Say Hello To The McLaren 600LT Spider

There’s a new Longtail in town.

As stripped out as the vehicles are that carry it, the Longtail name carries a lot of weight at McLaren. And this is the latest. It’s the McLaren 600LT Spider, and it’s the fifth model to which the boys in Woking have applied the Longtail treatment – stripping excess weight, adding power, and tightening everything up to make for an even more extreme, performance-focused supercar than the one on which it’s based.

In this case, the donor is the 570S Spider at the bottom end of McLaren’s lineup. But there’s nothing “entry-level” about the new 600LT Spider.

Like the existing 600LT coupe, the new Spider packs a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 upgraded to 592 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, dispatched to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Unlike the coupe, though, you can drop the top (or just the rear window) to experience the wind rushing in around you and the engine barking behind. And you don’t pay much of a performance penalty for the privilege, either: stripped of 220 pounds of excess weight from the 570S Spider, the 600LT Spider is just 110 pounds heavier than the coupe.

As a result, it’ll run to 60 mph in the same 2.8 seconds (2.9 to 62) as the fixed-roof version. Reaching 124 mph takes just 0.2 seconds longer than the coupe, and it’ll keep pulling until it’s cracked 201 mph (with the roof up, or 196 mph with it open.) At 155 mph, the fixed rear wing generates the same 220 lbs of downforce as the coupe. Pirelli P- Zero Trofeo R tires keep it glued to the tarmac, and Alcantara-trimmed carbon-fiber racing buckets (borrowed from the P1) hug your body, with even lighter shells from the Senna available.

Though McLaren hasn’t said exactly how many it will make, availability will assuredly be limited – each commanding $256,500, before optional equipment from McLaren Special Operations is taken into account. But if this writer’s experience driving the previous (and pricier) 675LT Spider is anything to go by, it’ll be worth every penny. Watch this space as we’ll have driving impressions from Arizona next month on this spiritual (but topless) successor to the extended McLaren F1 GTR.


3-Day’s in Charleston – Saturday Travel Blog

Explore the best things to do in Charleston in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.

Image Credit: Travel Channel

Walking Tours (Day 1)

With its centuries-old mansion and cobblestone streets, Charleston is like a living museum. One of the best ways to learn about its history (and its ghosts) and the significance of its best-known landmarks is on a walking tour. There are a variety of options available, ranging from broad tours of the city’s historic downtown district, to more niche tours that explore the city’s paranormal presence, pirates and art galleries and studios.

Recent visitors praised operators like Charleston FootprintsOyster Point Historic Walking Tours and Two Sisters Tours. To see a more complete directory of available walking tours, check out the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s website.

Most tours last two hours and cost $20 per person. Some operators may require you to make reservations in advance; check each tour company’s website for specific times, reservation requirements and rates. And remember, you’ll want to wear sturdy shoes and sunscreen, and bring water with you.

The Battery (Day 1)

Many visitors say you can’t leave Charleston without seeing this stretch along the city’s southern tip. This row of Southern-style mansions overlooking Charleston Harbor was formerly the heart and soul of the city’s maritime activity. Today, the area attracts camera-toting tourists from all over the country.

As you explore this picturesque neighborhood, make sure to also spend some time in the nearby White Point Gardens, where several Civil War relics and memorials commemorate the city’s role in the battle. Start your tour of the Battery at the 12-acre Waterfront Park (home to the giant pineapple fountain featured on many Charleston postcards), then follow the walking paths on East Battery Street for the nearly mile-long stroll to White Point Gardens. If you’re staying at one of the hotels or bed-and-breakfasts located downtown, you can easily walk along the Battery from your digs. If you’re driving to the Battery, you’ll find some limited street parking, and some lots closer to Waterfront Park. Bus route No. 211 provides service to Waterfront Park and East Bay Street.

The Nathaniel Russell House Museum (Day 1)

Constructed at the turn of the 19th century by Nathaniel Russell – a wealthy Southern merchant – this historic home is best known for its magnificent spiraling staircase, detailed furnishings and landscaped gardens. Unlike the Aiken-Rhett House, the Nathaniel Russell House has undergone an architectural and interior restoration.

Recent visitors said this is the place to go if you’re looking for insight into the more lavish side of Southern comfort. Tours, which last approximately half an hour, are docent-led and commence every 30 minutes. During the tour, you’ll learn about the Russell family and the slaves who cared for the home.

The Nathaniel Russell House sits in the heart of downtown Charleston, rubbing elbows with The Battery. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m., with the last tour beginning at 4:30 p.m. every day. Adult admission is $12; children’s admission costs $5. If you’re also planning to visit the Aiken-Rhett House, you can purchase a joint ticket that grants entry to both properties for $18 ($10 for children). For more information, visit the home’s section of the Historic Charleston Foundation’s website.

Boat Tours (Day 1)

To get a better view of the Charleston harbor (and maybe even spot some dolphins), consider signing up for a boat tour. Not only will you enjoy some time on the water, you’ll also have the chance to learn more about the city’s maritime history (many boat captains provide historical commentary throughout their tours). Along the way, you’ll likely see some of Charleston’s top landmarks, including The Battery, Waterfront Park, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney.

There are a variety of tours and operators (including private charters) in Charleston that offer a bevy of experiences for all types of travelers. Adventure Harbor Tours receives high praise from previous visitors for its Morris Island tours and sunset cruises. Tours aboard The Schooner Pride are also popular, especially if you’re interested in the mechanics of sailing, as the captain offers travelers the option to raise and trim the sails with the crew. If you’re looking for a less intimate or more formally narrated experience, sign up for a Charleston Harbor Tour, which has a fleet of boats that can accommodate hundreds of passengers.

Tour prices and excursion lengths can vary, but generally, you can expect to pay between $25 and $55 for adult tickets. Not all tours leave from the same harbor; check with your tour operator. Some companies allow you to bring your own food and beverages (including alcoholic libations) on board, while others sell snacks and drinks on the boat. Tours can last between one and three hours, with many spanning 90 minutes. For more information, visit each individual company’s website.

Charleston City Market (Day 2)

While some may say that the Charleston City Market is a bit of a tourist trap, others call it a great glimpse into life in the Old South. It is often referred to as the “Slave Market” because it was here that slaves would purchase food for the plantation. Today, the market buzzes with residents and visitors alike, perusing stalls loaded with toys, clothes, leather goods and regional souvenirs. But if you plan on buying anything here, you should head straight to the “basket ladies.” These women (and men) have been weaving baskets for centuries – this craft originated in West Africa and has been passed down through the generations – using local materials such as sweetgrass and palmetto leaves.

Although this is a great place to experience southern charm and to people-watch, recent visitors recommend that buyers beware: A few travelers said some vendors hawk overpriced trinkets.

The Charleston City Market is located in the heart of downtown Charleston on Meeting Street (about a 12-minute walk from Broad Street, the city’s main thoroughfare). If you choose to drive, you’ll find limited street parking available. The Nos. 201 and 211 buses operate routes that also stop nearby. The market is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. From March through December, the market also offers night hours from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. While you don’t have to pay to browse, you might want to carry some extra cash on you in case the sweetgrass baskets prove to be too seducing. There are also plenty of places to eat scattered throughout the market. Find out more about vendors and goods on the market website.

Fort Sumter National Monument (Day 2)

You probably remember Fort Sumter as the place where the first shot of the Civil War was fired, back in 1861. Today, you can see for yourself where all the action happened by taking a ferry to the actual fort. Take your time exploring the thick stone caverns, which still house several Civil War-era cannons. You should also stop by Fort Sumter’s small yet informative museum, which provides more in-depth information about the fort’s role in the war. According to most Charleston visitors, Fort Sumter is a must-see, especially for kids and history buffs.

Fort Sumter National Monument is perched on a small island in Charleston Harbor several miles southwest of the city. Ferries to the monument depart from the Liberty Square Visitors Center and from Patriot’s Point, which sits just opposite of the harbor in USS Yorktown State Park (parking is available at both departure points). Though the ferry ride is not the main attraction, most enjoyed it, calling it relaxing and a great way to see some of the area’s dolphins. Ferries to the fort and ranger talks take place daily, but hours vary depending on the season. Guided tours aren’t available at Fort Sumter, but you can listen to a 10-minute, ranger-led history discussion before heading out on your own self-guided tour; rangers and volunteers are available to answer any questions you may have.

While it is free to explore Sumter itself, the ferry ride costs $21 for adults and $13 for children ages 4 to 11. The National Park Service highly recommends purchasing your ferry ride tickets in advance, which you can do at the Fort Sumter Tours website. For more information about the history of the fort, visit the National Park Service website.

Sullivan’s Island (Day 2)

Comprising only 3.3 square miles, Sullivan’s Island may not seem like a must-see for Charleston visitors. But this beachfront town proves that good things come in small packages. Sitting at the mouth of the Charleston harbor – a little less than 10 miles east of the downtown area – Sullivan’s Island boasts beaches, tasty restaurants and unique shops, plus a colorful history. You’ll also find a bevy of vacation rental properties here – a worthy alternative if you want a little more seclusion than some of downtown Charleston’s hotels and bed-and-breakfasts can provide.

Even if you’re not much of a beach bum, you’ll still find plenty of interesting local history to make a pit stop here worthwhile. For instance, Fort Moultrie was the first fort on Sullivan’s Island. Composed of soft palmetto logs, it withstood a nine-hour battle in 1776 when nine warships were advancing on Charleston. Its soft composition meant enemy cannonballs simply bounced off its cushy exterior. Aside from its triumphant ability to protect the city, Fort Moultrie also served a purpose in literary history: Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at the fort from November 1827 to December 1828. Those who have read his short story, “The Gold Bug,” will recognize Sullivan’s Island as the backdrop of the tale. His brief residency is celebrated at Poe’s Tavern, a local watering hole situated about two blocks north of the beach.

The easiest way to reach Sullivan’s Island is by car. To stake your claim on a patch of sand, park alongside the street and walk down to the beach (there are no municipal parking lots on Sullivan’s Island). For more information, visit the town’s website here.

The Aiken-Rhett House Museum (Day 3)

According to many, there’s no better example of antebellum life than the Aiken-Rhett House Museum. Originally built in the early 1800s and then expanded by Gov. William Aiken and his wife in the 1850s, much of the house’s original style has been preserved. As you wander through, pay special attention to the antique furnishings, the original wallpaper and the stunning bronze chandeliers installed by the Aikens. Also, spend some time exploring the grounds: You can visit the slave quarters, the stables and the kitchens, all of which have been preserved to satisfy any history buffs yearning for a taste of the Old South.

Recent visitors praised the house tour, specifically the fact that it’s a self-guided audio tour (included with admission). Travelers said the audio tour allowed them to view the house at their own pace, without having to wait or rush to catch up to an entire group. However, visitors provided more mixed reviews of the state of the house itself. Some were pleased that the Historic Charleston Foundation chose to leave the property untouched, but others were less impressed, commenting on the need for restoration and general feeling of dilapidation exhibited throughout the house’s grounds.

Sitting a little more than a mile north of downtown Charleston, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for children, and includes an audio tour. You can also buy a joint ticket for both the Aiken-Rhett House and the Nathaniel Russell House for $18; dual admission for children costs $10. For more information, check out the Aiken-Rhett House section on the Historic Charleston Foundation’s website.

Middleton Place (Day 3)

If there were ever a place to stop and smell the roses, this house would be it. Built in 1755, this mansion was once the home of Arthur Middleton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Today, Middleton Place houses an impressive collection of historic furniture and portraits (all originally owned by the Middleton family), plus a stable with heritage-bred animals. Visitors can also watch historical re-enactors demonstrate the skills and technology used on an 18th-century plantation, or take a carriage or specialized tour. Just make sure you save time to treat yourself to a bite to eat at the Middleton Place Restaurant, where the menu is inspired by traditional low country Gullah cuisine.

According to most reviewers, however, the real reason to visit Middleton Place is to see the gardens. Modeled after traditional French gardens, the 65-acre grounds here are peppered with camellias, azaleas, magnolias and myrtle throughout the year. Recent visitors agreed this historic home is beautiful, though some cringe at the high cost of admission: $28 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 13. General admission includes complimentary guided walking tours and full exploration of the gardens (all 65 acres). Expect to pay additional fees for guided tours of the house museum and carriages. Middleton Place is located about 16 miles northwest of downtown Charleston along the Ashley River. It is open every day of the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the Middleton Place website.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens (Day 3)

While Middleton Place’s gardens attract those who like trimmed hedges and flower-lined paths, the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is the place to go if you’re more of an avid nature lover. Yes, the house is worth an hour of your time – it’s a less ornate version of other Charleston plantation homes, but the interior is just as beautiful – but most visitors come here to enjoy the wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for gators, otters and turtles in the Audubon Swamp Garden, grab your binoculars and look for local birds at the waterfowl refuge, don your helmet and bike one of the several trails or get lost in the horticultural maze. Recent travelers also agree that the petting zoo makes this a great place to bring the kids.

There are also several guided tours offered here, each one detailing a different aspect of the plantation’s history or its natural surroundings. Recent visitors specifically recommend taking the 45-minute “From Slavery to Freedom: The Magnolia Cabin Project Tour” (which will cost you an extra $8), and skipping the 30-minute house tour.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is located about 3 miles southeast of Middleton Place along the banks of the Ashley River. The house and gardens welcome visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. November through February, and from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. March through October. General admission, which includes access to the gardens, the petting zoo, the conservatory, the orientation theater, the peacock cafe and the old African American cabin, is $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Entry to the house and guided tour participation costs extra. For more information, visit the attraction’s website.

Drayton Hall (Day 3)

Built in 1738, Drayton Hall is one of the oldest surviving plantations left in the South. Take your time exploring the massive red-brick main house, which hasn’t changed all that much from when it was originally built (be aware that there is no air conditioning, electricity or heat). Afterward, you can wander along the two walking trails, which follow the Ashley River and the marsh, or pay your respects at the on-site African American Cemetery.

Much like the Aiken-Rhett House, Drayton Hall hasn’t been structurally renovated. And after surviving the 1886 earthquake and its role as a staging ground for both Colonial and British forces during the Revolution, the house is showing its age. For some visitors, this preservation provided a rare air of authenticity while others were disappointed that the rooms weren’t decorated with any furniture. Travelers also praise the tour guides for their vast knowledge of the house and its history.

Drayton Hall, which sits along the Ashley River, is located about 12 miles northwest of downtown Charleston and is best reached by car. The house is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with guided, 45-minute tours offered every half hour (the last tour departs at 3:30 p.m.). Tickets to tour the grounds and the house cost $22 for adults and between $6 and $10 for children, depending on age. If you’d just like to tour the grounds, admission is $12. For more information, check out the Drayton Hall’s website.


La Sirena – Wine Down Friday


The first wine Heidi made for La Sirena started as fluke opportunity – a custom crush wine for a client that fell through.  They had hired her to make Sangiovese during the 1994 vintage for a new brand, but ran into a conflict of interest situation with their family, who had other winery ties.  The wine was already made and quite delicious, but the client had to abandon the project.  They were going to put the wine on the bulk market and she thought, ‘Here’s my chance to start my own winery, maybe I could buy it!’ Once the decision was made, she needed to come up with a winery name, design a label and get approval and permits, etc. all within a 30 day time period. The wine was ready to bottle, so time was of the essence.

La Sirena Mermaid

Heidi and her husband Bo found the name while looking through the playing cards of the Mexican card game called Loteria. All the cards are different nouns, and one was La Sirena- the mermaid (pic). As big scuba divers and ocean lovers, the name stuck out to them: here was this beautiful symbol of something magical, like wine, and a way for her to combine two great passions. Designer and friend Michele LeBlanc came up with a fun and fanciful mermaid label based on Heidi’s own likeness(pic of OG label), and with that, La Sirena began in earnest in 1994 with 200 cases of Sangiovese.


Today, La Sirena makes around 2,000 cases of 6 different wines each year: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pirate TreasuRed, Le Barrettage, Grenache, Art Bus, and Moscato Azul. All the wines are small production lots made with great care and the highest quality in mind. Based in Heidi’s hometown of Calistoga, these wines are near and dear to her heart – literally. Heidi’s home vineyards provide much of the Cab and Syrah she uses in her wines. Heidi loves having her own brand because she gets to make whatever she wants – creating, experimenting, and being free to explore and express herself through her work, while also giving her fans the delicious wines they have come to expect from her.


 To purchase wine, click here

The crown jewel of La Sirena, Cabernet Sauvignon is Heidi’s favorite varietal to work with, and the wine she is best-known for throughout her career. This Cabernet has all the makings of Heidi’s classic, elegant and balanced style, produced from some of the finest vineyards in Napa Valley. Opulent and lush as a young wine, it’s also a favorite among collectors for its age-worthiness.  READ MORE

La Sirena Moscato Azul

The only white wine from La Sirena, this Moscato is an unusual, delicious dry (not sweet) expression of Muscat Canelli. In its signature blue bottle, Moscato Azul has become a fan favorite for its drinkability, perfumey aroma, crisp acidity, and ability to pair well with many different dishes. It’s especially perfect during the spring and summer time on warm days. READ MORE

Pirate TreasuRed

Avast! The true treasure of the seven seas… This big, bold blend of 7 different red varietals takes no prisoners. A big hit with fans since its first vintage in 2007, Pirate TreasuRed is a big, bold, and complex wine that shows off the magic of blending. Based on Cabernet and Syrah, the blend also features Grenache and Merlot, as well as small amounts of Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and Petite Syrah. There’s no reason you can’t have fun with high-end wine – in fact, we highly recommend it! READ MORE

Le Barrettage is a Rhone-lover’s dream wine. Our Syrah-based blend showcases our favorite vineyard sites and melds an old-world sensibility with the power of Napa Valley fruit. Rich, velvety, earthy, and ripe, Le Barrettage has already won many fans with its unique character and beautiful flavor profile. READ MORE

One of the newest additions to the La Sirena portfolio, this Grenache (first made in 2012) is a lush expression of the varietal in a bold Napa Valley style. While lighter in style than many other Napa Valley varietals like Cab, Zin, and Merlot, among Grenaches the La Sirena is quite dark and powerful, with a nice red fruit component. READ MORE

Art Bus began as many La Sirena wines do, in the lab, as Heidi crafted a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cab Franc that she simply loved. A non-traditional blend, Art Bus features a colorful, whimsical label, and 15% of the proceeds of each bottle support the charity Heifer International, a favorite organization of Heidi’s. This wine is featured at our tasting room and is one of our smallest production wines  – a labor of love! READ MORE


Crawfish Season has Come Early!

We have compiled a list of places currently selling (while supplies last).

Listed alphabetically

The History of the Crawfish Boil

It’s crawfish season again!

From late February to early June, one of New Orleans’ most beloved native foods is in season, and abundant. The crawfish boil is a tradition that holds a special place in our culture. Along with friends and family, we gather outdoors around newspaper-covered tables, peeling and eating until we pass out. Though the crawfish boil wasn’t always as popular as it is today, eating crawfish in Louisiana dates all the way back to pre-colonial times.

Though the Acadians (ancestors of the Cajuns) are often credited with bringing crawfish to Louisiana, Native Americans were eating the shellfish long before European arrival. Local tribes would put reeds baited with deer meat into creeks and ponds to catch crawfish.

The Acadians arrived in Louisiana after the Great Expulsion in 1755. Hailing from the Canadian Maritime provinces, seafood had already been a staple of their diet. Upon arriving in Louisiana, the Acadians settled along the bayous, where crawfish were abundant in the slow moving water.

The Acadian familiarity with lobster and previous fishing experience, plus the afore-mentioned contact with local Native Americans, led to the introduction of crawfish into the Acadian diet. And as the Acadians became the Cajuns, the tradition of eating crawfish continued, leading to the popular methods of consuming the crustaceans today.

Commercial sales of crawfish did not begin until the late 1800s. This is partly due to the use of nets, which allowed a larger, less time consuming harvest. But until approximately the 1960s, crawfish was largely stigmatized as ‘‘poor man’s food’‘. It was mostly consumed in rural areas amongst poorer demographics. For many, crawfish was nothing more than bait.

When I spoke to a friend who grew up in Houma, LA, he recalled a time when crawfish was 5 cents per pound. When the price rose to 25 cents per pound in 1960 (about $2 per pound in 2013 dollars), he figured that was the end of crawfish sales forever. Today you’d be hard pressed to find crawfish for sale in New Orleans for less than $2.50 per pound.

In 1960, the first Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival was held after Breaux Bridge, was named the crawfish capitol of the world. The festival began as a campaign to improve the public impression of crawfish. It worked; crawfish became increasingly popular. Restaurants began incorporating the crustacean onto to their menus, and dishes such as crawfish etouffee became a local fixture. Along with the growing popularity of Cajun food and culture, crawfish consumption also began to rise.

In 1972 Louisiana elected its first Cajun governor, Edwin Edwards, whose campaign slogan was “Cajun Power!” That slogan occasionally appeared with a clenched fist image, similar to the black power symbol — except the fist gripped a crawfish. In 1983, the crawfish was designated the Louisiana state crustacean, making Louisiana the first state to have a state crustacean; only Maryland and Oregon have followed the trend.

Today many rice farmers grow crawfish alongside their rice crop. The muddy ponds rice is grown in are a perfect environment for crawfish. Demand for crawfish has grown so high that crawfish farming is now required for meeting consumer need. Roughly 90% of all crawfish coming from Louisiana is farmed, creating a $120 million a year industry.

But most importantly, the little mudbugs have become inextricably woven into our culture and traditions. They’re iconic. And come spring, they’re something we can’t live without.


Introducing The Greubel Forsey Balancier Contemporain

The smallest GF yet is an exercise in doing a simple thing in an extreme way.

Quick Take

Greubel Forsey watches are known for being expertly engineered, superlatively finished, and generally compromise-free. That they tend to have multiple tourbillons and/or other complications is somewhat incidental, as the brand’s identity is much more about a particular style of watchmaking and a pure commitment to quality than any particular function or mechanism. The watch we have here, the Balancier Contemporain is proof of just that. The brand set out to accomplish three main goals with this watch: 1) Create a more moderately sized watch without sacrificing proportions or three-dimensionality, 2) Prominently show off their in-house balance wheel, and 3) Maintain the aesthetic traits and finishing styles that distinguish their timepieces. I’d say they achieved all three with room to spare.

First off the Balancier Contemporain measures in at 39.6mm, making it the smallest Greubel Forsey yet. This watch shows just the time and power reserve and the bottom third of the dial displays an oversized balance bridge and that special balance wheel. It has a large diameter of 12.6mm for optimal stability and the poising weights are recessed to minimize air friction. It’s anything but typical. Finally, throughout the movement you’ll find grained surfaces, black polishing, broad chamfers, and other traits you’re used to in Greubel’s watches. Like I said, mission accomplished.

This watch is only available in a white gold case for now, and it’s a limited edition of just 33 pieces. In addition to the main edition, there’s a parallel limited edition version that’s set with baguette-cut diamonds. This piece is slightly larger to accommodate all the stone, measuring in at 41.6mm across. It is also limited to 33 pieces.

Initial Thoughts

As soon as I saw this watch, the Signature 1 immediately came to mind. That watch was released in 2016 and measures 41.3mm across, which made it the smallest Greubel Forsey until now. That watch was also the first GF with a sub-$200,000 price tag, and it must have been a successful venture for the brand to follow it up with something like this.

Jack has often said that the true definition of luxury is that “it takes as long as it takes and costs as much as it costs,” and I think Greubel Forsey is the perfect example of that philosophy. Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey are two hyper-intelligent guys who have a vision for what high-end watchmaking can look like and they’re not particularly interested in bowing to commercial pressures or making watches that don’t adhere to that vision. I applaud them for that. They’re real artisans and masters of craft. That said, I love that they’re trying to create products that offer different incarnations of that vision and that possibly open it up to new audiences (whether for reasons of wrist size or of wallet size). If this watch is half as amazing on the wrist as the Signature 1 is, I think we’ll have nothing but cause for celebration.

The Basics

Brand: Greubel Forsey
Model: Balancier Contemporain

Diameter: 39.6mm
Thickness: 12.21mm
Case Material: White gold
Dial Color: Multi-level gold dial with black lacquered hour and minute rings and rhodium-plating
Indexes: Arabic numerals
Lume: None
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Alligator strap with white gold pin buckle

The Movement

Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve indicator
Diameter: 32.4mm
Thickness: 9.2mm
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Manually-wound
Frequency: 3 Hz (21,600 vph)
Jewels: 33
Total Components: 255
Additional Details: Powered by two fast-rotating, series-coupled barrels, and fitted with Greubel Forsey’s in-house variable-inertia balance (which stops when you pull out the crown)

Pricing & Availability

Price: CHF 195,000 (price upon request for the diamond model) 
Limited Edition: 33 pieces each (with and without diamonds)

For more click here.



The 2019 G23 Stands Alone

To be a true icon, you need to respect all others that came before you. To be a true innovator, you need to see and understand the space that others don’t. Recognized as the boat that leads the industry in terms of wake and surf wave performance, the G23 stands alone as the number one choice for riders around the world. Over the past five years, the G23 has been awarded the Rider’s Choice Award as the 5X Wakeboard and 4X Wakesurf Boat of the Year. Quality, innovation, and luxury go hand-in-hand with this revolutionary model that is designed to maximize the fun during your days on the water. The best wakes, the best surf waves and all the high-end refinements you’ve come to know from a Super Air Nautique, that’s the G23.

The G23 hull is the winner of the 5X Wakeboard and 4X Wakesurf Boat of the Year. With 2,850 pounds of sub-floor ballast and the ability to customize your wakesurf waves and wakeboard wakes, it stands alone at the top of the wake boat market. The integration of the Nautique Configurable Running Surface® (NCRS) and the Nautique Surf System (NSS) right into the design of the hull allows this legendary model to outperform the rest with its ability to be completely adjustable. Dish out perfect wakeboard wakes for beginners, experts and everything in between, or set up a surf wave exactly the way you want it, the G23 does it all.

The Nautique Surf System (NSS) with WAVEPLATE® technology is seamlessly integrated into the hull of the G23. Engaging on either side of the transom at surf speeds, the WAVEPLATE extends outward and down from the transom to redirect the flow of water forming the perfect wave. NSS allows surfers to switch sides instantly without the need to change up ballast or shift people in the boat, and it also incorporates variable settings that can adjust the steepness and shape of your wave. To be in full control while you’re surfing, opt for the Nautique Surf Switch so you can change which side the wave is on whenever you’d like.

What Customers are Saying:


Anthony S
Antioch, IL

My new G23 is stunning. Ordering a new boat is very exciting but can also be frightening. Eric at the boathouse helped me through the entire process. Dealer communication was great, the timing of delivery was perfect for me and I got the boat of my dreams. The quality, fit and finish of the boat exceeded expectations. I absolutely love it? Thank you boathouse co and thank you Nautique!!


The 2020 GT500

A Mustang that aims to take on the best from the rest of the field.

The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500’s history is almost as impressive as the black lines each generation’s owners have left on the pavement. What started out as a successful aftermarket racing upgrade package by Carroll Shelby in 1967 eventually morphed into something of a high-powered factory show pony with a heart for drag strips. Beginning in 2013, Ford figured out that it was possible to add sharper handling for canyon roads and road courses while still developing big power, but to me, that 662-horsepower car still never felt particularly approachable or all that sophisticated. To listen to Ford officials tell it, the 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 will be both of these things.

Oh, and it’ll have over 700 horsepower.

Set to arrive in showrooms this fall after debuting Monday at the Detroit Auto Show, the 2020 GT500 builds on the precedents established by the Blue Oval’s frankly wonderful GT350 coupe, adding even more power, technology and sophistication, imbuing the car with a character that chief engineer Carl Widmann told me is “a little bit more ’rounded off’ on the edges.”  

DCT or nothing

The outgoing GT500 was both quick and fast, with 0-60 mph happening in about 3.5 seconds en route to a claimed top speed of over 200 mph. The new model adds at least another 39 horsepower (I’m betting there will be few more besides) and, perhaps more importantly, a standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission developed with Tremec. You read that correctly: You can’t get a manual transmission any longer in the King of the Hill Mustang. With shifts in as little as 100 milliseconds, the new gearbox will undoubtedly be quicker than a three-pedal setup.

The GT500’s various drive modes (including Normal, Weather, Sport, Drag and Track) optimize transmission behavior for the driving at hand, whether tooling around town, lining up in front of a drag strip Christmas tree or idling out of the pit lane at your favorite road course. Interestingly, sport mode is tuned to produce the quickest shifts, while track mode prioritizes smoothness in order to keep the car from getting out of shape.

Ford’s move away from a DIY gearbox is likely to irk some self-anointed muscle car purists, but along with about a thousand other changes, it should help this new GT500 to not only be violently quick around a big race track, but more tractable and flattering to the ham-fisted, too. Dearborn authorities say the new car will be capable of mid-3-second 0-60 mph runs, as well as quarter-mile times in under 11 seconds.

(If you’re a manual-only buyer, a six-speed stick shift is the only transmission available in the GT350, a car with which diehard tripedalists will be plenty happy.)

Like its less powerful sibling, today’s 562-hp GT350, the 2020 GT500 starts out with a 5.2-liter aluminum-block V8 that’s hand-assembled in Romeo, Michigan. But stuffing a massive 2.65-liter Roots-type supercharger down in the “V” of the engine has necessitated a bunch of other changes, too. The flat-plane crank that gives the GT350 its unique voice has been nixed in favor of a cross-plane design to better handle the increased loads of a forced-induction engine. With that big blower honking away at 12 PSI, the engine needed increased cooling and lubrication capacity, too, forcing changes to the block itself, many of which will find their way back into the 2019 GT350.

Additional new pieces include valves, seals, seats, springs and head gaskets, with longer head bolts to keep the whole works from fragging under the pressure. A beefy model-specific oil pan features both static and dynamic baffles to prevent fluid starvation when really pushing the Gs.

(Note that, sadly, the blue show car didn’t have a production-representative engine, so we weren’t permitted to take our own photos or video of it.)

In order to slake the beast slung between the GT500’s wider front fenders, Ford designers had to find a way to feed it more air. A new front end features more than twice the cooling, and Ford’s largest-ever louvers — 31 inches by 28 inches — help extract air through the new hood made of sheet mold compound. (Since those big louvers might make for a messy engine bay when it rains, Ford has thoughtfully designed an aluminum undertray that can be easily removed for track work — or showing off at your local Cars and Coffee.) Out back, a new composite rear diffuser is bookended by a quartet of SEMA-sized 5-inch exhaust tips.

Magnetic suspenders

The fact that Ford claims this new GT500’s demeanor will be a bit more genial shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. After all, today’s sixth-generation S550 Mustang offers a far more sophisticated platform than the S197 chassis that came before it — especially the independent rear end. The new GT500 features unique suspension geometry, along with lighter-weight springs at all four corners. 

If nothing else, the inclusion of Magneride was already going to be a huge step in the right direction. The real-time dampers expose special iron filings suspended in a magneto-rheological fluid to a magnetic pulse, altering the viscosity and changing resistance levels near instantaneously. These shocks feature heavily in the GT350’s scintillating performance, and are available on lesser Mustang models now, too. This is the first time the tech comes to the GT500, and the magic sauce in those dampers should enable ultra flat cornering while still preserving ride quality.

Track Pack attack

All of that power will be routed to the ground via Michelin rubber regardless of how you option your Shelby. The full “knives out” Carbon Fiber Track Package shown here adds 20-inch carbon fiber wheels that are a half-inch wider out back (11.5), and those come wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer tires — basically road-legal semislicks. 

The Track Pack also includes the adjustable carbon fiber wing (Ford says it enables more rear downforce than its GT supercar), along with front splitter wickers with integral dive planes. The rear seat is deleted to save weight, lending the trim a track-ready vibe even when trundling to the corner store.

If the Carbon Track Pack is too extreme, there’s a middle ground, the optional Handling Package that incorporates adjustable strut top mounts and a different rear spoiler with a Gurney flap (a small tab on the rear edge of the wing). Non-Track-Pack models receive less extreme 19-inch Pilot Sport 4S rubber, and all GT500s receive a new power steering setup.

Naturally, braking has been substantially upgraded, with a Brembo package including 16.5-inch two-piece iron front rotors — Ford says they’re the largest found on any domestic coupe. Six-piston fixed front calipers are fitted up front and four-piston units are found out back. Ford says the new discs feature 20 percent more swept area than the binders on the GT350, and 30 percent more thermal mass up front. 

According to Ford, the upsized brakes forced the adoption of 20-inch wheels (the GT350 runs 19s). In case you’re wondering like I was, Widmann says, “Iron brakes were found to meet the track requirement when it came to brake fade resistance and longevity, we did not pursue ceramic brakes.”

Interior shifts

For such an outrageous exterior, the cabin changes to the 2020 Shelby GT500 are actually fairly muted. There’s optional exposed carbon fiber dash inserts, along with faux suede door trim. Having sat in the car in these pictures, the available Recaro seats feel like must-get items to my backside, although if you want the convenience of powered adjustability, you’ll have to skip them. I think they’re worth that sacrifice, and they’re track-ready thanks to their safety harness compatibility, too.

The interior’s biggest difference, however, is the inclusion of a new electronic rotary gearshift, which is a change I can’t quite wrap my head around. Even acknowledging that the new GT500’s character will be more well-rounded and sophisticated, the new gear selector dial feels out of character to me. A car with this much muscle deserves a substantial-feeling interface with a mechanical action (even if it’s actually electronic underneath). A larger, cold-to-the-touch, chunky metal knob would’ve probably done the job, but the parts-bin piece that Ford has chosen is a letdown. The new magnesium paddle shifters are better resolved, at least.


3-Day Weekend Getaway to Fredericksburg, Texas

Day One – Friday

  • Arrive in Fredericksburg.  Stop at the Visitor Information Center, located at 302 East Austin Street downtown, for a friendly welcome, maps and directions, information on restaurants and shops, a weekend schedule of live music and more.   Watch our 10-minute welcome DVD on Fredericksburg’s history and attractions.
  • Check into your lodging property – maybe it’s a modern hotel, a historic log cabin, a charming inn or a flat over one of the shops along Main Street.
  • Stroll Main Street for a preview of the shopsrestaurants and museums located in the historic district.  Note – many of the shops close around 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. on Fridays. 
  • For the First Friday Art Walk Fredericksburg, about a dozen art galleries remain open till 8:00 p.m. so the first Friday of the month is a great time to visit.
  • Enjoy dinner at one of our restaurants – you choose whether it’s Biergarten casual or fine dining or something in between.
  • Finish out your evening with some live Texas music at Hondo’s on Main, Crossroads Saloon & Steakhouse, The Auslander, The Officer’s Club at The Hangar Hotel, Silver Creek or the legendary Luckenbach Texas.

Day Two – Saturday

  • Early to rise this morning for an awe-inspiring hike to the top of Enchanted Rock – estimated to be one billion years old. The state natural area opens for day use at 8:00 a.m.  You might consider taking breakfast or a snack from one of our great bakeries with you.  And don’t forget to take plenty of drinking water with you.
  • On your way back into town, stop at the Pioneer Museum, located at the corner of West Main and Milam Streets to learn some of the history of the German settlement of Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country.
  • Now it’s time for a quick lunch.  Several cafes downtown have outdoor patios, just perfect for people watching.
  • This afternoon spend some time shopping along Main Street — clothing boutiques, jewelry craftsmen, art galleries, western wear, home décor, an authentic variety store – it’s all here.
  • Or you may want to cruise Wine Road 290 – sipping some great Texas wine at a couple of the ten wineries that are on or near U.S. Highway 290 from just west of Fredericksburg to just east of Johnson City.  The Texas White House at the LBJ Ranch is located right in the heart of wine country near Stonewall and makes a great stop for some history on the 36th president of the United States.
  • Enjoy dinner at one of our great restaurants.
  • At 8:00 p.m. it’s time for a high energy, live musical show at Rockbox Theater, showcasing music from the 50s, 60s and 70s.  The theater is located just one block off Main Street on North Llano – walking distance from numerous restaurants.  Note:  weekly shows are Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m.

Day Three – Sunday

  • The National Museum of the Pacific War opens at 9:00 a.m. each morning and makes a great stop on a Sunday morning to reflect on ordinary people and their extraordinary accomplishments during World War II.  Allow at least two hours for this amazing museum.
  • Sorry, it is time to check out of your lodging property!
  • Stop for lunch or Sunday brunch at one of our restaurants as you prepare to depart Fredericksburg for the trip back home.


Featured Local Eats – The Red Brick Tavern

Old-school fixture for live music, refined American pub grub & craft brews in nostalgic surrounds.

In Red Brick’s own words: “Conroe, a one of a kind small town with roots dating back to the 1800’s, nestled in its historic downtown The Red Brick Tavern is place where you can enjoy a cocktail or craft beer and paired with upscale comfort food, while listening to the best in Texas Country. We strive to provide you with a one of a kind experience, time and time again.”

What we just can’t get enough of:

Bacon Fried Gulf Oysters

Fresh, Gulf Oysters Hand-Battered in Cajun Seasoning. Pan Fried and Served with Horseradish Dijon Sauce

If you like fried oysters you are in for a marvelous treat! Bacon fried? Yes, and seasoned perfectly to pair with their signature sauce. These alone keep us coming back.

RBT Signature Nachos

Fresh Tortilla Chips served with your choice of The Beer-Braised Pulled Pork or Pulled Roasted Chicken and Drizzled in Brew House Queso, Pepper Jack and Cheddar Cheese, RBT Black Beans. Topped With Charred Tomato Salsa And Sour Cream

Oysters, not your thing? Maybe looking to add another appetizer? These nachos deliver and deliver BIG. The pulled meat combination with three kinds of cheese starts the party. Then the RBT black beans and charred tomato salsa deliver the finishing touch. We could eat this as an entree.

Soups and Salads make a Splash!

Drunken French Onion Soup

Made With Dark Beer And Topped With A Ciabatta Crouton And Smoked Gouda Cheese

This may be our favorite french onion soup in North Houston. The soups are hand made by Chef everyday and they are always right on the money.

Wedge Salad

Baby Romaine Lettuce With Gorgonzola Dressing, Chopped Bacon, Green Onions, Fresh Tomatoes, And Gorgonzola Crumbles

You can’t go wrong with any of the available salads. Our favorite is the Wedge. It’s done classically and done right.

Double Cut Pistachio Crusted Pork Chop

Tender Premium Double Cut Pistachio-Crusted Pork Chop finished with Perppercorn Port Demi-Glace and Served with Grilled Asparagus

While Perry’s pork chops are still our favorite, it’s nice to get a great chop with out the white linen tablecloth prices. We like everything about this dish.

Hatch Chili Pulled Pork Enchiladas

Two Fresh Tortillas Stuffed with RBT Pulled Pork And Pepper Jack Cheese, Smothered with Homemade Hatch Chile Sauce And Cotija Cheese Served With Black Beans.

Their take on a Southwest favorite…we’ll take two please.

BBQ Meatloaf

Hand Made with Premium Ground Beef, Ground Pork, Sausage and RBT Secret Spices and Drizzled with RBT BBQ Sauce over Whipped Golden Yukon and Crispy Shoestring Onions. Served with RBT Collard Greens

Ask the friendly staff what their favorite dish is and you’ll likely hear about this meat treat. We tried it and agreed it was one of the best items among many greats we’d had.

Zydeko Burger

Served with Cheddar, Andouille Sausage, Fried Oysters, Onion Strings, and Remoulade

If you are looking for a burger, but not your run-of-the-mill burger this might be for you! It’s big, bold, delicious and worth savoring every bite. We’d not had a burger with oysters before, but why not we said (plus they’re the bacon fried kind). We were glad we did.

Steaks, Chicken, Fish, Pizza

They’ve got all that too. We’re sure they’re all good. We’ll have to go back and try everything over time. This place is well worth the visit.

Omega Resumes Production Of The Caliber 321, The Speedmaster Movement That Went To The Moon

After a decades-long hiatus, one of the most renowned movements of all time is coming back.

This is probably the single most exciting piece of movement-related information I’ve seen in over 20 years of reading and writing about watches. As every watch fan knows, the movement that was used in the Speedmaster Professionals that were sourced by NASA for the Apollo missions was the caliber 321 – a remarkably tough, beautifully built classic lateral clutch chronograph movement that represents one of the most important high water marks in modern chronograph design. No less a luminary than Roger Smith recently sang the praises of the 321 in Talking Watches (and he’s a guy who may be presumed to know something about movements). As every watch fan probably also knows, it’s been many decades since the movement went out of production and for as long as I can remember, Omega and Speedmaster fans (myself included) have wistfully been hoping for the movement to make a comeback. We’d always assumed, of course, that there was about as much chance of that happening as the return of the passenger pigeon, but Omega has just announced that the 321 will be going back into production. 

Omega says:

If you ask most watch fans to name a famous movement they’d like to see reborn, you’re bound to hear them mention the OMEGA Calibre 321. This robust and elegant chronograph movement has been a favourite since the 1940s and is still highly sought-after by watch collectors around the world. Now, more than 50 years after the last Calibre 321 was produced, OMEGA is bringing the iconic movement back.

Known for its beautifully intricate design, the original Calibre 321 was the first movement ever used in the OMEGA Speedmaster in 1957. It had, in fact, been previously used in some of OMEGA’s other chronographs, namely those in the Seamaster collection. It stands out for its use of a monobloc column-wheel, a feature that is machined from a single piece and which adds technical value. Generally, column-wheel movements require very careful precision in design and build, making them popular with watch collectors.

In addition to its construction, the original Calibre 321 also earned a very notable place in history. It was used in a variety of models including the Speedmaster ST 105.003 (the model first tested and qualified by NASA and worn by astronaut Ed White during the first American spacewalk) and the Speedmaster ST 105.012 (the first watch worn on the moon).

Reintroducing a movement with such an important reputation must therefore be done with the utmost exactness.  For the Calibre 321 project, OMEGA utilised a dedicated team of experts who worked efficiently over two years and in total secrecy to bring the movement to life. The small group was composed of researchers, developers and historians, as well as the finest craftsmen and experienced watchmakers. To protect the project’s exclusive details, the team even worked under the codename “Alaska 11”, in line with the names that OMEGA used for its secret Speedmaster designs for NASA in the 1960s and 70s.

Using the 2nd generation Calibre 321 as a reference, the OMEGA team compiled extensive historical research and original plans to reconstruct the movement as accurately as possible. Going even further, they also used “tomography” technology (digital scanning method) to see inside the true Speedmaster ST 105.003 timepiece that astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan wore on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Cernan was the last man to walk on the lunar surface and his Speedmaster is now housed at the OMEGA Museum in Bienne. Its Calibre 321 provided the perfect design criteria for OMEGA to follow.

GoldWiser Conroe

As a result, even the most unique and iconic parts of the Calibre 321 have been reborn in respect to their authentic specifications.  The movement wonderfully corresponds to the “moon period” of OMEGA’s history, with a construction that completely respects the designs from the past.

Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO of OMEGA, said, “It’s amazing that so many people are passionate about the Calibre 321. We produced the last one in 1968 and fans have never stopped talking about it. That shows how special it is. We’re very excited to finally meet their wishes and have gone to great efforts to bring the movement back.”

The new movements will now go into production at OMEGA’s HQ site in Bienne. Uniquely, all aspects of creation will be undertaken within a dedicated Calibre 321 workshop. For each movement, the assembly, as well as the watch head and bracelet assembly will be performed by the same watchmaker. Watch fans can expect more developments and news in the coming months.

It probably won’t escape your notice that 2019 is also the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission which put astronauts on the Moon for the first time in history … no prizes for guessing what I’m hoping for (and probably lots of you guys and gals too). 

Source Credit: