Leaving the airport, I relaxed in pure comfort in the back of a chauffeured Rolls-Royce Phantom as I was driven 100 miles to the luxurious Inn at Spanish Bay on the Monterey Peninsula. The trip seemed to take mere minutes. While I could instantly feel the comfort, the luxury and the style, I still had no idea what was really in store for me.
Rolls-Royce is not just a car; it’s a symbol. A symbol of elegance, grace, luxury and status. The days ahead would be a meticulous blend of all these elements, thanks to Kristina Marchitto, US head of corporate communications; and Richard Carter, director of global communications.
Marchitto comes to Rolls-Royce with years of experience in the luxury market. She is focusing on the younger consumer with the highly desirable Ghost range and Rolls-Royce’s digital presence through their iPad app. “It is about all of those personal relationships and creating a ‘money-can’t-buy’ experience,” says Kristina, “Rolls-Royce has become synonymous with [the word] luxury.”
Next day, that money-can’t-buy experience continued as we were chauffeured to The Quail, a motor sports gathering, where Rolls-Royce unveiled the Bespoke 2013 Ghost EWB, which sold right off the lawn. The Quail is one of the most luxurious car shows in the world. Every luxury brand was present, with Rolls-Royce taking center stage.
Giles Taylor, head of the Rolls-Royce exterior design team, eagerly discussed with me his contribution to the special edition Phantom Coupe Aviator, of which only 35 will be produced. The car, which pays homage to founder and aviator Charles Royce, has a fine matte, metallic grey exterior that shines with a hint of green. On the inside, Rolls-Royce has spared no detail, from the straight-grain mahogany taken from early propeller designs, to swage lines that mimic the oil-cooling veins, to its chestnut leather interior that captures the retro-styling of a 1930’s Supermarine S6B aircraft. Embossed into the leather-lined glove box is a quote from Charles Royce: "The power of flight is as a fresh gift from the Creator, the greatest treasure yet given to man." Truly a sight to be seen and a top-notch tribute.
Following the unveiling we were whisked by helicopter to the Hahn Winery in Soledad. After an exclusive tour we had a fine lesson in wine blending and of course, tasting. At Hahn, we were introduced to Chef Brian Overhauser. Overhauser is influenced by multi-cultural cuisine and he prepared an incredible meal of Kobe calotte de boeuf matched with a table Cabernet Franc and Monterey Bay salmon with a fantastic SLH Chardonnay. Brian has the perfect talent for selecting that singular vineyard wine that complements his specially-prepared meals.
On Saturday I had the opportunity to test drive the Phantom. It’s one thing to take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1 from Carmel to Big Sur and back; it’s another to do it in a Rolls. When we pulled in for a coffee stop at the Ventana Inn at Big Sur, it was like walking the red carpet. We were the celebrity. People were taking pictures and gawking over the cars.
Later, we drove up to Casanova in Carmel where I had a rare opportunity to speak with Hugues de Pins, president of Vacheron Constantin North America. Vacheron Constantin creates some of the most prestigious watches in the world. It is no wonder that this company was there to complement the Rolls-Royce experience.
“Technology is a word that we hate,” said de Pins, who has been company president since 2009. “We don’t use technology. We are making mechanical improvements and innovations but always using the handmade craftsmanship.” The craftsmanship of this 257-year-old company has remained basically unchanged.
Using only in-house staff, Vacheron employs craftsmen whose skills are unmatched by any other brand. This enables them to bring products to the market by utilizing gold engravers and gem setters, among other disciplined vocations. Vacheron’s inspiration is derived from artists and artistry and not market trends. “When you talk about trends, it means one day it ends,” said de Pins.
Producing only 20,000 watches a year as compared to close to one million from other well-known luxury brands, Vacheron Constantin has built a timeless masterpiece.
According to all those watches, it was time for another meal. This time we were honored to experience the talents of Thomas Keller, cookbook author, chef and owner of the famous French Laundry Restaurant in Yountville, Cal. and New York’s Per Sé, among other well-known restaurants. Keller, a rare 3-star Michelin Guide-winning and world-renowned chef, prepared an exquisite meal that mimicked the structure and engineering of the vehicle: Calotte de Boeuf Grillée, Complicated Short Ribs, Yukon Gold Potatoes, King Trumpet Mushrooms, Watercress Pudding and Sauce Raifort were just some of the delectable items on the menu on this night. Keller takes absolute pride in his work. He invests careful time into his staff to create and maintain the style and passion that he puts into his creative cuisine.
On Sunday, we were off to Pebble Beach for the Concours d’Elegance. The event, held once a year, brings in about 200 of the most prized collector cars and motorcycles in the world. It’s a place where millionaires and billionaires can show off their rare beauties. People from all over the globe come to compete in, or simply enjoy, the event at Pebble Beach.
The vehicles at the Concours d’Elegance have to have some sort of historical value, such as the 1910 Broke Swan car the Maharajas featured this year. The cars must also do what they were designed to do. Another must in the Concours d’Elegance - the car must be elegant, which explains why Rolls-Royce was here.
I spoke with David Archibald, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, North America, who told me about how the company is constantly innovating while holding true to its practices and values, thus making the company move forward where others have failed. “It’s not just a brand but an experience,” said David, something that by then I had learned all too well. Archibald sees to it that Rolls-Royce excels at customer satisfaction by never sacrificing quality.
On Long Island, the Rolls-Royce is also synonymous with the Gold Coast. How many times have you seen one pull up at the Americana Manhasset and wondered who’s inside? It’s the car, the lifestyle and the status.
Before I knew it, my long weekend was ending. This wasn’t just about researching a story about a car - it was the right mix and balance of that certain, elusive lifestyle. A helicopter flight. The right wine with that special meal that isn’t on the menu. Choosing that select Vacheron Constantin watch for that special night out. I don’t think I will look at a Rolls-Royce the same after this. It was by far … an experience.