The dark side of Rolls-royce
In response to a diversifying and increasingly demanding client base, Rolls-royce have created Black Badge: A new Rolls-royce that defies convention with customised details, dark features and the finest of Rolls-royce technology and advancements. “There are owners who want to take control and don’t necessarily go along with the same view of tradition and convention. With Black Badge we’re recognising their tastes and their desires and delivering with the Rolls-royce signature,” says Gavin Hartley, manager of bespoke design. The innovation has come in response to market demands for a unique luxury automotive experience that represents the very best of Rolls-royce comfort, tailored detail and engineering technology.
“It’s a very authentic vision of bespoke, where we are looking at it from the ground up. Engineering is fundamental to the Black Badge,” adds James Warren, Rolls-royce spokesperson. “I cannot emphasise this enough, this is not about throwing away Rolls-royce comfort. Our customers are wealthy, they can afford a Porsche or a Ferrari for tracks. This is a Rolls-royce with a little more, taking bespoke to a different level and into an engineering arena,” says Warren.
Black Badge is the result of the unique relationships that Rolls-royce has developed with its discerning clients. While it enjoys an average of 4,000 sales annually, the success of the brand stems from its commitment to developing and maintaining client relationships. Rolls-royce CEO Torsten Müller- Ötvös dines with clients every time he travels, inviting 10-15 owners to dinner and discussing their ideas and desires. Müller- Ötvös finds that meeting with his clients on a global scale allows him to acknowledge and respond to his clients dreams and desires. He draws on their ideas and sensibilities by bringing the suggestions back to the home of Rolls-royce in Goodwood, England.
With owners typically treating their garages like wardrobes, the company understands that different vehicles cater to different needs, occasions, moods and tastes. A Rolls-royce isn’t a necessity, but rather a personal expression of luxury and desire.
Müller-ötvös highlights that Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI) are indeed getting younger, with the average age of owners down from 56 to 45. “What we also see is some interesting people who are rule breakers, mavericks, those who want to make a bolder statement,” he adds. “Black Badge gives them that freedom while also providing a different driving experience. It is a car that’s more agile, more on it, we call it the ‘alter ego of Rolls-royce’. We’re even brave enough to change our Spirit of Ecstasy to a high gloss black vamp. Our clients love it.”
Rolls-royce customers are very diverse and the Wraith and the Dawn in particular appeal to a wider audience. “We instinctively know what they want and what trends they are following, it’s hugely exciting and a big step for the marque. Demand has been extraordinary,” says Warren. Black Badge challenges how people interact with Rolls-royce, its authenticity takes bespoke beyond mere aesthetics. Rolls-royce’s story of re- establishing itself globally with its all new Phantom in 2003 is well known. The Phantom defined luxury and bespoke, becoming an ambassador for a reinvigorated Rolls-royce, with its hallmarks of sumptuous exacting hand crafted luxury, underpinned with cutting edge engineering and design. Not a reinvention of itself, more an acceptance that to be relevant and competitive in today’s world, Rolls-royce needed to lead and innovate. That is exactly what it did. It redefined the luxury car marketplace with a car, that despite its imminent replacement, remains the very best of its type to this day. If chapter one was 2003 through to today, then Black Badge represents an even more compelling chapter two. With this in mind, the future appears limitless. “We have a 112 year history. We know our customers are interested in the tradition and the authenticity the marque represents. However, they’re also very modern people and don’t want anything that’s retrospective,” says Hartley. “We have to respect the brand by doing something that is appropriate to customers today, as well as in 10 or 20 years time.”
“Charles Rolls would have driven one of these,” adds Warren, “he was the Elon Musk of his day.” Although Rolls-royce has tradition and prestige at its core, it has always been committed to its reputation of pushing the boundaries.
Rolls-royce represents serenity and comfort, inviting us to take control of our journey, to feel, touch and enjoy the experience. A Rolls-royce encourages drivers to return to the heart and soul of automotive excellence and Black Badge intends to take them on a journey into the darker side of that soul. “When RollsRoyce goes out and does something like this, it’s authentic. The wheels for example, are aircraft grade aluminium, which alone have taken two years to engineer. That wheel represents someone’s life for those two years,” says Warren.
New materials and finishes define the interior and exterior treatments, thereby accommodating the idiosyncratic tastes of the Black Badge customer. The concept reveals a darker, more assertive aspect, whilst retaining all the luxury you’d expect from a Rolls-royce. This new sophistication and reinterpretation of luxury remains bespoke, able to be individually configured through material choice or colour. The Black Badge models are defined by their use of aluminium threaded carbon fibre composite surfacing, as well as the use of the ‘Unlimited’ logo. This nods reverentially to the Phantom Drophead Waterspeed of 2014, a car built to celebrate the daring of world speed record champion Sir Malcolm Campbell.
Campbell would certainly appreciate the engineering changes that RollsRoyce have adapted. Including gearshift strategy for more immediacy and the sharper suspension and steering. Rolls-royce have recognised that Black Badge clients desire intuitive functions— because there’s certainly nothing more uncouth than a mere button to press for increased speed and agility— which saw the installation of the ‘Intuitive Throttle’, a function allowing the vehicle to change its delivery depending on how vigorously it is pushed and held. Black Badge isn’t about being overt, however the engineering changes are indeed subtle. There are new driveshafts and differing operating strategies for the engine and gearbox control systems that all add alertness, but only when it recognises that the driver wants them. Black Badge creates sharper responses for more visceral engagement, but retains the marques effortless attitude. The Rolls-royce V12 engine power has always been described as ‘ample’, but with Black Badge the experience is amplified.
“Black Badge is an attitude to life, an aspect of the Rolls-royce brand that appeals to those people who are elusive and defiant, the risk takers and disruptors who break the rules and laugh in the face of convention. They are driven by a restless spirit. They play hard and they change the world … With Black Badge we have created the most commanding presence in the super luxury landscape. It is a truly transformative moment for our great brand,” says Müller- Ötvös, referencing Sir Malcolm Campbell, Howard Hughes, Keith Moon, Yves Saint Laurent and Muhammad Ali, as the iconoclasts who were drawn on for inspiration. Unapologetic in their pursuit for reinvention, daring beauty and a life led on their own terms, the Rolls-royce Black Badge certainly mesmerises. Charles Rolls would approve.