Oceans of Style

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Exploring new frontiers of luxury at sea, this futuristic mega yacht is indeed mega: at 145 metres long, the Admiral X Force 145 is the length of two jumbo jets. Dobroserdov Design and Admiral Centro Stile came up with the concept for this Italian Sea Group project—and what a concept it is. It boasts two cinemas, a garage for cars and helicopters, multiple gyms and two helipads, which explains the estimated price tag of more than US$1 billion. Windows run nearly the entire length for fabulous views and plenty of natural light. Inside, there are crystal chandeliers, marble floors, a spa, bi-level indoor and outdoor pools with lounges, sunbeds, and bars. VIP suites with personal balconies could be modelled on the swankiest of five-star hotel rooms, while the “owner’s quarters” take up an entire deck, complete with custom-made furniture and a Zen garden. It’s expected to be completed in 2017. Getting stranded at sea has never looked so good.

Missing Ink

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Keyboards and screens have taken over, but is handwriting really a dying art? Montblanc doesn’t think so, and its Writers Edition series provides two good reasons to put pen to paper. Since 1992, these limited edition collections have honoured a different literary great every year, including Ernest Hemingway and Franz Kafka. For 2016, it was William Shakespeare, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the English poet and playwright’s death. There are two options: the William Shakespeare Limited Edition 1597, a guilloche and lacquer fountain pen of which only 1,597 are available (1597 being the year Romeo and Juliet was first published); and the Writers Edition William Shakespeare, a black-and-white resin series of fountain pen, roller ball, ballpoint, and mechanical pencil. References to the Bard are numerous, from embossed gold symbols at the base of the caps representing his most famous plays to a rendering of his signature. A golden ring on the clip evokes the earring Shakespeare wears in the famous Chandos portrait from the early 1600s. We just hope your penmanship is up to scratch.

Supersonic Speed

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Imagine knocking six hours off your flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Well, that could soon be a reality aboard the Aerion AS2. Designed by Aerion Corporation in collaboration with Airbus, this high-speed business jet will mark the return of commercial supersonic travel after the Concorde was retired in 2003. Flying at Mach 1.5 over the ocean—that’s one-and-a-half times the speed of sound—and just below the sound barrier above land, this streamlined aircraft will be able to carry up to a dozen passengers in its 10-metre cabin and should be ready for test flights by 2021, entering service two years later. Aerion has started taking orders for the US$120 million jets, and the hype is already sky-high.

Heart's Desire

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You can’t help but fall in love with the Graff Venus, the largest flawless heart-shaped diamond ever certified by the Gemological Institute of America and the latest addition to an already impressive line-up of precious gems from the British jeweller. Named after the Roman goddess of love, this diamond is the purest colour grade of D and weighs in at 118.78 carats. It was cut from a 357-carat rough found at the Letšeng mine in the tiny African kingdom of Lesotho in 2015, taking its final shape after 18 months of painstaking polishing, cutting and crafting. Graff Diamonds boss Laurence Graff instructed his artisans to shave one-tenth of a carat from the original weight in order to achieve the top grade of flawless clarity. It paid off—the heart is classified type IIA, putting it in the top 1 to 2 per cent of natural diamonds that have no impurities, or almost none.

Birdwatching

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A singing bird and the Swiss countryside in a 47mm, 18K gold case—this really is a work of art. Inspired by the creations of company founder Pierre Jaquet-Droz, the Charming Bird was introduced in 2013 to celebrate Jaquet Droz’s 275th anniversary. The latest version combines 18th-century romanticism with 21st-century techniques that include two patent-protected innovations: an air compression mechanism that powers the song and dance of a tiny automaton bird; and a fine-tuned magnetic regulator to ensure the most accurate timekeeping. The detail is incredible—the bird itself is a tiny sculpture, while the background is hand-painted and engraved on the mother-of-pearl dial. Eight will be produced in red gold and eight in white gold.

Fashion Fairy Tale

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How does a global fashion powerhouse celebrate its 90th anniversary? With a runway show at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, of course. Fendi pulled out all the stops for its “Legends and Fairy Tales” show in July, with models marching over a see-through runway built over the water. It was ethereal, it was a spectacle, and it had the stamp of creative directors Karl Lagerfeld (who’s been with the Italian fashion house for 50 years) and Silvia Venturini Fendi. Lagerfeld based the idea on a 1914 edition of the Norwegian fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon illustrated by Kay Nielsen. The result was fairies and nymphs, lace and chiffon, elaborate furs and woodlands-inspired capes—presented against one of the most majestic backdrops in the world. Fendi has invested US$2.4 million to restore the landmark as part of its Fendi for Fountains project, which aims to preserve various fountains in Rome.

Serious Snacking

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Swedish microbrewery St Eriks wanted to create a bar snack “worthy” of its India Pale Ale. The result is a luxurious black box containing five handmade crisps. At US$56, they’re the most expensive crisps in the world (that’s US$11,300 per kilo—almost as much as beluga caviar) and the first batch of 100 sold out almost instantly. So what’s in these premium snacks? Matsutake mushrooms from pine forests in northern Sweden (picked with cotton-gloved hands to preserve their quality), truffle seaweed from the waters of the Faroe Islands, crown dill, and Leksand onion, which grows outside the small town of the same name. The potatoes are from a steep, stony hillside in Ammarnäs in the north, where they are planted and harvested by hand. But it’s unclear for now whether crisp connoisseurs will get the chance to pop open any more boxes.

Beat a Path

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Forget the dresses and shoes. If we could grab one item from this year’s fashion collections, it would have to be the boombox-inspired bag at Louis Vuitton’s 2017 Cruise show in Rio de Janeiro. Assembled from an assortment of the brand’s mini-trunks, this hip travel bag stole the show and appeared on many an Instagram feed. For good reason: the portmanteau, which has speakers in its side pockets and connects to your mobile phone via Bluetooth, is the epitome of effortless retro cool. It also confirms designer Nicolas Ghesquière’s ability to reinvigorate the maison’s classics.

Whale of a Time

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British company Whaletone called its digital piano Grand Hybrid with good reason—it’s a stunning combination of space-age technology and classical instrument (and it looks a bit like an orca). And with its on-board speakers, subwoofers, and digital connective ports, it can fill an entire stadium with music. The authentic grand piano sound comes in three variations: concert, studio, and brillianteach with many more options to choose from. The keyboard, based on a classical hammer mechanism, feels completely natural. You can choose an acoustic piano sound or select from a list of more than 500 other built-in options. Or just sit back and let the piano take over with its Moving Keys function, which will recreate a performance downloaded from the internet via the iPad that’s included. Each one is custom-made to the tune of US$110,000.

Lean, Mean Machine

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Ferruccio Lamborghini would have turned 100 in 2016 and, to celebrate, the luxury carmaker he founded created its most powerful road car ever, the Centenario. All 40 of these super sports cars—20 roadsters and 20 coupes—have already been sold, for US$2.2 million each. Equipped with a 770 horsepower aspirated engine, the Centenario can reach 100km/h in 2.8 seconds. It features a new rear-wheel-steering system for unmatched high-speed handling and it’s built entirely out of carbon fibre, so it’s light and aerodynamic. Slick carbon panelling is a special matte silver, though buyers can ask for any colour they like. The interior features carbon-fibre sport seats, stitched leather, micro-suede upholstery, and a 25.6cm high-definition touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and wi-fi connectivity.

Tree Radicals

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If you like the idea of doing yoga in a tree house or relaxing in a bath carved out of rock, the Keemala resort in Thailand is where you’ll want to spend your next holiday. Nestled in the jungle just above Kamala beach on Phuket’s west coast, this lush sanctuary offers all of the luxury “basics”—plush beds, lavish amenities, high-end dining—set among trees, streams, and waterfalls. It’s all about well-being and serenity, so expect yoga and meditation courses, organic food, and spa treatments. Or simply spend your time lounging in your pool villa—there are 38—finding your inner self. The only worry here is which of the quirky accommodation styles, based on fictitious tribes of early Phuket settlers, to choose: clay and straw cottage, tent villa, tree house, or bird’s nest (pictured).

Hi I'm Pepper

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Meet Pepper—he’s around 120 centimetres tall, can read emotions, and looks like a person. Billed as “a genuine companion” and the first robot with emotional intelligence, he’s the brainchild of Japanese telecoms giant SoftBank and French firm Aldebaran Robotics. Pepper was unveiled to great fanfare in 2014, and now you can take him home for about US$2,000. He’s a friendly looking chap and although humanoid, he is reassuringly utilitarian. But it’s his diverse skill set that really impresses—Pepper is mobile, can speak (he’s apparently very chatty), uses facial recognition to detect sadness or hostility, and voice recognition to grasp concern. So he’s a great listener and observer, which is more than we can say for some humans.

Future Board

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For fans of Back To The Future, the Slide hoverboard from carmaker Lexus is bound to conjure up memories of Marty McFly. The novelty factor is huge for this skateboard-like device, which uses magnetic levitation, or maglev, to achieve frictionless movement. It relies on liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and magnets to essentially repel the force of gravity and lift the board and its rider a few centimetres off the ground. It was first dreamt up as a prop for a sleek Lexus ad campaign, which explains the effort that has gone into its appearance, with its bamboo finish, carbon-fibre touches, and liquid nitrogen vapours pouring out. But it’s not for general use—for now, the hoverboard works only at a custom-made skate park in Barcelona with a magnetic track.

West Side Stairway

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New York’s next big landmark, dubbed its Eiffel Tower, is a 15-storey basket-shaped structure that will go up in the Hudson Yards development on the Far West Side. “Vessel” will have 154 interconnecting flights of stairs with some 2,500 steps and 80 viewing landings—a path stretching for 1.6 kilometres. British designer Thomas Heatherwick is behind the US$150 million project and was inspired by ancient Indian stepwells with their hundreds of flights of stairs descending dramatically into the ground. Its geometric steel lattice looks a bit like a huge beehive, while its polished copper-coloured steel exterior will create warped reflections of the sprawling plaza below. Heatherwick says his staircase is intended to “lift people up” to see the city from different angles. It’s due to be completed in autumn next year.

Orb Weaver

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A dress made from thousands of handblown glass bubbles? It sounds like the stuff of fantasy, but Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, known for her whimsical, architectural creations, pulled it off for her Seijaku autumn/winter collection. With a high neck, sleeveless bodice, and flared skirt, the glass dress was made by coating the weightless glass orbs in transparent silicone to keep them in a solid structure, or a “bioluminescent prism,” around the body. This delicate work of art was the standout in a collection that was inspired by the shapes of cymatics, a process in which sound waves are visualised as evolving geometric patterns. We think it’s a glass act.

Tags: Design, Arts And Culture, Asia Tatler, Best Of Life