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IWC Schaffhausen

The Journal

Engineered for speed: IWC, Mercedes-AMG & Cigarette Boat Racing

For those who feel the need for speed on land and in water, Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette Racing join together to create two special edition works of engineering art. The IWC Journal travels to Miami, Florida to find out more. 

— The one-of-one Tirranna Cigarette Racing Boat and a Mercedes-AMG G 63

It’s an unusually foggy morning on Miami’s Watson Island: it rolled in from the northwest and ground the ongoing photoshoot to a halt, obscuring the compelling downtown Miami skyline. Along the MacArthur Causeway, Mercedes-AMG is capturing photos of the one-of-one, fully custom 59’ Tirranna Cigarette Racing Boat — a new flagship model for the brand — and an equally custom Mercedes-AMG G 63. Both will be revealed at the Miami International Boat Show happening at the Miami Marine Stadium 13-17 February 2020. This is the 13th year of the partnership between Cigarette Racing and Mercedes-AMG, and the 12th special-edition boat and car the two design- and speed-focused brands have created together.


It’s the first time the two feats of engineering and power have been in the same place since they were conceived over a year ago — both chomping at the bit to unleash their bone-shaking power. The G 63’s engine revs, letting out a throaty growl, as if it can’t stand being limited to the 40 mph (64 kph) limit that the photoshoot necessitates. Similarly, the matching Tirranna is using a fraction of the immense energy its six supercharged 4.6-liter V8 Mercury Racing 450R outboard engines provides (a combined 2,700 horsepower and a top speed of 80 mph) to keep itself aligned with the running G 63 only a handful of feet away on the Causeway.


With the two machines next to each other, you can see immediately that they are cut from the same cloth, or in this case, carbon fiber. The subtle details of the two are in harmony, from the paint scheme to the carbon fiber detailing G 63’s interior, which matches that of the Tirranna’s hardtop. The stunning exterior and the cabin leather of both the Tirranna and the AMG G 63 are clad in the distinctive color combination of “Macchiato Beige” and “Midnight Blue” — along with matching embroidery heralding the partnership. Even the steering wheels match (both crafted from carbon fiber)

A speedy trip to the top

But while they may look synchronous now, on first blush Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette Boat Racing can seem like odd bedfellows — a boat confined to the water and an SUV destined to stay on land. While Mercedes-AMG is known the world over as the high-performance division of Mercedes-Benz with unparalleled engineering chops, Cigarette Boat Racing’s ascension to the top of the luxury market was a touch more colorful.  


Cigarette boats may conjure up images of Miami Vice episodes — and in truth that image wouldn’t be far off. The company was founded by speed boat racer turned designer Donald Aronow in 1969, and the planing-hull, narrow-beam motorboats became popular shortly thereafter for sporting and leisure. Of course, they also became popular for more nefarious reasons — drug runners preferred them for smuggling contraband into the US from the Caribbean. 


But today, Cigarette Boat Racing has left that image in its wake. The company is now an iconic luxury boat brand with a global following, producing boats that command price tags in the millions of dollars and are completely bespoke. Skip Braver, who bought the company in 2002, will tell you that the true defining characteristics of Cigarette Boat Racing aren’t its luxury offerings or even the powerful Mercury motors they use. It’s the engineering skill of the team and the handmade quality of each boat — both of which go largely unmatched by its competition — that set it apart.

— The IWC Portugieser Automatic (IW500710) The IWC Portugieser Automatic IW500710|(0.5008,0.5597,0.7016,0.8375)
Portugieser Automatic (IW500710)
— The IWC Portugieser Automatic (IW500710)

A meeting of engineering minds

Walking through the cavernous Opa-Locka, Florida factory, which employs 75 people and allows for the production of 13 boats at a time, Braver speaks to Cigarette Racing’s iconic status and partnership with Mercedes-AMG. “AMG and Cigarette Boat racing share a strong DNA of engineering and design,” he says in reference to the Tirranna AMG edition, which took a year to design. That timeline is quite a bit longer than the average build, which skews closer to around 16 weeks. To bring the collaboration to fruition, Braver worked closely with AMG’s own Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener.


The finished product is a true collaboration of the two engineering minds. It features a unique gyrostabilizer — which decreases the boat’s roll by 80% — and agile handling thanks to a lower center of gravity, which is further amplified by the lightweight construction achieved through the use of carbon fiber in the superstructure of the boat.


Throughout the factory, you can spot the marriage of new technology and the handmade quality of the boats, with workers laminating and fitting the hulls of the boats by hand. “You will see new CNC machining alongside old world craftsmanship,” says Braver next to a new hull being laminated by a crew of three. The Tirranna’s hull and deck are vacuum-infused using a highly optimized composite laminate with PVC coring and a Garmin instrument panel that features a nano-coated, anti-reflective, heat-resistant solid surface; in other words, it’s chock-full of the latest tech.


As the case has always been with Cigarette Boat Racing, the Tirranna strikes the perfect balance of luxury and performance guaranteed by the handcrafted nature of the vessel. “You can have all the computers and engineers you want,” says Braver, “but you still need man and brush to make our boats.” 

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