Sea Change: Marek Reichman, chief creative officer of Aston Martin
by Simon de Burton
Marek Reichman designs some of the world's best new supercars for Aston Martin. So why is he turning to boats, asks Simon de Burton
Tall, affable, sharply dressed and with an even sharper sense of humour, Marek Reichman is as slick and confident as the Aston Martins he designs. As chief creative officer and design director of the British sports car maker, it is his pen that is behind the DB10 driven by James Bond in Spectre, the four-door Rapide that some say is the most beautiful saloon in the world and the £1 million One-77 limited edition supercar. His 10 years at the design helm have been some of the company’s most prolific and it will come as no surprise to those who know the 50 year old that these days his desk is littered with plans for a boat.
Like some of the more savvy luxury brands, the 21st century Aston Martin can do a lot more than simply build you a quick and sexy sports car. To deal with the whims and needs of their customers, the company has developed an off-shoot called Aston Martin Consulting which, for an appropriate fee, will apply its brilliance to virtually anything you wish to create, from a cutting-edge home to a double-decker bus.
As Netherlands-based Quintessence Yachts discovered, that includes conjuring up one of the most exclusive and advanced boats designed by a car manufacturer ever to hit the water, the AM37. “Quintessence came to us and said: ‘What would an 11 metre launch look like if you designed it?’,” says Reichman. “The hull had already been created by naval architects Mulder Design, and our job was to give the vessel an identity by using our knowledge and experience of automotive design. It has been an exciting project; it has enabled us to create a type of boat that has never been seen before, with car-style ergonomics and finishes that make it more enjoyable to use and more beautiful to look at than any other speedboat on the market.”
Reichman’s relationship with boats, however, is far from a new one. Prior to returning to the UK in 2005, he lived in California while working for Ford, Lincoln and BMW Designworks – and relaxed on Wednesdays and Fridays by working even harder as spinnaker man on a J Class racing yacht. “Being in charge of the spinnaker on
a yacht is not a job everyone enjoys – it’s pretty tiring and can be quite stressful – but I loved the challenge of it and the fact that you needed to be fit and committed to do it properly,” he recalls.
Some of the elegance and grace of the celebrated J Class racing yachts can be seen in the AM37. “The planked finish of the deck was also inspired by the classic speedboats of the 1950s and 1960s, but the boat is completely cutting-edge in terms of the technology,” says Reichman. “The deck, for example, can be left completely covered when at rest, but repels back on to the mooring electrically to enable people to easily get aboard. The rear part also acts as stowage for an automatic sun canopy, which rises by remote control to cover the cockpit.”
The interior has all the sexiness you’d expect and brings the best of modern sports car design and instrumentation to the marine world. “One of the first things people notice about the AM37 is that it has a proper, leather-covered steering wheel and that the dashboard instrumentation is as comprehensive and easy to read as it is in an Aston Martin car. We’ve incorporated voice control technology, an HD touchscreen for navigation and multimedia systems, too.” Bond – and Q – would be impressed.
The 11.27 metre craft will sell for around €1 million, and 40 are expected to be built at a rate of about seven per year, with two versions being available: the AM37S sports model, with a top speed of 60 knots, and the more luxurious “gran turismo” orientated AM37. And they are not the only boat designs Reichman and his team are working on.
“Other projects have come in, too, including a 100 metre yacht and a 43 metre catamaran. The details are confidential at this stage but they’re very exciting to be involved with because they have enabled us to transfer our knowledge of automotive aerodynamics to the fluid dynamics of the marine world. The principles of the two are very similar.”
Reichman is thrilled to be involved in powerboat design and loves watercraft of any sort but he’s the first to admit that his heart lies in sailboats. “Sailing is what really attracts me,” he says. “It’s that idea of harnessing the power of nature and, while it can be decidedly frenetic and exhilarating, there’s always that tranquillity.”
And although his work with Aston Martin sends him around the globe, Reichman reserves time for passions such as skiing, cycling and, in particular, kayaking. “Wherever I go I am always happy to return to my home in Henley-on-Thames. My wife and I have a six-year-old son and we’re fortunate enough to live right by the river, which means I can take my kayak out at a moment’s notice – usually very early in the morning or late at night. It’s so peaceful and atmospheric then. Although the boat isn’t especially stable or relaxing to be in – it’s a K1 race kayak.” What else could we expect from a man behind some of the sportiest cars (and boats) on the planet?