Life’s luxuries may make sense for most of those on your shopping list, but there’s always one person who seems impossible to please. That’s why we’ve tossed the budget in the bin and have gone out in search of the most rarefied experiences and exotic goods. Consider these 10 items your best chance at gaining the upper hand in any gift exchange.
Utopian vision of Mars
Elon Musk can’t have all the Martian fun. As the king of futurism whips up excitement for sending SpaceX colonists to the red planet by 2024, your billionaire can take a more contemplative approach with a historic globe that imagines what life is like out there: “Mars efter Lowell’s Glober 1894-1914.”
The hand-inked and -coloured manuscript orb was made by Emmy Ingeborg Brun, a Danish socialist and astronomer, from mistranslated drawings by Giovanni Schiaparelliwhich interpreted “canali” (natural channels) as man-made canals, evidence of a now-dying Martian population.
In those lines, Brun saw evidence of a cooperative society and promoted Mars as a potential site for a socialist utopia (not so unlike today’s space race). To spread the gospel, she started sending copies of the globe to museums and academic institutions around the world; only eight, including this one, have endured. The varnished, papier mâché globe comes on a bronze base inscribed with the words “Free Land. Free Trade. Free Men.” and would make a handsome mantelpiece to any earthbound corner office.
Expedition to the North Pole
Naughty or nice is beside the point when you can skip the letter to Santa and go straight to the source instead. For those short of time, there’s a three-day helicopter flyover (from US$20,995); for those long on insanity, the North Pole Marathon will take place on April 9, 2018 (entry fee: US$21,398). For everyone else, Quark Expeditions offers two-week, all-inclusive trips aboard a Russian, nuclear-powered icebreaker to the geographic North Pole. (True magnetic north is a different point that constantly wanders and is best left for the on-board scientists to explain.)
What to expect? Blissful days unplugged from the internet, 24-hour sunshine, the surreal seascapes of Franz Josef Land, an occasional, helicopter-borne scouting mission, and the chance to spot polar bears, walruses, seals, and narwhals. Daily lectures by marine biologists, climatologists, and glaciologists will address the region’s essence. Once at 90 degrees north – there’s no land here, just forever shifting, metres-thick sea ice – Quark will arrange a barbecue, Champagne toast, and (weather permitting) a hot-air balloon ride. The truly brave can even dunk in frigid water.
Certainly, accommodation isn’t luxe (book the Arktika Suite and a massage in the sauna), but that’s the point: to walk away feeling less like a tourist and more like an accomplished adventurer. It’s one thing to say you’re on top of the world, but fewer than 500 people annually can claim literally to have been there.
Cost: US$46,900 per person, with transfer package
Animal relocation safari
Animal conservation is a delicate dance that can be a victim of its own success: too many elephants or rhinos in one area, and they eat all the plants; a juvenile lion kicked out of the pride is going to have a rough ’n’ bloody bachelor life unless he has space to roam. Luckily, this is a problem money most definitely solves.
Charity Travel services travellers yearning to go beyond Africa’s traditional twice-daily game drives by matching them with conservation organisations (Wildlife ACT, African Parks) in need of funding to move endangered species out of overpopulated game reserves. Nobody is going to move a lion because a billionaire says so, but with enough notice (ideally a year) and mother nature’s blessing, guests can help out, getting up-close-and-personal with the sleeping beastie while snagging a supreme selfie in the process. Rhino de-horning and wild dog collaring expeditions are also available – often on the same trip.
Cost: Six-night safaris from US$50,000 per person for lion relocations, US$100,000 per person for rhinos, and upwards of US$500,000 for elephants (you have to move the whole herd). Fees cover the entirety of moving the animal (e.g. helicopters, tranquilliser darts, veterinarians) as well as all-inclusive lodges, ground, and air transfers arranged via the region’s best high-end outfitters.
Watch worn by a legend
Unless you’re the anonymous bidder who bought Paul Newman’s Daytona Rolex for US$17.8 million, Christie’s has a few choice lots left in their Evening of Exceptional Watches. For men, nothing says swagger quite like Joe DiMaggio’s Patek Philippe ref. 130. The baseball legend acquired the 33mm, 18ct gold chronograph in 1948, and it’s still in fantastic condition, from its silvered, Breguet numerals on down to the original leather strap that was worn around DiMaggio’s wrist.
Tonight, 6:30pm EST: Our auction, An Evening of Exceptional Watches, kicks off in New York. . Look out for Joe DiMaggio’s Patek Philippe, Amelia Earhart’s Tiffany & Co. and many more iconic timepieces. Follow the auction as it happens via Christie’s Live on our website. . An Evening of Exceptional Watches – 7 December at Christie’s New York. . @christieswatches #watch #watches #watchlover #joedimaggio #ameliaearhart #timepiece #wristwatch
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The ladies in your life are equally well served in this auction. There’s a diamond-encrusted Gruen that belonged to jazz singer Billie Holiday during a pivotal moment of her career headlining cafe society. An inscription reads “To Billie From David, 1938” on the back of the 11mm case, although who David is remains a mystery.
Also bearing an inscription is a Cresarrow silver travel watch with gold numerals and Tiffany & Co. logo on a cream dial. British aviator Amy Johnson gave it Amelia Earhart circa 1932 after her history-making solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. “To Amelia, In Sincere Admiration, Amy” it reads. No doubt the sentiment transfers to whoever might be the recipient today.
Cost: High estimates range from US$300,000 for the DiMaggio to US$18,000 for the Holiday and US$120,000 for the Earhart.
Ultimate Olympic VIP experience
What’s harder: becoming an Olympic athlete or becoming a billionaire? Tough to say, but certainly the former is more difficult without the latter, as American athletes competing their way up the ladder receive no federal funding for training or coaching (unlike most of the rest of the world). They need corporate and individual sponsors to make medals happen.
In that light, the Champions Club trip to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, is a feel-good gift for the super-rich ski and snowboard patriots in your life. In return for their support of the US team, they’ll be ensconced in white-glove luxury (from meals to hotels), provided VIP credentials, and invited to private victory celebrations with American athletes just hours after they step off the podium. Two possible waves keep the trip intimate: February 8-17 includes the Opening Ceremonies; February 17-26 wraps it all up.
Cost: For two people, a minimum US$250,000 donation plus an additional US$90,000 for travel expenses. If your billionaire can’t make it to PyeongChang, US Ski & Snowboard is running a World Championship trip to Åre, Sweden (2019) and already talking to donors about Beijing 2022.
Aston Martin submarine
Billionaires aren’t immune to ennui. After popping the umpteenth bottle of bubbly in the jacuzzi, sailing up and down the Côte d’Azur can get so … typical. That is until they take their Aston Martin submarine for a spin. Code-named “Project Neptune,” the three-person vehicle is a collaboration with Florida-based Triton Submarines, a leader in luxury submersibles. Silver, bladelike pontoons give it a silhouette a Bond villain can appreciate, while the air-conditioned acrylic bubble of a cabin allows unfettered views of their underwater domain down to 1,650 feet. The 5.9 foot tall sub weighs just over 4 tons and can cruise at 3 knots, or 3.5 miles an hour. Deliveries start next year.
Cost: US$4 million
Name in lights
Nothing says “I’ve made it” quite like 10 figures in the bank – although having your billionaire’s name emblazoned on the side of their local baseball stadium certainly states the case. Right now the home parks for the Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, and Seattle Mariners are all up for grabs, while the Los Angeles Dodgers are soliciting offers for just the grass and dirt of its field. Terms can run in the decades and cost millions (the Mariners, for instance, are seeking upwards of US$5 million per season), so you may want to double-check their fan bona fides first.
Less controversial – barring any billionaire infighting – is to sponsor a collection or exhibit in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Starting at US$500,000 on up to US$75 million based on location, size, and visibility, the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers prime opportunities for shouting a permanent “Adrian!” with naming rights to specific galleries in its landmark building; endowments to name staff positions begin at US$750,000.
Cost: A pretty penny. But if you want to cheap out, trees in the MoMA sculpture garden start at US$5,000; meanwhile, a bench in Las Vegas’s Mob Museum goes for US$15,000.
Private island for the Apocalypse
In an uncertain world, everybody could use a good escape plan. And if a US$14 million bunker-ready home in Atlanta stocked with buckets of dehydrated chilli mac and post-apocalyptic stir-fry is a bit too close to home, there’s always New Zealand. The isolated South Pacific nation is already a popular bolt-hole for the mega rich to hedge their bets should the US or Europe start to go belly-up – Jack Ma, Peter Thiel, Alexander Ambramov, and hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson have all reportedly put down for multimillion dollar hideaways in the kiwi countryside.
But for your billionaire, only the best: a 59-acre private island in the Hauraki Gulf, just a 15-minute helicopter ride from Auckland. The facilities that remain from Pakatoa’s previous life as a holiday resort (1965–2000) may be “extremely tired”, but there’s a certain vintage appeal to the whole complex: tennis courts, a bowling green, nine-hole golf course, solarium, and swimming pool plus enough outbuildings to house the extended clan. The temperate, sunny weather in this region of the North Island makes for prime yachting, too, with a deepwater dock at the ready.
Cost: US$24 million, and buyers could qualify for New Zealand residency as well.
Time may be the ultimate luxury – something to be savoured once you’ve achieved major success – but you’d never know it in today’s endless pursuit of the shortest sprint times, highest top speed, and most extreme seven-figure supercars. A vintage Ferrari, counter-intuitively, may be just the ticket to remind your billionaire to slow it down.
On sale at RM Sotheby’s Icons auction in Manhattan, this 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series II (chassis 3009 GT) by acclaimed designer Pininfarina is the epitome of a classic touring Ferrari. Its luscious curves and high-revving, vociferous V12 don’t mind making themselves known, but they also nod towards a more languorous life, saying “I’ve got this” to whatever may be round the bend. Fully restored with dark Grigio Ortello paint and tan leather interior, and with only 600 miles since, it’s a concours- or rally-ready addition to any blue-chip collection.
Cost: estimated at US$1.5 million to US$1.8 million
Very own cask of Scotch
Don’t get us wrong, a four-figure bottle of booze is a nice gesture. But 600 or so bottles of the stuff? Not even your snobbiest of Scotch friends should scoff at that. With offices in Edinburgh and Singapore, Cask 88 sources a selection of primary- and secondary-market casks from brand-name distilleries (The Macallan, Dalmore, Bowmore, Laphroaig) as well as since-closed producers with cult cachet (Rosebank, Port Ellen) to sell as alternative assets or passion projects.
Each cask is unique and samples are available. Does she like the heathery spice of the Highlands, the smooth approachability of the Lowland style, fruit notes in a Speyside single malt, or an Islay peat bomb? All casks are stored in bonded warehouses, often at the original distillery, and that’s when the fun begins – the Cask 88 team provides expert guidance on maturation (including re-casking to a new finish), advises when it’s time to bottle (or sell), designs bespoke packaging, and can even arrange visits to their “precious” throughout the years.
Cost: varies widely. A five-year-old, second-fill bourbon barrel of Craigellachie (61.3 per cent ABV, 109 litres/approx 255 bottles) can be had for a mere US$5,116, while a 25-year-old sherry hogshead of Bowmore (45 per cent ABV, 57.5 litres/approx 182 bottles) runs US$433,284. Storage itself is rather cheap (about US$668 for every 10 years of maturation).