Rolls-Royce, in the year 2017, unveiled the Sweptail, a creation that presented the automotive world a completely new perspective on what a bespoke automobile, conceived in absolute collaboration with a patron, could look like in the 21st century. Thus, Rolls-Royce revived the age-old idea, from its own heritage, of coachbuilding.
“The ability to personalise almost every aspect of their motor car is one of the main reasons our patrons come to us. But we know some wish to go further still. In 2017, we stunned the world with our first fully coachbuilt motor car of the modern era, the spectacular Rolls-Royce Sweptail. This was, by definition, an entirely unique commission; but in our minds, it was the start of a journey,” shares Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
2017 Rolls-Royce ‘Sweptail’
Fast forward then to the 27th of May, 2021 and the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, a unique coachbuilt automobile and the establishment of the Coachbuild department as a permanent fixture House’s offering of services.
Says Müller-Ötvös, “Historically, coachbuilding had been an integral part of the Rolls-Royce story. In the contemporary Rolls-Royce narrative, it has informed our guiding philosophy of Bespoke. But it is so much more. Rolls-Royce Coachbuild is a return to the very roots of our brand. It represents an opportunity for the select few to participate in the creation of utterly unique and truly personal commissions of future historical significance.”
But what is coachbuilding, and how does it differ from Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke program. Coachbuilding is a practice from the 1920s, when Rolls-Royce would focus on producing the rolling chassis, with performance in mind, and then rely on specialist houses to provide the “coach” that could be built on top in accordance to a client’s requirements. In these days of the Roaring Twenties, when the automobile was starting to see a marked increase in demand, this formula for production proved to be a viable one for industry for many more decades to come. In fact, for Rolls-Royce coachbuilding was only made an in-house competency in 1965 with the launch of the Silver Cloud series. It, however, didn’t mark the end of coachbuilding with even the Phantom VI having had its coachwork supplied by Rolls-Royce subsidiary H. J. Mulliner, Park Ward Ltd.-, as recently as, 1993.
The contemporary version of Coac build, though, has its distinguishing factors. “Coachbuild provides freedom to move beyond the usual constraints. Normally, there is a natural ceiling to Rolls-Royce Bespoke by way of the canvas,” explains, Alex Innes, Head of Rolls-Royce Coachbuild Design. “At Rolls-Royce Coachbuild we break through that ceiling, embracing the freedom of expression afforded by coachbuilding to shape a concept directly with our commissioning patrons.”
2021 Rolls-Royce Boat Tail
The story goes that at the conclusion of the Sweptail’s unveiling, several of Rolls-Royce’s most important clients started enquiring about the possibility of their partnering with the House to create something extraordinary. On discussing the possibilities that could be a resultant of such a project is when Rolls-Royce decided that Coachbuild should be made a permanent fixture within the house’ offerings.
There emerged three individuals, from the many who asked, with a particularity towards contemporary nautical design, specifically, J-Class yachts were often referenced in the initial discussions. This inspiration fell in line with a desire that the design team at Rolls-Royce had long wanted to explore. Once the stars had aligned for the creative direction on the project at hand, and all three individuals had given the green light to proceed, the only brief they left Rolls-Royce with was, “Show me something that I have never seen before.” Fast forward then to May of 2021, and the unveiling of the Rolls-Royce coachbuilt ‘Boat Tail’.
Of the many finer points of craftsmanship on show on the ‘Boat Tail,’ the one that should be of interest for the Revolution audience is the marque tasked to create the timepiece to adorn the automobile’s dashboard, Bovet.
Bovet took on the task and over delivered with, not just one, but two unique timepieces based off of the Amadeo case, which allows them to be worn on the wrist, or used as a table clock, pendant or pocket-watch, as well as being placed front and center in the Boat Tail as the automobile’s own timepiece.
Starting with a 44mm case in 18K white gold Fleurier case, the first instance has a high polish finish with a hand-made wood marquetry dial and hand-engraved Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture fixed to the tourbillon bridge. On the back of this watch features blue aventurine glass with the sky chart of the owner’s birth day and birth place paired with a hand-engraved bespoke Boat Tail sculpture, lacquered to match the color of the car then miniature painted by hand to add the details.
The latter has its case hand-engraved then filled with blue lacquer with its hand-made wood marquetry dial paired with a hand-engraved 18K white gold Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture. The back of this piece features a miniature hand-painting of a flower bouquet on mother-of-pearl dial along with a hand-engraved bespoke Boat Tail sculpture, lacquered to match the color of the car then miniature painted by hand to add the details.
Now the watchmaking and artistry aspects of a unique creation is second nature to Bovet. But for a timepiece that needs to sit in the automobile’s dashboard and remain chronometrically sound through all of the automotive-industry standards for vibration and crash safety. Rolls-Royce states that the complete process of creating and integrating the timepiece into the Boat Tail required a total of 3,000 hours to complete.
As the initial two watches are created for the first Boat Tail that has been delivered, there are then two more Boat Tails and, therefore, creations from Bovet that are yet to be unveiled.
Rolls-Royce Boat Tail Bovet Timepieces Facts & Figures
Case Size: Bespoke; diameter – 44mm; thickness – 14mm
Case Type: 18K white gold Fleurier case; BOVET 1822 bow at 12 o’clock; 49 components
Case Function: Amadeo Convertible System; reversible; pocket watch on chain; pendant watch on necklace; table clock; dashboard clock
Case Finishing: Men’s timepiece is high polish finish; Women’s timepiece is hand-engraved then filled with blue lacquer
Movement: Bespoke 60-second tourbillon; manual-wind; 284 components (without dial and hands); 21,600 v/h
Functions: Hours and minutes on both sides (reverse hand-fitting); power reserve indicator on front
Power Reserve: 5 days
Men’s Front Dial: Hand-made wood marquetry dial; hand-engraved Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture fixed to the tourbillon bridge; “A Special Timepiece Commission” on the dial
Women’s Front Dial: Hand-made wood marquetry dial; hand-engraved 18K white gold Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture; “A Special Timepiece Commission” on the dial
Men’s Reverse Dial: Blue aventurine glass with sky chart of owner’s birth day and birth place; hand-engraved bespoke Boat Tail sculpture, lacquered to match the colour of the car then miniature painted by hand to add the details; lady’s name engraved on the mirror-polished (by hand by the watchmaker) tourbillon bridge
Women’s Reverse Dial: Miniature hand-painting of flower bouquet on mother-of-pearl dial (based on historical BOVET 1822 timepiece, customized); hand-engraved bespoke Boat Tail sculpture, lacquered to match the color of the car then miniature painted by hand to add the details; gentleman’s name (engraved on the mirror-polished (by hand by the watchmaker) tourbillon bridge
Dashboard Holder: Aluminum and Titanium; 51 components; Engraving of two Rolls-Royce Boat Tails in a white gold case, to match that of the timepieces, to place inside when the timepiece is not present (100% engineered, designed, and produced in-house by BOVET)
In-car Drawer: to hold timepieces, straps, chain, necklace
Independent laboratory certification: shock, temperature, humidity, vibration