Designed At Home Of Rolls-Royce By Automaker’s Bespoke Team
With 2012, the Year of the Dragon, approaching, we’re already seeing some luxury brands preparing special limited-edition models and collections with the China market (and Chinese wallets) in mind. Piaget was perhaps the first major brand to move in that direction, recently unveiling its upcoming “Phoenix and Dragon” Altiplano Double Jeu collection, of which the watchmaker will sell eight, priced at 2.4 million yuan (US$376,000), and this week Rolls-Royce announced its own Year of the Dragon Collection. Designed at the Home of Rolls-Royce by the automaker’s bespoke team, the collection has, in the words of the company itself, “been created to celebrate the ultimate symbol of power, prosperity and good fortune.”
Considering the over-the-top, somewhat clumsy nature of most China-only collections created by major international luxury brands, Rolls-Royce’s Year of the Dragon collection is surprisingly understated, if anything. One of the only features actually visible on the exterior are two forward-facing dragons hand-painted dragons on the side of each Phantom or Phantom Extended Wheelbase. In the interior, though, dragon iconography proliferates, from hand-embroidered, four-color (tan, golden sand, black and white) accents hand-embroidered on each headrest to a hand-laid dragon inlay in the passenger panel and special tread-plates with “Year of the Dragon 2012” illuminated by LED lighting. Reflecting a good dose of insight into the buying habits of wealthy Chinese, Rolls-Royce is offering buyers a choice between modern or traditional marquetry, either of which is laser-cut at the Home of Rolls-Royce and hand-assembled.
Still, with most of these features contained within the car’s interior, behind tinted windows, they’re far less showy than, say, a golden dragon inlaid into a diamond-encrusted wristwatch.
While Rolls-Royce certainly isn’t hurting for sales in China — the country is the British automaker’s second-largest global market after the U.S., and Rolls-Royce China sales surged over 170 percent last year — it seems that even successful brands feel it necessary to continue creating China-only special editions. While not all are as bold as these recent creations by Piaget, Rolls-Royce and others, it seems that, for the time being at least, collections that some would say “cater” to Chinese consumers and others would say “pander” to them look like they’re here to stay.
Expect to see major luxury brands pump out many more dragon-festooned watches, wine bottles, cars, handbags and clothing collections this fall. Though it’s not as if we haven’t seen them plaster dragons all over their products before. All we can say is, hopefully these Year of the Dragon collections are better than the disappointing Year of the Rabbit editions we saw earlier this year from not-quite-luxury brands like Smart, Nike and Adidas.