The Real Thing

The Real Thing
The only classics Boesch emulates are its forebearers.

By Tim Clark — May 2001
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• Part 1: Boesch
• Part 2: Boesch
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Having visited Switzerland often, I’ve become convinced that the Swiss are indeed Europe’s most exacting, precise, and diligent people, and I’ve learned that they are extremely protective of the little world their assiduousness has created. To the Swiss, history is not a march of progress; it’s more like a careful process of perfecting what they judge to be of value, be it cultural, environmental, or material. On my most recent visit I arrived at Boesch Motorboats, headquartered in Kilchberg on the shores of Lake Zurich, anticipating that these notions would be reinforced, and I was not disappointed.

Lately, increasing numbers of boats on the market feature excellent performance combined with up-to-date materials, attractive styling, and an attention-to-detail associated with times past. Some are utter replicas; others are more generally inspired. Boesch boats, too, are richly evocative of a bygone era. However, they buck the trend in one important respect. They are the real thing: contemporary classics refined over decades from a scrupulously preserved vision.

It started with the sailboats and motorboats built by Jacob Boesch following his founding of the yard in 1920. Within 10 years stylish Swiss were cruising Lake Zurich in deep-chestnut one-offs known, since they seemed like waterborne sports cars, as Autoboats.

Jacob’s son Walter completed his four-year boatbuilding apprenticeship at Boesch in 1928, assumed leadership of the yard in the late 1930s, and over the following decades established the union of timeless craftsmanship and carefully considered innovation that characterizes Boesch today. By the late ’40s he had already discovered the basic principles of hull form and weight configuration that still enable Boesch boats to get on plane quickly and smoothly, run in good trim without the need of trim tabs, and track exceptionally. In 1952 Boesch became the first boatworks in Switzerland to produce boats in series when Walter designed the Type 500. The astonishing success of this 20-foot runabout prompted Boesch to stop building sailboats and concentrate exclusively on motorized craft. Within a few years, demand for Boesch boats was so high that Walter made a trip to the United States expressly to learn more about series-production methods. By the late ’50s, with a retooled plant and streamlined organization, Boesch was producing three series of boats that quickly became status symbols throughout Europe.

After a second visit to the States in 1964, Walter came away with ideas that helped him develop Switzerland’s most innovative system of wooden-boat construction. To this day Boesch covers a solid mahogany frame with wide, multi-ply planks of laminated mahogany. The hull is then coated with seven applications of epoxy followed by four layers of polyurethane varnish. As a result, Boesch runabouts glow with all the deep-grained richness of traditionally constructed mahogany boats but are stronger, more rigid, and much more easily maintained than conventional wooden craft.

Next page
> Part 2: “This is the beauty of wood” > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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