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NAME: James Banks
OCCUPATION: Head of Bespoke Cars at McLaren Special Operations (MSO) bringing to life his clients’ creative visions through custom paint colours and unique designs.
Tell us about your daily watch.
It’s a Rotary skeleton watch. I adore skeleton watches and clocks – I guess it’s the engineer in me, having studied Mechanical Engineering at university. Apart from a recent Cartier design for over £500,000, I’ve never seen a watch that I find more aesthetically pleasing. Sadly, it keeps terrible time. I rely on my iPhone for that.
I’ve really only started to appreciate watches in the past year or so, having had more interest in clocks historically. My most recent purchase was a Cartier Tank Solo in stainless steel. It’s by no means a flashy watch, but that appeals to me. Also, after visiting Patek Philippe’s exhibition in London with a McLaren customer last summer, I’d love to own a Patek Philippe 5131 or similar one day. Again, the engineer in me very much appreciates the complications that in their watches. I find it truly staggering that so much can be achieved mechanically. I’ll be 40 next year and I think the time will be right to treat myself to something a little bit special.
What’s your daily ride?
A Land Rover Discovery. With two small children in tow, it’s absolutely ideal if a little dull, but I’m very fortunate to also own a 1959 Austin Healey 3000, which is a beautiful car and one that I enjoy tinkering with from time to time. My children love it, and often lobby me to take them for a ride in it at the weekend.
What are you working on at the moment?
Day-to-day, MSO are producing some fantastic bespoke colour schemes and such like on our series production cars, many of which are very special indeed. The McLaren 675LT is nearing the end of production and has seen some amazing bespoke designs created, from racing stripes to coloured carbon fibre bodywork. And alongside our current work, there are one or two very exciting full car projects in the pipeline but nothing I can share right now sadly.
We can’t wait to see what transpires. What’s been your favourite project so far?
We recently completed the MSO HS, a series of 25 cars on the back of a customer commission that briefed for more power and downforce. Almost all the cars have incredibly special colour schemes and liveries, plus significant mechanical upgrades. The cars have been very well received by their owners and the feedback has been exceptional. It has very much been a team effort, and one that I’m exceptionally proud of. Around four years ago we created the 12C HS – 10 cars commissioned against a similar brief. It’s wonderful to see both cars now being highly sought after and occasionally being bought up to go into collections together.
And finally, how do you unwind?
Spending time with my family is of course important to me. But I’m very lucky that I genuinely love my job, so I never feel the need to unwind as such.