Last year, with plenty of celebratory aplomb but also a strict exhortation to secrecy on the part of attending press, the Italian Sea Group (ISG) announced a new partnership with luxury watch brand Franck Muller, the creation of Franck Muller Yachts, and the first build in the new FMY range, the Franck Muller 55. Our friends at Yacht Style share the story with us.
When it comes to luxury brands – and yachts and watches are no exception – the key to visibility and character is differentiation. After all, watches are expected to tell the time, and we rather hope that all yachts float. So it’s when it comes down to the short strokes that we start looking for what sets the brands apart.
Creating a yacht building division by rolling together a superyacht builder and a superluxe watch brand is a novel idea. And yes, look carefully and you can see the signature lines of a Franck Muller watch carried through into the lines of the FMY powerboat. So how did this marriage of elegance come about?
The Italian Sea Group is a relative newcomer to the Italian superyacht scene, although that is not true of its constituent parts.
NCA (Nuovi Cantieri Apuania) started building commercial ships in 1942, the Admiral brand launched its first 18m wooden vessel in 1966, and Tecnomar – another commercial builder – was founded in 1987. The three names came together as a ‘Group’ in 2013, under the enthusiastic direction of the Chairman, Giovanni Costantino.
At the same time a substantial injection of shareholder capital (reportedly in excess of €15 million) allowed ISG to totally rebuild and refurbish the existing NCA shipyard in Marina di Carrara, just up the road from Viareggio, Tuscany. The Italian Sea Group now boasts 100,000sqm of pristine production facilities that look more like an operating theater than a shipyard. An Italian journalist confided to us, “I pass by here quite often, and drop in unannounced. It always looks like this.”
Pride of place within the Marina di Carrara yard, within sight of the blinding white hillsides of the famous Carrara marble quarries, is the new shed with ‘Franck Muller Yachts’ on the door. The project is the creation of ISG’s Chairman, Giovanni Costantino, and Vartan Sirmakes, owner and founder of Franck Muller Watches, and is designed to artfully blend the high-end worlds of luxury watches and luxury boats. First off the cab rank for Franck Muller Yachts will be the FMY 55 that had just been popped out of the mold when we visited ISG in March, and was presented to the public at the Monaco Yacht Show in September. Yes this model is a reality…
Viewing the newly-finished hull, and comparing it with the plans on display and the impressively shiny scale models, ISG/Franck Muller Yachts have come up with a boat with very attractive lines. Whether the lines of the boat have been inspired by the new line of yachting watches, or the other way round, is hard to tell – says Nicholas Rudaz, Director of Franck Muller. “Franck Muller creates aerodynamic watches with curves, and we wanted to create an aerodynamic boat – inspiration came from the watches.” On the other hand ISG Sales Director Francesco Carbone revealed that “the watch was created for the boat… with a curve, like a woman, a very sensual curve.” Take your pick.
What is special about this little craft, and what may well make it a huge success in Asia, is that it is first and foremost a day boat. The 55 Open, of which three have reportedly been sold into the US, straight ‘off plan’, boasts a huge open cockpit and then an expansive saloon beneath the foredeck. It is a big, elegant speedboat with bags of entertaining space. Carbone again: “It is a ‘Lounge Concept’. We have gone right away from the ‘small galley, one small cabin, one medium cabin, one small bathroom’ department, and opened up the interior. The design encompasses a huge open cockpit, a huge open foredeck space covered in sunpads, and the huge covered lounge. It’s a party boat – please, bring the champagne.”
A pair of Volvo 950 engines will push it up to 46kts, so you’re going to go wherever you want to – fast. Whether it is pure serendipity, or whether Franck Muller Yachts’ designer, Gian Marco Campanini, has been listening to the Asian whispers that keep taking about “day boats, not weekenders”, we could not ascertain, but on the drawing board the result is elegant, classy, and – yes – absolutely designed-for-Asia.
The complete family of Franck Muller Yachts will include 55, 68, 80 and 100 versions, with the 55 and 68 available as either Open or Hard Top. When the first Franck Muller Yachts 55 Open showed at Monaco in September, the craftsmen and artisans of the Italian Sea Group revealed something thoroughly different in carbon, aluminum, glass and sapphire, and all yours for an estimated €1.6 million, which makes it exceptionally good value for money. There won’t be a straight line in sight, and the attention to detail and finish will be as perfect as Swiss clockwork. ISG Chairman Giovanni Costantino declares that “this is a boat built by artists, not by boat builders.”
By Guy Nowell