ITALY, Rapallo. At a press conference during the Sanlorenzo Elite Days that took place from April 18-19 at Porto Carlo Riva in Rapallo, Italy, brand chairman Massimo Perotti announced that Sanlorenzo has signed a 10-year contract with Chris Bangle, formerly head of design with BMW. It was perhaps only a question of time before the American designer, who was a key speaker at GSF 2013, turned his attention to yacht design, but he has been critical of the field in the past.

“When I apply my eye for design I like to understand why something is the way it is,” he said at the conference. “I confess that I was pretty ignorant of the Sanlorenzo brand; it was not a very obvious one in my world. I was much more confronted with yachts that come from other brands, and they’re a mess! It looks like they take six cars and smash them together and that’s a superstructure. I will admit I was critical of that because I didn’t understand where that mentaility came from.”

His opinion has changed to some extent over the course of two workshops with Sanlorenzo, firstly with regard to how boats are actually built and, secondly, because Sanlorenzo has developed a continuity of design that is a “reference of quality and elegance for all designers… I’m carving out a huge exception for this brand.”

Perotti made the announcement in the context of a brand review over the past 10 ten years and looking forward to the next ten. Since he acquired the company in 2005, turnover has inceased from €57 million to €208 million in 2014 and the EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amoritisation) has grown from €3.7 million to €20.7 million over the same period. Today the brand is ranked second in The Superyacht Intelligence Annual Report 2015 in the 30-45m category behind Azimut-Benetti.

“By the end of four days of workshops with Chris, we had defined our new vision for the next ten years,” said Perotti, who went on display a novel gift from Bangle: a miniature spinning top that flips over halfway through its spin. “Chris said we should continue in the same direction, but we should do so by changing our perspective by 180 degrees.”

Certainly, Bangle is a controversial figure in the design world and is variously regarded either as a forward thinker or a reckless agitator. Sanlorenzo has established a tradition of working with interior designers from outside the yachting field, such as Dordoni, Citterio and Albanese, but Bangle is the first time they have taken on a non-yacht specialist—and a non-Italian—to tackle the exterior design. Of late the brand has worked closely with Francesco Paszkowski, but with the Florentine designer also active with competitors such as Baglietto, Heesen and CRN, clearly Perotti decided it was time to seek out new blood.

It will be some time before we able to see the first fruits of the new collaboration, but in the meantime Sanlorenzo has invested €15 million to develop a new construction facility at its base in Ameglia that is scheduled to be completed in 2017. Although aware that he still has much to learn about the yachting world, Bangle was clearly energised by the prospect of the challenges that lie ahead.

“Understanding is about doing your homework and research,” he explained in issue Q5 of SuperyachtDesign. “But it’s also about humility; it’s about admitting you don’t know everything and that maybe your view of the world is not the only view.”

Related Links:
Chris Bangle Associates
Sanlorenzo - Cantieri Navali di Viareggio