One of the best perks of being a journalist is getting access behind closed doors. And, luckily, now that I blog, I still get offered the kind of access that makes me kick up my heels with glee.
I’m not enormously fussy about the industry: I’m incredibly curious, and I like to know how things work. To that end I’ve been backstage at fashion shows, lurked about on set at Pinewood, been primped in the makeup suites for the BAFTAs, held my nose in a jamon de belota slaughterhouse, toured (and tasted) in a sherry bodega, cooked in a professional kitchen, and watched handbags being crafted.
But until I spent the day in Fleet in Hampshire last month, an hour or so outside London, in the top secret and very hi-tech Vertu HQ, I hadn’t ever explored an electronics factory.
When we discussed the possibility of my representing Vertu during their sponsorship of the 2013 Vogue Festival, we agreed that it was of paramount importance that I visited Vertu HQ to really immerse myself in their world. Of course, I knew and admired the phones, having photographed them on shoots in America, but I wasn’t *quite* sure why they were worth the very high prices that they command, and I wanted to make sure that I really understood both the brand values, and the technical specifications of the handsets themselves.
It’s funny really: we all know of, and some aspire to own, watches that cost thousands and, often, tens of thousands. Cartier, Rolex, Panerai, Jaeger Le Coultre…most of us will never own a watch in these brackets, but it’s generally accepted that they exist and, if you can afford them, that they are extraordinary examples of craftsmanship. So why then do people express such astonishment that a ‘phone could exist in the same price bracket? If you look at the reverse situation it’s not as though luxury watches don’t have an inexpensive equivalent. (I have a great petrol station watch.)
I’ve never seen inside a factory quite like this one. It’s both a highly secure and an ISO certified ‘clean’ environment. What that means in reality is a security screening process before you are allowed into the main building, and the donning of white jackets, and anti static heel guards to tour around the shop floor.
There are no production lines here: Each Vertu smartphone is individually handmade from 184 pieces by a Vertu craftsperson, many of whom have come from the fine watch industry, and possess not just the extraordinary level of skill, but the steady hands needed for the intricate assembly.
The handsets are tested, tested and tested again. I was particularly taken with the stress testing, which takes place in sealed environments. The photo below shows the ball bearing test, where a handset, with its sapphire crystal screen, is repeatedly subjected to extraordinary pressure. (I can personally attest to the strength of the handsets: I dropped the Vertu Ti that I have been lent on a flagstone floor yesterday and there isn’t a mark on it or the 3.7″ screen, which is virtually scratchproof. My iPhone screen would have shattered on impact.)
That exceptional durability is also down to the level five Titanium from which the Vertu Ti is constructed, and which combines both strength and low weight, whilst still managing to be five times stronger than other smartphones.
This is the Vertu Ti handset that I have been using, and was Tweeting from during the Vogue Festival: the Vertu Ti.
The Vertu Ti runs on Android 4.0, which meant I was able to sync the handset immediately with all my accounts — I run my business through Google apps so, within literal seconds, my entire digital life was loaded onto the handset. It helps that there is 1GB of RAM, and 64MB of internal memory, so switching between applications is absolutely seamless, and I haven’t experienced any hanging or freezing issues whatsoever. There’s also an 8MP rear camera, and a forward facing Skype compliant one too for video calling.
But the thing that got me really intrigued was the Vertu Life Concierge service that comes as standard: on the side of the handset is an engineered ruby inset button that links you straight to the Vertu Concierge team by call, live chat or email. (There’s also an app for that.)
The team are on standby 24/7 and, whilst I haven’t asked them to find me a private jet to Cannes for the Festival next week, or a new puppy (yet), they have helped me immediately with restaurant reservations, offering alternatives where required, and complimentary access to private members clubs if desired. It’s been a lot easier and quicker than waiting in a call holding pattern for some over-subscribed establishment, or doing battle with a clipboard-wielding, red rope-guarding club person.
I’m going to find it very hard to give the Ti back. (She says, stroking its lovely leather back, and making purring noises.)
This post was written in conjunction with my role as brand ambassador for Vertu during the 2013 Vogue Festival in association with Vertu.
Photos: All imagery c/o Vertu. (Personal cameras are forbidden in the Vertu HQ because of security issues and industrial espionage.)