Rumours have been going round for some time now about a unique, extraordinary pipe that is so exclusive that there is only one example of its kind. A pipe that is more than just a pipe, elegantly studded with precious gemstones, the product of years of excellence and expert craftsmanship by a well-known company. Only rumours? On the contrary, we are happy to say that they are all actually true.
When discussing pipes it is logical to start with the raw material, briar, and a seasoned smoker will certainly know that the term “straight grain” says it all. However, in this case this is just the beginning. Specialists of the “White Spot" carving this unique model had to discard their work countless times because some slight flaw was exposed, and start again from scratch on a fresh piece of carefully selected best Mediterranean briar plateau. After over two hundred such attempts the perfect plateau was finally found, with a faultless straight grain and a spectacular bird’s eye on the heel of the pipe. The square-cut bottom flows into a hand-made, black ebanite mouthpiece, and features the distinctive white spot near the join. The perfect pipe, then? Undoubtedly, but not only that. Its rare, outstanding uniqueness lies in the shape of the bowl, its remarkable finish and upper part.
The Eiffel Tower is almost a thousand feet tall, or just over three hundred metres, located on the Champ de Mars, which took two years, two months and five days to erect. It was a utopian dream come true, the result of rampant technology and an icon for the World’s Fair. The most prestigious engineers had toyed with the idea of a thousand-foot tower for fifty years, but projects had remained on paper. It would only be on 31st March, 1889, that Alexandre Gustave Eiffel could finally view his finished metal colossus. Some had opposed the project right from the beginning, and quite a few considered it as in extremely bad taste for the refined image of Paris, but in the end it became an ever-lasting symbol of the French capital. Moreover, it would remain in the minds of people all over the world as a wonder of the modern world.
When Kalmon S. Hener, on 15th March 2007, began to sketch a pipe based on the Eiffel Tower, he was undoubtedly fascinated by its silhouette, an ancient Titan standing out against the Parisian sky. A modern obelisk that one can imagine had also fascinated the founder of the famous brand, an Englishman with brilliant ideas, enterprising spirit, a tendency to experiment and a love for well-made things. In 1907 he launched a new style in the pipe world. One hundred years later his company embarked on a creative, artistic and artisanal adventure of which we are presently describing – a unique and extraordinary pipe, indeed, “much more than just a pipe” – which would take shape through the sketches by Kalmon S. Hener, Product Director of The White Spot, a division of Alfred Dunhill Ltd.
The pylon with four columns of lattice work girders, separated at the square base gradually converge at the top, and are joined to each other by more metal girders at regular intervals, with arches to link the columns at the first level. However, this Eiffel Tower is only 160 mm high. The lower part of the lattice structure grips the briar of the "White Spot Eiffel Tower Pipe"; the next part is raised above the bowl and provides a precious lid for the pipe; the upper part is removable and houses a pipe tamper whose shape is inspired by the obelisk at the Place de la Concorde. This particular Eiffel Tower is not made of wrought iron, but of finely wrought 18 karat yellow gold sheet as traditionally done a century ago. The four angles of the tower and the band around the first level is studded with diamonds, whereas the arches and band on the second level are embellished with sapphires and at the top with rubies. Sitting on the top is a “sugarloaf” cabochon sapphire. The tamper is also made of 18Ct gold and is adorned with rubies and a cabochon sapphire at the top. The gemstone colours have not been selected by chance, as blue, white and red should mean something to the French. Without a doubt, nothing has been spared in terms of ideas, material and craftwork, but we are not talking just about a pipe.
Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was already a renowned structural engineer, famous for his iron projects, including bridges, roof structures and the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty in New York. The tower was the climax of his career and subsequently he devoted his time to research and in particular to scientific experiments carried out at the top of the tower. In 1900, he published at his own expense "La Tour de Trois cents mètres", printed by the Société des imprimeries Lemercier in Paris, a monumental two-volume work that was issued as a limited edition of 500 numbered books that were donated to important contemporaries, as well as to libraries, universities, organizations and scientific societies. One of the volumes contains a detailed monograph on every aspect of the tower’s design and construction, while the other contains visual documentation, such as photographs and fascinating design drawings. Such a rare, bibliographic treasure could only be the natural complement to the "White Spot Eiffel Tower Pipe". Not only that, but there is also included "L'Exposition de Paris", eighty illustrated issues published by the Librairie Illustrée in Paris between 1888 and 1890 and bound into two exquisite books. As you scroll through them, you gain an excellent impression of the great World’s Fair and the period in all its various aspects, and one section focuses on the Eiffel Tower and its construction. The final addition to the "White Spot Eiffel Tower Pipe" is a modern book which reproduces project designs and some texts on the tower and Eiffel. So we have the pipe, five books and some other things that we shall describe. Where can all these wonderful things be housed?
The first impression we gain from the cabinet is that the Eiffel Tower has been dismantled, and that all its various parts lie in creative chaos on different surfaces framed by rare pieces of palm wood inserted into lemon wood. The intricate patterns and compositions that the ebonists have managed to achieve surpass the most complex kaleidoscopic arrangements. In a roundel placed in the centre, beneath the display case in which the pipe is housed, there is a colour “drawing” inspired by an old print, depicting a stage of the construction with the unfinished tower in the background and the workers in the foreground. The whole work is not, in fact, a drawing, but was achieved using natural materials, namely mosaic tiles of various sizes taken from almost thirty different types of wood, as well as shagreen and mother-of-pearl. It is this intricate marquetry that is the display of utmost skill in a context that already displays perfection, and on which the ebonists have worked for over eighteen months.
When we open the two doors of the lower part of the cabinet, which rests on a ziricote, shagreen and palm wood base, we find the five books snugly slotted in. On the inside of the doors there are two bronze medallions depicting the Eiffel Tower and the profile of its creator. There is also a secret drawer containing a key which enables the owner to open the lid of the cabinet and gain access to the pipe itself, which lies in the middle under the transparent part of the lid. On its left we find a sumptuous kid leather case for the pipe, and in the drawer a pair of black jewellery gloves to handle the pipe. On its right on top there is a sterling silver capsule, engraved with the image of the pipe containing its certificate of authenticity and in the drawer a booklet which describes all the marvelous features of the pipe and cabinet.
Now that the "White Spot Eiffel Tower Pipe" has revealed its secrets we may better understand its initial description as “unique and extraordinary”. Whoever dreams of owning it knows well that the purchase is only for those who are seriously interested in the item and Al Pascià, one of only a few stores that are authorized to initiate the transaction, will put the lucky client directly in touch with "The White Spot".
Milan, June 2015