The Rosa Black Baccara has a distinct personality with deep, burgundy-red velvety blooms on tall, elegant stems. It is the creation of the rose hybridizer Jacques Mouchotte who, alongside the French rose breeder Meilland, set out to cultivate a unique flower among fresh roses. They wanted a shade as close to black as possible, achieved using traditional breeding methods.
Following much experimentation, Mouchotte found his perfect rose noir by crossing the two dark red hybrid teas, Celica and Fuego Negro. And in 2000, Black Baccara was born. So, it feels somewhat fitting that this rose, with so much thought, craft, and unique beauty, should inspire one of Rolls-Royce’s most artistic projects, La Rose Noire Droptail.
The unnamed commissioning customer came to Rolls-Royce with a Black Baccara four years ago. She wanted a car that honored the rose’s unique character and revealed her love for France. “The Black Baccara’s rich and complex character informed our creative exploration, influencing the palette, composition and intricate detailing of the motor car,” says Alex Innes, head of Rolls-Royce Coachbuild design. “It led us to blend radically modern design concepts with age-old exquisite craft techniques while using materials that subtly reinforce the clients’ deep connection to France.”
La Rose Noire is the first of only four motor cars in the Droptail family, each of which will have its flavor. It is also the third model in the nautical-themed Coachbuild — a division within Rolls-Royce founded six years ago with the Sweptail and Boat Tail, where unique motor cars are created on personal requests. Typically this means making less than a handful of cars that differ in shape from any other Rolls-Royce production car and are then individually styled. They cost millions (Boat Tail was estimated at around $28m), with Coachbuild naturally expressing the very pinnacle of luxury for the marque.
I have come to Goodwood, the home of Rolls-Royce in the UK, for a sneak preview of La Rose Noire Droptail before the car is wrapped up and transported to Pebble Beach, California, to be presented to its owner. Rolls-Royce calls La Rose Noire “a dark, daring and dramatic coach-built masterpiece,” which pretty much sums it up.
It explores a new body style for Rolls-Royce. The two-seat roadster has a detachable low-slung metal roof that transforms the car into a coupé when in place. It does look lovely in the metal, racier than one would associate a Rolls-Royce, yet maintaining a sense of grandeur.
The compelling story, though, is that of craftsmanship and the sheer artistry, skill and determination it took to create a car as complex as La Rose Noire. The exterior paint process, for instance, required 150 iterations to perfect that exact shade of pearlescent shimmer red of the Black Baccara rose petals in direct light. The duotone theme extends into La Rose Noire Droptail’s brightwork — a dark finish explicitly developed for this project. An electrolyte was introduced in the chrome plating process and co-deposited on each stainless-steel substrate in a layer almost as thin as spider-web silk. This finish is repeated on metal details throughout the interior.
Meanwhile, on the Pantheon grille vanes, the same red hue of the exterior is hand painted as an accent on the reverse surface of the vanes themselves — a detail visible only through indirect reflection. The lower front air intake was digitally designed and 3D printed in a lightweight composite and incorporates 202 hand-polished stainless-steel ingots, each hand-painted in red. The intricate alloys feature a darker red paint finish inspired by the rose so that, like the flower, the finish looks black from a distance, then sunlight reveals shimmering dark red undertones.
The cocooning cabin is a temple of ideas, a sensory feast, where you feel the presence of the human hand. Earlier in the day, I’d met the leather and wood specialists, who detailed the hard work, experimentation, and skills required to make every inch of the customer’s vision come to light. It involved the most complex expression of parquetry in Rolls-Royce’s history, using Black Sycamore wood sourced in France at the request of the client, hand-finished and hand-placed in a process that took over two years.
For the final scattered rose pattern (which brings to mind the work of the artist Alexander Calder), the team worked with simple manual collaging to achieve the right design, moving paper cuttings around to find the ideal abstraction. The wood design involves 1,070 perfectly symmetrical elements as the background and 533 asymmetrically positioned red pieces (the only painted veneers) representing rose petals.
The final touch is a removable and wearable Audemars Piguet timepiece. Created especially for this project, the 43mm Royal Oak Concept is powered by a unique self-winding Calibre 4407 movement, featuring a flyback chronograph and a split-seconds mechanism and color matched to La Rose Noire. Naturally, the owners commissioned an exclusive vintage of Champagne de Lossy to celebrate the La Rose Noire occasion. And to enjoy the bubbles, Rolls-Royce has built a bespoke Champagne Chest with hues evoking the Black Baccara rose.
La Rose Noire Droptail was revealed today at Pebble Peach, California.
See Rolls-Royce’s special commission with haute couture designer Iris van Herpen. Also, learn about Rolls-Royce’s other art commissions.