

Collectibles: What Goes Around

Sandy Paul’s love of carousel animals sprang from a thwarted wish. “It started when I was 4 or 5 years old, and my dad wouldn’t buy me a pony,” she says. “So I’d pedal to the local amusement park, pay a quarter to ride the carousel, and that was my pony.” Paul and her husband, […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Lamborghini

Since its founding 50 years ago, Lamborghini has consistently heralded the future and fueled imaginations with its groundbreaking designs. The revolutionary shape of the 350 GTV prototype of 1963—styled by Franco Scaglione, whose design philosophy was antipodal to that of Lamborghini’s more conservative competitor, Ferrari—established Lam­borghini as the marque that takes chances and pushes the […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Heesen Yachts

In recent years, the world’s top shipyards have launched larger-than-ever megayachts with eye-catching designs and over-the-top amenities. Heesen Yachts, meanwhile, has focused much of its attention underwater. Founded in 1978, the yard was the first Dutch megayacht builder to employ aluminum for its hulls. Its 213-foot yacht Galactica Star, which was delivered this June, became […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Ermenegildo Zegna

Since 1910 Ermenegildo Zegna has been a masterful producer of Italian textiles. But there is a touch of surprise in its impeccably classic suits: They are made from some of the most cutting-edge materials in menswear. These fabrics are developed in Zegna’s 103-year-old textile mill in Biella, Italy, where the finest raw materials (see “Fashion’s […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Ducati

By all rights, Ducati should have crested the horizon and become a footnote in motorcycle history, just as Laverda, Mondial, Moto Morini, and a host of other once-famous Italian marques did. But Ducati kept the feeble flame alive during the dark years that began in the 1980s and continued into the 1990s and beyond. Starting […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Philippe Starck

Over the course of a four-decade career, Philippe Starck has stamped his name on everything from toothbrushes and tableware to electric cars and yacht interiors. It is his consistency, however, that has helped the French designer and architect shape modern tastes. “In all of my work, it is not about architecture or decoration, but more […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Steinway Lyngdorf

Peter Lyngdorf has almost single-handedly brought digital audio into the realm of high fidelity. In 1998, the Danish acoustic engineer spearheaded the creation of the first all-digital amplifier. He later perfected digital signal-processing and room-correction technology. In 2005, he formed Steinway Lyngdorf through a partnership with the 160-year-old piano maker Steinway & Sons. The joint […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Porsche

The 356, the first automobile to bear the Porsche moniker, emerged from a barn in Gmünd, Austria, in 1948 and quickly made a name for its maker by posting competition victories. The 4-cylinder, rear-engine sports car resembled the Volkswagen Beetle, which the company’s founder, Ferdinand Porsche, had designed 14 years earlier. The car’s shape flew […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Wally Yachts

Arguably the most recognizable boats on the water, Wally Yachts scream speed and aggressiveness with their carbon-fiber components and bold lines. But these striking examples of modern naval architecture are equally notable for their subtleties, including a smart use of space that extends to each of the Monaco-based builder’s many models. Founded by the seasoned […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Amanresorts

Since opening Amanpuri on the Thai island of Phuket in 1988, Adrian Zecha has changed luxury hospitality—and become the rock star of the industry in the process. The 80-year-old Indonesian hotelier today presides over an empire of exclusive retreats that stretches from the Utah desert (Amangiri) to the beaches of Sri Lanka (Amanwella). But perhaps […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Cartier

A common lament among certain collectors and industry insiders is that expanding group ownership of the leading watch brands (and the resulting incursion of corporate culture) has lowered a damper on new ideas at these houses, deterring watchmakers from taking risks. This theory, however, neglects to account for the recent creative surge at Cartier, the […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Hermès

Hermès has long been famous for its classic leather goods and accessories, including the Birkin bag, the H belt buckle, and a line of quietly distinctive ties. But in recent years, the French luxury house has also become known for its menswear, home furnishings, and more. Instead of just reinterpreting its signature design motifs for […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Chanel

Historic brands oftenrevisit the past for inspiration, but perhaps not one does it as imaginatively as the French fashion house Chanel.While reinventing Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s tailored tweed jackets as glittering, femme-fatale dresses, the company is also transforming the designer’s sartorial signatures into extraordinary jewelry and watches. More than just pretty adornments, Chanel’s one-of-a-kind jewels have […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Ulysse Nardin

Two integral components of high-end watchmaking—unorthodox com­plications and new materials technology—owe their genesis at least in part to the experiments of Ulysse Nardin, which was little more than a parvenu when the entrepreneur Rolf Schnyder revived the company in the 1980s. Schnyder was willing to take chances, and thanks to his friendship with Dr. Ludwig […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Singita

The opening of Singita Ebony Lodge in 1993 ushered in a new era for the Afri­can safari. The property, which featured just five tent suites on a 45,000-acre concession within South Africa’s Sabi Sand Reserve, combined extravagant accommodations with an authentic wildlife experience, bringing plunge pools, lavish living spaces, and gourmet cuisine to one of […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Embraer

Over the last decade or so, the Bra­zilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer has forced its competitors to change the way they approach business-jet design. Founded in 1969, Embraer initially built only military and commercial planes; it is now the world’s third-largest manufacturer of commercial jets, behind Airbus and Boeing. The company did not enter the private-aviation […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Audemars Piguet

Not long after the 40th anniversary of Audemars Piguet’s flagship Royal Oak model—an occasion the watchmaker celebrated in 2012 with various galas, the introduction of special models, and a global exhibition—another milestone is being observed, though with much less fanfare. The company released the Royal Oak Offshore in 1993, and that addition to the line […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Louis Vuitton

In 1858, Louis Vuitton created the first flat, stackable travel trunk—a concept that, though revolutionary for the luggage industry at the time, seems in hindsight a rather modest beginning for one of the world’s largest producers of luxury goods. Today, Louis Vuitton is a flagship brand of the LVMH group, the French conglomerate that generated […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: BMW

The first of BMW’s ultimate driving machines arrived more than a decade before the German carmaker began employing its now-famous tagline. BMW produced some exceptional automobiles in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and then in 1964, it introduced the 1600, an affordable, compact four-door with an 83 hp engine that could run circles around […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Nobu

In 1987, when many American diners would have blanched at the idea of eating raw fish, Nobu Matsuhisa opened a small Japanese restaurant in Beverly Hills. Confronted by a customer who would not eat sashimi, Nobu, as he quickly became known, took the plate back to the kitchen and was struck by inspiration: He doused […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: William Grant & Sons

Considering the process for producing Scotch whisky, which is crafted by hand and then aged for years and often decades, it is not surprising that change usually comes slowly to the industry. However, the family-owned William Grant & Sons has consistently demonstrated ingenuity. For example, in 1963 the company became the first to export single-malt […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Davidoff

Zino Davidoff demonstrated his independence in the summer of 1989, when the Cuban government demanded 51 percent ownership of his namesake cigar company. Zino responded by publicly burning 130,000 of Davidoff’s Havana cigars—worth about U.S. $3 million at the time—claiming they were no longer fit to smoke. The next year, the company moved from Cuba […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Dom Pérignon

In no field of endeavor is the friction between tradition and innovation more evident than in the making of fine wine; and no label presides more completely over past and future than Dom Pérignon, which has been credited with numerous firsts since 1668, when the Benedictine monk for whom the house is named assumed the […]

Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands: Heritage Auctions

By selling coins and other collectibles that range from comic books to crystals to dinosaur skeletons, Heritage Auctions has risen into the upper echelon of the auction world. Whatever comes across the block at Her­itage, there seems to be a demand for it. Despite the recession, the Dallas-based company’s revenue jumped from $562 million in […]

Journeys: Riad Radical

Wind-whipped, the wave rises, heaves, and churns as it rushes toward the shore and spits out a man in a black neoprene wet suit. His arms and legs flail as he sputters for air and struggles to his feet. It is, says Azzedine, his instructor from the Explora surfing school in Essaouira, Morocco, an improvement. […]

Journeys: Riad Radical: Base Camp

From casbahs to riads, the following four hotels serve as prime jumping-off points for authentic outdoor adventures in Morocco. Heure Bleue Palais, Essaouira L’heure bleue refers to that moment when the sky seems to take on a nostalgic glow. The moment is especially romantic at this boutique-style Relais & Châteaux hotel in Essaouira. A magnificently […]

Style: Fashion’s Flock

Weighing in at 50 pounds, about half of which is wool, Sharapova stands indifferent to an admiring crowd of international journalists. Named for the Russian tennis star, Sharapova is a prizewinning Australian merino sheep, and beneath her curly gray topcoat lies a snow-white fleece coveted for its silken texture and strong fiber. “It doesn’t feel […]

The Robb Reader: Dieter Burmester

With his Porsche Panamera Turbo reaching near-breakneck speeds, Dieter Burmester casually navigates the afternoon traffic on a stretch of autobahn just outside Berlin. “I cannot live with MP3s!” shouts the 67-year-old founder, owner, and CEO of the Berlin-based Burmester Audiosysteme above the pristinely rendered music coming through the car’s 16-speaker, 1,000-plus-watt stereo system. “I never […]