1,113 Wonderful Things

Asprey has created what may be this season's ultimate catalogue.

Even customers without instant access to Norman Foster and David Mlinaric's new Manhattan outpost of Asprey on Fifth Avenue can now approximate the shopping experience thanks to the most expensive and lavishly produced catalogue of the year. At 252 thick, glossy pages, the hardback weighs in at three and a half pounds and features 1,113 products from all of Asprey's 17 departments, including a jaw-dropping 5.43-carat $186,250 emerald-cut diamond ring, a British tailor-made polo bridle in Havana brown leather, and a vintage-style 18-karat yellow-gold combination fountain pen and pencil.

And that's just for starters: The catalogue comes in both hard- and softcover versions, is bound in purple faux alligator skin, which is so realistic that we initially thought it was the real thing. Inside, the design is clean, simple, utterly enticing. Composed on a backdrop of 170-gram heavy-stock royal-silk demimatte-varnished paper, the layouts highlight the products, not the descriptions. Many pages display several images of the same item in a rainbow of colors. For example, the popular 167 Bag, a medium-size lambskin-lined alligator purse, is shown in nine hues. "There is something about seeing all the colors of a product together that replicates the experience you have in the store," explains Philip Davis, Asprey's marketing director. "If we showed just one, you wouldn't have the same feeling."

This, mind you, is not the first time the venerable company has assembled such a lush index. One of its first offerings, published circa 1927, was more than two hundred pages, with its own and similarly striking brown faux alligator cover. In those days, Asprey was a coveted resource for wealthy Europeans looking for everything from automatic self-closing cocktail cabinets and silver cigarette cases engraved with world maps to ladies' Moroccan beauty cases and hurricane golf-ball pipes made from the best British briar. With the new catalogue, Asprey hopes to recreate a little of this old-world magic. "We hoped to preserve the authenticity of our past and highlight what the company has done before," says Davis. No small feat considering that much of Asprey's archives were lost in the German blitz of World War II.

With typical Brit understatement, the company would prefer not to disclose how much the new volume cost to produce. "But it was not cheap," Davis admits, noting that it took seven months to develop. You have to applaud: Asprey remains the only company we can think of that's still making one-of-a-kind luxury products, who also dispenses freely of a catalogue that many of us would gladly pay to own.

For a copy of the catalogue, call 44-207/493-6767.