Most of us would agree that money can't buy you happiness, but that doesn't stop us being fascinated by the extravagant, eccentric and sometimes downright absurd things that an oversupply of dollars can deliver to your doorstep. Every year we aim to satisfy this curiosity by selecting the wildest examples of luxury to have graced our pages throughout the year. Here's what you won't be getting for Christmas in 2014.
A sub-aquatic sanctuary
The H2OME from US Submarine Structures is a home that lets the uber-rich sleep with the fishes, but without the inconvenience of being chained to a concrete block. Only limited by the requirement of a water depth of 10 to 18 m (33 to 59 ft), being close enough to land for water, electricity and sewage system umbilicals, and having a pretty healthy bank balance, potential underwater homeowners can leave the neighborhood selection to US Submarine Structures or choose their own site – perhaps in the shallow waters surrounding their private island? But with the company quoting a rough estimate of around US$10 million for the H2OME, most won't be taking in those unique ocean views from their living room for any foreseeable Christmas to come.
A bullet proof behemoth
Exotic cars are the obvious choice when it comes to discussing the unattainable, and we've seen plenty of extreme examples throughout the year. But few are as extravagant (or is that preposterous) as the Prombron Black Shark from Latvian armored vehicles specialist Dartz.
Built atop a Mercedes AMG GL platform, the Kevlar-titanium body work of the battle-ready "spy car" hides a 1,500 bhp retuned biturbo V12 engine that puts out 1500 bhp and an opulent, if not particularly environmentally friendly interior (stingray floor mats, anyone?) complete with both a PS4 and Xbox One, Bang & Olufsen sound and LTE connectivity. High net worth individuals with heightened sense of self-preservation can also take advantage of a signal jammer, explosives detection system and a battering ram of a front bumper, along with fingerprint and retina scanner system entry, "anti-papparazzi" electric shock door handles and a special light and sound system to help disperse crowds. The price is quoted as 6Z – that is, six zeroes.
A snazzy suit of armor
Those in the market for some svelte ballistic protection might also like to consider the Diamond Armor bullet-proof suit. The bespoke-tailored suit features bullet-proof fabric developed by body-armor maker Croshiel, an active cooling system for the jacket, a nanotech coating to make it waterproof and dirt-resistant and a smattering of some 880 black diamonds. The asking price of US$3.2 million seems a little steep, but then again developer SuitArt is also throwing in a 24-carat golden silk tie to sweeten the deal.
Your own military-grade drone
In an attempt to fill the gap between consumer drones and their military counterparts, the Romanian Cosmonautics and Aeronautics Association (ARCA) this year launched two AirStrato drones. With capabilities that leave consumer-level drones in their wake, including flight ceilings of 26,000 and 60,000 ft (8,000 and 18,000 m) and endurances of up to 12 and 20 hours, respectively, the Pioneer and Explorer drones approach some of the capabilities of military drones, but without the lethal firepower or the stratospheric price tag. Starting at US$80,000 and $140,000, they may be much cheaper than military drones, such as the MQ-9 Reaper that costs over US$10 million per unit (not including associated costs of ground stations and other equipment), but are still out of reach of most hobbyists. And with a wingspan of 39.4 ft (12 m), it might be a struggle to fit them under the tree anyway.
Back to the Future, too
Ever since Back to the future Part II hit the big screen in 1989, people have been waiting for a breakthrough that would allow the hoverboard to become a reality. With 2015, the "future" setting of the movie, just weeks away, we're still waiting. But earlier this year, with the bitter taste of the HUVr Tech hoverboard hoax still in everyone's mouths, a husband and wife team got our hopes up once again with the Hendo Hover. Unfortunately, while their Hendo Hover board did indeed hover, it required a special surface on which to operate (very loudly), with the batteries on the prototype only providing 10 minutes of air time. So the future of hoverboards remains firmly up in the air for yet another Christmas.
Surfing in style
You could have gone one of two ways if you were looking to drop a substantial bundle on a wave riding apparatus during 2014: old school or new school. The old school is represented by New Zealand-based shaper Roy Stuart's US$1.3m Rampant wooden surfboard. Sculpted from Paulwonia timber, the 10 ft 6 in (3.2 m) Rampant is adorned with a 23-karat gold lion outlined in semi-translucent red epoxy resin on its top surface and uses a unique 6-inch wooden tunnel fin combined with a perforated polycarbonate fin to provide "incredible drive and rapid acceleration" ... if you're game enough to take it beyond the shallows.
On the new school side of the ledger is the latest creation from French jet ski champion Franky Zapata – the Hoverboard by ZR. Resembling a wakeboard, it's attached to a personal watercraft (not included in the US$6,000 price tag) via an 59 ft (18 m)-long hose and, depending on the PWC, can reach speeds of up to 15.5 mph (25 km/h) and heights of up to 16.5 ft (5 m) in the hands of an aerial expert.
Buckle up in luxury
We might all put our pants on the same way, but very few of us – just three, in fact – will be holding them up with a Calibre R822 "Predator" belt buckle. Created by Roland Iten, the belt buckle features a "high tech titanium" mechanical platform adorned with some 387 diamonds totaling 14.5 carats, making this one item that would definitely stand out from the usual socks and jocks stocking stuffers. If the ankle biters have somehow found the US$400,000 to secure one of these beauties – and you might want to check your credit card statement if they have – you can rest assured this quadruple complication belt will withstand any pressures placed on it after overindulging on Christmas dinner. The rest of us might be better off going with something slightly cheaper and utilitarian, or making a statement with some rainbow suspenders.
Shelter from the storm
While it may amount to spare change compared to many of the other items on this list, €4,999.00 (US$6,730) still seems like quite an outlay for a tent. Designed specifically for the Red Bull Storm Chase windsurfing competition, Heimplanet's 10-person Mavericks geodesic inflatable expedition tent can cop winds of up to 112 mph (180 km/h) while campers dance about (read huddle with fear) in its spacious 142 sq ft (13 sq m) interior. The Mavericks air beam structure can be split off into 10 separate air chambers after inflation in a Titanic-esque approach that allows a leak in one section to be isolated and repaired without bringing the whole circus down. It includes 10 windows for ventilation and one person can set the tent up in under 10 minutes, though you may need a mule to help lug the 55 lb (25 kg) package to your chosen campsite.
A racing robot exoskelton
For those that grew up watching Japanese Mecha cartoons, playing MechWarrior, or marveling at Ripley's mastery of the Power Loader in Aliens, the thought of jumping inside a giant robotic exoskeleton is pretty enticing. Add a sprinkle of competitive racing and things get even more interesting. At least that was Canadian Jonathan Tippet's thinking when he came up with the idea of developing "Prosthesis," a 3,500-kg (7,700-lb) wearable robotic sports machine that a human pilot controls with their entire body while racing against other competitors. But as visionary as the idea of a league for human-piloted robot racing may be, Tippet's crowdfunding efforts fell short. So sadly the Prosthesis is stalled at the starting gate and Santa won't be making any deliveries on one this year ... perhaps the US$123,000 Power Jacket MK3 exoskeleton can tide you over.
A $110 million megayacht
It would be remiss of us to create a shopping list for the well-heeled without slipping in a superyacht ... or in this case, a megayacht. Chopi Chopi is an immense, 262 ft (80 m) floating mansion that includes five luxury double cabins, six spacious open decks, multiple dining and lounge areas, a day spa and, in case you're in a hurry to get to the helipad, two lifts.
The result of 660,000 hours work and winner of the 2014 World Yacht Trophy, the Chopi Chopi has a price tag of US$110 million, which doesn't include the wages for the 30 crew members and nine staff required to keep the yacht operating at full luxury and service the up to 12 guests it can accommodate at any one time.