Our next port of call was via minibus to the dedicated One-77 production line. These have now come to the end of production and indeed, the last One-77 in the world is up on the hydraulics. No other journalist will have the privilege of seeing this car at this stage of production ever again. At each end of the line are two other One-77s. The closest is having its final checks, whilst at the far end, a white One-77 is near completion. Between them is their successor at the plant – the Aston Martin V12 Zagato – that will take over as this facility’s only production vehicle.
Talking us over the incredible One-77 is Chris Porritt, the vehicle’s chief engineer. Asking the engineer of this incredible supercar questions is a surreal experience. Listening to him explain his process was a little like hearing Einstein personally explaining thermodynamics.
Apparently, the One-77 was tested to a staggering 220mph before the test driver decided to pull back. According to Chris, it can go even faster. Although, you might not want to test that theory. One customer in Hong Kong did and now there are only 76 One-77s. Oddly, Aston Martin only became aware of this incredible £1.4m write-off when the Hong Kong dealer tried to purchase replacement body panels from Aston Martin from their online website. Perhaps the idea of hand-rolled individual aluminium body panels was lost on this owner? Who knows? Whatever the case, these cars don’t have replacement panels sitting on a factory shelf and this Chinese owner will just have to live with having lost his one chance of owning such a special vehicle – and having his mates laugh at him behind his back.
Whilst Marek Reichman designed this car, a huge credit has really go to Chris and his team. After all, they deliver the function to Marek’s form. When I suggest that seems to be a strange way to design, that form usually follows function, Chris is quick to assure me that Marek doesn’t just draw pretty cars. Chris gives him detailed chassis and engine specifications and Marek layers his designs over these. Then, these designs go back to Chris and his team and they are left to turn them into a reality. For instance, getting the One-77s doors to open required detailed and precise geometric mapping. The end result is like watching 3D model of a tesseract – it appears as though space is folding and it takes your eyes a moment to adjust to the illusion.
All this reveal of behind the scenes is fantastic, but we were in for a little showmanship. Because whilst it is always nice to peer behind the curtain of Oz, sometimes you just want to follow the yellow brick road, if you take my meaning. Okay, maybe you don’t. So, to put it plainly, we were about to be treated like a customer by the One-77s VIP sales manager, Nathan Gore-Brown. Frankly, if you’re a salesman, this is pretty much the top of your tree. I bet Nathan doesn’t have to negotiate his lunch breaks with his boss or ask if he can leave the floor to go to the loo.
Still, it’s easy to see why Nathan holds this position as he takes us through the One-77s optional extras. He explains that the amply sized customer lounge where we sit is also where many customers get to see their vehicle for the first time. See it for the first time? You have to realise that we’re sitting in what is basically a lounge room – big screen television on one wall and a few Le Corbusier chairs and sofas. Not much room for a supercar. So, where and how do they see it for the first time?
As Nathan dims the lights, we find out. The entire wall behind us slides effortlessly away, revealing a darkened room behind. Then, gradual low flashes of light pick out details of the Aston, like small bursts of fire might reveal the dragon in its cave. Then suddenly, the One-77 comes alive with light, an overhead matrix of photocells firing down onto the reflective paintwork like sunlight rippling on the water. In the darkness, this gives the Aston the effect of a dazzling diamond, its facets sparkling as the light refracts and reflects.
Admittedly, this is helped somewhat by this particular One-77s paintwork, which is black, shot through with iridescent particles. To my eye, this looks a little bit like an emo teenager’s nail polish but, despite this, one cannot deny the sheer brutality, grace and poise of this car.
As we say goodbye to Nathan and the One-77, we return to the lounge where the man who designed the AMVOX, Francis Cretin, is about to explain how he did it. I really warmed to Francis. Here’s a guy who’s been involved with the engineering side of Jaeger-LeCoultre for many years and is now on the design team. He loves his job, loves what he does, and honestly who can blame him? He starts his presentation with slides, but before he’s halfway through we’re all sitting on the floor around the coffee table and fiddling with the transponders and ceramic cases. He explains how he created the pivoting movement within the case for the AMVOX2 and you can see how proud he is of his design. He tells us that it was once suggested that only the sapphire crystal moved to operate the chronograph and the look on his face is still indignant and pained. He would never do something so crass.
The day was drawing on, and we moved on to the Aston Martin training centre. This new facility will be where Aston’s eighteen new apprentices will spend the next four years learning the business of Aston Martin, and experts from each division, now completing their training as qualified teachers, will instruct them on every aspect of the company.
Dave is an expert in Aston Martin upholstery and a single hide of Bridge on Wier leather lies across his desk, ready to be cut. Pattern blocks, chinagraph pencils and hefty scissors are all in evidence, and I’m reminded immediately of the last place I saw this sort of set up: The Hardy Amies cutting room. Certainly, the feel of tailor-made craftsmanship is in evidence at Aston Martin, as much as it is on the Row.
Our final project of the day is just across the room, with a master watchmaker from Jaeger-LeCoultre. Here, with precision tools, we must disassemble and reassemble a movement from a Reverso. Thankfully, time is short, so we are only required to remove a few screws, a plate and a cog assembly. Doing this with a magnifier screwed into your eye socket is much harder than you might imagine. I found the whole process much easier once I’d discarded my eyepiece and did it all by touch. Feeling slightly smug that I’d managed to do this, I was informed, quite patiently, that some adjustments require a microscope they are so delicate. That put the old ego back into check.
Well, it was time to call it a day and our hosts thanked everyone for their time and involvement. As if we’d have had it any other way. Guests began to leave, but I wasn’t done yet. There was a big empty room that I needed to go back into. Okay, not empty exactly. It still had a big, red prototype V12 Vanquish sitting in the middle of it. No one would mind if I just had another quick look, surely?
Entering the room, I found myself well and truly alone with this remarkable supercar. The door was open. Perhaps I could just slip behind the wheel? Sitting there in that empty auditorium, enclosed in perhaps the most incredible Aston Martin ever made, I felt completely at peace. What better place to end such an eventful day?
Aston Martin and Jaeger-LeCoultre: A match made in heaven? Part IV
Yesterday, Dublo described his access-all-areas trip around the Aston Martin factory at Gaydon. Today, we get to see behind the scenes of the One-77 production line – a dedicated factory for Aston Martin’s incredible, limited run supercar. Oh, and he also has a poke at a Reverso’s inner workings…
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Aston Martin, Aston Martin Lagonda, Aston Martin One-77, Chris Porritt, Francis Cretin, Jaeger, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX, Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX2, Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, Marek Reichman, Nathan Gore-Brown
Ben is our resident screenwriter, that’s right, a real-life movie screenwriter. If we hadn’t captured him, drugged him and locked him in the basement here at Prodigal Towers, right now he’d be living the Hollywood dream that should rightfully be his, ensconced in a John Lautner house in Malibu. But don’t feel sorry for him. More fool him for drinking that spiked Martini in the first place.
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