The Ultimate Gift Guide


21 Rare holiday treasures: the 205 mph Maserati MC12, Blancpain's Grand Complication, the $1 million pen from Montegrappa, and more.  Also, four fearsome supercars face off.

From This Issue

21 Ultimate Gifts: Town And Country

Easton Neston, an estate covering more than 3,300 acres in Northamptonshire, England, epitomizes the grand country home. The main house, commissioned in 1685, was designed by the office of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Nicholas Hawksmoor, who was a site manager at Kensington Palace and also worked on […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Jolly Old London

Although connoisseurship usually must be nurtured over the course of years, if not decades, through encounters with the world’s finest items, Greg Jordan, Robb Report’s “Best of the Best” interior designer for 2004, will hasten the process during an enlightening tour of London’s antiques and furnishings shops. You and three guests (plus Jordan and three […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: The High Life

It is not the top of the world, but the Residences at Mandarin Oriental’s penthouse, which comprises the entire 78th floor of New York’s Time Warner Center, will feel like it—especially when living here includes the bonuses that Mandarin Oriental has added for a Robb Report reader. Thomas Keller, the chef of French Laundry fame […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Films Alfresco

To the reader bemoaning the near extinction of the drive-in, home theater designer Theo Kalomirakis is offering solace in the form of an outdoor cinema. Kalomirakis first ventured outside with his work in 1997, when he built an amphitheater-style structure for a home in Greece, which is pictured on these pages. He envisions a theater […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Raising The Bar

Your home bar should be more than merely a room in your house for imbibing and cigar smoking. It should possess a distinctive character and an atmosphere that promotes relaxation and conviviality. In addition to its more ethereal merits, a great bar must be well stocked and well equipped. This gift from Perdomo cigars, spirits […]

Antiques: Home Games

Before there were video games and home theaters, playing cards and board games were the home entertainments of choice, and often, they were incorporated inside a piece of furniture known as a games table. Of course, games themselves have been around for thousands of years, and game boards, pieces, and cards can be found in […]

Appliances: Tile of Great Style

When Ann Sacks founded her company in 1980, she was intent on displaying her tile in a manner that would stir the emotions of designers and their clients and compel them to have it installed in their homes. Sacks initiated this marketing plan in her own Portland, Ore., home, where she covered the walls, floors, […]

Furnishings: Paper Chase

Of the many artists who depicted Napoleon’s military triumphs, only a French wallpaper-making firm worked on a canvas vast enough to portray comprehensively the battle of Austerlitz, which came to be regarded as one of the emperor’s greatest victories. The 6.5-foot-by-43-foot panoramic scenic includes more than 2,000 wood-block prints joined on 30 panels in a […]

Home Electronics: Sony at Your Service

If you were the CEO of an electronics company, you would never have to sort through a confusing collection of digital cameras with the help of a teenage salesperson who knows less about the products than you do. You would simply ask your people to choose the right product and deliver it. This is exactly the […]

Back Page: Thinking Outside the Gift-Wrapped Box

Surprise is an essential element of Robb Report’s Ultimate Gift Guide. Each year we endeavor to present items that readers were not aware they could acquire or experiences they did not know they could have. Past editions of the Guide have featured a Stradivarius violin (2003), a private road rally with collectible cars included (1998), […]

Home Entertainment: Larger than Life

Rare is the home theater that can offer a viewing experience with the same impact as watching a great movie on a large, commercial cinema screen. You can re-create the environment of your local movie house and add high-quality, enveloping surround sound, but without an image that fills your entire field of vision, you may […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Cast Away

Since 1969, Frontiers International has been leading hunters and anglers into the wild in pursuit of sporting challenges and trophies. But few if any of the adventures it previously orchestrated can compare with the two-week fly-fishing extravaganza that the Wexford, Pa., outfitter is offering to a Robb Report reader and five guests. Before the journey […]

Travel: Home Again

In 1939, Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren built his Shangri-la on the white-sand beaches north of Nassau, the Bahamas. His creation, which he in fact named Shangri-La, remained a private home until 1961, when then-owner Huntington Hartford II, grandson of the founder of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., transformed the villa into a 52-room […]

Symposium: Breakfast of Champions

Among travelers, there exists a hierarchical pyramid, somewhat like the food pyramid. At the base are the risk-averse who stay close to their accustomed tastes—the white-bread/brioche group. At the apex (the realm of forbidden sweets on the food pyramid) are the risk-addicted, those for whom a trip is defined by how far they venture into […]

Feature: 21st Century City

At night, downtown Shanghai is a neon blaze, but all is dark in Fuxing Park, a residential district on the outskirts of the city, where my taxi has stopped. The driver says something in Chinese and points to a gate in a high, stuccoed wall. A dimly lit sign hanging over the gate identifies—in Chinese […]

21st Century City: Squash Courts, Italian Cuisine, and Jazz

For the traveler accustomed to navigating through Europe and South America with a smattering of French, German, and Spanish, the language barrier in Shanghai—as in the rest of China—can be a humbling experience. However, if you are no more conversant in Mandarin than the average Shanghainese is in English, the staff at any of the […]

Journeys: True Lagoons

The first afternoon aboard the megayacht Ti’a Moana, I hop a tender to one of the deserted islets that ring the volcanic island of Bora-Bora. I snorkel through schools of electric blue parrot fish and silver bream in a turquoise cove, then wade ashore past undulating sea cucumbers and black-spined urchins. Pulling on reef shoes, […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: War Records

Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, and virtually every other figure who played a major role in the waging of World War II is represented in a collection of historic documents offered by the Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery in New York. The collection contains a World War I–era typewritten manuscript by Churchill in […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Play Book

Although official records noting his baptism, his marriage, the births of his children, the death of his son, and various sales and business transactions still exist, no writings survive that reveal William Shakespeare’s frame of mind when he drafted his masterpieces. His manuscripts have long since vanished, and he left no memoirs or diaries. Shakespeare’s […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Vine Club

The most coveted vintage might be your own if you acquire this gift from Napa Valley Reserve. The brainchild of Harlan Estate’s Bill Harlan, this invitation-only club in St. Helena, Calif., which opened in May, provides its members with the resources necessary for enjoying the life of the gentleman (or lady) vintner. Participants, all of […]

From The Editors: Toy Maker to the Tsars

However casually one delves into the realm of the ultimate gift, one inevitably encounters Peter Carl Fabergé. Through his family’s quite ordinary jewelry shop, this whimsical man transformed the Russian aristocracy’s very idea of what constituted a true objet de luxe. Jewelry was valued in Russia largely as a function of the weight of precious […]

Collectibles: Stones and Bones

Insects, fish, palm fronds, footprints, eggs, even feces: If they were in the right place at the wrong time millions of years ago, they had a chance of becoming fossils. Today, fossils are prized both as decorative items and as links to long-extinct flora and fauna. “There’s a market for almost any minuscule category that […]

Sport: Raptor Rapture

The feathery bundle calmly perched on my hand seems far removed from the ferocious predator that our ancestors used when hunting. But this Harris hawk is not domesticated; he is merely tolerating me as his supplier of raw meat. His eyes, fierce and glassy, seem to take in the entire meadow at once, except when […]

Spirits: Soju of Fortune

Near the end of the 13th century, when the Koryo dynasty ruled the Korean peninsula, the Chinese introduced a rice-based liquor to their neighbors to the east. The Koreans, and later the Japanese, embraced the elixir as their own, eventually helping to make soju what it is today: the world’s top-selling distilled spirit. Despite its […]

Wine: Vintage of Light

Certain moments are quintessentially French. The autumn foliage of the Tuileries reflected in the waters of the Seine. The grim beauty of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame framed by the windows of Restaurant La Tour d’Argent. These sensory indulgences, like Proust’s petite madeleine, conjure and contain in a few seconds the spirit, history, and artistic vision […]

Dining: Fresh Start

Driving up the road that leads to the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant, you see many of the ingredients for its menu items: Chickens roost on the lawn, cows graze in a distant field, and pigs root in the woods. The year-round greenhouse (and, during the summer, the 4-acre garden) brims with lettuce, beets, […]

Spas: Luxe of the Irish

A land not readily associated with pampering, Ireland seems an unlikely setting for a destination spa. Indeed, Sámas, a Gaelic word pronounced saw-vas, may be the country’s only such establishment. Yet spend a session floating in the spa’s vitality pool, and it becomes clear that this is not such an odd place for the “indulgence […]

Smoke: Wrappers Delight

Some experts insist that a cigar’s wrapper–the leaf that covers the cigar and that creates its appearance–contributes most of its flavor. Others claim that the filler–the compacted leaves inside a cigar–dictates the taste. Still others maintain that the wrapper, filler, and binder (essentially an inner wrapper) share responsibility. In the hierarchy of mysteries that have […]

Leisure: The Art of Fine Champagne

They were not the most romantic couple in the world, the 18-year-old girl from Calvados named Rose Adèlaïde Jouët and the 25-year-old Pierre Nicolas Perrier, a handsome French wine merchant. Historic accounts suggest their marriage in September of 1810 was motivated more by a family connection than a love connection. Pierre Nicolas, in fact, knew […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Private Pebble

If your ability to schedule a tee time at Pebble Beach would make the other members of your regular foursome envious, consider what their reactions would be if you told them that you had reserved the entire Golf Links course for part of a day (as well as the Spyglass Hill and Links at Spanish […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Majors Memorabilia

Few professional golfers have equaled the success that Gary Player has enjoyed during his career. The 69-year-old, now playing regularly on the Champions Tour, has won 163 tournaments worldwide, including the British Open in three different decades, and is one of only five golfers to achieve a career Grand Slam. Player has garnered scores of […]

Golf: King’s Land

As every Adelaide resident will remind you at the outset of any conversation, their city was founded by genteel freemen, not the convicts and ne’er-do-wells who first settled Sydney. Perhaps this helps explain Adelaide’s affinity for the gentleman’s game of golf.   Washed by the breezes of the Gulf of St. Vincent in South Australia, […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Diamonds Du Jour

If it is true that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then those who believe you can never have too many friends will covet this set of seven rings from Vivid Collection. Each ring features a different color diamond: pink, red, yellow, green, white, and two shades of blue. The rings’ collective weight exceeds 132 […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: The Whole Nine Yards

Relying on his three decades of experience as a menswear designer and wardrobe consultant, Alan Flusser will transform you into a candidate for the world’s Best Dressed list. This two- to three-week shopping excursion begins with a consultation and wardrobe analysis with Flusser at the Alan Flusser Custom shop in New York, followed immediately by […]

Wardrobe: Well Hield

Two years ago, as British brands Burberry and Paul Smith were ringing up record sales, the menswear buyers at Saks Fifth Avenue met with several of Savile Row’s storied suitmakers to find a partner for an exclusive business relationship. Ultimately, Saks bypassed esteemed tailors such as Huntsman, Henry Poole, and Chester Barrie and signed an […]

Jewelry: New Master

As Nicholas Varney unveils his latest masterpiece, an elaborate stone crab—claw bracelet that was nearly two years in the making, he can hardly contain his enthusiasm. “I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” declares the 33-year-old designer, who works in a small, cluttered office in the Manhattan headquarters of his father, famed interior […]

Watches: Women’s Works

Cristina Thévenaz knows what she wants and how to get it. The stylish, blond, 39-year-old mother of four is an outspoken force in the male-dominated bastion that is the Swiss watch industry. Since Thévenaz’s husband, Philippe, acquired the jewelry watch brand Delaneau in 1997 and appointed Cristina, a former graphic designer, the creative director, she […]

Feature: Independently Healthy

It is no secret that today’s prestige watchmaking business is a far cry from the charming cottage industry of yesteryear. After a decade of multimillion-dollar acquisitions and consolidation, luxury conglomerates now control an estimated 80 percent of the Swiss watch industry, including many of its oldest, most venerated brands. With the exception of purists and […]

Style: Paris Match

w. somerset maugham’s 1944 novel The Razor’s Edge, one of the principal characters, Elliott Templeton, exits Paris’ Ritz Hotel and crosses the Place Vendôme to a store called Charvet. Inside the luxurious menswear shop, he collects a pair of bespoke underwear made of silk and emblazoned with an intricately embroidered monogram of his initials coiled […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Back On Track

The MC12 marks a new era for Maserati, whose last international race victory came in 1967, when a Maserati-powered Cooper Formula One car won the South African Grand Prix. As a manufacturer, Maserati officially retired from racing in 1957, but to the delight of aficionados of the marque, it has returned to the track with […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Monster of Modena

Although its finances were precariously stretched by participation in various racing formulas, ranging from the grueling Formula One championship to hill climbs, Maserati nevertheless committed to participating in the 1957 Sports Car World Championship with a stable of then-new 450S models. Its loss to Ferrari in the series’ seventh and deciding contest would mark the […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Eight Wonders

To publicize their company and challenge themselves, Frank M. Rinderknecht and his team at Rinspeed, an automotive aftermarket company in Zumikon, Switzerland, have built a one-off concept car each year since 1995 and unveiled it at the annual Geneva International Motor Show. The creations have included the Bedouin, a car built on the platform of […]

Autos: Crying Uncle Sam

When the 2003 Cadillac CTS first arrived on the showroom floor, recalls John Howell, director of product development, company executives were worried as well as excited. The CTS, which featured a brash, sharp-angled exterior, was Cadillac’s first attempt at revitalizing its lineup with what it called “Art and Science” styling, and the company, with reservations […]

Motorcycles: Under New Ownership

The past two years appeared to have been heady times for Aprilia, as the motorcycle manufacturer from Noale, Italy, rolled out one exceptional bike after another. First there was the RSV 1000R sportbike, followed by the $18,000 RSV 1000R Factory, a 139 hp version of the base model; then Aprilia trumped that with the RSV […]

Feature: Supercar Showdown 2004

Pursuing the Ferrari Enzo up Vermont’s Mount Equinox, I ignore the snarls, pops, whines, crackles, and roars reverberating off the windscreen of my Lamborghini Murciélago. This is not the time to savor the Enzo’s aural assault. Nor is it time to worry about the Ford GT and Porsche Carrera GT in my rearview mirror. More […]

Supercar Showdown 2004: The Adventures of a Supercar Collector

Spend some time with Richard B erry—who, along with Robb Report Senior Editor Fluto Shinzawa, also participated in the supercar test-drives—and continually you will hear the phrase “To make a long story short . . . .” There is nothing wrong with Berry’s storytelling skills or with his listeners’ attention spans. But with so many […]

Feature: Designs of the Times

When he was 12 years old, Michael Furman snapped what he thought was his first automotive photograph. However, when he viewed the developed film, rather than the image of the bright orange 1963 Corvette that had sped through his Philadelphia neighborhood, he saw only the empty street; the shutter speed on his camera was too […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Inside Job

London designer Andrew Winch has proven equally adept at creating superyacht and aircraft interiors, but until now he has not simultaneously designed both a yacht and plane interior for the same client. Winch will design the interiors of the superyacht and jet of a Robb Report reader’s choosing (existing craft or ones that have yet […]

Aircraft: Friendlier Skies

Sebastian Heintz, President of Zenith Aircraft Co., believes that soon an unprecedented number of fliers will be earning their pilot’s licenses, and when they do, they will have more new planes than ever to choose from. Heintz’s optimism stems from FAA rules approved in September that will simplify the process of obtaining licenses and create […]

Boating: Growth Spurt

To executives at Hinckley, the Maine builder of sailboats and jet-powered craft, the focus-group studies they conducted in 2002 confirmed what they had speculated for the last decade. Casual boaters and Hinckley dev­otees alike indicated that they wanted boats longer than 30 to 40 feet, the company’s core products, and would consider other brands when […]

Feature: Finishing Touch

For eight months, craftsmen working on Solemar, a 202-foot Amels yacht, hammered and sawed and welded at a heart-pounding pace. Then on June 12, 2003, a Thursday, their frenzied efforts turned frantic as they tried to beat their deadline and enable the ship to begin its maiden voyage from Amels’ Vlissingen boatyard in the Netherlands […]

Wings & Water: Rebound of the Fury

Snce he was 5 years old, Roy LoPresti had dreamed of building and flying a machine like the Fury. Then in 1988, LoPresti, an aircraft designer and former U.S. Air Force combat pilot, completed the manifestation of his boyhood imagination: a two-seat, high-performance prototype. LoPresti had convinced his four sons to quit their aeronautical engineering […]