Fans of sports cars often wear a T-shirt or a ball cap emblazoned with the brand of their choice—the Chevrolet Corvette or Ford Mustang, for example.
But buyers of elite sports cars like those from Bugatti have far less humble options for professing their loyalty.
Among them is a belt buckle from designer Roland Iten, which sells for a lot more than you’d have to pay to put a new Corvette and Mustang in your garage.
Maybe it’s only fitting. The Bugatti Veyron is a marvel that produces more than 1,000 horsepower and costs upwards of $1.7 million.
So a T-shirt hardly seems like it would do.
Iten makes what you might call the Bugatti of belt buckles. He has transformed the utilitarian cinch into high-end mechanized art. And he, like Bugatti, works in precious materials, such as gold and titanium.
His Geneva-based boutique, which uses Swiss watch-making equipment to craft its exquisite belt buckles, features several designs on its website, of which the Bugatti model is one. All are mechanically adjustable to allow for a precise fit around the waistline, unlike buckles that use the notches on a belt.
Iten designed three different versions of his Calibre R22 Mark I Bugatti Edition belt buckles, with the total number limited to 44. He made only 11 each for the first series, which is in white gold, and the second series, which is in rose gold. The price is 75,000 Swiss francs, or nearly $84,000 at current exchange rates. The third series is yet to come.
For some perspective, consider that you could get the 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray for $51,995. The price of the 2015 Ford Mustang, which goes on sale in spring, has not been announced yet. But the outgoing model starts at $22,995, and the new one is not expected to cost much more than that. So for what you’d spend on the belt buckle, you could have both cars, with something shy of $10,000 left over for gas.
In the ultra-luxury market, such an indulgence is far from unusual, though.
Bugatti buyers in particular are likely impervious to sticker shock, considering that the latest convertible version of the Veyron, called the Grand Sport, can go for more than $2 million, depending on how it is configured. Bugatti has sold 100 of the Grand Sports already, and only 50 more will be made before production of the Veyron ceases.
The shape of the crystals on the front of the buckle (or the “hood” as designer Iten refers to it) echo that of the engine vents on the Bugatti Veyron.
Iten says the belt buckle is an object of precision engineering much like a Bugatti engine. It has exactly 100 handcrafted components, which are made of solid gold, stainless steel and titanium.
Smoked sapphire crystals on the front of the belt buckle provide a view inside.
Like the glass panels that showcase the engines on Ferrari and Lamborghini sports cars, these large crystals expose the complex, and gorgeous, internal mechanics.
The cogs, wheels, springs and pinions interconnect to create precisely the right amount of tension needed to secure the belt. A lever allows for micro adjustments (we’re talking millimeters), so that you can custom fit the belt to your waistline.
This is a belt buckle that would come in handy after a huge feast, by facilitating the extra wiggle room for an expanding belly. It also can be easily swapped from one belt to another.
The third series of Bugatti belt buckles goes into production in early 2014, with 22 expected to be made.
Though the price isn’t finalized yet, these aren’t going to be quite as expensive as the earlier ones, since they’ll be made of stainless steel and titanium with gold accents, says Carol Galiano, communications director for Iten. They are expected to cost between 48,000 and 58,000 Swiss francs, or about $53,700 to $64,900 at current exchange rates.
The entire process of creating one series of belt buckles—such as the 11 made in rose gold, which were recently released—takes about nine months. Each component is precision machined from a solid block of metal, then hand fit by skilled Swiss watchmakers.
“It’s a very laborious process,” Galiano says. “We’re using the entire machinery for a very, very small series production and that’s very expensive.”
Iten makes other “wearable precious mechanics,” as he calls them. They include cuff links, an ingenious credit-card holder and gold shoelace tips, which at $5,000 are the least expensive item his company sells. Iten’s inventions are like a cross between exquisite jewelry and a high-end toy. Some cost up to $150,000, depending on whether they’re fitted with diamonds.
If you’d rather buy a Corvette or a Mustang instead, then you’re likely not among Iten’s target customers of “gentlemen connoisseurs.”
Iten introduced the Calibre R22 Mark 1 Bugatti Edition belt buckle at the Geneva auto show in 2011. He announced plans then to release a series of limited edition designs through 2014.
Three of the belt buckles done in white gold remain available, along with five of the rose gold ones. The 22 titanium belt buckles in the final series are set to be released in late 2014.
Iten intends to continue the partnership with Bugatti, and plans are in the works to create other products. About 20 luxury watch and jewelry distributors around the world carry Iten’s work.
[Related: 10 Most Expensive Cars For 2014]
- Bugatti Veyron
- belt buckle