Since 1993, Bowers & Wilkins has been hand-building its flagship speakers to order in its Worthing, UK factory. 30 years later, the British speaker company has now decided to create a unique pair in a glistening new pearl finish (with new pricing) to mark the Nautilus’s impressive milestone. Or perhaps the assembly guys simply tired of spraying and polishing those 'standard' black, silver or metallic blue paints...
This new ‘AbalonePearl’ paint finish is both symbolic of the 30th anniversary’s traditional gemstone and an ode to the inside shell colour of the marine mollusc that inspired the speakers’ name. Price? This special finish will cost you £90,000 / $100,000 / AU$115,000. B&W's Nautilus product video shows off the resplendent finish wonderfully.
For the uninitiated, the Nautilus was initially born out of company founder John Bowers’ ambition to reduce the intrinsic sonic contribution of a speaker cabinet. Having experimented with, but ultimately passed on, open-backed baffles (i.e. a backless cabinet, similar to Kyron Audio’s speaker design), lead engineer Laurence Dickie (who is now the acoustic designer behind Vivid Audio’s similarly distinct-looking speakers) and his team derived at the reverse-horn shape for the enclosure. The enclosure’s tubes start large at the driver end and then decrease in size, with each of its lengths determined by the amount of rear-firing driver energy that needs to be absorbed.
At the time, Bowers & Wilkins had created one of the – if not the – most visually striking loudspeakers on the market – £57,750 / $70,000 / AU$115,000 per pair, if you were wondering. And even today, among your Wilson Audio WAMM Master Chronosonics and your Avantgarde Acoustic Trio Classico XDs (Google them), the Nautilus are still very much up there. The project influenced subsequent Bowers speakers, too, initially the 1998 Nautilus 801.
We were told during a B&W factory visit in 2021 that one Nautilus shell takes a whole week to make, with three days of final polishing to get to the required finish quality. Bowers says the Nautilus is still hand-built the same way as it was 30 years ago, with a waiting list of two years for a new model. So apologies if you’ve been reading this and visualising a pair in your living room by Christmas.
It's good news for those purely interested in the making of the Nautilus, though: Bowers has produced a new film that tells its story from the top, starring the new pearl-finished Nautilus, of course!
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