There is something truly unusual about Rolls Royce; but rarer than its production numbers, rarer still than those that can afford one, so rare and so unusual that if it was an animal it would be considered endangered. Rolls Royce have become what few can hope to achieve, they have become a well worn analogy. The name has entered every day speech to be synonymous with the pinnacle of luxury and exclusivity. This has become so much a part of the vernacular that those using Rolls Royce to describe the excellence of something don’t necessarily connect the expression with the car or the brand, only its quality.

Come on in!

Come on in!

The reputation of Rolls Royce is bigger than its brand. This is near impossible to achieve but even harder to maintain. The concept of that reputation being bigger than the sum total of its parts is fundamental to Rolls Royce’s future as a carmaker. To deviate from this it would become simply a car manufacturer, Rolls Royce’s aren’t manufactured, Rolls Royces are crafted. It is not and can never be about selling cars, it’s about selling a reputation.

Chauffeur not included

Chauffeur not included

The arrival of the flagship Rolls Royce is an all too rare occasion. At the launch of the new car we were delighted with the spectacle of the great phantoms of the past, owned by names as synonymous with influence and excellence as Rolls Royce. The display was perhaps there to remind those attending the evening that people who have owned a Rolls Royce shaped the world in which we live in every detail. Entire countries, cultures, and millions of lives have been changed by Rolls Royce owners. From the political sphere Field Marshal Montgomery’s coach built 1936 phantom three and The Queen’s 1978 Phantom six. The entertainment world was equally represented with Fred Astaire’s impossibly glamourous 1927 Phantom One. The most eye and camera catching of all was the lesson in psychedelic luxury owned by John Lennon. Why these greatest hits of the past were here wasn’t clear until the unveiling of the all-new car.

Sir Malcom Campbell's Touring Saloon

Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Touring Saloon

Field Marshall Montgomery's Phantom used to chauffeur Winston Churchill among other world dignitaries

Field Marshall Montgomery’s Phantom used to chauffeur Winston Churchill among other world dignitaries

The evening was not simply a press launch. It had far more gravitas than that. It was an occasion of grandeur befitting the exclusivity of Rolls Royce, an event more akin to Royal Ascot than simply a new car. The limited guest-list was not made up of the car world, but of influencers from fashion, design, social media and the aristocracy all in an intoxicating mix of Pol Roger and Caviar.


After speeches from seemingly every chief executive in both Rolls Royce and BMW, a beautifully tasteful and exquisitely executed production of lights-cameras-action… the Phantom 8 arrived. It was everything you would expect it to be, vast, magnificent and glorious. But something was lost on the beautifully dressed party-goers. Something they didn’t pick up earlier in the evening whilst surrounded by the previous incarnations of the Phantom, and only became apparent when you looked closely at each and every car in the 90 year series.

Rolls Royce is watching you!

Rolls Royce is watching you!

The chief executive of BMW said that Rolls Royce was the pinnacle of the BMW brand, which in some ways is very true and it is hard to argue with the head of one of the most successful manufactures in the world, but in my very humble opinion I fear he is wrong. I fear he missed the point of owning a Rolls Royce (the same way your correspondent and the Watch Anish editor embarrassingly missed the words “Black Tie” on the invitation!). The new phantom is not the pinnacle of anyone’s brand, yes it might be built to the highest standard possible, yes it will be the best motor car BMW/Rolls Royce have yet produced and yes BMW own all rights to the Rolls Royce name but it isn’t their brand, its bigger than that, it’s more interesting than that, it’s more personal than that.

Made in Great Britain

Made in Great Britain

Every single historic car on display that evening was built around the people that commissioned them, it wasn’t simply a display, it was a master class from the old masters of bespoke. From the shape of the body to the noise of the exhaust, each one was crafted in such minute detail, that in the case of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s touring saloon they went to the lengths of crushing fish scales by hand to make the paint work iridescent. Each one of these cars was not a history lesson, or resting on laurels, it was a demonstration of what Rolls Royce can achieve.

The ever youthful Silver Lady

The ever youthful Silver Lady

The Phantom 8 is not a car, it is more simple than that, it is a blank canvas, it is not the pinnacle of the BMW or Rolls Royce brand, it is the pinnacle of the owners brand, it is the pinnacle of you, that is what makes a Rolls Royce so special. The beauty of this car is truly in the eye of the beholder. It can be tailored to be whatever you want it to be. Being this exclusive means you do not get something as average as a dashboard, but what Royce call the Gallery. A facia made of glass from behind which you can display works of art, for inspiration Rolls Royce commissioned artisan porcelain makers Nymphenburg but the limit here is not possibility or an options list but your imagination and ability to pay for it, weather that is psychedelic paint finishes, fish scales or playboy centre folds; it’s up to you.

Imagine there's no colour scheme, it's easy if you try

Imagine there’s no colour scheme, it’s easy if you try

The question must be “is it worth it, would I buy one, would I tell you to buy one?”. I know I would love agonising over every detail of endless research to make a masterpiece, to make my masterpiece, but I just don’t think I could do it, even with unlimited resources, I couldn’t part with the money for the Phantom 8. The car isn’t built to drive, its built to be driven in and I hate sitting in the back seat of a car regardless of how comfortable it is, I want to be behind the wheel, and if you drive the phantom 8 everyone will assume you are just the chauffer. There is hope, an apparition in the shadows, the ghost of automotive Christmas’s to come, that, with every new Phantom launched, sooner or later a drop head convertible version will appear. A Phantom for the owner who wants to enjoy the driving experience, and that will have my heart racing, and my bank balance creaking!

Phantom by Numbers:

563 Horse Power

6.7 Litre Turbo Charged V12

8 Speed Satellite Aided Transmission


Written by George Oliver

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