If a second hand or straightforward production yacht does not appeal, this second group of owners has typically had another choice – the semi-custom. A semi-custom yacht is the link between a run of the mill platform yacht and a full custom yacht, allowing the owner to have some minor cosmetic input on a platform to create a unique project in a shorter period of time.
But Dutch shipyard Amels, often known in superyacht circles as a ‘semi-custom’ builder, doesn’t feel that the term ‘semi-custom’ goes far enough. “What does the word ‘semi-custom’ really mean?” Victor Caminada, marketing manager at Amels asks. “We looked at what we were producing and the term felt undefined and vague, so we invented the term Limited Editions.”
Bridging the gap between semi-custom and full custom, Amels’ Limited Editions are built on proven platforms while retaining the main attraction of pure custom - plenty of flexibility and scope for owners to personalise the project. “This Limited Editions concept is the perfect balance between full custom and semi-custom,” says Caminada. “With some yards, semi-custom means that you can choose the type of wood, maybe the loose furniture and the carpet and the colour of the boat – it really is just partially customised. But Limited Editions are different.”
Caminada explains that a client can bring on his or her own interior designer and while Tim Heywood designs the exterior, here they can also discuss changes they would like to make. “On Event, an Amels 199, the design originally had an open sundeck for example,” he says. “But the client requested a sundeck lounge. It required some major changes – we had to move the staircase so the owner could have a spiral staircase from the lower deck all the way to the sundeck for example. That is a structural change in the basic design of the boat but it was possible.”
An increasing number of owners are looking to have a head start on the design of their yacht and the shorter build time that comes this. Amels just announced the sale of an Amels 180 and says that it is seeing more owners putting more importance on superior delivery times. “In just sixteen months, these owners will be enjoying a very personal yacht, clearly tailored to their own strong appreciation of artistry and refined lifestyle,” says Rob Luijendijk, CEO at Amels. “Across the industry we see delivery time as increasingly pivotal in owners’ decision-making. Our Limited Editions platform eliminates technical risk and allows the owners to focus on customising the ‘fun parts’.” Luijendijk says that they are so confident that the yacht will be delivered on time that even while clients are still reviewing design drawings, Amels encourages them to finalise their 2015 summer plans.
For Caminada, this idea of fun is key. “We are never going to ask them what engine they want or which bow thrusters are their favourite,” he says. “We as a professional shipyard have thought about these things and selected the highest spec for the boat so they don’t have to get caught up in those decisions.”
The term semi-custom can be a bit of a dirty word, with pure custom often still being seen as the apex of what you can buy. But look at it from a practical perspective and this kind of project could be a wiser investment for someone not interested in the build process. “If you take all the pros into consideration – shorter delivery time, higher quality across the board, lower cost price, higher resale value – it makes business sense,” says Caimnada. “Some owners enjoy the nitty gritty of custom building. But it is also a risk. For many new owners, custom building is something that would have an unpredictable outcome. If they have a bad experience they may not stay in the industry.”
While a Limited Editions could be a stepping stone to custom build project for some, Caminada says that the reality is that all of Amels’ repeat clients are building another Limited Edition with them. “We’ve had clients back after two years, for example, and want a larger yacht,” he says. And the proof of the growing popularity for a personalised ‘platform’ is in the numbers. Amels has already delivered 17 Limited Editions and currently has nine under construction. “Amels has definitely found its niche.”