We glide to a silent stop outside an innocuous looking workshop on the banks of Lake Zürich in Switzerland. Our driver opens the elegant, rear-hinged back door of the Rolls-Royce Phantom and we step out and take a moment to acknowledge our picturesque lakeside surrounds. A gate to the building swings wide and our senses are assaulted with the unmistakable smells of high-end boat-building, a mix of expensive wood shavings, epoxy and varnish. But, like the maker of the car we've borrowed for the day, this is no ordinary manufacturer. We're at the headquarters of Pedrazzini.
The Pedrazzini family have been building boats in Switzerland ever since Augusto Pedrazzini emigrated from Italy in 1906. Augusto began with small rowboats and fishing vessels, eventually creating sailing dinghies and modest sailboats. Augusto's son, Ferruccio Pedrazzini, took the family tradition a step further by studying nautical science and design back in Italy in the late 1930s. A pivotal moment for the company came in the mid-1950s, when Ferruccio designed the Super Leggera, a stylish and compact 'sport boat' powered by a modest outboard engine. Ferruccio also designed the Capri Super Deluxe, a model often referenced as the definition of the Pedrazzini 'runabout' style. Today Ferruccio’s son, Claudio Pedrazzini, is at the reins. Claudio designed the Vivale twin-engine, named after his two children Viviana and Alessandro; each iteration of the Pedrazzini name marking the progress of the company, from rowboats to luxury sports boats.
Before we get to see a single vessel, Jürg Merens, our host for the day brings us to the attic storeroom. I ask Jürg for his job title and he shrugs. Jürg doesn’t need a title to give him a sense of achievement. At 43-years-old he is the most experienced employee at Pedrazzini, a place that doesn’t worry about such formalities. The storeroom isn’t much to look at, but it holds the raw materials required to make each vessel, African mahogany, as well as Pine and Cedar. The mahogany is transported to Germany, which is the nearest location that can handle cutting the boards to the required length. Mahogany is an expensive, heavy wood with anti-corrosion properties that make it ideal for marine use. The exclusivity of the wood appeals to the Pedrazzini clientele, who seek the utmost in quality and craftsmanship.
Down in the workshop we get to inspect the boats in various stages of construction and where the exquisite materials can really be appreciated. Jürg explains that Pedrazzini use traditional methods and materials in order to maintain their classic style. Updates are made predominantly on the hull design and the engine technology. The construction is carried out entirely by a small team of expert craftspeople. The main frame and hull of each boat is created upside down and takes several months to handcraft. Then the 8mm mahogany boards are fitted 'to hairline precision' and bonded using adhesive that is even older in design than the company. Fine grooves are milled into the deck where handcrafted strips of spruce are applied, giving the runabouts their distinctive look. Then, there are eight coats of lacquer to apply and a further 20 layers of clear-coat protection, giving the boat a deep, lustrous finish. And we've not even touched on the cleverly engineered—and hidden from view when not in use—convertible roofs and the customised control panel. One subtlety featured on all Pedrazzini boats—at the insistence of Claudio Pedrazzini—is that every single screw is perfectly straight and aligned with the next.
Jürg says that it's not easy to find young apprentices willing to dedicate their lives to learning and furthering such detailed craftsmanship in the modern world. But business is thriving, with the order bank comfortably exceeding Pedrazzini’s 'a few boats a year' capacity. Aside from that, there's a lucrative business in maintaining and storing the boats for Pedrazzini’s existing clientele. We get to view some of these examples, stacked in quick-access shelving. One of the services on offer allows an owner to call up at short notice and turn up to a boat in the water with the fuel tanks brimmed and the engine warmed through and ready to go. These are no prosaic cruisers, using Mercury V8 power, either a single 6.2 litre or two 8.2 litre engines, outputs can hit 900hp. You begin to appreciate why there are two 250 litre fuel tanks.
Jürg suggests taking us out on the lake to experience the performance first hand, and it's exhilarating. There's a distinctive V8 rumble from underneath the rear sundeck and the nose rises as we're pushed along at a pace. The sun is out and the blue waters of Lake Zürich are glistening. Surrounded by picturesque rolling green hills and snow-capped mountains, it’s easy to see how the Pedrazzini icon has thrived here for over a century. There are no restrictions on the lake in terms of speed and the fastest Pedrazzini model can hit 80km/h. Immediately we gain an appreciation for the smooth manner the boat cuts through the water, riding the few ripples with aplomb. But of course, these vessels are bought as much for style as performance. The classic features come to life on the water. White leather interiors offset the deep mahogany finishes, making the ride both incredibly comfortable and unbelievably exotic.
Almost no two boats are alike, with buyers personalising the finest details, from the interior upholstery to the beautifully detailed metal fittings.The latter starting life as blocks of bronze, before they are welded, filed, polished and chromium-plated. Pedrazzini craft all assets in house, even the metalwork and shaping of glass.
Upon reflection, there's a distinct similarity between the bespoke specification of such a Pedrazzini runabout and that of a Rolls-Royce Phantom; neither is bought 'off the peg'. Pedrazzini have acquired an international following, with boats exported to the United States, Canada and throughout Europe. And while some might think that those with the means to purchase such a beautiful creation want everything on-demand, that patently is not the case. Depending which of the boats is under construction, it can take an unbelievable 4,000 man-hours, which equates to nine months of solid work. Proof that all good things are worth waiting for.
For more www.pedrazziniboat.com