One could say that coachbuilding is to cars what haute couture is to fashion, the creation of exclusive, custom-made pieces developed from conception to completion working hand in hand with the patron. Today, coachbuilding reigns supreme in the world of automotive luxury. Rolls-Royce is leading the way this summer with the delivery of two stunning orders, La Rose Noire, the very first Droptail and a week later, the second, Amethyst.
Named after the birthstone of the patron’s son, Amethyst integrates many of the elements originally seen in La Rose Noire, which celebrate minimalist design and painstaking craft. Amethyst Droptail was commissioned by a customer whose gemstone family business has grown into a multinational corporation with diversified interests. An established patron of the arts, whose collection of precious jewels, significant motor cars and contemporary artworks are housed in a specially commissioned private museum.
The duotone exterior paint finish in Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail captures multiple stages of the Globle Amaranth flower’s bloom.
This version of Droptail expressed a profound desire to celebrate the cultural heritage of the owner’s home region. Rolls-Royce coachwork designers based the exterior colouring around the Globe Amaranth wildflower, which blooms in the desert near one of the client’s homes. The duotone exterior paint finish captures multiple stages of the flower’s bloom. The main body colour is a soft purple hue with a delicate silver tinge – named after the flower – enhanced with fine flecks of powdered aluminium that reflect the light and create an iridescent finish. A deep purple Amethyst contrast paint containing a blend of red, blue and violet mica flakes with a subtle metallic sheen is used on the car’s upper coachwork.
The removable roof incorporates electrochromic glass that allows the surface to change colour and transparency instantly. The chameleon effect means that, when deactivated, it is completely opaque and has a subtle purple tint, mirroring the motor car’s Amethyst exterior finish. Once the glass is activated at the touch of a button, it becomes translucent with a hue that matches the Sand Dunes leather colour used in the interior suite.
Amethysts gems adorn the rotary dials and the base of the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine.
Visually striking is the veneer aft deck, the largest wood surface ever produced by Rolls-Royce and the only aerodynamically functional wood surface on a new car. Amethyst gems are incorporated in many details both in the interior and exterior. The Spirit of Ecstasy figurine for examples is surrounded by amethyst cabochons, shaped and polished into a rounded form rather than faceted, to avoid too much sparkle. For the first time, the Pantheon grille has a brushed and polished finish emulating techniques in haute horlogerie, to reference the unique Vacheron Constantin clock fitted within the car.
Dashboard clocks per se had become just one more instrument on the control panel of cars for decades, but, a few years ago, the patron of the very first Rolls-Royce Boat Tail had the brilliant idea of commissioning a removable clock for it, idea that Rolls-Royce developed into a proprietary technique that was applied to other commissions. That Boat Tail featured a Bovet clock (read our review HERE), La Rose Noire an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept and in Amethyst, we find a timepiece by Vacheron Constantin.
Amethyst Droptail’s fascia is graced with a unique timepiece by Vacheron Constantin: Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon, housed in a specially designed holder from which it can be removed.
In a sense, this is going back a century, to when dashboard clocks were first introduced as specialist items for the early automobiles. Indeed, when looking back through the archives, Vacheron Constantin found that they were first commission to make a timepiece for a motor car in 1928. The Maison is no stranger to unique orders, with their specialist workshop Les Cabinotiers being set up to deal with such requests. Famous among the watches they have produced has been the ref. 57260, the world’s most complex watch, along with other highly complicated timepieces to client’s instructions.
For this Rolls-Royce Droptail they developed a bi-axial tourbillon where time is read via a double retrograde display. The single-edition Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon is housed in a secure holder, custom-designed to fit into the car’s fascia.
Design details of how Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon is housed within its case and how to rotate and remove it.
The Vacheron Constantin clock features a skeletonised calibre 1990, a hand-wound in-house complication movement incorporating certain technical developments derived from the ref. 57260. The choice was influenced by the bi-retrograde display with instantaneous return of the hours and minutes, which is reminiscent of traditional motor car speedometers featuring sweep hands.
The instrument dials combine amethyst-coloured inserts with the partially brushed and polished finish of the timepiece’s hands. The timepiece is affixed to a white-gold baseplate with a hand-crafted sunburst guilloché pattern.
Vacheron Constantin and Rolls-Royce worked closely together to ensure the forms, materials and colours of the timepiece were in perfect harmony within the car.
With these examples of bespoke luxury, Rolls-Royce is bringing their customers well beyond ownership and into the realm of creative expression, proving that, as they often proudly communicate, they do listen to their clients and go to whatever lengths are needed to make their cars a true reflection of themselves.
More about Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail HERE.
Words: Dr Andrew Hildreth