2011 is coming to a close and it’s been another spectacular year if you’re anything like me and appreciate art and mechanics combined into beautiful objects. I’ve compiled my own little shortlist of the most awe-inspiring machines that’s been presented in their final production form over the year, there’s many more that could have made the list (and a few of them are presented below) but in my mind these are the ones that really stood out in 2011.
1. Pagani Huayra
It’s been in the making for quite some time (first concept was drawn by Pagani in 2003) but I have no doubt that the Pagani Huayra is going to be as timeless and successful as the Zonda was. It’s a clear example of where form follows function but it’s still perfectly proportioned and with the added drama of the active aerodynamics it’s just spectacular. As usual Pagani and his designers and craftsmen have a way of working with materials that not only highlights them but also shows the respect for them and even makes carbon-titanium seem like a natural material made for crafting by artisans (which I guess it is in a way). It’s a clear highlight of car design situated above and beyond all of the other supercars out there and I can’t wait to see one on the street.
2. Hautlence HL 2.0
The first prototypes of the Hautlence HL 2.0 was shown back in 2010 and glimpses of the movement even earlier than that but now the actual watch is finally released and it’s all we hoped for and more. The revolving mobile bridge is a new way of neutralizing the impact of gravity on the balance that’s just as beautiful and functional as the tourbillon. Chain-driven jumping hours and retro-grade minutes makes it easy to read the time and the overall aesthetics keeps pushing the visual language of Hautlence. It’s classy, innovative, bold and spectacular at the same time.
3. De Bethune DB28
I’ve written about the DB28 before, it’s an absolute stunner of a watch that is so true to the original concept of a wristwatch that’s possible but still out of this world. The De Bethune DB28 has a movement at the bottom, a dial on top of the movement, hands showing the time on a circular track and it’s all enclosed in a cylindrical case. But still, it’s nothing like any other watch out there. The play with different textures, the revealing of the balance and the architecture of the movement is pure mechanical art, not to mention the three-dimensional moon-phase indicator.
4. Aston Martin V12 Zagato
The Aston Martin V12 Zagato is a borderline case here, not because it isn’t beautiful or can perform but because it hasn’t exactly been shown in production form yet although the order books have been opened. Disregarding that it’s a perfect example of how the development of a sport car should be done, after initial design and adjustment of the V12 Vantage base car two prototypes were created. Both competed in one of the most grueling endurance races in the world (the Nürburgring 24 Hours, where they finished 5th and 6th in the SP8 class) but not before one of them had won the prototype class at the Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza. Just like the Ford GT the V12 Zagato takes just enough inspiration from the past to create a new instant classic with suitable hardware to back up the looks.
5. Urwerk UR-110 Torpedo
The Urwerk UR-110 Torpedo is another evolution of the indicator system first seen on the Opus V that Felix Baumgartner created for Harry Winston in 2005 and then Urwerks UR-201 from 2007. While I don’t quite understand the numbering scheme the watch itself is not only practical and easy to read; only a small part of it has to protrude beneath the shirt to see both the hours and minutes in a very intuitive way. It’s also instantly recognizable as an Urwerk while at the same time different from all of their other timepieces. The combination of concept, function, usability and aesthetics is perfectly executed and pushing the envelope for all watches.
Just Outside the Top Five
The Voutilainen Vingt-8 is a beautiful example of a classic, proportional watch from a true artisan, I can’t really see any problems with it besides that it’s just not exciting enough to be placed higher in my list of the year. Max Büsser and Friends also released their first watch in the Legacy Machines-series. Every new piece from MB & F is something to look forward to and a whole new line of watches even more. With the LM1 they’ve accomplished the mission of creating a classic watch with the same level of three-dimensionalism of their other machines. I don’t believe that style should ever interfere with function or usability and I see quite a problem with the large balance wheel covering a big part of the dials. I would’ve liked it below the dials in a big cutout instead, it’s a bit too distracting and “hey, come look at me!” as it is now.
Every new Lamborghini is an event and a new generation of the 12 cylinder flagship is bound to be something specatular. However, the LP700-4 Aventador doesn’t quite sign well with me. There’s nothing wrong in taking inspiration from different sources when designing something but once the line from being inspired to creating a themed piece is crossed it’s not cool anymore. The Aventador is just a bit too much stealth fighter jet and not enough car. The interior in particular seems more like a film set than a place to drive, and that’s not a compliment when you’re the one who’s supposed to lead and other will take inspiration from.
Confederate also presented their most affordable motorcycle to date, the X132 Hellcat. While it’s cool and not quite like anything else out there I think it’s actually a bit too industrial in design and see the B120 Wraith as their highlight. Another bike that didn’t make the list (because it’s a one-off custom) is the Olivi Motori Triumph “Weslake”. Just the right blend of old-school café racer-looks captured in a contemporary sportsbike with a really nice stance.