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Overhyped, Overpriced: 2012′s Insanely Expensive Gear
By Nathan Olivarez-Giles,
Wired, 24 December 2012.

If you look back at the year and think of the gear that stands out, it’s probably a short list despite the hundreds of phones, tablets, Kickstarter projects, headphones and laptops that flooded the market. There have been plenty of standouts, and more than a few clear fails. And there are a few products that wowed us not with innovation or stupidity, but with their stupefying price. From alligator-skinned watches to electric cars to sneakers by Kanye West, here is the gear that dropped our collective jaw in 2012 [not in particular order].

1. Rolls Royce 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric - US$3 billion

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The future of the automobile is here and it’s electric. But damn EVs are pricey. The superb Tesla Model S - which undoubtedly is a milestone for the auto industry - runs about US$90,000 at the moment, but even electric runabouts from Nissan or Mitsubishi cost far more than comparable gasoline models.

But the pinnacle of the technology remains the Rolls-Royce 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric, an electrified version of the flagship Phantom. It was a trial balloon (that sank) to gauge customers’ appetite for a Rolls with a cord, and Rolls reportedly spent about US$3 billion developing what we consider one of the finest cars ever built. The cancellation of the project makes the one-of-a-kind Experimental Electric priceless.

2. Steinway Lyngdorf Model LS Concert Speakers - US$250,000

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The Steinway Lyngdorf Model LS Concert speakers are 8 feet tall and 16 inches wide, which is roughly the size of the stack of Benjamins you’ll need to buy them.

The Concerts are impossible to ignore, particularly the open baffle that exposes 24-karat gold accents and the miles-deep black finish that pays homage to the Steinway & Sons pianos the company also produces. That’s the point. The Concerts are speakers built to be noticed. They’re essentially smaller versions of the speakers used in stadium concerts. And they’re as mighty, and as loud and as insanely detailed as you’d expect at a US$250,000 price tag. As Wired Reviews Editor Michael Calore wrote in his review, “when God and Mozart hang out, they listen to these speakers.”

3. Harry Winston Opus 12 watch - US$260,000

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Wrist watches are a dying breed. The smartphone is, alas, becoming the primary means of telling time for far too many people. But there are those who insist upon wearing a clock on their wrist, and a very small few who don’t mind of those wrist-worn clocks cost as much as a house, a pair of Steinway Lyngdorf Model LS Concert speakers, or a pair of Dodge Vipers.

If you’re among those who can, and would, drop US$260,000 on a watch, you can’t do much better than the Harry Winston Opus 12. The hand-built, 18-karat gold timepiece features an anti-reflective sapphire crystal and a gorgeous view of its intricate cogs and gears. Alligator hide is the material of choice for the band. Harry Winston crafted just 120 Opus 12s, so its highly unlikely you’ll bump into someone wearing the same watch.

4. Nike Air Yeezy II - US$250-US$5,000

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Jaw-droppingly expensive sneakers seem to be a core element of Nike’s business plan. Nearly every Air Jordan released has pushed the envelope for price, if not necessarily technology. Just say the words Barkley’s, Penny’s, LeBron’s, Foamposites, Air Maxes to any self-respecting sneakerhead and you’ll see them all but foam at the mouth as they regale you with tales of waiting in line at your local mall or sneaker boutique for the latest limited-edition sneaker.

But the Nikes that fetched the most audacious prices this year, and produced the most anticipation among the hypebeasts, weren't Jordans. It was a Yeezy. The Air Yeezy II, designed by Nike for rapper Kanye West, was released internationally in June at a retail price of US$250. But, hype being what it is in the sneaker game, many retailers jacked up the prices and by the end of launch day, Yeezy’s were selling on eBay for as much as US$5,000.

5. Leica APO-Telyt-R 1600mm f/5.6 lens - US$2 million

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When you’re a billionaire, as Qatar’s Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani is, asking a company to make something just for you is a totally reasonable idea. And they’ll do it, too, because they know you’ve got the dough. Al-Thani paid Leica $2 million to build a 1,600mm f/5.6 lens. It’s about 4 feet long and weighs 132 pounds. A prototype, called the APO-Telyt-R, is on display in the showroom at Leica’s HQ. Don’t have two mil to drop on a lens? No worries. Everything Leica makes costs a pretty penny. Its cameras and lenses run from US$700 to US$28,000.

6. Sony VLP-VW1000es 4K projector - US$25,000

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While HD TV shows are still delivered in 720p and most video games max out at 720p too, TV makers are doing what they can to push consumers past 1080p to the next major TV tech nobody wants or needs - 4K.

Unsurprisingly, Sony is a huge 4K proponent and one of the few companies making both TVs for homes and projectors for the cinema. For those with very deep pockets, Sony has a theatre-grade home projector, too. At a resolution of 4,096x2,160 (compared to a 1080p TV’s resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels), the Sony VLP-VW1000es (that’s a name we’ll all remember, right?) can deliver a stunningly detailed image on a screen, or wall, as large as 200 inches diagonally.

For now, the next step in high-definition visuals will set you back US$25,000 - if it wasn’t audaciously priced, it wouldn’t be on this list. For that cash, you’ll get a projector that looks something like a spaceship and boasts a 1-million to 1 contrast ratio and a max of 24 frames per second (the film industry standard). And, of course, the projector can handle 3D too (bring your own glasses), though 3D viewings aren’t recommended for screens above 150-inches. Bummer.

7. Innespace Seabreacher Y submarine - US$100,000

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Who doesn’t want a two-person, submarine that looks like an orca and works like a fighter jet? Aquaman would love it. Yachts, jet skis, paddle boats, air boats and water-power jetpacks are old news, folks.

The Seabreacher Y looks dangerous and fun, even if the US$100,000 price tag is beyond ridiculous. But damn does it look like fun. If the Free Willy vibe isn’t your thing, Innespace offers a shark motif called the Seabreacher X. Custom paint jobs are available too. No matter the livery, the 1,450-pound Seabreacher tops out at a speed of 20-mph underwater and 40-mph on top of the water.

[Source: Wired. Edited.]


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