Through Wall Street Luxury Europe’s partner Camber Aviation Management, we got the opportunity to speak with Tim Callies – Co-Founder of Callies Graefe Design. Being one of the most sought after and experienced private jet designer in the world, we naturally jumped at the chance to pick Tim’s brain on different trends and insights.
Tim, you started your professional career as a freelance architect. How did you become passionate about the aviation industry? Can you tell us about your experience and your passion for such a peculiar business?
Honestly, it wasn’t love at first sight, however, shortly after I started to enjoy it. What intrigued me and attracted me the most was the fact that in this industry you have the chance to be a real designer because you literally design and craft everything from a blank page. On top of that, each project is completely new, hence you don’t get bored and this aspect combined with the creativity that follows is what has motivated me over the past 16 years.
“Of course you as a designer have your own hand signature and an individual design style otherwise the client wouldn’t choose you, but the outcome will be the perfect balance between what you and your client like.”
How does the customer journey work? In other words, how does the client approach you and how long does the whole process take from layout to delivery?
First the client has to hire me. It could be a private client or a company. Usually new clients arrive via recommendation. Since I also work on other projects not involved in aviation, it may happen that after concluding a project with a client, he/she asks me to make his/her private jet. Depending on whether it is a refurbishment or a brand new jet the design process may change. On average I would say 1-2 months for refurbishment and 4-6 months for green (new) jets. Generally, however, we look after our customers until the delivery of their aircraft, as it is very important to us that we ensure during the completion phase that the desired design is also executed in the desired quality. Therefore, a refurbishment project takes about 6 months and a green aircraft project up to 3 years depending on the size of the aircraft and the complexity of the design.
What is the most important thing when building a private jet?
I would say to listen and understand your client’s needs which sometimes it is not as easy as it seems because clients might not be fully aware about what they want. Typical questions can be: How many passengers will you accommodate? How will you use your private jet? Is it only for business or also pleasure? Will you charter it? Particularly this latter point is extremely important because it can change the layout and materials. To give you an example, if you decide to not charter your jet, you might choose expensive leathers such as the glove leather, very soft and delicate, but if you decide to charter it, you might want to consider using another leather, a cheaper and stronger one because if a damage occurs – which can easily happen since people tend to not take as much attention and care as the owner does – it can end up being very costly for you. Moreover, when it comes to understand client’s tastes and desired style, I have noticed there is some confusion, that’s why we usually ask for pictures and which hotels they like, in this way we avoid any miscommunication. We have had very good experience with mood boards, which we present at the first client meetings. With the help of the mood images, it is easier for most customers to communicate their preferred design.