ON THE CREST OF A NEW WAVE
Luxury carmakers and designers are increasingly dipping their toes into the waters of high-end boatmaking, with companies such as Aston Martin and Pininfarina now joining the fold, writes Adam Workman
Luxury carmakers are increasingly dipping their toes into the waters of high-end boat-making
Diversifying into premium lifestyle products is nothing new for the world’s top motoring manufacturers, whether it’s high-end homeware or entire houses. But the latest cross-pollination trend has seen multiple household-name car brands splashing out into yacht-making.
For the UAE, the coming together of luxury carmakers and top-of-the-market boat designers is an obvious Venn-diagram convergence. Where else on the planet, with the possible exception of a handful of European honeypots such as Monaco, are you likely to see supercars and superyachts with such frequency? And the same customers who love their motoring eye candy to be in possession of a prestigious badge are, more o en than not, in a position to cast off onto the open waters in equally flashy floating vessels.
“It’s happening because customers are demanding it,” says Marek Reichman, design chief at Aston Martin, which has joined the car/boat arms race with the AM37 day cruiser. “People have their favourite brands, don’t they? Is it Apple or an Android device? And I think once you become accustomed to the way something feels and makes you feel, then you have a desire and a want to have more [of that] in your life.”
There is a chance that a client for a Ferrari Sergio is interested in a superyacht, and vice versa
The AM37 is the latest in a fast-expanding line of collaborations in the car world – Pininfarina, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus are among the names that have also paddled into the world of boat-making. Aston’s 11-metre (or 37-foot, hence the name) cra is the fruit of a three-way labour of love from the British carmaker and two Dutch co-conspirators, Quintessence Yachts and Mulder Design.
Reichman and his team conceptualised, as he puts it, “everything you see above the water line” – which includes a sleek teak deck that evokes thoughts of the grand old carmaker’s opulent dashboards. The design chief explains that the company has harboured plans to produce a boat from the days of David Brown, who headed Aston from 1947 to 1972 and lent his initials to the famed DB range. Seven decades on from Brown’s original acquisition, the time was right.
“Quintessence decided that there was potential in the marketplace to create and develop something very different, and approached us,” Reichman says. “That moment came maybe two-and-a-half years ago, and the first production boats are now hitting the water.
“We’re not privy to say who the customers are or how many at the moment. We can only build seven boats a year because of the amount of time [it takes]; they’re heavily personalised. But several of the first customers are part of our VIP club. They’re multiple Aston Martin owners, and now they’re owning the Aston Martin boats as well. [These are] customers who are driving the cars, experiencing the ocean; enjoying the art of living, as it were.”
Admittedly, enjoying this high-luxury segment requires deep pockets: the AM37 costs from £1,260,720 (Dh6.1m) for the dual-430hp-engined version. But in this stratospheric world, the speedy, 52knot vessel is at the modest end of the scale.
Italian design legend Pininfarina – best known for its work on some of the most iconic Ferraris of all time, from the Dino to the Testarossa – has taken things to an altogether greater level with the Aurea. A link-up with compatriot shipyard Rossinavi, the 70-metre superyacht, which had its premiere in London in June, is more or less a beach club with a hull. It has two swimming pools, three large outdoor decks and additional water-level access on both sides.
“The boat sector needs new ideas, especially in the luxury class where the current designs are too conservative,” chairman Paolo Pininfarina reasons. “Innovation is generated by contamination of different design experiences, the so-called ‘cross-fertilisation’ process. The average age of customers is decreasing, so new design proposals are needed and the inputs from car designers are certainly welcome.
“Rossinavi defined clearly the layout of the yacht. When we started to develop the exterior design, all the details, specifications and volume distributions were already developed. Our task was to put the best dress on a functional body, so the process was definitely 50/50. The shape of the Aurea is very fluid, sinuous and harmonious. It takes its inspiration from the lines of the sea,” Pininfarina explains.
Aimed at ultra-high-net-worth individuals, Aurea’s pricing is, perhaps unsurprisingly, firmly in the “if you have to ask…” category.
Roughly midway between the Aston and Aurea is the GTT 115 Hybrid, a meeting of minds from Monacobased yacht-builder Dynamiq and Porsche’s Studio F A. The 35-metre superyacht, which features Targastyle mullions among other flourishes taken from the German carmaker’s illustrious history, was put into production earlier this year. GTT stands for Gran Turismo Transatlantic.
“In a way, the transfer of luxurious transportation from the road to the waters seems logical,” says Roland Heiler, Porsche Studio F A’s chief executive officer. “Many aspects, with regard to the style, materials and cra smanship, can be related. Transferring brand values is also an interesting aspect and not to be underestimated.”
The GTT 115 Hybrid is a limited edition of seven and costs from €12.5m (Dh55m), a price that can quickly rise with optional embellishments such as a sundeck pool (€27,500) or, if you are feeling particularly flash, a Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo in matching interior colours for a cool €131,200.
While those cra are informed by, rather than directly drawn from, celebrated design lines, perhaps the most obvious homage yet to the motoring world is Mercedes-Benz’s work with Silver Arrows Marine. The unison led to the Arrow460-Granturismo, which made its maiden voyage last year. The 14-metre motor yacht mirrors the striking shades of the current MercedesAMG Formula One cars, while its side-on silhouette is a slightly unholy matrimony of boating and motoring, with the cabin very reminiscent of an S- Class’s pillars and roofline.
Taking a less literal visual interpretation of its increasingly futuristic car design, meanwhile, is the Sport Yacht concept, Lexus’s theoretical contribution to the expanding crossover market, unveiled at the start of this year in Miami. But it is perhaps the most straightforward application of four-wheeled tech, powered by two Lexus V8 engines based on those under the bonnet of its flagship LC 500 sports car. Sadly, as it stands, the yacht – developed alongside American company Marquis-Carver – is currently a concept only, with no intentions to put it into production as of yet.
What all these projects share, however, is an inherent similarity with the core objectives of a luxury car: efficiently cutting through its surrounding medium, be that air or water, while inspiring its financially blessed potential customers with taste-making design.
“Certainly the Pininfarina luxury projects, in different sectors such as automotive, housing, boat and aviation, are addressed to clients who have a particular attitude for innovation,” says Pininfarina. “Therefore, there is a potential crossover benefit. There is a chance that a client for a Pininfarina automobile, such as a Ferrari Sergio, is interested in a superyacht, and vice versa,” he adds.
“Aston Martin makes sports cars, and making a fast boat is very similar in many ways because of the challenges of going fast on water versus going fast on a track, or having a performance product that goes on the roads,” says Reichman, who trained as an industrial designer before studying for a master’s in vehicle design.
“The way the hull operates in the water is quite similar to the way a car cuts through the air,” he continues. “Some of the challenges [we faced] were beginning to understand the differences between fluid dynamics and aerodynamics. And, quite surprisingly, they’re very similar.”
ALL HANDS ON DECK The 37-foot AM37 day cruiser is the result of a collaboration between Aston Martin, Quintessence Yachts and Mulder Design
SETTING SAIL Opposite page, top, the Mercedes-Benz Arrow460Granturismo mirrors the shades of the current Mercedes-AMG F1 cars. Opposite page, bottom, interior details of the AM37 cruiser, which has a teak deck, reminiscent of Aston Martin’s sleek dashboards. Right, the design of the Lexus Sport Yacht concept. Below, a rendering of the interiors of the GTT 115 Hybrid, designed by Monaco yachtbuilder Dynamiq and Porsche’s Studio F A